Daily Digest - September 11: "What Is Going On With This Internet Thing?"

Sep 11, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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New Mockumentary Addresses Net Neutrality (Marketplace)

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New Mockumentary Addresses Net Neutrality (Marketplace)

Ben Johnson discusses the new mockumentary The Internet Must Go with Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford, who is featured. The film, available on YouTube, looks at the question of "what is going with this Internet thing" from a Colbert-esque perspective.

Verizon Challenges Open Internet Rules in Court (U.S. News & World Report)

Tom Risen spoke to Crawford about Verizon v. FCC, which will determine whether the FCC can require ISPs to maintain net neutrality. Crawford sees Verizon's desire for "VIP" website clients, who pay for priority access, as antithetical to the idea of the Internet.

The Rich Get Richer Through the Recovery (NYT)

Annie Lowrey reports on an updated study that shows that the wealthiest American earners took record-setting percentages of the country's total income in 2012. Overall, the 1 percent have captured about 95 percent of income gains in the recovery.

5 Years Later, We've Learned Nothing From the Financial Crisis (The Atlantic)

James Kwak asks why there hasn't been significant change in financial regulation. Financial stability lacks public support, and without the structural reforms that were discussed in 2009 and 2010, he thinks it's just a matter of when the next crisis hits.

How the Cult of Shareholder Value Wrecked American Business (WaPo)

Steven Pearlstein argues that there is no historical basis for the supposed imperative for companies to maximize short-term shareholder profits. He suggests policy changes that could influence corporate behavior toward other values, like social welfare and long-term profits.

Unions—Not Just for Middle-Aged White Guys Anymore (TAP)

Harold Meyerson reports that this week's AFL-CIO convention is the first he's attended that looks like union membership, which is less white and less male then ever before. He's also excited by a new emphasis on community coalition building.

US Labor Secretary: 'The American Workplace Has Evolved' (The Nation)

Josh Eidelson spoke to Thomas Perez following his speech at the AFL-CIO convention yesterday. They discuss the changes in the American workplace to include home-based work, and ways in which labor law can respond to that shift.

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Daily Digest - September 10: Labor Looks for Growth

Sep 10, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Union Chief Calls for a 'Reawakening' (The Hill)

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Union Chief Calls for a 'Reawakening' (The Hill)

Kevin Bogardus looks at the AFL-CIO's plan to reinvigorate the labor movement. He speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren, who says that giving more organizations membership in the federation is meant to signal a desire to make the movement broader.

Verizon-F.C.C. Court Fight Takes On Regulating Net (NYT)

Edward Wyatt speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford, who asks whether the U.S. government has good reason to keep the Internet open and accessible. She says yes, as does the F.C.C., but Verizon claims that limiting Internet access is free speech.

‘Our agenda is America’s agenda,’ Warren Tells Unions (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff looks at Senator Warren's speech at the AFL-CIO convention on Sunday, in which she called for a minimum wage increase, stricter financial regulation, and more. It's difficult to disagree with the AFL-CIO President's sentiment: "If we could only clone her."

Indiana Right-to-Work Law Ruled Unconstitutional by State Judge (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Andrew Harris reports on the ruling, which overturned a law making it a crime to charge union dues as a condition of employment. It turns out that it's unconstitutional to require a union to provide services to workers without compensation.

The Demolition of Brewster-Douglass and Our Abandonment of the Working Poor (Pacific Standard)

Anna Clark looks at the history of the first federally funded public housing project for African Americans, which has its origins in the New Deal. She sees the shift from public housing to Section 8 vouchers as part of a larger policy shift that ignores the needs of the poor.

Left With Nothing (WaPo)

Michael Sallah, Debbie Cenziper, and Steven Rich investigate a DC practice of selling liens on delinquent property tax bills, which has led to over 500 foreclosures. In one case, a 76 year old man with dementia lost the home he had owned outright for 20 years over an $134 tax bill.

Republicans Try to Cut Food Stamps as 15% of U.S. Households Face Hunger (The Atlantic)

Jordan Weissmann reports that while the economy is slowly recovering, food insecurity is holding steady. Meanwhile, the GOP wants to cut at least $40 billion from SNAP over the next ten years, which would kick 4 to 6 million Americans off the rolls.

The Cost of Cash, for the Rich and the Poor (The New Yorker)

David Wolman looks at a study on the costs of obtaining cash, in time and money. Low-income individuals spend more time and more money obtaining their money then anyone else, and they can't really spare the change.

 

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Daily Digest - September 9: Economic Inequality and the Fed Chair

Sep 9, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Why Janet Yellen, Not Larry Summers, Should Lead the Fed (NYT)

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Why Janet Yellen, Not Larry Summers, Should Lead the Fed (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that Summers's role in deregulation in the 1990s led to today's economic issues. He'd much prefer a Fed chair with proven judgement and expertise who didn't help to create the inequality we deal with now.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative Jeff Madrick and Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal agree with Stiglitiz's pick for Fed chair.

Why Keynes Wouldn’t Have Too Rosy a View of our Economic Future (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal breaks down Keynesian theory to explain why employment might not bounce back on its own. If that's the case, it would be nice to see policy that actually reflects the need to create jobs.

This Chart Shows The Real Problem With The August Jobs Report (Business Insider)

Josh Barro's big issue? The August jobs report is proof that the economy isn't actually improving as much as it was thought all summer. Job creation is stagnant at about 2 million new jobs per year, and the Fed seems to think that slow and steady is just right.

Did the White House’s Trial Balloon for Larry Summers Just Pop? (Quartz)

Tim Fernholz suggests that without the support of three liberal Democrats on the Senate banking committee, it may not matter if the President wants Summers for Fed chair. The administration would need to attempt the impossible: securing Republican votes.

A.F.L.-C.I.O. Has Plan to Add Millions of Nonunion Members (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse examines the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s new plan to reinvigorate the labor movement. It's based on a simple question: if 49 percent of employees in a workplace vote for a union, why doesn't the union welcome that 49 percent?

Walmart Workers Plan 'Widespread, Massive Strikes and Protests' for Black Friday 2013 (The Nation)

Josh Eidelson reports on continued momentum in the OUR Walmart strikes as workers begin to think about retail's busiest day. Walmart still claims that none of their employees are actually involved in the strikes: apparently, it's all a union-backed stunt.

A Different Type of Poverty (U.S. News & World Report)

Happy Carlock interviews Sasha Abramsky about his new book, The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives. American poverty is about economic insecurity, and it's made worse, he says, by increasing inequality.

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Daily Digest - September 4: No Jobs, Lots of Problems

Sep 4, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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America’s Jobless Generation (NYRB)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative Jeff Madrick argues that policy, not technology, is keeping unemployment high. He's particularly concerned about the effect of these policies on young people.

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America’s Jobless Generation (NYRB)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative Jeff Madrick argues that policy, not technology, is keeping unemployment high. He's particularly concerned about the effect of these policies on young people.

Why This Particular Recovery Is So Bad at Creating New Jobs (Pacific Standard)

Timothy Noah looks at various reasons that our recovery isn't solving unemployment. He suggests that the economy is following Walmart, which doesn't seem to want to hire anyone in a permanent position these days, preferring "flexible" temporary workers.

401(k)s are Replacing Pensions. That’s Making Inequality Worse. (WaPo)

Lydia DePillis argues that the growth of 401(k)s is going to increase inequality among the elderly. Pensions aren't perfect, but at least they didn't require low-income workers to decide between today's bills and tomorrow's retirement.

Justice Department Tackles Quality Of Defense For The Poor (All Things Considered)

Carrie Johnson reports on a Department of Justice filling in a case on the quality of public defense in two cities in Northern Washington. Overburdened defense attorneys agree that an independent monitor's oversight would help.

In Budget Cuts, Low-Income Students Suffer More Than Wealthy Ones (MSNBC)

Suzy Khimm explains why poorer school districts are being hit harder by sequesteration then wealthier districts that could presumably absorb some cuts. With straight cuts across the board, the more federal funds a district typically needs, the more it loses this year.

What's Killing Poor White Women? (TAP)

Monica Potts examines the decreasing life expectancy of uneducated white women. Weaving facts about the demographic into the story of one such woman's early death, she tells a harrowing tale about how much these factors effect a life.

New on Next New Deal

How Ronald Coase Demolished Current Libertarian Ideas About Property

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues that Ronald Coase's work helps to prove that "self-ownership" can't solve all our problems. Property rights overlap, and social arrangements (like government) must prioritize one owner over others.

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Daily Digest - September 3: Labor Takes Center Stage

Sep 3, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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A Dramatic Display of Labor's Power (Melissa Harris-Perry)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren points out the differences in how stakeholders discuss the fast food strikes. The restaurant industry talks about digging into the pockets of small business owners; the workers want a fair share of massive corporate profits.

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A Dramatic Display of Labor's Power (Melissa Harris-Perry)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren points out the differences in how stakeholders discuss the fast food strikes. The restaurant industry talks about digging into the pockets of small business owners; the workers want a fair share of massive corporate profits.

Politics, Race, and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement (Democracy)

Dorian Warren considers the ways that race and region fit into the labor economy of the U.S., where workers of color make lower wages and union power is focused in Democrat-leaning states. The limits of labor's power are more apparent within these boundaries.

'No one should have to work for free': Is This the End of the Unpaid Internship? (NBC News)

Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz suggests that recent lawsuits against employers by unpaid interns could signal the beginning of the end of this practice. As unpaid internships get more media attention, companies are taking notice.

How America's Minimum Wage Really Stacks Up Globally (The Atlantic)

Jordan Weissmann compares various minimum wages using "purchasing power parity," which takes into account differences in local prices. PPP makes the U.S. minimum wage look a little better compared to other wealthy nations, but not great.

Why Isn't Every Monday Like Labor Day? (HuffPo)

Arthur Delaney looks at the historical trend of shortening work days and work weeks, and wonders why that progression has stalled. Shorter work weeks or work sharing could be ways to reduce unemployment, but aren't being seriously considered.

  • Roosevelt Take: Work sharing was one of the ideas discussed at the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative's conference, "A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency," back in June. Transcripts and video from all the sessions are now available.

Love for Labor Lost (NYT)

Paul Krugman questions why Republicans cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the worker on Labor Day. As he sees it, they refuse to respect those who work for a living, but aren't wealthy, because without wealth everyone's a "taker."

How the Fed Chair Race Became a Public Circus, and Why it Matters (WaPo)

Neil Irwin says that shifts in political media and White House mismanagement have contributed to the arguments over the next Fed chair. The far more public role of the position in recent years makes this appointment even more politically charged.

This Week in Poverty: John Lewis, Barack Obama and the New March (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann says that it isn't enough when President Obama talks about wages and working conditions. Executive order could ensure workers under federal contracts get a living wage and extend minimum wage protections to home care workers.

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Daily Digest - August 30: More Labor Organizing for the Holiday

Aug 30, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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A New Dawn for Labor Day (BeyondChron)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Annette Bernhardt considers the importance and significance of the August 29 fast food strikes. The growth of these strikes and other labor organizing shows a new hunger for worker representation on the job.

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A New Dawn for Labor Day (BeyondChron)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Annette Bernhardt considers the importance and significance of the August 29 fast food strikes. The growth of these strikes and other labor organizing shows a new hunger for worker representation on the job.

Economic Justice to the Fore (ACSblog)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Equal Justice Erik Lampmann reflects on the March on Washington. He's particularly excited by the energy that youth movements like Dream Defenders and the Black Youth Project bring to the modern fight for civil rights.

National Fast Food Strike Hits Dozens of Cities (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff reports on the importance of the fast food strikes' growth into Southern cities. He quotes Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren, who says that the involvement of Southern workers is proof that this movement is truly national now.

Feminism's Sticky Fast-Food Floor (The Daily Beast)

Sally Kohn thinks that as great as it is that some women are breaking through the glass ceiling, feminists can't forget about the women stuck in low-wage jobs. Leaning in against economic inequality helps far more women then leaning in on Wall Street.

Why I'm on Strike Today: I Can't Support Myself on $7.85 at Burger King (The Guardian)

Willietta Dukes writes that in her fifteen years of working in fast food, she's never missed a shift or arrived late, until yesterday's strike. Between low wages, limited hours, and erratic scheduling, she can't pay for basic necessities - like her mortgage.

New on Next New Deal

Why Unions are Essential to Tackling the Technology Challenge to Good Jobs

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch says that technology isn't eliminating more "abstract" intellectual jobs, but it is keeping people in low-wage low-skill work. That makes labor organizing essential to ensure those jobs retain dignity and fair pay.

What Works: Roosevelt Institute Recommendations for Labor Day Weekend

Looking for something to read or watch this Labor Day weekend? The Roosevelt Institute staff and Fellows provide their suggestions for books, films, poems, and more with a compelling take on labor issues. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

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To Restore the New Deal, Government Must Earn Young Americans’ Trust

Aug 29, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

The Greater Boston network of Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline hosted a discussion on the State of the New Deal, and what needs to change for Millennials to support similar programs today.

The Greater Boston network of Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline hosted a discussion on the State of the New Deal, and what needs to change for Millennials to support similar programs today.

On Tuesday night, the Greater Boston network of Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline gathered for a panel discussion on “The State of the New Deal,” reflecting on President Roosevelt's historic achievements and considering what could come next. Pipeline, a national network of young people in their 20s and 30s collectively organizing to engineer innovative policies and promote effective civic leadership in their communities, convened a multigenerational panel to discuss what’s become of the New Deal safety net, and what would be needed to create similar programs today.

The program opened with David Woolner, a Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Resident Hyde Park Historian, providing some historical context: FDR's legacy, the political environment of the day, and how the New Deal was perceived when it was happening. One of the most important thing he noted was that FDR worked in a far less politically divided era: some of the strongest supporters of New Deal programs were moderate Republicans. It’s much harder to pass any legislation in today’s Congress.

Following his keynote, Woolner joined Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz and Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Field Strategist Joelle Gamble for a panel moderated by Roosevelt Institute President Felicia Wong, where they expanded the discussion to today's issues: health care, student debt, Occupy, low-wage work, and more. They probed at the relationship between Americans and their government today, which is often one of distrust and skepticism. As Woolner explained, with the dismantling of much of the New Deal in the Reagan era, government was no longer a creator of economic opportunity.

Aronowitz focused on the question of economic security, posing the question of why Millennials should trust government to work for them. “They're craving … this baseline of economic security,” and aren't seeing any way to get it, she said. Were government to help create that baseline, it would be easier to see the potential for other New Deal-style programs. She was also skeptical of the Occupy movement, noting that while the Tea Party and Occupy are frequently compared as political extremes, the anti-establishment and anti-leadership nature of Occupy means that they have limited political power. Meanwhile, Tea Party Republicans like Ted Cruz work against more moderate policymakers to prevent legislation and control the right's agenda.

Gamble presented the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's “Government By and For Millennial America” project as proof that it is possible to create a government that would speak to Millennial ideas and needs. This government would be an innovator, a lawmaker, and a steward of the common good, and would truly engage all citizens. Unfortunately, she noted, for most Millennials their first real encounter with government systems is with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and federal student loans. FAFSA is often seen as a frustrating system, and student loan servicers as even worse. Woolner noted in his introduction that “what Roosevelt accomplished was a complete transformation of the relationship between the federal government and the American people,” and it's hard to imagine a similarly positive relationship today – especially if the student loan system is how people form their impression of government.

The question and answer session demonstrated the insight and engagement of the audience. The Affordable Care Act was a topic of serious discussion, and Aronowitz pointed out that for many middle-class Millennials, it doesn't seem to help much. Woolner passed the mic to James Roosevelt Jr., Franklin and Eleanor’s grandson and an attorney who works on health care, who argued that “if Obamacare succeeds, it will be the New Deal success of our lifetime.” His comment echoed one of the common themes that threaded through the discussion: Millennials need some proof that these programs will help before they will buy in fully. If the Affordable Care Act does lower costs and make insurance more accessible, it could lead to broader support of other programs, like infrastructure-based jobs programs.

After the event, I spoke with some attendees who are involved in Boston-area politics. They seemed to mostly agree: buy-in is tough. Creating change is tough. But the people I spoke to and those posing questions seemed determined to work together and create something new. They want to trust in government to create the safety net needed for that baseline of economic security that Aronowitz brought up early on. They want government to demonstrate that it’s ready to be an equal partner in decreasing economic inequality. It’s just a matter of figuring out the next steps toward that goal.

For more information on Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, visit their website. The Pipeline | New York network will be hosting a screening of the documentary “My Brooklyn” on September 16th at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Rachel Goldfarb is the Roosevelt Institute Communications Associate.

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Why Unions are Essential to Tackling the Technology Challenge to Good Jobs

Aug 29, 2013Richard Kirsch

New technology is keeping more and more workers stuck in low-wage jobs, and it's society's responsibility to make sure those jobs still have dignity and fair wages.

New technology is keeping more and more workers stuck in low-wage jobs, and it's society's responsibility to make sure those jobs still have dignity and fair wages.

With robots taking over factories and warehouses, toll collectors and cashiers increasingly being replaced by automation and even legal researchers being replaced by computers, the age-old question of whether technology is a threat to jobs is back with us big time. Technological change has been seen as a threat to jobs for centuries, but the history tells that while technology has destroyed some jobs, the overall impact has been to create new jobs, often in new industries. Will that be true after the information revolution as it was in the industrial revolution?

In an article in The New York Times, David Autor and David Dorn, who have just published research on this question, argue that the basic history remains the same: while many jobs are being disrupted, new jobs are being created and many jobs will not be replaceable by computers. While there is good news in their analysis for some in the middle-class, their findings reinforce the need to organize workers in lower-skilled jobs to demand decent wages.

The authors’ research found that while routine jobs are being replaced by computers, the number of both “abstract” and “manually intensive” jobs increased. In their article in the Times, the authors describe the new jobs:

At one end are so-called abstract tasks that require problem-solving, intuition, persuasion and creativity. These tasks are characteristic of professional, managerial, technical and creative occupations, like law, medicine, science, engineering, advertising and design. People in these jobs typically have high levels of education and analytical capability, and they benefit from computers that facilitate the transmission, organization and processing of information.

On the other end are so-called manual tasks, which require situational adaptability, visual and language recognition, and in-person interaction. Preparing a meal, driving a truck through city traffic or cleaning a hotel room present mind-bogglingly complex challenges for computers. But they are straightforward for humans, requiring primarily innate abilities like dexterity, sightedness and language recognition, as well as modest training. These workers can’t be replaced by robots, but their skills are not scarce, so they usually make low wages.

As the authors conclude, “This bifurcation of job opportunities has contributed to the historic rise in income inequality.”

When it comes to addressing this attack on the middle-class, the authors offer some hope, but not for those low-wage workers. They argue that a large number of skilled jobs, requiring specialized training – although not necessarily a college education –will not be replaceable by computers. These include people who care for our health like medical paraprofessionals, people who care for our buildings like plumbers, people who help us use technology (I was on chatting on-line just yesterday to get tech support), and many others. Because these jobs do require higher levels of skills, they should be able to demand middle-class wages.

But what about those housekeepers, delivery truck drivers and fast food workers, like those who are taking actions around the country today against fast food chains to demand better pay. The authors do not offer a path to the middle-class for them.

If history is an example here as well, we should remember that lower-skilled work does not have to come with low pay. The workers who stood on assembly lines in the 1930s did not have a college education or years of specialized training; they fought for the right to organize unions and demanded high enough wages to support their families.

This Labor Day, as more and more workers are stuck in the growing number of low-wage jobs, causing enormous stress for their families while keeping the economy sluggish, we need to look to the examples of new ways of organizing workers who can not be replaced by technology. There’s the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, who organized drivers to successfully win living wages and a health and disability fund. Or the successful boycott of Hyatt Hotels, leading to an agreement with UNITE HERE to not fight organizing campaigns in their hotels.

We need to support organizing by modernizing our labor laws to account for the large number of workers not currently or adequately protected, the new ways that work is organized, and the global economy.

The lesson from the Autor-Dorn research is that technology doesn’t have to destroy the middle-class. What will destroy the middle-class is our failure as a society to provide dignity to all workers. That’s what fast-food workers and their community-labor supporters are fighting for across the country.

Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.

 

Robotic arms in factory banner image via Shutterstock.com 

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Daily Digest - August 29: Economists' Inspiration in the March on Washington

Aug 29, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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How Dr. King Shaped My Work in Economics (NYT)

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How Dr. King Shaped My Work in Economics (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz remembers the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and reflects on the gap between the goals and aspirations of that march and what we have accomplished today. A black President, he notes, isn't everything.

NYT (Susan Crawford)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford examines the flaws in a recent New York Times article on high-speed Internet access. Without going into the extremely high costs of Internet access, it missed a big part of the connectivity problem.

Dr. King, Full Employment, and Some Provocative Wage Trends (On The Economy)

Jared Bernstein says Dr. King's was right to call for full employment to reach economic justice . The only progress made towards increasing real wages for African American workers in southern states was in the low unemployment years of the late 1990s.

What Obama Didn’t Say in His March on Washington Speech (The Daily Beast)

Jamelle Bouie thinks that while the President understood the importance of economic justice in the original March on Washington, he left out much of the modern issue. The wealth gap between African-Americans and whites won't be closed with general economic fairness.

Five Reasons for Optimism About Unions This Labor Day (The Hill)

John Logan is excited about the labor movement going into the holiday, because unions are becoming more popular, more flexible, and more open then they have been in some time. It's a conveniently-timed turning point for labor supporters.

Why Business Needs a Stronger Labor Movement (MSNBC)

Timothy Noah argues that the increasing claim of capital on corporate income over labor is destroying growth. Stronger unions would force business back on track by shifting more income to labor, where it belongs if we want the economy to grow.

Another Failed Drug-Test Experiment (Maddow Blog)

Steve Benen reports that Utah is following in the footsteps of Florida by mandating drug screening for welfare applicants. They're also following Florida into failure: the state has spent $30 grand to eliminate only twelve applicants out of thousands.

New on Next New Deal

Fifty Years After the March on Washington, Equality Remains a Dream

Jim Carr, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, writes that we haven't accomplished nearly enough in the past fifty years. Some old problems have been solved, but economic opportunity is still unequal and disproportionately divides along racial lines.

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Fifty Years After the March on Washington, Equality Remains a Dream

Aug 28, 2013Jim Carr

We've made progress on addressing many blatant injustices since 1963, but people of color still don't have an equal opportunity to succeed.

We've made progress on addressing many blatant injustices since 1963, but people of color still don't have an equal opportunity to succeed.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s electrifying speech at that event was inspiring and unforgettable. Those remarks, combined with hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall marching for jobs and freedom, seemed to electrify American society to its core. As President Bill Clinton recently remarked, “I remember thinking that, when it was over, my country would never be the same.”

Over the five decades since the March on Washington, much has changed. No longer do black students require National Guard escorts to enter the school of their choice. No longer are protesters for civil or human rights at risk of being beaten or attacked by dogs for exercising their constitutional right to challenge unfair or otherwise unwise laws.

No longer are jobs and opportunity blatantly denied on the basis of an individual’s race or ethnicity, gender, physical appearance, or sexual preference. No longer are America’s cities burning. And perhaps most significantly, no longer is the office of the President of the United States off-limits to an African American.

Yet in spite of these and many other successes that have been achieved over the past five decades, much of the forward momentum seems unsustainable, or old problems are replaced with new ones that continue to deny opportunities disproportionately to people of color.

Take, for example, the fact that our cities are no longer burning in protest to blatant acts of discrimination and denial of civil rights. While that’s true, the city of Detroit has never recovered from the tumultuous days of the 1960s. In fact, Detroit has continued to decay, literally, into bankruptcy. The city’s official unemployment rate was a staggering 16 percent in April 2013, with a black unemployment rate over 20 percent. And Detroit is not alone among cities with exceptionally high black unemployment rates.

The acceleration of the exodus of non-Hispanic white families from the nation’s inner cities, in part to avoid integration after passage of the major Civil Rights laws, combined with the relocation of manufacturing jobs first to the suburbs and later overseas, has created urban economic deserts that deny opportunities as powerfully as any segregationist policies.

National Guard troops no longer stand in front of school houses to block admission—they do not have to. Racial and ethnic residential segregation in many of the nation’s largest cities is so high that black and Latino students do not live within physical proximity of isolated non-Hispanic white suburban enclaves in sufficient numbers to achieve meaningful school integration.

Furthermore, the cost of college tuition is so high these days that no armed presence is needed to prevent young African Americans or Latinos from entering. The majority of African American and Latino students cannot afford access the nation’s major universities even where they meet the academic standards.

In fact, economic deprivation is so great among blacks and Latinos that race is used as a reliable proxy for exploitation by financial firms. Leading up to the recent collapse of the housing market, subprime lenders disproportionately targeted African American and Latino communities for their reckless and irresponsible high-cost loans. They generated huge profits while originating loans that were designed to fail.

The subsequent loss of homeownership among African Americans and Latinos has been the largest contributor to a staggering loss of wealth for African American and Latino households during the Great Recession. Latino and black households have lost two-thirds and more than half of their net wealth, respectively. The result is that today, the racial wealth gap between blacks and non-Hispanic whites, and Latinos and non-Hispanic whites, is greater than it was two decades ago.

Over the next decade, seven of ten new households will be headed by a person of color. In fact, already, the majority of babies born in America are of color. Yet the majority of their economic futures are not promising.

This dramatic shift in the composition of the nation’s population gives even greater impetus now than was the case a half century ago for America to become a more economically inclusive society. Today, economic equality is as much an issue of economic competitiveness and national security, for example, as it is social justice. After all, how can America maintain its economic and military leadership role in the world if the fastest growing segments of the population, i.e., people of color, remain economically marginalized?

In spite of the success we have achieved as a nation in breaking down the barriers to opportunities based on racial or ethnic bias, we remain far from Dr. King’s dream and vision of a just and equitable society.

Jim Carr is a Distinguished Scholar with The Opportunity Agenda and Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress. He is also co-editor of Segregation: The Rising Costs for America.

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