Still Fighting for Insurance Coverage in Wisconsin

Oct 30, 2014Andrea FlynnShulie Eisen

In the Wisconsin gubernatorial election, Medicaid coverage for 120,000 people hangs in the balance. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

In the Wisconsin gubernatorial election, Medicaid coverage for 120,000 people hangs in the balance. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

In the upcoming Wisconsin Governor’s election, which may very well turn on women’s votes, Governor Scott Walker (R) and Mary Burke (D) are vying to show women that they have their best interests in mind. Recent polls show the candidates tied statewide, but with women favoring Burke by as many as 14 points and Walker favored by men by as many as 28 points. The two candidates stand in stark contrast on a number of issues vital to women and families.

Where do women in Wisconsin stand?

  • The poverty rate among women in Wisconsin is 14.4 percent, but rates among women of color are dramatically higher: 41 percent for African American women and 31.4 percent for Hispanic women.
  • One in five Wisconsin women work in low-wage jobs, and women are over twice as likely as men to hold a low-wage job.
  • Women in Wisconsin on average earn only 75 cents for every dollar a man makes, two cents less than the national average.
  • Many women and poor families with children that are eligible are not receiving state support such as food stamps and, as in most states, childcare options are few and expensive.
  • Over one in ten women (11 percent) in Wisconsin are uninsured, with 18 percent of African American women and 29 percent of Hispanic women lacking coverage. 
  • The state has no paid sick leave or family leave policies.

Where do the candidates stand?

Affordable Care Act

Under Governor Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin set up a state-based exchange but has not participated in Medicaid expansion, leaving over 500,000 low-income individuals without health coverage. If those individuals lived in any of the four neighboring states they would be covered under Medicaid. In 2013 he made changes to Wisconsin’s existing Medicaid structure that resulted in more than 60,000 people getting kicked out of the program. Technically, many of those individuals qualified for subsidies to purchase private insurance through the exchange, but it appears that the majority (61 percent, or about 38,000 people) did not do so, though they could have purchased a plan not on sold on the exchange, obtained employer-sponsored coverage, or gotten on a spouse’s plan. According to a recent report by The White House Council of Economic Advisers, Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin would mean coverage for an additional 120,000 people by 2016. The majority of Wisconsin’s voters (59 percent) say they’d like the state to accept federal funding to support Medicaid expansion.

Burke says one of the first three pieces of legislation she would prioritize in her first 100 days in office would be accepting federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

Reproductive Health

Walker identifies as “100 percent pro-life” and has received a zero rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. In 2013 he signed a law that would require women seeking abortions to get ultrasounds and require abortion providers to have admitting privileges as a hospital within 30 miles (though the law is currently blocked). In 2012, he indicated support for a complete ban on abortion and the adoption of a personhood amendment in the state constitution, and in 2010 he stated his complete opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. From 2011 to 2013 Walker cut more than $1 million in funding for Planned Parenthood, leading to the closure of five clinics. In 2011, Walker attempted, unsuccessfully, to repeal the state’s Contraceptive Equity Law, which requires insurance companies to cover birth control. Walker also eliminated the state’s comprehensive sex education program and replaced it with an abstinence-based curriculum.

Burke is endorsed by Planned Parenthood. She “strongly supports a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions in consultation with her doctor and in accordance with her faith.”  She believes the restrictions supported by Walker are simply a “road block” that prevent women from making their own healthcare decisions, and that “women should have the ability to make their own decision when it comes to decisions that concern their own bodies.” She has promised to veto a 20-week abortion ban if one arrived on her desk.

Fair and equal pay

Wisconsin law requires the minimum wage to be a living wage, defined as one that is “sufficient” and enables workers to have “reasonable comfort, reasonable physical well-being, decency, and moral well-being.” Labor groups in the state have argued that the current wage – $7.25 an hour – does not meet that standard, and one group recently announced that it is suing Governor Walker to demand an increase. Sixty-one percent of likely Wisconsin voters favor increasing the minimum wage, a move that would increase the incomes of 333,000 women in the state.

In 2012, Walker supported the repeal of a law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to take their cases to court. He is against increasing the minimum wage and recently accused those who are in support of it as being  “involved in a ‘political grandstanding stunt’ to make ‘a cheap headline.’” He has said that he wants to focus on creating new jobs that pay better, not raising the wage of current jobs. In 2011, Walker received national attention for his support of a bill that dismantled the rights of public sector unions, a move that was a key motivator of the recall election he successfully fought off in 2012.

Burke is in favor of gradually raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the next three years. “People working full-time should be able to support themselves without having to rely on government assistance. At $7.25 an hour, that's just unrealistic.” Burke also says one of the first three pieces of legislation she would introduce and make a priority in the first 100 days in office is raising the minimum wage. She has also come out in opposition to Walker’s attack on unions, saying it was more than an attempt to address budget concerns, and was really “about undercutting our unions and taking away what I believe should be their right to collectively bargain." In addition to her stance on the minimum wage, Burke was applauded by First Lady Michelle Obama, who recently campaigned for her in the state, for being a leader who would fight for pay equity.

Social Safety Net

Walker believes that safety net benefits serve as incentives that prevent people from working. As such, he has supported drug testing for unemployment benefits and food stamps. In September he said, “My belief is that we shouldn’t be paying for them to sit on the couch, watching TV or playing Xbox.”

Burke is generally supportive of safety net programs such as unemployment insurance. “Making sure that people can access unemployment insurance while looking for work, bridging the gap between jobs, is important to ensuring economic stability.”

Read the rest of this series, to be published over the course of Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31, here.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Shulie Eisen is an independent reproductive health care consultant. Follow her on Twitter @shulieeisen.

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In Colorado, a Question of Personhood

Oct 30, 2014Andrea FlynnShulie Eisen

In Colorado, the Senate race is particularly divided by issues of personhood and the minimum wage. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

In Colorado, the Senate race is particularly divided by issues of personhood and the minimum wage. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

In September, a writer for the Denver Post accurately summed up the heated Colorado Senate race: "If Colorado's U.S. Senate race were a movie, the set would be a gynecologist's office, complete with an exam table and a set of stirrups." Perhaps more than in any other state, women’s issues have indeed been front and center in the sparring match between incumbent Senator Mark Udall (D) and Representative Cory Gardner (R). All eyes are on Colorado’s women’s vote, which is likely to determine that state’s next U.S. Senator, and in the process, set the course on a broad range of socioeconomic issues that disproportionately impact women.

Where do women in Colorado stand?

  • At first glance, women in Colorado are faring better than their counterparts in other states. Colorado has more women in the state legislature than any other state, and ranks among the top ten for the proportion of women with a bachelor's degree or higher and for its share of women in the workforce. But as a report from the Colorado Women’s Foundation illustrates, those gains obscure the disparities facing poor women and women of color.
  • Colorado women face higher poverty rates than men, and women of color experience rates twice that of white women. Two-thirds of all low-wage workers in Colorado are women. Families of color are particularly affected – median incomes for Black and Hispanic households are about 35 percent below the statewide median, and for American Indians, 40 percent below.
  • Only about half of low-income households headed by single women receive food stamps, and childcare in Colorado is among the most unaffordable in the country.
  • Colorado women make nearly $11,000 less annually compared to their male counterparts and are paid only 77 cents to every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men (African-American and Hispanic women earn 61 and 53 cents, respectively).
  • The state has no paid sick leave or family leave policies.

Where do the candidates stand?

Affordable Care Act

Colorado’s uninsured rate is 11 percent (down from 17 percent in 2013), thanks to its state exchange and Medicaid expansion. It now ranks fifth nationally among states’ reductions in the rate of uninsured under the ACA. It is predicted that Medicaid expansion will yield significant economic results: a 41.5 percent increase in federal payments, a more than $600 increase in average household earnings. the creation of 22,000 jobs, and a 20 percent growth in employment.

Udall was an early supporter of – and stands by his vote for – the ACA. He has said he is committed to making sure the ACA works for Colorado families. “We cannot go back to the old, broken system when adults and children could be refused coverage because of a preexisting condition, the sick faced annual coverage limits, and all of us were subject to persistent rate increases.”

As a representative Gardner opposed Colorado’s expansion of Medicaid, citing concerns over the state’s ability to pay for it. He has also cited concerns over discontinued plans and increased premiums resulting from the ACA’s new coverage requirements. “Health care should be about patients and doctors, not government and bureaucrats … As a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, I will be at the forefront of the effort to outline replacement legislation.”

Family Planning

Udall sponsored a bill in the Senate – the Not My Bosses’ Business Act – that would have nullified the Hobby Lobby ruling. He has also voted against banning federal funding for Planned Parenthood and against the Blunt Amendment, which would have granted broad exemptions to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. He said, “It astounds me that some still think the legality of birth control and access to reproductive health services should be subject to debate.”

Gardner voted in support of banning federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He voted against a proposal that would allow pharmacists to prescribe emergency contraception (EC) and against a measure that would require insurance companies to cover contraception. He has opposed a bill that would expand Medicaid coverage for birth control and another that would allow hospitals to tell rape victims about EC. He spoke out against legislation that required science-based sexuality education.

After the Supreme Court announced the Hobby Lobby decision, Gardner said, “The court made the right decision today to protect religious liberty and the First Amendment.” He later recommended that oral contraceptives be made available over-the-counter, a move that many women’s health advocates criticized as being a blatant attempt at trying to get women’s votes.

Abortion

Udall received a 100 percent pro-choice rating from NARAL and has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood. He has voted against so-called partial-birth abortion bans and against measures to prevent the transportation of minors across state lines to get an abortion. He supported a measure to ensure that rape victims have access to emergency contraception in hospitals and supported legislation to expand funding and access to contraceptive services. “I’ll never stop fighting to protect the rights of Colorado women because I trust them and respect the choices they make.”

Gardner received a zero percent pro-choice rating from NARAL. He voted against the 2009 Birth Control Protection Act and for a bill that would have allowed hospitals to refuse to provide an abortion, even when a woman’s life is at risk. He sponsored a state bill that would have banned all abortions in the state, co-sponsored a personhood bill at the federal level (Life at Conception Act), and in August, backed both state and federal "personhood" measures in an effort to ban abortion. He has since changed his position on personhood efforts, citing his belief that restricting birth control is simply not right (the current CO personhood measures would have restricted EC). In one recent poll of likely female voters, 60 percent say they don’t trust Gardner when he says he no longer supports a personhood amendment.

Pay Equity

Udall voted for the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 (meant to restore protections against pay discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, age, religion, or disability) and is a co-sponsor of the 2013 Paycheck Fairness Act (which has yet to be voted on but would strengthen protections against sex discrimination in wages).            

Gardner helped block efforts to move the Paycheck Fairness Act forward in the U.S. House in 2013. However, when he was in the state legislature, he supported legislation that designated Equal Pay Day and acknowledged the “persistent problem of wage disparity among various groups.” In one recent poll of likely female voters, 40 percent said Gardner’s role in helping the House block the consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act makes them less likely to vote for him.

Minimum Wage

Udall voted for the federal minimum wage hike bill in April 2014.            

 

Gardner opposes raising the federal minimum wage, saying that he thinks that “if there’s a minimum wage issue, shouldn’t the state of Colorado be best equipped to handle the minimum wage in the state of Colorado?” However, Gardner has also opposed state-level efforts—he criticized a 2006 ballot measure to increase the state minimum wage in Colorado, voted against a state measure to implement an amendment (approved by voters) to raise the minimum wage, and sponsored a floor amendment in 2007 to strip increases in the minimum wage adjusted for the consumer price index.

In one recent poll of likely female voters, close to two-thirds (61 percent) said they supported raising the minimum wage, and 41 percent said Gardner’s opposition to raising the minimum wage would make them less likely to vote for him.

Read the rest of this series, to be published over the course of Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31, here.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Shulie Eisen is an independent reproductive health care consultant. Follow her on Twitter @shulieeisen.

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We Need Pretrial Detention Reform in Massachusetts

Oct 29, 2014Jessica Morris

Alternatives to bail won't just reduce overcrowding in jails: they will create a more just justice system.

Alternatives to bail won't just reduce overcrowding in jails: they will create a more just justice system.

There is a bill pending in the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means to build a bail jail in Middlesex County. Led by Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton), H.1434 proposes for a new facility for women charged of a crime and awaiting trial. This jail is not for convicted prisoners, but for women who are charged with violent and nonviolent crimes and cannot afford bail.

Three states away in New Jersey, residents are preparing to vote on Ballot Question Number 1, a bail reform legislation, in this November’s election. Signed by Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), this policy states that dangerous suspects can be held in jail without bail, while non-dangerous suspects can be released through alternatives to bail. Both of these states attempt to tackle the overcrowding issue in jails, but New Jersey’s legislation will alleviate this issue through a long-term and humanizing solution. New Jersey has shown that bail reform is a bipartisan issue that can only be solved through intentional policy.

Massachusetts can learn from New Jersey’s responsible approach. There has been a growth of pre-trial detention in the state. From 2005 to 2014, pre-trial detainees in Massachusetts Department of Correction custody increased by 23 percent. This growth of pre-trial detention significantly impacts women. 34 percent of total female inmates in Massachusetts's jurisdiction this year are awaiting trial, but only 3 percent of total male inmates. Most women awaiting trial in Massachusetts are not able to make bail (80 percent cannot make bail of $2,000 or less and a third cannot make $500 or less). Many need services – not to be in jails. Two-thirds of the women in Massachusetts state prison have a diagnosed mental illness and half of them use psychotropic drugs. Prisons, such as the bail jail proposed in Middlesex County, can exacerbate mental illness when the women truly only need proper substance abuse and mental health treatments.

A study by the Pretrial Justice Institute shows that judges are inclined to assign harsher punishments to pretrial detainees than to those who are able to make bail. Thus, a person’s credibility is determined by money, no matter the verdict. Those who can afford to pay their bail do not undergo the ramifications of being in jail. They are able to continue supporting their families or continue their education. If they cannot afford bail, however, they have to go through the obstacles of pausing their lives and are more likely to commit recidivism; pretrial detainees are six times more likely to return to jail because of the challenges they face once released.

States such as Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Ohio, Virginia, and possibly soon New Jersey have reformed their pretrial systems. Massachusetts needs to join them. Facilities across the state of Massachusetts are overcrowded by up to 155 percent, and this could be alleviated by using electronic monitoring as an alternative to incarceration. New Jersey’s proposed legislation does this by having bail depend on risk and not whether someone can afford to pay to get out of jail. A judge will only present bail as a last resort if electronic monitoring might not assure the defendant's appearance at their trial or if he or she is believed to pose a threat to public safety.

Massachusetts has the political will to take the same path as New Jersey and reform its system. Through legislation similar to New Jersey’s bail reform, pretrial detainees charged with nonviolent crimes should be enrolled in an electronic monitoring program instead of entering a facility. There is a high financial cost for the state and social cost for defendants of having people await trials in jails. An electronic monitoring program is cheaper on both fronts. Defendants would have the ability to return to their lives fully and freely until they are tried. The idea of innocent until proven guilty is currently obsolete in Massachusetts because of the bail system, but it can be restored through reform that ensures liberty prior to trials.

Jessica Morris is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Equal Justice. She studies politics and gender studies at Mount Holyoke College.

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Daily Digest - October 24: Redefining Corporate Goals Could Rein in CEO Pay

Oct 24, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Understanding the CEO Pay Debate: A Primer on America's Ongoing C-Suite Conversation (Roosevelt Institute)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Understanding the CEO Pay Debate: A Primer on America's Ongoing C-Suite Conversation (Roosevelt Institute)

In their primer, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Holmberg and Campus Network member Michael Umbrecht suggest a shift away from shareholder primacy to reduce incentives for high CEO pay. 

One-Third of Top Websites Restrict Customers’ Right to Sue (NYT)

Jeremy B. Merrill reports on major consumer websites that restrict customers' ability to take legal action, even when the companies engage in harmful activity like conspiring to fix hotel room prices.

Majority of Bank Risk Managers Are Worried About the Wealth Gap (WSJ)

Nick Timiraos looks at a new study on bank risk managers' concerns regarding the health of our financial system. Only 14 percent think inequality doesn't pose any threat at all.

This City Came Up With a Simple Solution to Homelessness: Housing (The Nation)

Kara Dansky profiles Salt Lake City's shift to a Housing First model, which recognizes that long-term housing for the homeless is cheaper than standard interventions like shelters and emergency services.

The Terrifying Idea That the Economy Might Stay Stuck Forever Just Got More Terrifying (WaPo)

Matt O'Brien lays out a new study's model for secular stagnation -- i.e., a potentially never-ending economic slump -- in the U.S., and explains what will be needed to break the cycle.

Fed’s Loan Scrutiny Leaves Banks Passing on Buyout Deals (Bloomberg News)

Christine Idzelis and Alex Sherman report that the big banks' decision to pass on high-scrutiny deals is opening up opportunities for their smaller competitors.

New on Next New Deal

The Phenomenology of Google's Self-Driving Cars

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that driving requires some unconscious and reflexive learning that artificial intelligence just can't duplicate, and that will create an obstacle for driverless cars.

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Understanding the CEO Pay Debate: A Primer on America's Ongoing C-Suite Conversation

Oct 23, 2014

Download the primer by Susan Holmberg and Michael Umbrecht.

Download the primer by Susan Holmberg and Michael Umbrecht.

The problem of rising CEO pay is an extraordinarily complex and contested issue. This primer on CEO pay serves to unpack this complicated topic by a) explaining the problems with CEO pay, including the harm it imposes on workers, businesses, and society; b) highlights some of the early history of CEO pay, including a handful of the key policies that have shaped it; c) presents the main theories that attempt to explain why CEO pay has risen so dramatically; d) addresses the fallacy of shareholder primacy and introduces the stakeholder model; and e) concludes by highlighting some policy recommendations that are outside of the shareholder primacy framework.

Read: "Understanding the CEO Pay Debate: A Primer on America's Ongoing C-Suite Conversation," by Susan Holmberg and Michael Umbrecht.

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Daily Digest - October 23: A Complex Financial System Begets Complex Regulations

Oct 23, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Dodd-Frank Spawns Software to Comprehend Dodd-Frank (Marketplace)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Dodd-Frank Spawns Software to Comprehend Dodd-Frank (Marketplace)

Sabri Ben-Achour speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and others about the complexity of the Volcker Rule. Mike says the scrutiny of the courts has made some rules clunkier than necessary.

Unions Keep Pushing Emanuel to Challenge Interest Rate Hedges (Crain's Chicago Business)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Brad Miller has joined the push to convince the Chicago Board of Education to seek legal remedies for some bad financial transactions, writes Greg Hinz.

The Big Bank Backlash Begins (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger reports on the banks' take on current regulatory practices, after attending a conference where their lawyers discussed strategies for dealing with tough regulators.

Should the Poor Be Allowed to Vote? (The Atlantic)

Peter Beinart says voter ID laws are part of a long and unfortunate American tradition of distrusting poor people's ability to make reasoned political choices.

America's Middle Class Knows It Faces a Grim Retirement (LA Times)

Michael Hiltzik looks at a scary set of survey results from Wells Fargo, and says that expanding Social Security is the best option to ensure that retirement is possible for the middle class.

The Sharing Economy’s ‘First Strike’: Uber Drivers Turn Off the App (In These Times)

In what some are calling the first labor strike in the sharing economy, Uber drivers in five cities stopped picking up rides yesterday, reports Rebecca Burns.

Can Student Credit Unions Solve the College Affordability Problem? (The Nation)

Helene Barthelemy reports on a Columbia University group's attempt to open a fully student-run credit union on campus, with broad goals that include offering lower rate student loans.

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Daily Digest - October 14: Americans Are Too Vulnerable to Downward Mobility

Oct 14, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

The Age of Vulnerability (Project Syndicate)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

The Age of Vulnerability (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz points out that inequality isn't just about lack of upward mobility, but also risk of downward mobility, and the U.S. economy has made people particularly vulnerable.

The Score: Does the Minimum Wage Kill Jobs? (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert say the answer is probably no; for one, the states that have raised their minimum wage this year are experiencing higher employment growth.

In Texas and Across the Nation, Abortion Access is a Sign of Women's Well-Being (The Hill)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn and Shulie Eisen connect access to abortion with the larger picture of women's health and economics. States that limit abortion don't do well on related issues either.

Youth Convention Gathers Crowds, Pols Over Brutality, Employment, Immigration, Ed and Transport (The Youth Project)

Jason Mast reports on the NextGen Illinois conference, profiling a few of the student organizers who are pursuing political change in their state now instead of waiting until they're older.

Revenge of the Unforgiven (NYT)

Paul Krugman says an excess of virtue surrounding debt is killing economic growth. Forgiving more debt would increase the other spending needed to kick-start the economy.

Them That's Got Shall Get (TAP)

Nathalie Baptiste follows up on the impact of the foreclosure crisis on black family wealth, focusing on the wealthiest black community in the country: Prince George's County, Maryland.

‘Citizens United’ is Turning More Americans into Bystanders (WaPo)

E.J. Dionne argues that massive independent political spending is turning voters off, as it deepens our divisions and the sense that no one will work together after the election.

New on Next New Deal

Does the USA Really Soak the Rich?

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that recent arguments against more progressive taxation use a nonsensical definition in which inequality drives up tax progressivity.

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Obama Administration Defends Amazon’s Low Pay – Again

Oct 9, 2014Richard Kirsch

It's hard for workers to trust the President's support for policies that help them when the administration sides with Amazon at the Supreme Court.

Amazon’s business model is based on quick easy buying and low prices. One way it does that is to force its warehouse workers to wait a long time to leave work, without getting paid. And that’s just fine with the Obama administration, which continues to have a blind spot when it comes to decent pay and working conditions at Amazon.

It's hard for workers to trust the President's support for policies that help them when the administration sides with Amazon at the Supreme Court.

Amazon’s business model is based on quick easy buying and low prices. One way it does that is to force its warehouse workers to wait a long time to leave work, without getting paid. And that’s just fine with the Obama administration, which continues to have a blind spot when it comes to decent pay and working conditions at Amazon.

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard a case (Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk) in which workers are suing the temp firm that staff’s Amazon warehouses. The workers are in court because they don’t get paid for the time they are forced to stand on line for a security check when they leave work to be sure they haven’t stolen anything. The security screening itself reveals the poor working conditions and lack of respect that Amazon has for its workers. Workers who are well paid and have job security will not take the risk of stealing. The lack of pay adds costly insult to their injury.

The legal issues revolve around whether the security screenings, which can take 20 minutes or more, are “integral and indispensable” to the job, which would trigger pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Amazon certainly thinks so; the screenings aren’t optional. Still the firm, which pays warehouse workers around $11 or $12 an hour, cheaps out by denying the workers pay when they are waiting on line to leave.

As Jesse Busk, the lead plaintiff in the case, told The Huffington Post, "You're just standing there, and everyone wants to get home. It was not comfortable. There could be hundreds of people waiting at the end of the shift."

While President Obama has made numerous passionate speeches about giving Americans a raise, his administration is taking Amazon’s side at the Supreme Court, filing an amicus brief, alongside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about this from the administration. Last August, as I wrote at the time, “President Obama gave a great speech on why good jobs are the foundation for his middle-out economic strategy... from a huge Amazon warehouse where the workers do not have good jobs.”

The President told the Amazon warehouse workers who were in the audience, “we should be doing everything we can as a country to create more good jobs that pay good wages.”

Everything, it turns out, except being sure they get paid for all the time they are required to be at work.

The Obama administration may wonder why the President does not get more credit for the economic progress the nation has made coming out of the Great Recession or more recognition for his calls for raising the minimum wage. The core reason is that for too many Americans too low wages, too few hours at work, and job insecurity or no job at all remain their reality.

The President’s defense of Amazon reveals another reason. Americans see that he is unwilling to take on the powerful forces that are driving down the living standards and hopes of American workers. They see his embrace of Amazon and Wal-Mart, where he gave a speech on energy earlier this year. And too many come to the conclusion that it is only campaign contributors that matter, despairing of finding leaders who understand what really is going on in their lives – and who are willing to take their side against the powerful.

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.

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The Federal Reserve Won't Save the Economy for All

Oct 9, 2014Joelle Gamble

Deepening political participation in and beyond voting is key to achieving policies that raise outcomes for the working class.

Deepening political participation in and beyond voting is key to achieving policies that raise outcomes for the working class.

Inflation hawks have been the talk of the town in elite economic circles in recent weeks. More liberal-leaning minds critique their (frankly) unsubstantiated concerns that the Federal Reserve is driving the U.S. economy toward high levels of inflation. Hawks are concerned that high levels of inflation due to expansionary monetary policy will lead to negative economic outcomes for major firms and, in turn, the rest of the American public.

Instead of worrying about inflation, which has remained at or below 1.5 percent for a year and a half, many prominent economists argue that we should focus on wage growth and jobs. We have seen profits for corporations rise to nearly pre-recession rates, while the poverty rate is not declining as fast as it should be. It’s clear there are some big policies that need changing: the minimum wage, the corporate tax structure, federal budget priorities, and regulations ranging across industries. So why is there so much focus on the Fed and the inflation hawks that circle it? Is there some policy lever we can pull here that would raise outcomes for the working class?

Let’s lay it out on the table: Current economic debates have focused on U.S. and global monetary policy because our fiscal policy problems appear to be inoperable. A Congressional stagnation, of sorts, has led to a fixation on a different institution, the Federal Reserve. But, overall, can this fixation actually translate into outcomes for the middle class?

With a gridlocked federal system, where can we push for substantial changes in wages and investment infrastructure that support the working class? Executive orders have their limits, of course. Advancements in cities like Seattle and New York City or states like Maryland have started to take effect. But at some point, a deeper, sustainable change must take place. This is a change in who leads in governance and who leads on policy change.

Elections are our general go-to on these matters. If political representation fails, we can just vote them out! Elections matter, but, there are some facts to consider. Currently, the average U.S. voter has an income higher than the median. This is due to lack of access, as well as the privilege of being able to make time to vote. Thus, we should open up opportunities, such as early voting, to more people. But even still, with faith in government falling, access reforms only go so far.

Beyond the act of voting itself, we have to question the responsiveness of the federal government, in particular, to voters. The growing influence of interest groups and coalitions of the wealthy make the ability to change political outcomes from the ballot box less and less secure.

We need to grow the bench. Deepening political participation in and beyond voting is key to achieving policies that raise outcomes for the working class. It is not enough to vote; government must be responsive. As Roosevelt Institute Fellow Sabeel Rahman notes, historic movements of substantial political reform have popular sovereignty and grassroots movements at their core.

Sabeel's words ring especially true in our current political climate. With congressional ineptitude and an unwillingness of the elites to take responsibility for the current state of our democracy, we must return to local movements and communities to build the foundations needed to create tangible economic change. That’s why members of the Campus Network are piloting the Rethinking Communities initiative. We recognize that democracy starts not in Washington but at home, in our own classrooms, our own cities, and our own communities.

There is no silver bullet or hero in this fight for economic justice. Not one public official, nor one economist, nor one President will solve our mess. A return to democratic principles and a deepening of participatory process is what it will take to uplift the working class.

Joelle Gamble is the National Director of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

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Daily Digest - October 9: Extreme Wealth Disparities Will Lead to Social Dysfunction

Oct 9, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Top 400 U.S. Billionaires' Wealth Equals Brazil's GDP (Real News Network)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Top 400 U.S. Billionaires' Wealth Equals Brazil's GDP (Real News Network)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Rob Johnson comments on this data point from Forbes, noting that the social dysfunction caused by this kind of inequality isn't hitting the wealthy yet.

Pulling the Plug on Comcast's Merger (Bloomberg View)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford explains why the Federal Communications Commission should block Comcast's proposed merger with Time Warner Cable.

Debt Scolds: Pay No Attention to the Falling Deficit! (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait scolds those who treated the deficit like the end of the world; now, the deficit is falling, but their outlook took needed stimulus off the table back in 2009.

Fed Officials to Be Flexible on How They Raise Rates (WSJ)

Reporting on the Federal Reserve meeting notes from September, Jon Hilsenrath explains the Fed's decision to try new experimental tools when it's time to raise interest rates.

Obama Had Security Fears on JPMorgan Data Breach (NYT)

Michael Corkery, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and David E. Sanger report on the administration's knowledge of a summer-long cyberattack on JPMorgan and other banks.

Post-recession Decline in Black Women’s Wages is Consistent with Occupational Downgrading (Working Economics)

Valerie Wilson says that unlike other groups, black women lost both mid-wage and high-wage jobs in the recession, which explains their decreased earnings.

New on Next New Deal

Obama Administration Defends Amazon’s Low Pay – Again

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch says the support of Amazon in Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk illustrates the continued influence of the donor class over workers.

The Federal Reserve Won't Save the Economy for All

Deepening participatory democracy will improve outcomes for the working class, writes Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Director Joelle Gamble.

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