"Inequality for All" is "The Progressive Economic Narrative: The Movie"

Sep 27, 2013Richard Kirsch

The new film starring Robert Reich delivers a powerful message about what's wrong with the economy, though it may leave viewers wondering what they can do about it.

With the release of the documentary Inequality for All today, the core progressive story about what is wrong with the economy is now on the silver screen. For those of us who have been working to articulate what we call a progressive economic narrative, it is a major milestone.

The new film starring Robert Reich delivers a powerful message about what's wrong with the economy, though it may leave viewers wondering what they can do about it.

With the release of the documentary Inequality for All today, the core progressive story about what is wrong with the economy is now on the silver screen. For those of us who have been working to articulate what we call a progressive economic narrative, it is a major milestone.

The right spent decades projecting their view that prosperity is created through limited government and free markets, concepts that still dominate most Americans’ thinking, even as the American dream is becoming a nightmare for more and more families. The new movie provides a powerful way to popularize a very different story.

Inequality for All is based around a big lecture course that Robert Reich gives at the University of California Berkeley. Reich and the film’s director, Jacob Kornbluth, mix facts, infographics, documentary footage, and profiles of families whose lives have been scarred by the new economy with the personal story of Reich’s lifelong work to push for a just economy, including his frustrations serving as Labor Secretary during President Clinton’s first term. Reich’s personality, his humor, feistiness, and passion, drive the film.

The progressive economic narrative can be encapsulated in four sentences:

  • Working families and the middle class are getting crushed while the super-rich game the system.
  • Working families and the middle class are the engines of the economy.
  • We build a strong middle class through decisions we make together.
  • It’s up to us to build an America that works for all of us.

Inequality for All tells the same story. In the movie, Reich ties the vast increase in income inequality to the loss of unionization, the diversion of economic growth from wages to CEO compensation and profits, the financialization of the economy, cutting taxes for the wealthy, and the failure of government to keep investing in education and infrastructure.

Reich shows how a virtuous cycle of higher wages and productivity, which put more money in consumers’ pockets, thus driving the economy forward and raising revenues for government investment, was replaced by a vicious cycle in which stagnant wages undercut consumer purchasing, leading to lower demand and more layoffs along with declining tax revenues and government spending.

While most Americans know that the rich are getting richer while everyone else is being squeezed, the crucial contribution the movie makes is explaining the two key economic concepts needed to discredit the conservative economic story.

The most powerful messenger for the first concept is not Reich, but Nick Hanauer, a Seattle billionaire, who made his fortune in both the old and new economy. Hanauer’s family business is one of the world’s largest pillow manufacturers, but his latest fortune is as an early Amazon investor. Hanauer tours his pillow-making factory, pointing out that “a person like me who earns 1,000 times as much as the typical American doesn’t buy 1,000 pillows a year. Even the richest person only sleeps on one or two pillows. The pillow business is quite tough, as it is for many, many industries, because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy the products we make.”

When consumers are able to afford a new item, many now go to places like Amazon, which Hanauer points out employs 60,000 employees to achieve the same volume of sales that mom and pop businesses would hire 600,000 for.

The second key concept, hammered home over and over again by Reich, is “We make the rules of the economy and we have the power to change those rules.” He says his first studies of economics, as a Rhodes Scholar, taught him that there was “no such thing as a perfectly free market anywhere. Government sets the rules by which the market functions… The real question is who do these rules benefit and who they hurt.”

The driving narrative behind Inequality for All, and the most important point for people to learn, is that the crushing of the middle class did not happen by accident; it happened because of decisions that were made by business and government. Reich’s message is that we can make different decisions to create an economy of shared prosperity.

The last third of the movie emphasizes that the biggest obstacle to change is the capturing of our democracy by big money. Reich, who is the chair of Common Cause, warns that because of the “threat to democracy” from the rising concentration of wealth, “we are seeing an entire society that is starting to pull apart.”

Reich concludes with a call for building a movement, telling a personal story of why he became an activist. Reich, who is less than five feet tall, was saved from bullying by an older schoolmate, Mickey Schwerner, who was murdered along with two other young civil rights volunteers in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964. That event, Reich says, changed his life.

His final charge to his students is a call to action: “You've got to mobilize, you've got to organize, you've got to energize other people. Politics is not out there. It starts here…. History is on the side of positive social change… You can be a leader.”

The biggest weakness of the film, which undercuts his hopeful conclusion, is that Reich does not propose any specific solutions. He says that “policy ideas are plentiful” but doesn’t provide them. As a result, the call for action may ring hollow. Action toward what? I know that one group of Millennials who saw a preview came away feeling both educated and discouraged. The movie would have benefited mightily from connecting to movements for change.

Reich and Inequality for All’s distributors are trying to make up for that through their website, which moviegoers will see as the film ends. The website links to actions people can take and organizations people can work with on six broad issues: raising the minimum wage; strengthening workers’ voices; investing in education; reforming Wall Street; fixing the tax system; and getting big money out of politics. Progressive groups are sponsoring showings of the film, and the website invites people to arrange for a showing at a theater in their communities. I hope many local progressive organizations will sponsor showings and engage the audience in a discussion afterward on how they can take action.

Still, Inequality for All is a powerful narrative vehicle for the progressive story about why income inequality is not just unfair, but the driving force behind the fading American dream and the fraying of our democracy. In his passionate final charge to his class, Reich offers one version of the core progressive idea, “we all do better when we all do better.” Hearing that message on the big screen, released by a Hollywood powerhouse like the Weinstein Group, is an affirmation that our history may indeed be moving toward positive social change.  

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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Inequality Broke the Economy. How Can We Fix It in New York City?

Sep 26, 2013Nell Abernathy

The Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, and the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute recently convened a panel of local policy experts to discuss inequality in New York and how the next mayor can address it. Watch the video below.

The Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, and the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute recently convened a panel of local policy experts to discuss inequality in New York and how the next mayor can address it. Watch the video below.

“The economy is broken and inequality broke it,” James Parrott, Chief Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute, said Tuesday night at the Roosevelt Institute’s forum on Inequality in New York.

The divide between the rich and the poor in New York and across the nation is not an inevitable consequence of technology, globalization, or even human capital, each of the panelists reiterated. “This is the result of policy choices,” Parrott continued. Learn more about what the next mayor should do to tackle inequality and how he can pay for it by watching the video of the event below:

Maya Wiley, Founder and President of the Center for Social Inclusion, emphasized the role of government in creating opportunity. “Fundamentally what we’ve had is a narrative that government gets in the way, rather than recognizing that we created a middle class in this country beginning with the New Deal, continuing with the Fair Deal, based on a series of policies that brought it into being in the mid-20th century. By and large, the middle class as we know it today didn’t even exist until the middle of the 20th century. And we forget that. It wasn’t some natural occurrence.”

Tsedeye Gebreselassie, Staff Attorney at the National Employment Law Project, said a key driver of inequality in New York City has been the stagnation of wages for the working and middle class. New York’s current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour equates to an annual income of $15,000 a year. Our next mayor, she argued, should work with Albany and the City Council to increase the city’s minimum wage, following the example of other high-cost cities like San Francisco, which has a floor of $10.55 an hour.

“Depending on how high you raise that wage, you could impact nearly a million workers living in the city,” said Gebreselassie. “It’s a tremendous policy in terms of boosting the wage floor across the low-wage labor market and putting money in the hands of people who will spend it immediately at local business, giving a stimulative effect to our economy as a whole.”

Lawrence Aber, a professor of psychology and public policy at NYU, said the next mayor should focus public investment on poor children ages 0-5. “We now know that poverty literally gets under the skin and into the mind.” Under-nourishment during the first few years reduces human development and puts children at a lifelong disadvantage. Every dollar invested to beef up New York’s existing child health programs, he explained, goes much further than public money spent to correct developmental challenges further down the road.

When an audience member questioned panelists about how they planned to pay for their proposed programs, answers varied.

The next mayor could use budget policy to reshuffle priorities. For example, tax breaks for real estate development in New York grew 180 percent under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, to a total of $3 billion a year, Wiley said. Given the booming nature of New York’s real estate market, that public money could be better spent. Aber said the next mayor could use the bully pulpit to advocate for a shift in national budget priorities.

While an increase in local revenue cannot fund all the panelists’ priorities, there is room to raise taxes on the city’s top income bracket, Parrott said. Critics of progressive policy often cite income tax data to emphasize the percentage of city taxes paid by the rich, but Parrott showed that when property taxes and sales taxes are included, the rich, in fact, pay only 25.2 percent of the city’s tax burden while taking home 33.8 percent of total income.

The breadth of the challenge can be daunting, but panel moderator David Jones, President and CEO of Community Service Society, sounded a message of optimism. "I don't know if a decade ago we could gather this many people together to talk about this as a critical issue," he told an audience that had filled both auditorium and overflow room. "This is obviously a pivotal moment where people are taking this seriously."

Join Jeff Madrick, Director of Rediscovering Government, at the Frances Perkins Center in Portland, ME on October 4 for "Rediscovering Government: Making People Matter." The Frances Perkins Center will present Ai-jen Poo with its Intelligence and Courage Award and Sally Greenberg with its Steadfast Award, and Madrick will moderate a panel discussion. More information here.

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

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Why New York is Home to So Many of the Working Poor, in Graphs

Sep 16, 2013Nell Abernathy

The Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative is trying to understand how New York got so unequal. And we're looking for solutions.

The Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative is trying to understand how New York got so unequal. And we're looking for solutions.

So what is behind this big shift toward income inequality in New York? Income trends in the city represent an amplified version of our national problems: low-wage jobs without benefits are replacing middle-wage jobs that could support families. Nationwide, middle-wage jobs constituted 60 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession and only 22 percent of those regained during recovery, according to analysis from Roosevelt Institute’s Annette Bernhardt at NELP. Meanwhile, low-wage jobs made up only 21 percent of recession job losses and 58 percent of jobs gained since.

The national trend started well before the Great Recession.

And in New York, it’s been the same, but worse. A 2012 report from the Federal Reserve found that middle-income jobs comprised 67 percent of employment in downstate New York in the 1980s, but by 2010, that number fell to 55.8 percent.

Top that off with the fact that for the last decade, wages have risen for the top 5 percent and stagnated or fallen for middle- and low-income workers, and you begin to see the currents driving our inequality crisis.

Why is this happening? Technology? Wall Street? Policy? Education?

We’ll explore those questions and potential solutions at our upcoming panel, "Inequality in New York: The Next Mayor’s Challenge."

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

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The 2 Train Travels Between New York's "Two Cities"

Sep 13, 2013Nell Abernathy

New York City is as starkly divided along economic lines as it is connected by its famous subway lines.  The Roosevelt Institute is looking for solutions.

New York City is as starkly divided along economic lines as it is connected by its famous subway lines.  The Roosevelt Institute is looking for solutions.

Another fun/depressing/informative infographic on New York City’s stunning wealth divide: Back in April, before the election was heating up, the good people at The New Yorker plotted the diverging extremes in median income of New York neighborhoods along the subway lines. It turns out you can actually ride the 2 train from prosperity to poverty.

The neighborhood surrounding the 2 train Chambers Street stop in Tribeca  has a median income of $205,192 and is among the city's wealthiest.

Fourteen miles further north, around the East 180th Street stop in the Bronx, median income is $13,750. For those who think income is irrelevant as long as you can access the American dream, opportunities aren't so great up there, either.

 Come learn about solutions from the experts at our September 24 event, "Inequality in New York: the Next Mayor’s Challenge."

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

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Daily Digest - September 12: Reducing Inequality Isn't Impossible

Sep 12, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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The Richest Nab The Greatest Share of Income Recovered (All In With Chris Hayes)

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The Richest Nab The Greatest Share of Income Recovered (All In With Chris Hayes)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz discusses the ways that the labor market and financial systems have contributed to income inequality's growth. He talks about short-term solutions, like appointing a Fed chair who will focus on full employment.

Report: The Rich Are Now Richer Than Ever (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger reports on a study showing that the vast bulk of the recovery has gone to the wealthiest Americans. Rising corporate profits and stock prices don't help the middle and lower classes.

Moving Past the Low-Wage Social Contract (Reuters)

Josh Freedman argues that for decades our social contract has used tax credits and subsidies to help low wage workers and encourage lower prices, and it isn't working. Tax credits don't reduce income inequality or increase income mobility.

Top California Lawmakers Back Raising Minimum Wage (NYT)

With the leaders of the legislature and the governor backing the bill, Ian Lovett reports that California is almost certain to pass the nation's highest minimum wage by Friday. The bill will raise the minimum wage to $9 on July 1, 2013, and to $10 on January 1, 2016.

The Real Reason the Poor Go Without Bank Accounts (Atlantic Cities)

Lisa Servon discusses her research on why some people prefer check cashers, despite the fees involved. She finds that check cashers may serve people living on the edge better, because there's no risk of cascading fees for overdrawn accounts.

Government-Shutdown Crisis Proceeding on Schedule (TAP)

Paul Waldman reports that if Tea Party Republicans have their way, we'll be headed for a shutdown in October. Of course, that isn't going to help the GOP's reputation with voters, but defunding Obamacare is more important then keeping government programs funded.

Five Years After the Crisis, These 13 Charts Show What’s Fixed and What Isn’t. (WaPo)

Neil Irwin presents data on what has and hasn't changed in the five years since Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. He claims that this data makes a persuasive argument that today's financial system is more stable then before.

New on Next New Deal

Three Graphs That Show Why Inequality Matters in the New York City Mayoral Race

Nell Abernathy, Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, shares some charts that explain why inequality (or as Mayor Bloomberg puts it, "class warfare") is so important in the NYC mayoral race.

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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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