Daily Digest - February 27: We're Missing the Mark on Monetary Policy, and a Goodbye

Feb 27, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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The Roosevelt Institute has produced the Daily Digest five days a week since 2009, but its time has now come to an end. Today will be the final Daily Digest; however, we hope you'll subscribe to our weekly e-mail updates to stay in the loop with all the exciting work we're doing here at the Roosevelt Institute. You can also stay in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for reading!

Corporate Borrowing Now Flows To Shareholders, Not Productive Investment: Study (IB Times)

Owen Davis reports on J.W. Mason's new white paper, "Disgorge the Cash," explaining how the paper fits into a growing body of research that suggests flaws in our basic understanding of economics.

Students Question Own Role in Participatory Budgeting (Columbia Spectator)

Sasha Zeints reports on a Campus Network event discussing students' role in participatory budgeting. Chapter president Brit Byrd says students are well-suited to participate as volunteers.

The Federal Reserve Speaks in Mumbo Jumbo. Here's How to Fix That. (The Week)

Referencing Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal, Jeff Sprots argues that the opacity of Federal Reserve statements could be solved by mandating a numerical target for the Fed.

The Real Meaning of $9 an Hour (Time)

Rana Foroohar says that Walmart's wage hike might not make a dramatic impact on the real economy, but it shows that workers can still get the largest companies in the world to change.

What Is ‘Middle-Class Economics’? (NYT)

Josh Barro points out that government policies that help the middle class are only able to produce small shifts. He says the best option might be to step back and hope positive trends continue.

The FCC Approves Strong Net Neutrality Rules (WaPo)

Cecilia Kang and Brian Fung report on the Federal Communications Commission's vote yesterday, which classified the Internet as a public utility to protect access for all.

New on Next New Deal

Make the Stop Overdose Stat Act a Priority for 2015

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Health Care Emily Cerciello explains why this bill targeting opioid overdose prevention should be on both parties' agendas this year.

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Daily Digest - February 24: How to Recreate a Strong Middle Class

Feb 24, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Free the Middle Class (USA Today)

Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Elijah Cummings argue that bringing back a strong middle class requires government intervention.

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Free the Middle Class (USA Today)

Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Elijah Cummings argue that bringing back a strong middle class requires government intervention.

Even Better Than a Tax Cut (NYT)

Continually cutting taxes won't be possible if the government is going to function, argues Lawrence Mishel, which makes policies that push wage growth far more important right now.

NJ Judge Overturns Christie's Pension Cuts (AJAM)

Yesterday's ruling says that Christie could not choose to shortchange pensions in his 2014 budget, and he is now expected to make up the pension deficit by the end of the fiscal year in June.

A Student-Debt Revolt Begins (New Yorker)

Vauhini Vara speaks to one of 15 students from a now-closed for-profit college who are going on a "debt strike" because they argue the school's false promises make their loans invalid.

Retail Workers Are Quitting Their Jobs Like It’s 2007 (Buzzfeed)

Sapna Maheshwari ties the retail quits rate to recent moves by large retail employers to raise their wages. If workers are quitting because they can get better jobs, employers have to catch up.

Why Reform Conservatives Should Join the Democratic Party (The Week)

Jeff Spross argues that so-called reformicons would have much better luck with their policy priorities if they worked with Democrats, who actually support programs that help the poor.

Obama's Newest Plan Might Drive Investment Advisers Out of Business. Good. (Vox)

Matt Yglesias argues that it's for the best if financial advisors for the middle class are driven out of business, because they are only pushing products that make them money.

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Daily Digest - February 18: Comcast Doesn't Want You to Know What You're Missing

Feb 18, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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The Big Lock-In (Medium)

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The Big Lock-In (Medium)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford explains how Comcast is trying to dominate online video to the point where consumers wouldn't even see that other alternatives exist.

Aid to Needy Often Excludes the Poorest in America (NYT)

Patricia Cohen says that in recent decades, assistance to the poorest – generally, those who are not working – has decreased, while government aid for those near the poverty line has increased.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s Double Standard: Only the Working Poor Must Comply With the Tax Code (WaPo)

Jared Bernstein calls out Rep. Ryan for allowing business tax breaks without compensating for the cost or strengthening enforcement, while any break for poor families must be offset elsewhere.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner: Organized Labor's Public Enemy No 1? (The Guardian)

The ferocity of Governor Rauner's attacks on labor, particularly public-sector unions, has surprised many, writes Steven Greenhouse, including labor leaders who need to negotiate new contracts.

Is Welfare Reform Causing Earlier Deaths? (The Nation)

Michelle Chen looks at a new study that shows how the shift from open-ended aid to our current welfare system, tied to employment, shortened lives and harmed children's cognitive growth.

American Companies Are Getting Older, Not Better (AJAM)

Aging businesses are creating fewer jobs than new companies, writes David Cay Johnston, and they also pay workers less and push for policies that slow economic growth as a whole.

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Daily Digest - February 10: What Happened to Reinvesting Corporate Profits?

Feb 10, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Stock Buybacks Are Killing the American Economy (The Atlantic)

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Stock Buybacks Are Killing the American Economy (The Atlantic)

Nick Hanauer blames the high percentage of corporate profits going to stock buybacks for our slowed economy; that money could otherwise go to higher wages or new corporate investments.

Obama and Congress Offer Bogus Rhetoric on Tax Reform (AJAM)

David Cay Johnston says that both the Democrats and the Republicans are only discussing tax reform that benefits the political donor class, instead of reform that help average Americans.

  • Roosevelt Take: In a white paper released last year, Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz proposed a tax plan that would promote equity and growth for all.

Right-to-Work Laws are Every Republican Union-Hater's Weapon of Choice (The Guardian)

There are no philosophical or economic arguments in favor of right-to-work laws, writes Michael Paarlberg, only a political preference for supporting employers over workers.

Illinois Governor Acts to Curb Power of Public Sector Unions (NYT)

Monica Davey and Mitch Smith report on Governor Rauner's executive order, which will strip public sector unions of the fair share dues that non-members pay for the benefits they get anyway.

Red States' New Tax on the Poor: Mandatory Drug Tests for Welfare Recipients (TNR)

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig points out that only certain public funds require invasive tests to ensure recipients are worthy of assistance. Other forms of welfare, like public schools, are simply accepted.

In at Least 22 States, Your Student Debt Could Cost You Your Job (Jobs With Justice)

Chris Hicks points out the disconnect inherent in laws that revoke professional licenses from people who aren't able to pay their student debt. How will they make enough to pay it off without that license?

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The Obama Budget: Weak on Reproductive Health

Feb 9, 2015Andrea Flynn

Family planning is both vital for econoimc stability and a solid investment with strong returns, so why wasn't it better funded in the President's budget?

Family planning is both vital for econoimc stability and a solid investment with strong returns, so why wasn't it better funded in the President's budget?

Last week President Obama unveiled a 10-year budget that reflects the ambitious and progressive agenda he laid out in his State of the Union address. With investments in infrastructure, education, and economic supports for the middle class, the President’s funding plan aims to lift up low-income families and address the growing and historic U.S. class divide. But Obama has fallen short on one area that is critical to women and families: reproductive health.

There were hopes that the president would request a significant increase for Title X – the nation’s only program dedicated to providing quality, affordable reproductive health services – and also the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, a 1976 law that prohibits women from using federal health benefits such as Medicaid to pay for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. But Obama did neither.

Given conservative control of Congress, President Obama’s budget has little chance of being passed as is. But as John Cassidy pointed out in the New Yorker this week, the budget is as much a political document as it is an economic one. “The White House is using it to frame the political debate for this year and for the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election – an effort that began with the State of the Union address,” Cassidy wrote. Obama had an opportunity to show that reproductive health is a critical component of any agenda meant to lift up low-income families, and one the federal government must invest in if their other efforts are to bear fruit. But he missed that opportunity.

The president’s $300 million request was a modest increase from last year’s budget of $286.5 million – Title X’s first increase since 2010 – but still leaves the program woefully underfunded. Title X has still not recovered from the drastic cuts it endured between 2010 and 2013, when lawmakers cut the budget from $317 to $278 million, and as a result prevented 667,000 patients from receiving care. Family planning experts estimate that in order to completely fulfill the nation’s unmet need for reproductive health care, Title X would require somewhere in the ballpark of $800 million, a far cry from today’s budget.

Title X is like the little engine that could of public programs. It prevents more than one million unintended pregnancies annually, and thereby avoids nearly 600,000 unplanned births and more than 400,000 abortions. Without Title X, the U.S. unintended pregnancy and abortion rate would be 35 percent higher among adult women and 42 percent higher among teens. Not to mention that in 2010 every dollar invested in Title X saved $5.68. How’s that for a return on investment?

Not only is the program underfunded, but in states across the country conservative lawmakers have implemented restrictions that have prevented Title X funds from actually going to family providers, effectively chipping away at what was once a robust health safety net and exacerbating a pre-existing shortage of reproductive health providers. It is largely low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, and young women who are left without anywhere to turn for preventative care.

And what happens when those women find themselves needing to terminate a pregnancy? Between the restrictions set forth under the Hyde Amendment and the rapidly shrinking network of abortion providers, they have few options. In 1976 – just three years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion – Congress passed the Hyde Amendment and made abortion the only medical procedure ever banned from Medicaid. Ironically, Medicaid covers all the costs related to family planning and pregnancy.

By this point, you might be thinking this is all irrelevant, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If only. While the ACA has extended care to scores of women who were previously uninsured, conservative opposition has diluted its potential impact and many people will remain without health coverage. Indeed, nearly four million women will be left without coverage this year thanks to conservative opposition to expanding Medicaid. In addition, federal restrictions ban many immigrants from Medicaid, the contraceptive mandate has been compromised and contraception is now your boss’s business, and this term the Supreme Court may very well take federal subsidies away from millions who need them in order to afford health insurance.

We need an increased investment in reproductive health now more than ever. If we are serious about improving the circumstances of low- and middle-income U.S. families, we must extend critical care and services to all of those who need and want them, and also shape the political debate in a way that will give all women and families all of the tools – not just a select few – that they need to thrive.

When the president, who espoused his support for reproductive rights in his State of the Union address, doesn’t push for a significant expansion of reproductive health care while he is putting his political capital behind broader education, income, and work-family supports, it signals that reproductive health, perhaps, is not as critical as these other issues. It suggests that with other supports women can lead economically secure lives, even if they cannot control their fertility and determine the timing and size of their families. That is simply not the case.

An agenda without bold investments in reproductive health is not a comprehensive agenda for women and families. And if women cannot access quality and affordable health care, they will not be able to make the most of the other important initiatives the president has proposed.

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

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Daily Digest - February 3: A New Kind of Budget

Feb 3, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Budget Day Feels a Lot Like Groundhog Day (Marketplace)

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Budget Day Feels a Lot Like Groundhog Day (Marketplace)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that year after year, the president's budget tried to compromise with Republicans from the start, but this year's has broken off that routine.

Obamacare is Costing Way Less Than Expected (Vox)

Ezra Klein reports that the Congressional Budget Office's adjusted predictions show the government will spend $600 billion less than estimated on healthcare - and the original estimate was pre-Obamacare.

In Net Neutrality Push, F.C.C. Is Expected to Propose Regulating Internet Service as a Utility (NYT)

The Federal Communications Commission's new proposal will give it authority to enforce true net neutrality, including ending paid "fast lanes" on the Internet, writes Steve Lohr.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford argues against the GOP's recent embrace of open Internet, which she says is a bait and switch.

Labor Pains (TNR)

Rebecca Traister, currently on maternity leave at The New Republic, explains the impossible career situations created for women who want children under U.S. laws.

Banks See Stable Lending Landscape, But Some Auto Loans Signal Trouble (WSJ)

Kate Davidson looks at the results of a Federal Reserve survey of banks, which shows concern about the sub-prime auto loans that have become a larger and larger part of the market.

The City That Outlawed Free Food (The Nation)

Michelle Chen takes a close look at Fort Lauderdale, Florida's new policy restricting the distribution of free food. City officials claimed free food enabled homelessness.

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Daily Digest - February 2: Trade Shouldn't Mean Higher Drug Prices

Feb 2, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Don't Trade Away Our Health (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that the Trans-Pacific Partnership's intellectual property agreements will raise drug prices unnecessarily and slow innovation.

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Don't Trade Away Our Health (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that the Trans-Pacific Partnership's intellectual property agreements will raise drug prices unnecessarily and slow innovation.

Obama Veers Left (Politico)

Ben White speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal about the president's budget. Konczal says this budget takes the focus off the deficit as a be-all,-end-all problem.

Obama's New Budget Proves the Grand Bargain is Finally Dead (Vox)

Matt Yglesias explains why the Obama administration has, in this budget, stopped playing to potential compromises and showdowns and focused on what the president actually wants to achieve.

A Simple Guide to Obama’s New Proposals for Spending and Taxes (WaPo)

Max Ehrenfreund breaks down the main points in the Obama budget and explains how taxes would change in order to pay for programs like funded preschool and investment in infrastructure.

U.S. Growth Rate Slips to 2.6% Raising Doubts About Strength of Economy (The Guardian)

Rupert Neate reports on the final numbers for the fourth quarter of 2014, which showed slower growth than economists had expected. Still, overall GDP growth for the year was higher than 2013.

How Tipping Helped Make Sexual Harassment the Norm for Female Servers (In These Times)

Jenny Brown says that workers who rely on tips often have no choice but to put up with harassment, as discussed in a new report from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

Uber and Lyft Drivers May Have Employee Status, Judge Says (Bloomberg)

In two different lawsuits, judges have indicated that they are unconvinced that drivers for these services are merely consumers of a software platform, reports Karen Gullo.

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Daily Digest - January 30: Where Did the Manufacturing Jobs Go?

Jan 30, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Wal-Mart’s Manufacturing Recovery? (The Hill)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Damon Silvers says that Wal-Mart's manufacturing initiative is really just an attempt to make people forget the company's influence on offshoring jobs.

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Wal-Mart’s Manufacturing Recovery? (The Hill)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Damon Silvers says that Wal-Mart's manufacturing initiative is really just an attempt to make people forget the company's influence on offshoring jobs.

Bernie Sanders Wants to Spend $1 Trillion on Infrastruture (WaPo)

Senator Sanders' proposal calls for investment in a full range of infrastructure projects, and he says it would put 13 million people to work, writes Ashley Halsey.

What the Sharing Economy Takes (The Nation)

Doug Henwood dives deep into the so-called sharing economy, pointing out how the utopian ideals of the companies involved fail to play out in the real economy.

Obama Has a Modest Plan to Tackle One of the Most Underrated Economic Problems in America (Vox)

Timothy B. Lee praises a proposed study of state occupational licensing. There's little evidence that licensing massage therapists and funeral attendants improves quality.

Rent to Own: Wall Street’s Latest Housing Trick (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger says rent-to-own housing schemes, which seem to take advantage of consumers' lack of knowledge, make a case for a stronger government role in overseeing the housing market.

Stop Trying to Make Financial Literacy Happen (Slate)

Helaine Olen argues that the financial services industry pushes financial literacy because it's a way around true consumer protection models with legal backing.

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Daily Digest - January 29: Without Food Stamps, How Many Kids Would Go Hungry?

Jan 29, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Census Says 16m U.S. Children are Living on Food Stamps, Double the Number in 2007 (The Guardian)

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Census Says 16m U.S. Children are Living on Food Stamps, Double the Number in 2007 (The Guardian)

One in five American children would go hungry without food stamps, writes Jana Kasperkevic, which makes continued Republican efforts to cut the program especially worrying.

The Tax Loophole (Almost) Everyone Should Want to Close (Medium)

James Kwak breaks down the step-up in basis for capital gains loophole and why he thinks it ought to be eliminated: because it's strange that our system rewards dying with unsold assets.

  • Roosevelt Take: In his white paper on tax reform, Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz also argues against this loophole.

Fed Says It Will Be Patient in Raising Interest Rates, Citing ‘Solid’ Growth (NYT)

Binyamin Appelbaum reports on the Federal Reserve's latest statement and what it will mean for raising interest rates. At this point, rates won't be raised until at least June.

Don’t Mess With Government Giveaways to the Well-Off (WaPo)

Paul Waldman says the uproar over a suggested change to 529 college savings plans shows which welfare programs are safest: those that are open to all, but give most of their financial benefits to the upper-middle class.

Subprime Bonds Are Back With Different Name Seven Years After U.S. Crisis (Bloomberg Business)

Now called "nonprime" mortgage bonds, Jody Shenn says that this time the investment firms that originate the deals plan to retain the bulk of the risk instead of shifting it to other parties.

Obama Is Finally Getting Credit for the Recovery (TNR)

Danny Vinik says that the Republican arguments claiming the recovery happened in spite of the president's policies are falling apart, leaving no other option but to give him credit.

'Housing First' Policy for Addressing Homelessness Hamstrung By Funding Issues (TAP)

Rachel M. Cohen says that "housing first" policies are pretty clearly a more effective way to fight homelessness, but without sufficient funding and housing stock, can't be fully put into action.

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Daily Digest - January 26: Taxing for the Common Good

Jan 26, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Obama Declares Recovery of American Economy (UP with Steve Kornacki)

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Obama Declares Recovery of American Economy (UP with Steve Kornacki)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz discusses the tax proposals in the State of the Union address, and explains where they could have done more to promote prosperity.

McDonalds Workers File Civil Rights Lawsuit (NOW with Alex Wagner)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren, Friday's guest host, ties this new racial discrimination case to broader patterns of poor labor practices at McDonald's.

Why Obama Took the Lead on High-Speed Internet Access Policy (Medium)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says the president's take on Internet access has shifted to better align with his discussion of middle-class economics.

Report: Fast Food Industry Could Survive $15 Minimum Wage (AJAM)

A new report from economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst explains how fast food companies could maintain their profit margin while raising wages, writes Ned Resnikoff.

Why Wealthy Americans’ Delusions About the Poor Are So Dangerous (Salon)

David Sirota says that reliance on regressive tax policies, such as sales taxes instead of state income taxes, are harming state economies by giving poor families higher effective tax rates than rich ones.

Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up (NYT)

Dionne Searcey and Robert Gebeloff examine the data on the shrinking middle class, noting that only in recent decades has the middle class shrunk because people were moving down the ladder.

New on Next New Deal

Roosevelt Reacts: What Else Did We Need from the 2015 State of the Union?

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network students and alumni respond to the State of the Union address, with a particular focus on what the president left out or could have taken further.

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