While Congress Plays Politics, New York State Must Invest in Young People

Mar 26, 2015Kevin Stump

Last week, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate released budget proposals that include a slew of policy changes that would negatively impact young people’s ability to fully participate in the economy.  

Last week, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate released budget proposals that include a slew of policy changes that would negatively impact young people’s ability to fully participate in the economy.  

The proposals would, among many other bad ideas, freeze funding on Pell Grants for 10 years and eliminate mandatory funding for the program, leaving it vulnerable to the unstable political culture of Washington, D.C. Both budget proposals would charge students interest on all their loans while they’re still in school, costing the average borrower thousands of dollars more. Each budget also eliminates the Pay As You Earn student loan repayment program, which caps monthly payments based on borrower incomes to make payments more affordable for moderate- and low- income debt holders.

It’s concerning that Congress cares so little about an entire generation of young Americans — the very generation that will have to repair what today’s leaders have broken.

While Congress continues to play politics, states need to make investments so this generation isn’t subject to spiraling economic inequality and missed opportunities. As New York approaches its April 1 budget deadline, the governor and the state legislature need to prioritize policies that will help young people to fully realize their potential and participate in the economy.

As outlined in my critique of Governor Cuomo’s student loan program, New York State must: (1) inject resources into public higher education, (2) roll back tuition hikes, (3) reform the Tuition Assistance Program, and (4) require that economic develop initiatives include some type of student loan relief for employees.

But even those measures won’t be enough by themselves. In order for the state to forge ahead and truly invest in youth, it will also need to do the following:  

  1. Increase the minimum wage. With Millennials making up 71 percent of minimum wage workers, raising the wage would give young people a chance to pay down debt, invest in the economy, and start building their economic future. 
  2. Charge the governor’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils with developing a serious comprehensive plan to integrate paid apprenticeship and internship programs into the criteria for doing business with the state. To help combat the double-digit unemployment rate for 16–24-year-olds across the country, New York State should take advantage of its economic development projects, like START UP NY and NY SUNY 2020, to (1) provide young people with income and (2) impart the skills necessary to compete in today’s economy.
  3. Pass the NY DREAM Act to give thousands of New York’s undocumented youth access to state financial aid so they too can fully participate in the economy.
  4. Expand Governor Cuomo’s proposal to double the Urban Youth Jobs Program. This will help reward businesses that hire and train inner-city youth. In addition, this will help give New Yorkers ages 16–24 the opportunity to learn professional skills while also getting paid.

Conservatives and progressives are both trying to shift the political pendulum in their direction as they gear up for the 2016 election, which will consequently shape the fabric of our political system for the next decade. But Republicans in Congress, as evidenced by their budget proposals, continue to forget about young people. It is now up to President Obama to reject these failed principles and for states to get serious about enacting the real policy changes we need to give young people a fighting chance.

As Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Director Joelle Gamble articulates so well, “the young people who are inheriting the effects of the decisions made at all levels of government today… want to see investments made in a more prosperous future.”

Kevin Stump is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Leadership Director.

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Seven Ways Chicago Can Put Working Families Before Wall Street

Mar 24, 2015Saqib Bhatti

The ReFund America Project released a new report this morning, “Our Kind of Town: A Financial Plan that Puts Chicago’s Communities First.” The report lays out a plan for getting Chicago’s finances back on track without painful austerity measures, which exacerbate economic inequality by forcing working families to shoulder the cost.

The ReFund America Project released a new report this morning, “Our Kind of Town: A Financial Plan that Puts Chicago’s Communities First.” The report lays out a plan for getting Chicago’s finances back on track without painful austerity measures, which exacerbate economic inequality by forcing working families to shoulder the cost.

Over the last month, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the credit ratings of the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to near junk level. Last week, Fitch Ratings followed by cutting CPS’s rating to just one notch above junk. Even though the major credit rating agencies are unreliable institutions, rife with conflicts of interest, a history of missed calls, and a reputation for using their ratings to push political agendas, these downgrades have put the issue of financial management front and center in Chicago's political debate. Questions about how best to manage the city’s money shine a spotlight on the competing interests of Chicago residents and the powerful Wall Street firms that have been profiting from the city’s financial problems.

In the developing world, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank require financially distressed governments to enact painful cuts in order to obtain financing. Moody’s and Fitch are similarly using these downgrades to push an austerity agenda in Chicago. These downgrades will benefit Wall Street firms because the city and CPS will be forced to take out more expensive products like credit enhancements and bond insurance to boost investor confidence in their bonds. Already, the city and CPS are on the hook for a combined $300 million in penalties connected to interest rate swaps as a result of these downgrades. But all of this is wholly unnecessary because none of Chicago’s governmental units are actually in any danger of defaulting on their bonds.

Moreover, this response will come at the expense of community services like education, mental health, and parks programs. Many politicians are already using the downgrades to call for austerity measures that would take a toll on Chicago’s most vulnerable residents and to justify slashing government workers’ pensions, in violation of the Illinois Constitution. State Representative Ron Sandack has even introduced a bill in the Illinois Legislature to allow municipalities to file bankruptcy in order to circumvent the state constitution’s protection of public pension funds.

The current discourse ignores the simple reality that the city is not spending too much on either public services or workers. The real problem with Chicago’s budget is that the city is hemorrhaging money on predatory financial deals with Wall Street banks and not properly taxing its wealthiest corporations and residents. Chicago needs a proactive agenda that puts the needs of communities first. In the short term, this includes measures like:

  • Recovering losses from predatory municipal finance deals. The City of Chicago, its related governmental units, and their pension funds should take all steps to recover taxpayer dollars when banks deal unfairly with them. This includes taking both legal and economic action to try get out of bad deals like interest rate swaps and recoup lost money.
  • Reducing financial fees by 20 percent across the board. The City of Chicago, its related governmental units, and their pension funds should press for negotiations demanding 20 percent reductions on all financial fees to force Wall Street firms to share in the sacrifices that Chicagoans are being forced to make every day.
  • Insourcing pension fund management. The City of Chicago and its related governmental units should bring investment management in-house for a significant portion of their pension funds’ investments, by hiring qualified staff with a proven record of effective management instead of paying Wall Street firms tens of millions of dollars each year to accomplish the same goal.
  • Ending corporate tax subsidies and tax breaks. The City of Chicago should end all corporate tax subsidies and tax breaks to major corporations, and claw back subsidies given to corporations in exchange for job creation if they did not live up to their goals of creating jobs for city residents. This includes tax subsidies from the city’s tax-increment financing (TIF) programs.

In the longer run, Chicago needs structural solutions. This includes:

  • Collective bargaining with Wall Street. The City of Chicago, its related governmental units, and their pension funds should identify financial fees that bear no reasonable relationship to the costs of providing the service and join with other cities in the region and across the country to create a new industry standard for fees and refuse to do business with any bank that does not abide by that standard.
  • Creating a public bank. The City of Chicago should establish a public bank that is owned by taxpayers and can deliver a range of services, including municipal finance, and provide capital for local economic development and affordable housing in Chicago’s neighborhoods.
  • Raising progressive revenue. The City of Chicago should work to raise progressive revenue by instituting measures like a graduated city income tax to force high earners to pay their fair share, a commuter tax on suburban residents who work in the city, and the LaSalle Street Tax on financial transactions at the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Board Options Exchange. All of these likely require state approval, so the mayor would have to petition the state for authorization. California and Minnesota have both enacted progressive revenue measures in recent years that have helped solve their respective budget crises.

These steps will allow Chicago to reclaim power in its relationship with Wall Street and create a financial regime in the city that will put the interests of Chicago’s communities first.

Saqib Bhatti is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and Director of the ReFund America Project.

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The Republican Budget Plan Looks to the Past, Not the Future

Mar 19, 2015Joelle Gamble

The Republican budget plans are causing quite a stir in the D.C. press and in Congress. However, the content of their proposals, if enacted, will ripple beyond the beltway and into states, cities, communities, and college campuses across the country – and the consequences should be of particular concern to young Americans.

The Republican budget plans are causing quite a stir in the D.C. press and in Congress. However, the content of their proposals, if enacted, will ripple beyond the beltway and into states, cities, communities, and college campuses across the country – and the consequences should be of particular concern to young Americans.

Rather than using their new platform in Congress to make investments in the future of this nation, Republicans have chosen to pack in a laundry list of complaints and repeals based in our past. Young organizers have already begun to push back against proposed slash in Pell grant funding.  Other backwards-looking choices, from repealing the Affordable Care Act to failing to invest in new energy technology, would also have a profound impact on young people.

The Campus Network believes in policy that is by and for people, not built at the expense of them. We’ve got a student-generated budget to prove it. As the young people who are inheriting the effects of the decisions made at all levels of government today, we want to see investments made in a more prosperous future. Investments in accessible and affordable education, critical infrastructure, green energy, and good jobs are what is going to help our generation succeed – not the renewal of old policies that have repeatedly proved ineffective.

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

 

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The House GOP Budget Ignores the Evidence That Combating Inequality is Good for Economic Growth

Mar 19, 2015Tim Price

The budget proposal put forth by House Republicans this week has been roundly criticized as yet another attempt to enact massive tax cuts that would redistribute money to the top at the expense of middle- and low-income families. Republicans contend these cuts would pay for themselves by producing rapid economic growth, which would create the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats. But this is the GOP’s same old so-called trickle-down economics with a fresh coat of we-care-about-the-middle-class paint.

The budget proposal put forth by House Republicans this week has been roundly criticized as yet another attempt to enact massive tax cuts that would redistribute money to the top at the expense of middle- and low-income families. Republicans contend these cuts would pay for themselves by producing rapid economic growth, which would create the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats. But this is the GOP’s same old so-called trickle-down economics with a fresh coat of we-care-about-the-middle-class paint. In reality, nonpartisan experts agree that policies that directly help low and middle-income families and reduce inequality are the real key to growth. Here are the facts:

  • Inequality is holding back economic growth. A Standard & Poor’s report found that extreme inequality in the U.S. is a drag on growth. Due to that rising inequality, S&P revised the 10-year growth forecast for the U.S. down from 2.8 percent to 2.5 percent annually.  
  • We don’t have to choose between equality and prosperity. Recent research thoroughly discredits Okun’s Law, the economic belief that there is a trade-off between equity and efficiency. In a 2014 report that analyzed historical data across multiple economies, the International Monetary Fund actually found that “the combined direct and indirect effects of redistribution – including the growth effects of lower inequality – are on average pro-growth.”  
  • Taxing the rich won’t hurt the economy. Wealthy interests often claim that taxing them will slow growth, but the same IMF report found that “the best available macroeconomic data do not support that conclusion.”

Despite Republicans’ desire to portray themselves as protectors of the free market and the middle class, even these market-oriented organizations recognize that progressive, middle-class-friendly tax policy is better for the overall economy. Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz has released a plan for reforming the tax code to promote equitable economic growth, and there will be more to come through the Roosevelt Institute’s Inequality Project as we continue to seek solutions to America’s growing inequality crisis.

Tim Price is Communications Manager for the Roosevelt Institute. Program Associate Eric Harris Bernstein contributed research to this post.

Click here to read the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's response to the Republican budget.

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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.

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

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)

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

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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