Daily Digest - May 15: The Politics of Embracing Piketty

May 15, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Why Democrats Are Paying Attention to Piketty's Book on Inequality (Real News Network)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Tom Ferguson suggests Democrats are using Capital in the 21st Century to strengthen their inequality narrative for the midterm elections.

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Why Democrats Are Paying Attention to Piketty's Book on Inequality (Real News Network)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Tom Ferguson suggests Democrats are using Capital in the 21st Century to strengthen their inequality narrative for the midterm elections.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong says that Piketty and his peers are defining today's debate and opening new opportunities to push back on inequality.

Fast-Food Protests Spread Overseas (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse reports on today's fast food strikes in 150 U.S. cities, the largest yet, and why the organizers are working to build support and influence abroad as well.

The Merits of Participatory Budgeting (AJAM)

Bringing citizens into the decision-making process for local spending empowers them, says Hollie Russon Gilman, and builds their connection to politics more generally.

Paul Ryan's Approach To Poverty Is Straight Out Of The 19th Century (HuffPo)

Arthur Delaney looks at the anti-handout models of fighting poverty from the 1800s, which don't make sense given modern data, and finds strong similarities to Rep. Ryan's views.

The Neediest Americans Are Getting The Least Government Assistance (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert looks at forthcoming research that shows that since 1975, social safety net spending has shifted away from the poorest Americans to those who are more well off.

New on Next New Deal

Places for Hope in the Fight to Protect Women's Health and Rights

To push back against the constant barrage of bad news, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn shines a light on states that are taking proactive, positive steps on women's health.

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Daily Digest - May 14: A Victory for Workers in Vermont

May 14, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Vermont to Set Highest State Minimum Wage in the U.S. (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff reports that the Vermont legislature has voted to raise the state's minimum wage to $10.50 an hour, and the governor is expected to sign the bill soon.

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Vermont to Set Highest State Minimum Wage in the U.S. (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff reports that the Vermont legislature has voted to raise the state's minimum wage to $10.50 an hour, and the governor is expected to sign the bill soon.

I Like Jane Austen's Novels, But I Certainly Don't Want to Live Like That (HuffPo)

Heather Boushey writes that Thomas Piketty's prognosis for the economy is of particular concern for women, because if success depends on inheritance, gender equity will suffer.

Fannie-Freddie Overseer Easing Loan Buybacks (Bloomberg News)

Melvin L. Watt, head of the Federal Housing Authority, has announced new rules intended to stimulate the housing market by encouraging lending, reports Clea Benson.

SEC Peeks Under Private Equity Rug, Finds 'Remarkable' Corruption (LA Times)

Corruption in private equity firms isn't just a problem for the very rich, says Michael Hiltzik, since pension funds are among private equity's big clients.

Rebellious Economics Students Have a Point (New Yorker)

John Cassidy writes that the lack of real-world perspective in today's economics classrooms is a problem. He's particularly interested in bringing back economic history and organization.

Tim Geithner and the Paradox Behind the Government’s Crisis Response (WaPo)

In his review of the former Treasury Secretary's new book, Zachary Goldfarb considers the difficult balance between winning over public opinion and saving collapsing systems.

New on Next New Deal

Why Are Courts Allowing Redefinitions of Emergency Contraception?

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn decries the misinformation about emergency contraception that's being accepted as fact in court cases over the contraception mandate.

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Daily Digest - May 13: When Conservatism Becomes a Health Hazard

May 13, 2014

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How the Right Wing is Killing Women (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich uses Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Ellen Chelser and Fellow Andrea Flynn's paper on poverty and family planning to explain how conservative policy is increasing maternal mortality.

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How the Right Wing is Killing Women (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich uses Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Ellen Chelser and Fellow Andrea Flynn's paper on poverty and family planning to explain how conservative policy is increasing maternal mortality.

  • Roosevelt Take: Andrea Flynn also writes about The Lancet's findings on rising maternal mortality in a series for National Women's Health Week.

The SEC Has Revealed Astounding Corruption in Private Equity (TNR)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal cites the Securities and Exchange Commission's investigations into private equity firms as an example of effective public regulation.

Airport Workers Press to Join a Union (WSJ)

Laura Kusito reports that workers at New York City airports have voted, via card check, to join a union as part of their ongoing fight for better wages and benefits.

The Minimum Wage Loophole That's Screwing Over Waiters and Waitresses (MoJo)

While the law requires that employers make up the difference if servers don't earn minimum wage though tips, Dana Liebelson reports that wage theft is common.

Tenures Becoming Shorter at a Short-Handed Fed (NYT)

Binyamin Appelbaum speculates that faster turnover at the Federal Reserve is due to changing demographics and expectations, more lucrative outside opportunities, and increased burnout.

The Problem with Thomas Piketty: “Capital” Destroys Right-Wing Lies, but There’s One Solution it Forgets (Salon)

Labor organizing is key to fighting inequality, says Thomas Frank, and while it's not a perfect solution to plutocracy, it's easier to implement than a global wealth tax.

New on Next New Deal

To Stop Campus Sexual Assault, We Should Study the Men Responsible

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn and Women Rising Program Manager Nataya Friedan suggest that researching the perpetrators will provide guidance for how to reduce sexual violence.

Negotiating With Iran Should be the United States’ Foreign Policy Priority

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Defense and Diplomacy Jacqueline van de Velde argues that to maintain influence in the Middle East, the U.S. needs to open diplomatic relations with Iran.

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Daily Digest - May 8: More Questions Than Answers for the Federal Reserve

May 8, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Bernie Sanders Asks Fed Chair Whether the US Is an Oligarchy (The Nation)

John Nichols says Yellen did not directly answer the senator's question, but she expressed concerns about growing inequality and how it shapes participation in democracy.

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Bernie Sanders Asks Fed Chair Whether the US Is an Oligarchy (The Nation)

John Nichols says Yellen did not directly answer the senator's question, but she expressed concerns about growing inequality and how it shapes participation in democracy.

Yellen Won’t Be Pinned Down on Plans (NYT)

During her testimony to Congress yesterday, the Federal Reserve chair avoided giving specific timetables for Fed policy even when pressed, reports Binyamin Appelbaum.

  • Roosevelt Take: Before she became Fed chair, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal praised Yellen for her work leading the way on monetary policy.

Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage Agreement: Collective Bargaining Reborn? (TAP)

Harold Meyerson suggests that the Seattle minimum wage plan could create a new model for collective bargaining outside of unions that still involves businesses and labor groups.

Largest Fast Food Strike Yet Will Include Rallies on 6 Continents (MSNBC)

The fast food workers movement continues to grow, reports Ned Resnikoff, with strikes planned on May 15 in 150 cities nationally and solidarity rallies planned abroad.

  • Roosevelt Take: Harmony Goldberg, the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Future of Work Initiative, looks at another major issue facing fast food workers: wage theft.

Welfare Photos Shame Shoppers as States Target Abuses (Bloomberg)

Mark Niquette writes that photos on benefit cards may be meant to stop fraud, but they're increasing costs and potentially dissuading people from getting the benefits they need.

Lies, Lives and Obamacare Statistics (U.S. News & World Report)

The simple fact that the GOP ignores about Obamacare is that access to health insurance actually saves lives, says Pat Garofalo. That fact makes repeal hard to swallow.

Even Millionaires Think The Rich Should Pay Higher Taxes (HuffPo)

Robert Frank reports on a CNBC survey of millionaires, which shows that they agree that inequality is a problem, though their proposed solutions split along party lines.

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The Minimum Wage Index: Why the GOP's Filibuster Will Hurt Workers

May 2, 2014Richard Kirsch

Opponents of a higher minimum wage claim it would have a negative impact on the economy and workers. The numbers tell a different story.

Opponents of a higher minimum wage claim it would have a negative impact on the economy and workers. The numbers tell a different story.

This week, a minority of United States senators blocked a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from coming to a vote, overruling the 54 senators who supported the bill. If the bill had passed, it would have been only the fourth time the minimum wage was raised in the last 30 years. The Republicans who led this filibuster effort will claim a higher minimum wage would hurt the economy, but don’t let them fool you: American workers are the ones left hurting as a result of their actions. Here are the real dollars and cents of the minimum wage debate.

$7.25: The current federal minimum wage, established in 2007.

725%: The increase in CEO compensation from 1978 to 2011.

$10.86: How much the federal minimum wage would be if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years.

$21.72: How much the federal minimum wage would be if it had kept up with productivity since 1968.

$16.62: The hourly wage needed to meet the basic needs of an average person.

$32.19: The hourly wage needed to meet the basic needs of one adult with two children in Philadelphia.

$2.13: The federal minimum wage for tipped employees, established in 1991.

$5,915,186: Average net worth of U.S. Senators who blocked a vote on the minimum wage. 

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.

Image via Thinkstock

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Daily Digest - May 2: What Piketty Tells Us About the Power of Big Thinkers

May 2, 2014Tim Price

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We Read Seven Thomas Piketty Think-Pieces For You (The Brian Lehrer Show)

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We Read Seven Thomas Piketty Think-Pieces For You (The Brian Lehrer Show)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal joins Brian Lehrer to explore some notable responses to Capital in the 21st Century, from the Financial Times to Esquire to Mike's own piece in the Boston Review.

Poll: Americans feel system is 'stacked against' them (Now with Alex Wagner)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren talks to Alex Wagner and Heather McGhee about the fight for a living wage, and notes that progressives are succeeding at the local level even when the federal government is unresponsive.

The Tech Deficit & Living in Afghanistan (The Weekly Wonk Podcast)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford, Fuzz Hogan, and Dan Tangherlini discuss the lack of tech expertise in the public sector and how to build a culture that makes government work more appealing. The segment begins at 12:24.

Seattle Mayor Says He Struck a Deal for a $15 Minimum Wage (WaPo)

The deal requires large businesses in the city to raise the minimum wage in three years, reports Niraj Chokshi, but allows small businesses seven years to comply. The City Council will take up the bill next week.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong delivered the closing remarks at the mayor's recent symposium, where she said calls for a higher minimum wage were calls for democracy.

Why Economics Failed (NYT)

During the Great Recession and its aftermath, writes Paul Krugman, leaders ignored the textbook macroeconomics that could have restored full employment and prevented so much suffering.

Can We Have More Jobs and Less Work? (In These Times)

Jessica Stites speaks to progressive thinkers who call for seemingly opposite approaches to making life better for waged workers in today's economy: full employment, and less work with a universal basic income.

Why Poverty Is Still Miserable, Even if Everybody Can Own an Awesome Television (Slate)

Consumer goods like TVs and cell phones are cheaper than ever, writes Jordan Weissmann, but for low-income families, essentials like health care and education are getting further and further out of reach.

New on Next New Deal

Good News for Progressive Economics: Big Thinkers Like Piketty Are Back in Vogue

Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong writes that Thomas Piketty's success is no fluke. He and other progressive thinkers have redefined the debate around inequality with the power of their ideas.

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Daily Digest - May 1: Why Won't Washington Listen to Workers?

May 1, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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America's Workforce Radio (WERE 1490 AM)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch joins Ed Ferenc to discuss how organized labor has used its power to ensure a fair deal for the middle class. Richard's segment begins at 15:55.

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America's Workforce Radio (WERE 1490 AM)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch joins Ed Ferenc to discuss how organized labor has used its power to ensure a fair deal for the middle class. Richard's segment begins at 15:55.

Republican-Led Filibuster Blocks Minimum Wage Bill in Senate (NYT)

Jeremy W. Peters reports on yesterday's filibuster, which killed the proposed $10.10 minimum wage increase. Republicans claim they're protecting a weak economy, but Democrats say the problem is poverty wages.

Why the Minimum Wage Vote Failed Today (PolicyShop)

Heather McGee ties the minimum wage filibuster to campaign finance. The wealthiest Americans have a very different opinion on the minimum wage than others, and they're who Congress hears from most.

Why Economic Growth Ground to a Halt Last Quarter (Vox)

The harsh winter was probably a cause of the slowest economic growth since the fourth quarter of 2012, says Danielle Kurtzleben, but this early estimate of GDP is still subject to revision.

Fed to Scale Back Bond Purchases by Another $10 Billion (WaPo)

Ylan Q. Mui reports that despite the news about slow economic growth, the Federal Reserve continues to demonstrate confidence in the recovery by tapering its stimulus program.

Paul Ryan Won’t Let Poor People Testify At Hearing About Poverty (ThinkProgress)

Yesterday's hearing wasn't the first time that advocacy groups were turned away from testifying at one of Ryan's hearings, reports Bryce Covert. Experts may study poverty, but they usually aren't experiencing it themselves.

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Daily Digest - April 30: Piketty Puts the Rich Under the Microscope

Apr 30, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Studying the Rich (Boston Review)

In his review of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says the wealthy worry about their place in society because they're no longer just a model of success: they're a research question to study.

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Studying the Rich (Boston Review)

In his review of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says the wealthy worry about their place in society because they're no longer just a model of success: they're a research question to study.

Fight Over Minimum Wage Hike Comes to a Head in the Senate (CBS News)

Rebecca Kaplan reports that after months of delays, a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will finally reach the Senate today. If the GOP filibusters as expected, the bill will be short-lived.

Stop Worrying and Enjoy Rising Wages (NYT)

Jared Bernstein calls on the Fed to allow wages to rise without worrying too much about inflation. There's no real evidence that inflation is rising too fast, but there are plenty of reasons to celebrate wage growth.

Why Americans Are Moving Less: New Jobs Aren't Worth It (Atlantic Cities)

The financial benefits of changing jobs have diminished, according to one new study, and Richard Florida reports that this could be the key to understanding the decline in interstate moves.

Sorry Conservatives — America’s Mobility Problem is Real (MSNBC)

Timothy Noah counters the typical conservative claims that social mobility is strong in the U.S. He points out that intergenerational shifts provide far more useful data than individuals' lifetime earnings.

New on Next New Deal

Post Office Piles on Shift to Low Wage Economy with Staples Deal

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch says that the expansion of mini-post offices in Staples is indicative of the U.S. economy's overall shift toward low-wage jobs since the Great Recession.

Doesn't All Work Deserve Dignity?

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Operations Strategist Lydia Bowers uses a subway ad about food delivery as a reminder of President Roosevelt's call for a living wage and leisure time for all workers.

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Post Office Piles on Shift to Low Wage Economy with Staples Deal

Apr 29, 2014Richard Kirsch

The U.S. Postal Service is making changes that will add low wage jobs to our economy, rather than the middle-class jobs it's known for that we really need.

The U.S. Postal Service is making changes that will add low wage jobs to our economy, rather than the middle-class jobs it's known for that we really need.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has just come out with its latest report on the wage-levels of jobs added as the nation has emerged from the Great Recession. As with NELP’s previous reports, which continue to garner national attention, the news was pretty simple: we’re only adding low wage jobs. Some 1.85 million more low-wage workers – defined by under $13.33 an hour – are employed by low-wage industries now then in 2008.  About the same number, 1.93 million workers – fewer workers are now employed in mid-wage and higher-wage industries. 

The U.S. Postal Service has historically been one of those higher-wage industries, with average pay just under $25 an hour. For generations, postal jobs have been a ticket to the middle-class, including as one of the few employers who hired African-Americans at good wages earlier in the 20th Century.  But the post office is accelerating a new strategy to increase sales and shed labor costs by opening up mini-post offices at Staples stores.

Staples is one of those low-wage employers, with Staples workers reporting that retail clerks average around $8.50 an hour. After piloting the mini-post offices in 82 Staples stores, the post office announced it would expand the program, prompting the American Postal Workers Union to organize more than 50 protest rallies outside Staples stores around the country.

Of course, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that no postal jobs would be lost because of the Staples program and that the motivation was “growing our business.” But the same Wall Street Journal article with Donohoe’s statement revealed the real motivation. It quoted an internal postal service memo, which said that the Staples pilot program was to determine “if lower costs can be realized with retail partner labor instead of the labor traditionally associated with retail window at Post Offices.” Oops!

The Staples arrangement is a huge expansion of the arrangement with retailers like WalMart and CVS around the country to sell stamps and other limited services. If the Staples pilot takes hold, it could pave the way for a huge collapse in the number of post offices outside rural areas. 

It’s good to see that the American Postal Workers Union is loudly protesting the Staples deal. Workers in 27 states carried signs saying “Stop Staples: The U.S. Mail is Not for Sale” at the protests held on Thursday. The postal union is looking for allies. The California Federation of Teachers, which has 120,000 members, is considering a resolution to boycott buying school supplies at Staples.

What’s at stake is not just the jobs of postal workers; it’s the American economy. We built the economy with middle-class jobs and the more we destroy them, the bleaker the prospects of economic prosperity for all but the richest of us.

I’ll be looking for a new source of office supplies too.

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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Doesn't All Work Deserve Dignity?

Apr 29, 2014Lydia Bowers

A subway ad provides a reminder of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's second bill of rights, which called for a living wage and access to leisure.

A subway ad provides a reminder of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's second bill of rights, which called for a living wage and access to leisure.

I recently saw an advertisement for Grubhub on the New York City subway. For the unfamiliar, Grubhub is a food delivery website used to place orders online. Grubhub focuses its ads on creative reasons you should order delivery tonight from “You refer to your oven as Manhattan Mini Storage” to “Your friends in the Midwest share photos of their kids. You share photos of dinner”. Grubhub has purchased enough ad space in the NYC subway system to make their ads fixtures of NYC commutes.

This ad was different. “Sure, you could go out for dinner. And walk in the snow. Uphill. Both ways. Someone else can do it for you! Order In. You Deserve It.” The case for why you should order delivery tonight is still there (it’s cold, it's uphill!) but there’s more. Pay someone else to deal with that unpleasantness, you deserve it! In our new society, where 1% of the population controls more wealth than the bottom 80% combined, dignity comes from money and, more importantly, what that money can pay others to do for you.

Am I making too much of one ad? Possibly – but it’s emblematic of widespread and growing issues. Look at recent examples of fast food restaurants underpaying their employees or denying them benefits while concurrently paying CEOs obese incomes. Look at Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe being sued by their employees for colluding to keep wages low and maximize corporate profits. The idea that a fair day's work equals a fair day's pay is eroding at every level of our society, except for those controlling it all at the very top. We have become a society where we are sorted into those who deserve fair pay, benefits, and empathy, and those who don’t. And at the end of a long day, the deserving few deserve to have someone being paid exploitative wages (the average delivery worker in NYC is paid minimum wage at $8.00 an hour or roughly $15,300 a year) bring sushi to their front door.

Am I advocating the end of delivery? Of course not. What I’m asking for is a restoration of the basic social contract, where we agree as a society to value all our workers and their right to happiness. This is not a new idea. In his 1944 State of the Union address Franklin Delano Roosevelt advocated for a second bill of rights. He argued that the political rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights had “proved inadequate to assure us equality in the purist of happiness.” In this new version, Americans would have the right to employment with a living wage, housing and food, and clothing and leisure, among other things.

What an incredible concept. That beyond simply feeding and housing ourselves, Americans should have the right to leisure – to enjoyment and happiness. That while there will always be delivery people and fast food workers, we all deserve to pay rent off the earnings of a single full-time job. But this is not an issue only impacting minimum wage workers in America. The Apple collusion case referenced above and recent reports that the American middle class is no longer the richest in the world indicate a pervasive mindset has taken root in America, that only those at the very top deserve anything at all. The rest of us can fight for what they leave behind.

The solution? Restore the basic social contract and raise minimum wage. Rather than continuing to argue for the failed policies that wrongly argue equality trickles from the top down, acknowledge that wealth flows when we all do better. Raising our most vulnerable workers above the barely-scraping-by level of living betters our society as a whole, from both economic and social justice standpoints. The recent increase in the New York state minimum wage and political will at the national level for a federal increase are good first steps. But until politics prove otherwise, I will continue to overreact at billboards that reinforce the concept that any workers in our society are "undeserving."

Lydia Bowers is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's National Operations Strategist.

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