Daily Digest - February 26: Where Is All the Corporate Cash Going?

Feb 26, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Why Companies are Rewarding Shareholders Instead of Investing in the Real Economy (WaPo)

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Why Companies are Rewarding Shareholders Instead of Investing in the Real Economy (WaPo)

Lydia DePillis looks at Roosevelt Institute Fellow J.W. Mason's new white paper on how the shift towards increased shareholder payouts since the 1980s has decreased corporate investment.

  • Roosevelt Take: Read J.W. Mason's paper, "Disgorge the Cash: The Disconnect Between Corporate Borrowing and Investment," here.

Hewlett-Packard Shows How to Fatten Shareholders While Firing Workers (LA Times)

Referencing J.W. Mason's paper for context on the impact of shareholder payouts on the larger economy, Michael Hiltzik explains how H-P has managed to fire workers and increase payouts at once.

Don't Wait Until 2016 to Make Political Change (HuffPo)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Director Joelle Gamble argues for the need for young people to participate in governance, not just elections.

The Push for Net Neutrality Arose From Lack of Choice (NYT)

Steve Lohr speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford, who agrees that the current approach to net neutrality makes sense while cable is most people's only option for high-speed Internet.

The Lawyer Who Went from Fighting for Guantánamo Bay Inmates to Going After Shady Banks (Vice)

David Dayen profiles Josh Denbeaux, a lawyer who is fighting back against foreclosure abuse in the courts and trying to develop class-action suits for homeowners facing illegal foreclosures.

New on Next New Deal

Launching Our Financialization Project with "Disgorge the Cash"

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal introduces our Financialization Project, which aims to define and explain the topic, as well as J.W. Mason's paper. Learn more about the project here.

Millennials Want More Than Obama’s Keystone Veto

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment Torre Lavelle says the veto isn't good enough, because Millennials are seeking a real commitment to transforming energy usage.

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Millennials Want More Than Obama’s Keystone Veto

Feb 25, 2015Torre Lavelle

The president's veto of Keystone XL was not the decisive step towards transforming the country's energy usage that Millennials are looking for.

The president's veto of Keystone XL was not the decisive step towards transforming the country's energy usage that Millennials are looking for.

In June 2013, President Obama revealed his carefully crafted litmus test for approving the Keystone XL pipeline, stating that the project’s effect on climate change would be the deciding factor in his decision. Upholding this ‘climate test’ in his 2015 State of the Union, he called on Americans to set their sights higher than a single pipeline. However, the president’s 104-word veto message to the Senate on Tuesday, which cites the necessary completion of the State Department’s administrative review procedure, fails to include more decisive language for a final decision even after six years.

The Millennials, born between 1984 and 2004, hold a unique role in the debate, as the proposed Keystone pipeline has surfaced as a larger symbol in energy, climate change, and economic policy wars. Young people across the country view this issue as a literal line in the sand – rejection of the pipeline would serve as the ultimate indication of moving away from dependence on fossil fuels towards clean energy technologies. Millennials not only believe that clean energy investment is vital to our economic future, but they also view this transformation as one of the defining features of our generation.

Young people have also been at the forefront of climate activism, organizing XL Dissent, the largest student-led protest at the White House in a generation. This strong millennial support was clear at my university last year, when Beyond Coal, a student group organized under the Sierra Club Student Coalition, pressured the University of Georgia to shut down its coal-fired boiler, the single largest source of pollution in the city. The key policy change was confirmed in September, after students put incredible amounts of pressure on the administration​.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been fond of noting that no energy bill has been passed in the last seven years, therefore articulating his vision for why Keystone is necessary. With arguments for jobs and oil independence falling flat, McConnell and others in Congress should instead push for an energy bill that supports the generational shift in our energy infrastructure. We need congressional leadership to advance policies in stronger energy efficiency standards, incentives for better fuels, and electric vehicle incentives to widen the market. Former Republican Treasury Secretary George Schultz has even proposed a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend system.

Most pressingly, the new Senate majority has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon emissions standards for new and existing power plants, a policy that would allow the U.S. to honor its international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent. My home state of Georgia, home to some of the dirtiest coal plants in the nation, is required to reduce carbon emissions by 44 percent. These carbon emissions standards represent a potential milestone shift in job creation and alternative energy opportunities and must stay in place.

As the fastest growing workforce demographic, millennials can combine their strong support for clean energy with their foundation in activism and technological advancement, and lead the industry and its politics forward in ways that past generations could not. Indeed they can remind Congress that if you aren’t a climate denier, you shouldn’t be voting like one. It’s come time for a generational shift in the types of energy we use, and a generational shift in political engagement will make it happen.

Torre Lavelle is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment. She is majoring in ecology and environmental economics at the University of Georgia.


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Building a Better Community: MacArthur-Winning Campus Network Looks to the Future

Feb 10, 2015Joelle Gamble

The Campus Network's incredible community is what earned a MacArthur Award, and that's what we'll continue to invest in.

The Campus Network's incredible community is what earned a MacArthur Award, and that's what we'll continue to invest in.

Last Thursday, our social media accounts exploded with the news that the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network had received the 2015 Award for Creative and Effective Institutions from the MacArthur Foundation. The flurry of tweets, revelry, and community from students in Conway, Arkansas, from alumni working in the White House and city governments, and from supporters at foundations and organizations all over this country is demonstrative of what makes the Campus Network such a unique organization: our people.

At our core, the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network seeks to defy the expectations of young people in policy and politics. We are not apathetic. We are adaptive. We are not selfish. We are community-driven. We care about our people, their ideas, and their ability to be taken seriously. We believe there is power in a good idea connected to the right institutions, backed by a passionate community of civic actors.

With the right resources, the right model, and passion, we are capable of solving the complex problems plaguing our country today.

We’ve already seen the Campus Network’s impact on communities around the country:

  • Students designed, advocated for, and passed a Clean Air Act resolution in Ithaca, NY to cut greenhouse gas pollution.
  • They passed a Los Angeles Community College District amendment to mandate that community colleges accept food stamps on campuses, increasing access to healthy food for hundreds of students living below the poverty line.
  • They even collaborated with the director of emergency management in New Haven, CT and Alderman Salvatore E. DeCola to institute a Community Rating System that allowed residents in vulnerable neighborhoods to receive a discount on flood insurance premiums.

We’ve got a lot to be proud of. Our people have done phenomenal things. The way forward is to ramp up our investment in their success. Here’s what’s next:

Political engagement for our generation must be as creative and adaptive as we are.

The Campus Network is building a new standard for how civic and political engagement organizations connect with young people. Our generation’s engagement in politics must be as fluid, intuitive, and adaptive as the public sector’s. That is not to say that efficiency rules all but, instead, that the processes by which we take civic action must keep up with the creative, fast-paced, and customizable tendencies of young people. That’s why we are a networked organization. Now, we are updating our tools to match.

Our training and support system will utilize advances in technology, innovations in deliberative processes and design thinking, and a decentralized model. Meanwhile, our online training curriculum will be responsive to the diverse needs of our network of student chapters, molding to their campus and community needs while still tapping into the power we have as a collective.

Partnering toward greater collective impact

We believe that organizations cannot be everything to everyone. The sum of many different groups working well together creates the potential for broader impact. The most strategic partnerships we can build keep in mind our shared goals for building a more inclusive, equitable society, not just our own organizational goals.

With that, the Campus Network has the potential to partner to help amplify impact in the civic and political engagement space. We see ourselves as contributors to a wave of change, and we make the wave bigger. We do not try to surf a wave built by others. Whether it’s collaborating on child poverty policies with local doctors in Salem, North Carolina or contributing to an economic opportunity policy agenda with a Baltimore-based advocacy group, partnering for greater impact will be a centerpiece for how we connect our student chapters to the broader world.

We are investing in our alumni as they continue to pursue and lead policy change in their professional and civic lives. And we’re tapping into this powerful network of current students and alumni all across the country to help one another. With Roosevelters working in statehouses, city halls, and the upper echelons of the federal government, the Campus Network is multiplying its potential to change the role of young people in the policy process.

Policy + People = Power

Student policy thinkers have also been the doers in our network – passing city council resolutions, starting revolving loan funds, and lobbying in the halls of Congress. Now that our network is larger than ever before, we are systematizing our capacity to take policy action. Each year, our members produce hundreds of policy ideas, codified in memos and publications. By connecting these student ideas, through the students themselves, to decision makers and power-players, we are moving toward a greater amplification of the impact our chapters generate.

Through our growing organizational capacity, we are designing a robust support system for student projects throughout our network. In 2015, we will see even more student ideas in the halls of their state capitols and city halls and college President’s offices through an initiative called Policy By and For, launching on February 18. By directing intentional financial, communication, and strategic campaigning resources toward projects in the network, more young people will be situated to connect with decision-makers, armed with their own ideas. We are building toward better governance that is not just for our generation but shaped by our generation.

Fundamentally, we are a values-driven organization that is only as strong as the brilliant minds that run our chapters, research and produce policy ideas, start projects, and help strengthen our community of wonks. Through strategic investments in our chapters, tools, and partnerships, the Campus Network will continue to be a powerful leader for policy change for the next 10 years and beyond.

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

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Get Young People Involved to Reduce Chronic Disease

Feb 6, 2015Raymond Dong

A youth advisory committee for the Department of Health and Human Services has the potential to reduce the costs of chronic disease for generations to come.

A youth advisory committee for the Department of Health and Human Services has the potential to reduce the costs of chronic disease for generations to come.

In the United States, chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity are among the most common, costly, and preventable of health problems. Half of all adults have one or more chronic health conditions, and seven out of the top ten causes of death in 2010 were chronic. As chronic disease is projected to increase to 171 million patients by 2030, the $2 trillion in healthcare spending in this arena is also projected to skyrocket. The CDC says that eliminating three risk factors (poor diet, inactivity, and smoking) would prevent 80 percent of heart disease and stroke, 80 percent of type II diabetes, and 40 percent of cancer. Recent research by University of Chicago Nobel laureate economist James Heckman shows that high-quality childhood development programs with health care and nutritional components can prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease.

The U.S. government has instituted policy and programs targeting lifestyle changes in youth, such as Let’s Move and the Health Hunger-Free Kids Act. The Let’s Move campaign strives to solve childhood obesity through healthier foods and more physical activity; the Health Hunger-Free Kids act let the Department of Agriculture set portions and nutrition standards for school lunches.

These two programs have not had tremendous success. Many schools have complained about the food portions being too small and the food tasting bad, to the extent that many students are refusing to eat these meals and go hungry. Wealthier schools are even backing out of the national program to self-fund food students prefer. When students do not eat the revised federal school lunches, schools also lose money, which may lead to budget cuts in other programs. Meanwhile, a 2012 CDC survey showed that merely one in four U.S. kids aged 12-15 met the criteria for physical activity recommended by Let’s Move.

Although youth are in a powerful position to understand the rationale behind lifestyle decisions of their peers, there is currently very little youth representation in the Department of Health and Human Services. Youth have the potential to help create innovative projects and policy to address these childhood lifestyle issues, but lack the voice to do so.

It would be extremely beneficial for the HHS to create a youth advisory board to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services to increase youth engagement in preventing chronic diseases. In order to guarantee a diverse board, HHS would operate a national competition and a rigorous interview process to select a ten-member advisory board. A staff member from HHS would be designated the task of constructing this board and advising it. This proposal stems from the impact the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO’s youth advisory board has had in areas in which older adults have been unable to serve. The youth board utilized technology and social media to connect over 1,500 youth from 120+ countries in conversation on culture, science, and education.

The proposed HHS youth advisory board would be largely unfunded, as they would implement inexpensive projects. They would engage youth with policy and programs centered on improving lifestyles harmful to long-term health. The first project could be a social media campaign (Twitter chats, Google Hangouts, Facebook groups) to spread awareness and to promote conversation on the importance of exercise, nutrition, and banning tobacco in order to prevent chronic disease. After hearing conversations from youth across the country, the board could then work with the HHS to implement specific programming at their local schools. This could include giving schools recommendations on adding healthier food options or incorporating more nutrition education into classes.

The board could also spend time simplifying WHO, CDC, and World Bank reports on health and chronic disease to make them directly pertinent to youth. The committee could also host a nation-wide competition (in conjunction with private and public partners) to encourage youth to submit innovative ways to improve health practices. Similar competitions have been hosted by the U.S. Federation of UNESCO Clubs to engage hundreds of youth around the world on pressing social issues.

There are certainly a few potential obstacles that could hinder the creation of an HHS youth advisory board. One possible concern is that youth do not have the experience or capability to contribute to HHS projects on a national scale. This can be addressed by looking at the impact that many other youth advisory committees have had. When Dell wanted to enhance technological environments in the classroom, they called upon a youth advisory board to launch a national competition to help achieve the goal. The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO wanted more youth engagement in culture, science, and education; they called upon 10 young people to spearhead a global project connecting teens to UNESCO’s ideals.

A second concern would likely be that the youth advisory board requires a member of the HHS to advise them. This will require a significant time and commitment for that staff member during the initial formation of the group, but afterwards the advisory role would be much lighter. The current advisor to the UNESCO board sits in on one conference call every 2-3 months and is copied on emails to keep up with the board’s projects. Of course, the advisor would have to approve new appointments to the board every year as older members transition out of the board. Asking for time from a staff member is justified because the advisory board has the potential to increase information dissemination and penetration into an increasingly important youth audience.

A last concern would be how to fund the committee. Most of the projects and initiatives can come at a low cost since spreading awareness and information dissemination can largely be done over social media. In the case that money is needed to execute a program in a school, the federal government should allocate funds to such ideas to promote youth innovation and awareness in these healthcare issues.

It is important for the department of HHS to listen to such a proposal asking for an increased youth presence. Youth represent 14 percent of the total U.S. population and have a very large stake in total healthcare costs and outcomes nationwide. If youth become motivated to live healthy lifestyles, the cost savings over their lifetimes will be incredible.

Raymond Dong is a senior at the University of Chicago studying Economics and Biology

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Daily Digest - February 6: If Government Cares About the Next Generation, Where Are Their Ideas?

Feb 6, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Youth Agenda a Glaring Omission in Rauner's State of the State (State Journal-Register)

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Youth Agenda a Glaring Omission in Rauner's State of the State (State Journal-Register)

Campus Network members Rachel Riemenschneider and Samuel Wylde point to the NextGen Illinois youth policy agenda as a collection of young people's concerns that are being overlooked.

Amherst College's Roosevelt Institute to share in $750,000 MacArthur Award (MassLive)

Diane Lederman reports on the Campus Network's MacArthur Award, quoting two students from the Amherst College chapter, Joshua Ferrer and Pierre Joseph.

Fast Food Companies are Invoking ‘Main Street’ to Fight Unions (WaPo)

Lydia DePillis explains how McDonalds is putting its small franchisees front and center to push back against unionization efforts. However, these franchises don't have much independence at all.

The Democrats in Opposition (TAP)

Harold Meyerson argues that if Democrats choose to function as an opposition party against not just the Republicans, but also Wall Street, they will have far more success at the ballot box in the future.

Jobs-Day Guide: January Surprise, U.S. Wages, Participation Rate (Bloomberg Business)

Victoria Stilwell predicts that the latest jobs numbers will fall below projections, as they often do at the beginning of the year. The annual payroll revision numbers will also be worthy of attention.

How the American Family Was Affected by the Great Recession (Pacific Standard)

The most noticeable differences, writes Philip N. Cohen, are in birth rate and divorce rate, which both saw sharp drops at the beginning of the recession and have since rebounded.

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Daily Digest - February 5: Congratulations, Campus Network!

Feb 5, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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

Winners of 2015 MacArthur Awards for Nonprofit Organizations (AP)

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

Winners of 2015 MacArthur Awards for Nonprofit Organizations (AP)

The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network is among this year's recipients of the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

The Internet Is Back to Solid Regulatory Ground (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says that by regulating Internet infrastructure as a utility, the Federal Communications Commission is going back to its roots of solid legal authority.

A Greek Morality Tale (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz says that the treatment of Greece's debt shows the need for reform in the eurozone to encourage growth-centered economic policy.

Rand Paul is Dead Wrong About Vaccines. But He Has a Point About the Federal Reserve. (The Week)

Jeff Spross says that Rand Paul is right that the Fed could use greater accountability – but the answer isn't an auditor. Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal suggests better targeted goals as an alternative.

A Fair Day’s Wage (New Yorker)

In addition to raising wages for his lowest-paid workers, Aetna's CEO is reviving old labor relations rhetoric of fair pay and shared success, writes James Surowiecki.

America’s Recipe for Disaster: How New Corporate “Amnesty” Plan Could Doom the Economy (Salon)

Allowing corporations to pay a reduced tax rate on profits they've held overseas only encourages them to continue this pattern, writes David Dayen, which impacts tax revenues for years.

We're Jailing the Wrong People. We Need to Jail More of the Right Ones: Corporate Criminals (TAP)

Robert Kuttner says that misclassifying workers as contractors – or rather, payroll fraud – should be punished with jail time, just like other forms of deliberate fraud.

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

Jan 23, 2015

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network members and alumni weigh in on President Obama's sixth State of the Union address.

Brett Dunn, University of Alabama '17:

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network members and alumni weigh in on President Obama's sixth State of the Union address.

Brett Dunn, University of Alabama '17:

In the face of strong Republican opposition, President Obama made his stance on many controversial topics quite clear. He outlined his views on topics such as the minimum wage, equal pay for women, LGBTQ+ rights, tax reform and more. These bold and somewhat ambitious goals for change in 2015 will require bipartisan compromise in Congress. It is likely, however, that there will be little correlation between President Obama’s bold vision for the future of the United States and Congress’ actions in the final two years of his presidency. No matter how wonderful or ambitious President Obama’s plans are for the country, the likelihood of any these issues being independently addressed by a Republican controlled Congress is very slim. Yet the president’s plans do not fall on deaf ears. President Obama’s speech gives Democrats in Congress and, more importantly, the American public, ammunition against the Republican’s inevitable inaction, which could potentially help set the stage for the 2016 election.

Chisolm Allenlundy, University of Alabama '16:

It was difficult to miss the amount of politics that happened on Tuesday at President Obama’s next-to-last State of the Union address. What might have been easy to miss, however, was the meaning of it all.

President Obama knows that his days of passing game-changing progressive legislation are over. This is a common position for 4th-quarter presidents to find themselves in, and Obama did exactly what such presidents do when they can no longer effectively push for policy change: they push for culture change.

But most Americans don’t watch the political process so much as they hear about it from media sources, which put their own spin on material. According to consumer watch company Nielson, 31.7 million people tuned in for the SOTU, and even that figure is at a 15-year low. While the president has attempted to set the direction for progressive politics for the next year, policy change will be a struggle, and he needs to reach many more Americans to steer the course on our political culture. 

Tarsi Dunlop, Middlebury College '09:

Middle class economics played a key role in the President’s 2015 State of the Union. He explained that middle class economics is about the policies needed for average American families to get ahead. These policies aren’t handouts, but they make daily life better, easier, more fulfilling. For example, what if students could graduate from K-12 with good grades and know they had the option of going to community college without the staggering cost of debt? Granted, there are certain investments that must be made to make sure that community colleges are, as an institution, prepared for the role the President wants them to serve for our nation’s youth.

The President also touched on other elements of middle class economics: key policy proposals that will help young people, new families, and the elderly. He emphasized affordable day care (right now monthly costs can run higher than a mortgage payment), as well as paid family leave and sick leave. Families shouldn’t have to choose between time with new babies and paid work, nor between working and staying home with a sick child. We need a vision and a budget to help the middle class thrive and it was great to hear concrete proposals in the President’s speech.

Hayley Brundige, University of Tennessee, Knoxville '17:

Obama's State of the Union Address illustrated just how far we still have to go in the fight for gender equality. I was ecstatic when Obama asserted that the right to quality childcare and paid maternity and sick leave are not just “women's issues” — as they are often brushed aside as — but a “national economic priority.” But in the back of my mind, I was dismayed that this concept that is so obviously a human right is still so far from being obvious to our elected officials. 

Noticeably missing from the speech was any mention of preventing sexual assault, especially on college campuses. This was particularly surprising seeing as the administration has made this issue a point of focus recently, creating a White House task force on sexual assault and investigating colleges for Title IX violations. Obama even had a readily supplied anecdote, as campus activist and sexual assault survivor Emma Sulkowicz was literally in the audience. As a college student, I applaud Obama's efforts to make community college more accessible, but it's disheartening for him to not address the importance of keeping our campuses safe. No president on record has discussed sexual assault in a State of the Union address.

Zachary Agush, Wheaton College '12:

Over the years, President Obama has always integrated personal stories into his annual State of the Union addresses to paint a visual about the troubles individuals may be facing or to explain how a certain effort can help spark further growth and development for others. I have always considered that a major strength. This year’s speech focused in particular on young families. The President knows that the new generation is quickly becoming the majority of the nation's population and that the lingering inequalities and economic hardships will definitely make it increasingly difficult for them to have the quality of life they desire. This generation is also going to struggle to maintain Social Security and Medicare for those entering these safety net programs in the coming decade. I think those stories in particular hit some members of Congress, even those of the new Republican majority, that something needs to be done to at least give the next generation a chance at success. I am cautiously optimistic that something may happen - but it will only happen if this Congress can actually stop and think about how their gridlock is directly affecting the next generation. Maybe then, there can be progress.

Sarah Hilton, Wheaton College '16:

President Obama made huge strides for education policy on Tuesday night; even raising the issue of rising college tuition is a positive step forward. However, the President hardly mentioned the K-12 system. He praised rising graduation rates and higher test scores then ever before, but ignored the staggering inequality and lack of student performance when compared internationally. Obama’s two-year community college plan, while economically beneficial for the middle class, shows that our base expectations for education continue to require more time and expense.

The focus instead should be on improving the K-12 system we already have by creating more diverse programs that train students for a variety careers from academic to vocational. Today, about half of students begin community college in remedial classes. We should be making our high schools more effective at reaching students. Vocational training for profitable and interesting jobs can be done in high school, and academic programs should be strengthen to reduce the need for remedial classes in community colleges. Strengthening the underlying K-12 system and increasing vocational training would have an earlier impact on our students’ lives.

Jas Johl, University of California, Berkeley '08:

The main rhetorical touch point for the state of the union was 'middle class economics.' Throughout the address, Obama repeatedly turned to that concept, presenting policy ideas designed to bolster it.  Of paramount importance to the ongoing success of middle class, he argued, would be to make the first two years of community college free for all. This proposal does address some of the symptoms of growing economic inequality, namely rising student debt. Nonetheless, it overlooks the underlying, systemic issues at the core of the problem: the broken state of our current education system. 

As The Institute for College Access & Success and the Brookings Institute have both argued, the majority of those attending community college are already getting their tuition covered through Pell Grants and other means of financial support. I’d argue the more pressing issue is the fact that many of the students who enroll in community colleges are ill-prepared for 4-year universities, and spend the first two years of college taking remedial college (read: high school) courses that they didn't do well in or even pass the first time. Free college doesn’t help a student who isn’t ready for it.

Obama makes the very valid point that making those colleges free would assuage the financial burden of a large number of young adults, and likely precipitate a better-prepared workforce. But a glaring absence in the president's speech was acknowledgement of the fundamental cracks in our institutions, namely, our already free K-12 educational system. Real middle class economics necessitate not just free education, but better education for all.

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Ten Years: Students Moving the Country Forward

Dec 18, 2014Taylor Jo Isenberg

After ten years of engaging young people in the political process, the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network continues to push for a system that works for all of us.

In an email to peers at Stanford University students on November 4, 2004, a student attempted to turn the tide on the malaise setting in after a disappointing election night for progressives. He captured the sentiment of the moment:

After ten years of engaging young people in the political process, the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network continues to push for a system that works for all of us.

In an email to peers at Stanford University students on November 4, 2004, a student attempted to turn the tide on the malaise setting in after a disappointing election night for progressives. He captured the sentiment of the moment:

Elections are a great time to shape the future of our country, but democracy is not something that happens every four years. We have a lot of work to do … we need to figure out how to explain what we care about in a coherent and convincing way, we need to develop a leadership network to match the conservatives of the next generation, and we need to keep public officials accountable to the issues that brought us all in.

In a follow-up email, he boiled it down to one simple statement: "I'm seeing a student-run think tank that will reinvigorate mainstream politics with a new generation's ideas."

In one of those rare occurrences that indicate that people might be on to something, others were incubating a similar concept. Two friends at Middlebury and Bates also felt compelled to respond to the political moment, and articulated their initial thoughts on a "think tank that unites college students across America under one political agenda aimed at taking back our democracy." Something similar was taking shape at Yale University.

The rest of the story is Roosevelt lore – the late nights, cross-country recruiting trips, the passionate debates about how best to position the organization to effectively elevate young people as a source for powerful ideas capable of policy change.

Yet what makes this particular story potent is that, ten years later, we celebrate not only that vision, but also today's reality. Thousands of students over the past ten years have worked tirelessly to actualize the initial vision that emerged from a bleak moment in our political history. We’ve published 600+ policy solutions that have been read over half a million times; trained thousands on how to challenge the fundamentals of our social, political, and economic systems; and catapulted young people as civic actors into key debates on the policy challenges of our day. Most importantly, the list of student and chapter successes on the ground is staggering in its breadth and depth of examples where young people have taken active ownership of their communities to bring about solutions with meaningful impact.

As a proud Roosevelter, I think we have much to celebrate. We took a few days last week to elevate our work in Washington, DC – a celebration that included a conversation with Representative Rosa DeLauro and members of Congress on how to look to best practices from Roosevelt’s model to effectively engage a new generation in policy and politics, a discussion on the Campus Network’s next ten years, and presentations at the White House featuring our student’s policy work. And of course, we hosted a party for 190+ alumni and supporters (a rockin’ one, according to keynote speaker Jared Bernstein).

Ten years is also a moment to look towards our future. It’s been a common refrain around our office and with our members that there are some unsettling parallels between the post-election reality ten years ago and the one we face today. Distrust of institutions is on the rise, policy priorities with high public support are thwarted by special interests, and our debate is seriously deprived (with a few exceptions) of a vision for what our country can build towards. We’re still in need of a shake up. The upside? Where things are happening, it’s often led or heavily supported by young people – from the ballot initiatives in the 2014 election to the sustained demand for accountability in our justice system.

It’s no secret that the political establishment is perplexed about young people. The media haphazardly jumps between two narratives, unable to decide if we’re self-absorbed, naïve and complacent in the face of our economic future, or the most civically minded quiet do-gooders since the Greatest Generation. Yet many of the major civic and political organizations are struggling with declining membership numbers. It’s not unheard of for organizations to develop “Millennial engagement strategies” to combat this problem.

We think the answer pretty simple: it’s about institutions and systems embracing the shifts instead of fearing them. From the moment they walk through the door, our members are asked to be a part of building something as equals. They’re given the tools to be the architects – and are instantly connected to a network of peers who support them. In a political system more interested in managing young people than tapping into their ingenuity and energy, Roosevelters come to us because they see the limitations of traditional pathways of engagement. As a result, the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network has remained a network that evolves and shifts as our students lead the way.

We aren’t, of course, the only ones – there is a vibrant ecosystem of organizations and movements that are also innovating and responding to the changing ways people of all ages are expressing their priorities. We could not be more proud of our alumni who have gone on to lead, participate in, and learn from these efforts.

Our successes also beg the question – what does this mean for the next ten years? How do we continue to amplify our strengths and evolve to reflect the moment, opportunities, and risks? That’s the conversation we’re having next – a conversation we want our alumni and supporters to be a part of. In 2015, the Roosevelt Institute will introduce our Alumni Network, which will focus on how to strengthen the Roosevelt community and its potential to influence social and economic priorities. If we are to respond to the call for an economic and democratic system that works for this century, it is going to take all of us.

It is now a Campus Network tradition to close any major convening or retreat with a passage from Jean Edward Smith’s FDR. It narrates President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepting the nomination at the 1936 Democratic National Convention. It’s a famous speech, most notably for his “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny” quote. We start reading a little earlier – Smith sets the stage, with the country emerging from the worst of the Great Depression. Roosevelt walks to the platform on the arm of his son James. Smith details a powerful moment, where the President sees the poet Edwin Markham, author of Man with a Hoe, reaches out to greet him, and stumbles and falls. People rush to snap his braces back into place. He then proceeds to give the speech, which puts forward uncompromising and substantive statements on political and economic equality. It’s resolute, forceful, and clear – there are wrongs we must right, power that needs to be rebalanced, problems to be solved by the people.

I hope that our members take two things away from the passage. First, that every individual can’t do it alone. Second, that it is possible to stand for something that upsets the current balance of power – and to see the country move forward as a result. It’s a valuable reminder today, when all seems hopeless in the face of stagnation and entrenchment.

As we look to the next ten years, that’s the question Roosevelters will continue to ask, and will eventually answer. What do we stand for, and how will we move this country forward?

Taylor Jo Isenberg is the Vice President of Networks at the Roosevelt Institute.

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Daily Digest - December 15: An Uber That Really Is Sharing

Dec 15, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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

Socialize Uber (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert present a way to transform Uber into a company that would truly be part of a "sharing economy": make it a worker cooperative.

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

Socialize Uber (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert present a way to transform Uber into a company that would truly be part of a "sharing economy": make it a worker cooperative.

My Talk to the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network (On The Economy)

Jared Bernstein gave the keynote at the Campus Network's 10th anniversary party. He's published his talk, which was on the need to combine head and heart in economic policy-making.

Wall Street’s Revenge (NYT)

Paul Krugman says that Wall Street has so heavily funded the Republican party in order to get back on Democrats for Dodd-Frank financial reform, and this spending bill is only the first step.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch and Fellow Mike Konczal each wrote about the rollback of Dodd-Frank in the cromnibus last week.

Pension Bill Seen as Model for Further Cuts (WSJ)

John D. McKinnon says some on the left worry that the pension-cutting measure in the spending bill could create precedent for even more pension cuts, possibly even to Social Security.

Obama's Left-Side Headache (Bloomberg Politics)

Margaret Talev and Michael C. Binder suggest that one of the biggest challenges the president will face from the incoming Congress will be from progressives like Senator Warren.

The Devalued American Worker (WaPo)

Jim Tankersley explains how the past three recessions, by breaking previous patterns of post-recession job growth, have cut middle-skill jobs and lowered wages for many.

Thanks to Labor Board Ruling, You Can Now Use Company Email to Organize a Union (In These Times)

Overriding a 2007 decision, the National Labor Relations Board has decided that email functions more like the water cooler than as high-cost company equipment, reports Moshe Z. Marvit.

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Daily Digest - December 10: Young People Want Political Engagement Across the Calendar

Dec 10, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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

Millennials Need to Turnout Every Day, Not Just Election Day (Huffington Post)

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

Millennials Need to Turnout Every Day, Not Just Election Day (Huffington Post)

Joelle Gamble, National Director of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, argues that young people want to be asked not just to show up to the polls, but to be engaged in the political process year-round.

New York's Signature College Aid Program Turns 40, But Falls Short of Meeting Needs (Gotham Gazette)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Leadership Director Kevin Stump proposes ways to update New York State's Tuition Assistance Program, which he argues is woefully out of date after 40 years.

Elizabeth Warren's Latest Wall Street Attack Was Her Boldest Yet (TNR)

David Dayen reports on Senator Warren's speech at yesterday's "Managing the Economy" conference, co-sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute. The senator directly attacked Wall Street's influence on financial policy.

Workers at Amazon Warehouses Won't Get Paid for Waiting in Security Lines (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Josh Eidelson reports on the Supreme Court's decision in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. vs. Busk. The Court held that workers do not have to be paid for time spent waiting for security checks.

Congressional Leaders Hammer Out Deal to Allow Pension Plans to Cut Retiree Benefits (WaPo)

Michael A. Fletcher says retirees on the plans that will be permitted to make unprecedented cuts feel betrayed by this speedy congressional decision.

How Income Inequality Holds Back Economic Growth (AJAM)

A new report examines the significant link between income inequality and slowed economic growth, which cost the U.S. as much as 7 percent of GDP from 1990 to 2010, writes Ned Resnikoff.

New on Next New Deal

Let the Fed Lend Directly to Cities and States to Save Taxpayers Billions

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti suggests that allowing the Fed to make long-term loans to municipalities would protect cities from economic crises and promote fair and sustainable development.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 66: How Do We Make the Promise a Reality?

Ariel Smilowitz, Northeast Regional Policy Coordinator for the Campus Network, and Monika Johnson, a member of the Alumni Advisory Committee, call for an expanded approach to human rights, including non-state actors like corporations accepting responsibility.

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