Daily Digest - July 19: Shouldn't Students Like a Student Loan Deal?

Jul 19, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Senate Strikes Student Loan Deal; Not Good Enough, says U.S. Student Association (USA Today)

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Senate Strikes Student Loan Deal; Not Good Enough, says U.S. Student Association (USA Today)

Sean McMinn reports that the Senate has reached a deal on student loans, but the plan would allow rates to rise over time, even above the 6.8% that caused this fight. Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's partner on this issue, USSA, finds that to be an unacceptable compromise.

The Student Victims of Washington's Deficit Obsession (The New Yorker)

James Surowiecki argues that the student loan fight is really about the differences in fiscal and monetary policy desires in the U.S.. The obsession with cutting the deficit calls for higher rates and lowers growth, while the Fed wants low interest rates that help pump money into the economy.

Get a Clue, McDonald’s: The Other Insult No One’s Talking About (Salon)

Paul Campos argues that the most offensive part of McDonald's new budget website for their employees isn't that it calls for two nearly full-time jobs, but that it even exists. Poor people, he claims, know how to budget better than anyone, because otherwise they cannot buy necessities.

The Lessons of Belle Glade (NYT)

Cindy Hahamovitch worries that Congress has forgotten lessons of the past regarding abuse of migrant farmworkers. The House Republican alternative to the Senate immigration bill is particularly concerning, because it entirely lacks protections for migrant workers.

Why the Gender Pay Gap Is Worse for Whites Than Blacks (National Journal)

Niraj Chokshi explains why the gender pay gap is so much smaller for blacks and Hispanics. They earn less overall, and the jobs at that end of the labor market have less room for men to pull ahead.

New Class Of Businesses Look To Boost Support For Pro-Worker Policies (ThinkProgress)

Katherine Richard looks at benefit corporations, a new corporate legal status that requires third party evaluation of social and environmental performance. This structure encourages worker-friendly policies, like flexible scheduling and paid sick leave.

Obamacare a Boon to Entrepreneurs (TAP)

David Callahan argues that the Affordable Care Act is great for small businesses. Reports from New York show that the law is bringing down insurance premiums in that state, so potential entrepreneurs and small business owners will have access to better, more affordable plans.

Detroit Just Filed for Bankruptcy. Here’s How It Got There. (WaPo)

Brad Plumer breaks down the problems the city faced that led to bankruptcy. Between population decline, high unemployment, and low tax revenue, it's clear how Detroit reached this state, but solutions aren't yet apparent.

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Daily Digest - July 11: Corporate Profits Don't Want Living Wages

Jul 11, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Wal-Mart Plans to Exit DC Over 'Living Wage' Bill (All In With Chris Hayes)

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Wal-Mart Plans to Exit DC Over 'Living Wage' Bill (All In With Chris Hayes)

Chris Hayes speaks with Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren about how Walmart has fought these laws in the past. Walmart presents itself as a provider of good jobs in urban regions, Dorian says, but its unwillingness to pay a living wage speaks otherwise.

Big Cable’s Sauron-Like Plan for One Infrastructure to Rule Us All (Wired)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford explains how cable monopolies want to charge everyone for access to specific pockets of data. With data consumption caps on the user side, the cable companies will dampen access for all.

The Recession That Always Was (TAP)

Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz speaks to Millennials in Milwaukee for whom the recession is just more of the same. For these low-wage workers, the only change is that the middle-class is finally noticing their struggle.

Do We Have the Will to Fight for the Jobless? (WaPo)

Katrina vanden Heuvel is concerned that Washington is ignoring the continuing jobs crisis. She has a list of policy suggestions that Congress could take up to get Americans back to work.

Wages Have Fallen Fastest In The Lowest Paid Jobs (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert reports that the lowest-wage jobs have seen the largest drops in compensation since 2009. Since low-wage jobs make up the bulk job growth right now, it's of particular concern.

The Beginning of the End of LGBT Workplace Discrimination? (MoJo)

Thomas Stackpole suggests that the time may have finally come when we can pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It is still legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation in 29 states.

The Republican Plan to Cut Food Stamps Even More (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff thinks that separating farm subsidies and SNAP will allow House Republicans to introduce a food stamp bill with even more cuts. That would make conferencing the Senate and House bills more painful, since the gap would start even wider.

Student Loan Deal Reached In Senate Threatens To Raise Future Costs (HuffPo)

Shahien Nasiripour reports on a late-night bipartisan deal that ties interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note. It does place a cap on interest rates, but that cap is higher than the 6.8% legislators have been decrying while working on this deal.

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Millennials Don't Just Sit Back: Highlights from Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network 2013 Policy Expo

Jul 5, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

Here’s a refreshing reminder: Public policy can include everything from health care and the economy to lobsters and bicycles. The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network doesn’t limit itself to certain spheres of debate. Its students look at the world around them and see potential for local policy change everywhere. At the Campus Network’s annual Policy Expo in Washington, D.C. on June 27 and 28, students presented the policy proposals that they have been developing over the past year.

Here’s a refreshing reminder: Public policy can include everything from health care and the economy to lobsters and bicycles. The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network doesn’t limit itself to certain spheres of debate. Its students look at the world around them and see potential for local policy change everywhere. At the Campus Network’s annual Policy Expo in Washington, D.C. on June 27 and 28, students presented the policy proposals that they have been developing over the past year. Friday’s keynote speaker, University of Maryland Professor of Political Economy Gar Alperovitz, asked the crowd, “If you don’t like corporate capitalism, and you don’t want state socialism, what do you want?” The Policy Expo proposals represented Millennial-driven answers to that question– some of which addressed questions I had never even considered before.

Following the 2004 election, the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network was founded by students who were frustrated about being shut out from policy-making after working on campaigns. Since beginning in dorm rooms, the Campus Network has emphasized the importance of young people to creating policy change from the ground up. It provides spaces for motivated young progressives to develop campus connections and locate the resources they need to put their ideas into action. The Policy Expo is an important part of that work: the “reverse Q&A” built into each presentation gave students the opportunity to take their questions to an audience of peers, supporters, and stakeholders.

As one of the newest members of the Roosevelt Institute team, I hadn’t had the opportunity to discuss policy with any of the students, though I had spoken to members of the staff about what to expect, and had read some of the proposals in the 10 Ideas publication series. The concepts looked interesting, and some had a lot of potential. But when the first students took the podium, I realized that many of the projects are far past potential and are already making an impact.

Alex Schoemann and Nora Goebelbecker, students at Notre Dame, developed a concept for a non-profit micro-lending service to compete with predatory payday lending. Then they put it into action in South Bend, Indiana. The Jubilee Initiative for Financial Inclusion (JIFFI) has already made a round of loans, which were paid back in full. In the fall semester, they plan to make enough loans to hit the legal limit in the state of Indiana for a lender of their size. The state’s regulations are their next challenge, which they brought to the floor for the reverse Q&A. JIFFI is already talking to legislators who are willing to help change the law, but the audience had suggestions for other models to examine, and potential lobbying partners.

Other students presented equally innovative ideas. Rahul Rehki saw a lack of young people contributing to the health policy space and is working to get young people involved in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Federal Advisory Committees. John Tranfaglia worked on the challenges facing his home state of Maine’s most well known industry: lobster. Tranfaglia’s proposal suggested that Maine market lobster in the same way Idaho markets potatoes, but when the Reverse Q&A brought up other possible models, they weren’t limited to food: well-known state and local products from Maryland crab to Nashville’s country music scene were all suggested as possible comparisons.

The practice of making local change to advance a larger progressive goal is key to the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network’s model, and many of the projects had longer-term goals that could move even further. Friday afternoon’s workshops fit into that strategy, offering attendees an opportunity to develop their skills in partnering with government, connecting with people, and working within the system. In his workshop, Alex Torpey, the youngest mayor in New Jersey, dropped some wisdom about being a young person working policy: “It’s a great story,” he said, “let’s talk about young people being involved, but at a certain point that fades away… It’s not about being the young person in charge anymore, it’s just stepping up to the plate and just doing what you need to do.”

Click here for more information about all the projects presented at this year’s Policy Expo.

Next month, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network will bring together chapter leaders from across the country at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY for the Hyde Park Leadership Summit, the first step in the annual cycle towards the 2014 Policy Expo.

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Daily Digest - June 19: No Grocery Money, No Problem?

Jun 19, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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What Congress and the Media Are Missing in the Food Stamp Debate (The Nation)

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What Congress and the Media Are Missing in the Food Stamp Debate (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann asks why we are talking about everything except the state of hunger in the U.S. when we talk about cutting SNAP benefits. There are people in this country who cannot afford enough food for themselves and their families: as he sees it, nothing else should be considered.

Kansas Bleeds the Middle Class (TAP)

Monica Potts visits Johnson County, Kansas, where she finds that suburban poverty is growing and there are no middle-class jobs available. This low-wage economy is a constant struggle, and there don't seem to be any escape routes in place.

Welfare reform took people off the rolls. It might have also shortened their lives. (WaPo)

Dylan Matthews reports on a new study on a Floridian precursor to federal welfare-to-work programs, which shows a troubling statistically significant difference in the mortality rate of the work program participants. More research is necessary, but it's possible welfare-to-work created new health problems.

Unelected Emergency Manager Preparing To Break Detroit’s Pension Promises (ThinkProgress)

Alan Pyke explains how bankruptcy proceedings would allow the emergency manager to put paying investors who gave the city loans before paying retirees. Investments are supposed to come with risks, but fixed-income seniors are apparently less important than debt.

The Chart That Eviscerates Five Terrible Talking Points About Taxes (Business Insider)

Josh Barros uses this chart on the progressivity of our tax system to remind us to think about how the whole system fits together, particularly when considering issues like the so-called "47% percent” or the progressivity of specific taxes.

We Need a New Deal For Millennials (HuffPo)

Richard Eskow argues that Millennials need to run far away from the politics-as-usual that is destroying their future. Instead, he would see a return to real values in politics, starting with the Millennials running for office themselves.

Guitar Center: Prices So Low, Employees Can't Survive on Wages (The Nation)

Allison Kilkenny reports that the 57 retail workers at Guitar Center's flagship in Manhattan have overwhelmingly voted to form a union. Their demands are pretty reasonable: a living wage, with a commission structure that makes sense in the Internet age.

Former intern sues Atlantic Records (Salon)

Christopher Zara explains this lawsuit, in which a former intern is suing to recover minimum wage and overtime with the help of the organization Intern Justice. This follows last week's ruling that some Fox Searchlight internships are illegal.

 

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Daily Digest - June 6: Time to Stop Talking Deficit

Jun 6, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Conference Calls For Bold Approaches To The Jobs Emergency (Campaign for America's Future)

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Conference Calls For Bold Approaches To The Jobs Emergency (Campaign for America's Future)

Derek Pugh reports on the Roosevelt Institute's jobs conference on Tuesday, which pointed at unemployment rather than deficits as the real economic crisis. Panelists offered numerous possible solutions, including New Deal-style job strategies, reformed trade policies, and expansion of public transit.

U.S. Worker Productivity Increases as Hourly Compensation Drops (LA Times)

Alejandro Lazo reports that the first quarter of 2013 showed employers are getting more out of workers than last year but paying them less. Meanwhile, employers are monitoring everything from website visits to bathroom trips to figure out what else they can deduct.

Now is the Time to be an Infrastructure Hawk, not a Deficit Hawk (WaPo)

Ezra Klein thinks that we need to prioritze fixing our crumbling infrastructure and creating jobs over worrying about the deficit. Besides, the infrastructure work needs to be done eventually, so if we put it off we're just creating another deficit for future generations.

Your Student Loan isn’t Really a Loan (Salon)

David Dayen argues that student loans are less like money borrowed at interest and closer to a form of indentured servitude. You can refinance a mortgage, or discharge it in bankruptcy, but student loans are forever.

Does a State Have the Right to Self-Destruct? (The Atlantic)

Garrett Epps questions whether a state is still a state under the federal Constitution if its government can't tax. Colorado law prevents the legislature from raising taxes, and the state is struggling as a result.

Dodd-Frank Act: After 3 Years, a Long To-Do List (USA Today)

Kevin McCoy writes on the delayed process of writing the 398 rules of the Dodd-Frank Act. There have been 279 deadlines so far, and nearly 63 percent of those have been missed -- a rate that only the law’s opponents can be happy with.

Denying a Head Start in Washington State (Bill Moyers)

Greg Kaufmann examines the effects of sequestration by looking at Head Start in Washington, which reaches only 38 percent of eligible children and now has to make cuts. Programs are using shorter school days to make their budget, or ending the school year early.

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Every Day is Student Debt Day for Millennials

Jun 5, 2013Joelle Gamble

Young Americans demand action on the student loan crisis, and they have a plan to solve it.

Young Americans demand action on the student loan crisis, and they have a plan to solve it.

“Work hard. Get good grades. Go to a good school and you will be successful.” Our generation has been told time and again that through hard work and dedication, we will be able to live happy lives, have secure jobs, and start families built on comfortable finances. But on this day of action around student debt, it’s clear we need more than these easy answers to help Millennials cope with the growing burden of education costs.

I come from a middle class family. Both of my parents served in the Marine Corps and got good jobs. My father works in law enforcement, and my mother is a teacher. They taught me that if I put in hard work, I would reap the results. So, I graduated at the top of my class in high school and went to a top (public) university. I worked all four years of college and graduated on time. Two days after graduation I started working at a good job.

By all measures, I did everything “by the book.” I even saved up some money to make early down payments on the student loans that I accrued during school. Over the past four months, I have paid off more than was required by law, and currently I am paying more on the principal than on the interest. One would think that I would be in pretty good shape.

But with $26,000 in debt, only slightly above average, I will still be making these payments for the next decade of my life. They will be as regular as my electric bill and rent. They will be considered before I think about how and when to start my family or buy a house.

I am one of the lucky ones: employed with enough spare cash to make student loan payments. So many other recent college graduates are not in the same position.

Student loan debt is one of the biggest economic and social justice issues this nation faces today. An entire generation of young, educated workers is being saddled with financial burdens that will follow them for the foreseeable future.

Recognizing this, the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network joined with the United States Student Association to make proactive recommendations for addressing the student loan debt crisis. Our report, A New Deal for Students, offers policies by students and for students, past and present.

In this report, students outline their arguments for a better system for financing higher education. Policy recommendations range from tax incentives for students committed to staying in their home states to raising the federal minimum range to supporting new graduates to teach in rural areas.

What we want is a real debate and, above all else, action by our lawmakers on this critical financial issue affecting millions of young Americans.

Joelle Gamble is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's National Field Strategist.

 

Graduation cap and money image via Shutterstock.com

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Daily Digest - May 23: Fearing the Future

May 23, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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What’s in millennials’ wallets? Fewer credit cards (LA Times)

Emily Alpert talks to Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz about why young households are carrying less and less credit card debt. According to Aronowitz, it’s all about fear of an uncertain future.

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What’s in millennials’ wallets? Fewer credit cards (LA Times)

Emily Alpert talks to Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz about why young households are carrying less and less credit card debt. According to Aronowitz, it’s all about fear of an uncertain future.

Why Suburban Poverty Is Less Visible and More Insidious (The Atlantic)

According to Emily Badger, suburban poverty is an incredibly isolating phenomenon. In areas where children play in back yards, not public playgrounds, and commuters drive instead of taking the subway, communal support for the poor all but disappears.

Elizabeth Warren Grills Treasury Secretary on Too Big to Fail (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger characterizes Jack Lew’s response to Senator Warren’s questioning on breaking up the biggest banks as nothing but avoidance. In the linked video, Lew sticks to name, rank, and serial number while Warren pushes for a direct answer on capping bank size.

How Budget Cuts Could Lead To Higher Costs From Tornadoes (Think Progress)

Bryce Covert reminds us that sequestration is still happening and is causing furloughs at the National Weather Service. The NWS warned residents of Moore, OK about the tornado 16 minutes before it touched down, and we can’t afford to cut it much closer.

Fed Endorses Stimulus, but the Message Is Garbled (NYT)

Nelson D. Schwartz explains that it doesn’t look like the Fed will be cutting back its bond-buying program just yet. Bernanke’s testimony yesterday showed a sense of caution, despite the apparent signs of improvement in the job market.

Robert Kaiser on Dodd-Frank: ‘This example of Congress working also illuminated why it works so rarely.’ (WaPo)

Neil Irwin and Robert Kaiser discuss why no one would want to emulate the process required to pass Dodd-Frank, with months of negotiations for bipartisan support collapsing and the bill barely scraping by. Instead, we get no negotiation and no legislation, saving everyone time.

Why Obama’s Scandals Won’t Lead to Reform (Bloomberg View)

Ezra Klein points out the disconnect between who is upset about the policy problems raised by the IRS and AP scandals, and who wants to make a fuss about them. With those categories split, he doesn’t think we will see any changes in anonymous political spending through 501(c)(4)s or legislation to protect journalists and their sources.

U.S. Retailers See Big Risk in Safety Plan for Factories in Bangladesh (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse says major U.S. retailers are worried the accord that many European retailers have embraced will open them up to legal liability. Apparently the real risk isn’t sending workers into a death trap; it’s all the paperwork and billable hours that could result.

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How Can We Solve the Jobs Emergency? A Q&A with Jeff Madrick

May 17, 2013Cathy Harding

On June 4th, the Roosevelt Institute will bring together leading thinkers, activists, and policymakers for A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency: Setting the Political Agenda for 2014 and 2016, a daylong conference in Washington, D.C. that will focus on America's desperate need for more and better jobs. Recently, Cathy Harding, Roosevelt's VP of Operations and Communications, sat down with Jeff Madrick, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Rediscovering Government initiative, to discuss his goals for the conference and his thoughts on what we can and must do to address the ongoing jobs crisis.

On June 4th, the Roosevelt Institute will bring together leading thinkers, activists, and policymakers for A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency: Setting the Political Agenda for 2014 and 2016, a daylong conference in Washington, D.C. that will focus on America's desperate need for more and better jobs. Recently, Cathy Harding, Roosevelt's VP of Operations and Communications, sat down with Jeff Madrick, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Rediscovering Government initiative, to discuss his goals for the conference and his thoughts on what we can and must do to address the ongoing jobs crisis.

Cathy Harding: At the upcoming Rediscovering Government conference titled “A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency,” you’re going to make the case that solving the jobs emergency requires a comprehensive approach. Is that a new perspective on job creation? In other words, what needs to be included as part of a meaningful response that has not be included before?

Jeff Madrick: I think it basically is a new approach. I think people have their one or two favorites. Mainstream economists almost solely talk about education; in fact, there is a quote from Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz of Harvard in a Mike Milken Institute publication that says, yes things like minimum wage and unionization may matter, but they really don’t matter very much. It’s almost all education, or Raghuram Rajan, who is a well-known Chicago economist, says the big problem is education. I think even left-wing economists will say the big problem is education. In my view it is one of many problems.

There are bills out there that are moderately comprehensive, like Tom Harkin’s bill, and he’s going talk about that.

Minimum wage contributes too, and de-unionization contributes to it. I think the lack of enforcement of the employment laws contributes to it, which has been serious.

We don’t pay any attention to job training programs in a serious way, aside from college education.

I think there are issues about health insurance that have to be talked about; there are issues about Wall Street, in particular, that are almost totally ignored by Washington, D.C. Wall Street’s impact on suppressing good jobs has been very serious, and it’s not part of any of these bills. So I think all of these matter.

And finally, government investment in infrastructure and new technologies are job creators.

CH: What happens if you don’t approach the jobs crisis across many planes?

JM: We are going to continue to generate fewer jobs than we should, and we won’t generate enough jobs that pay well. That’s a big deal. We are already in a very serious hole merely on the number of jobs, but the quality of jobs, in terms of wages they pay, and in terms of benefits like retirement and health insurance, is stunningly bad.

CH: So you are saying that without a multi-pronged approach to the jobs issue, it is just going to get worse?

JM: I think, yeah. I think if we listen to what most economists tell us to do, we would be a very sad country.

CH: So, Jeff, when we read reports that say unemployment is going down, and that jobs are being created, what questions should people be asking about those numbers?

JM: Long-term unemployment, that is, people who can’t get jobs for 6 months or more, is very high. It has been setting records for a long time now. So yes, there is a slight improvement in the unemployment rate, but it is not nearly enough. What are the reasons for that? Part of it is slow economic growth in itself. Why do we have slow economic growth? Probably the single most important reason, but not only reason, is high levels of debt that are held over from the mortgage boom. So slow growth contributes to that lack of rapid job creation, but so do these other factors, including Wall Street and pressure on wages by business. Some of it generated by Wall Street needs and stock market needs, some of it generated by globalization and the ability to go somewhere else.

CH: So you are not cheered when you see a report that says the unemployment rate is down to 7.5 percent?

JM: All of it has to be in context. I think it suggests, given that the government is taking money out of the economy through this now famous sequestration process, that the economy is stronger than we thought it might be. If only they would get out of the way, we would probably be creating a lot more jobs, but they are not getting out of the way. So that is another issue we have to deal with. So I am cheered that the job situation in the latest reporting month was better than most people thought, given that the government is stepping on the breaks and we are still moving.

CH: You talked about it not just being a matter of jobs, but the question of good jobs. The students involved in Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network through their Government By and For Millennial America report have identified that quality of jobs as being a very important issue for the country as a whole, and their generation. Can you specify what a bold approach might look like, specifically for the generation just coming onto the job market?

JM: Young people are getting the tail end of what is a pretty crummy job market for almost everybody. So to tailor a jobs program for the very young probably requires a variety of different types of policies. Still, going to college enables you to at least get a job, even if it is not a good job. A lot of people who go to college have to take jobs where you don’t really need a college education. So is there a simple answer – go get a college education? It is a negative answer. Don’t not get a college education.

We may have to tailor jobs programs run by the government to hire young people. It may come to that. We might need job-hiring programs by the government in the end. And we can’t neglect that idea, or keep it out of sight because we haven’t done for so long, or because “it is not the private market.” The big crisis is for the young people.

If you get a bad- or lower-paying job at 25, it probably affects your earning power for the rest of your life. So it is a pretty serious issue.

CH: You have written a lot about what you call “the age of greed.” Is there is a cultural aspect to this current jobs crisis?

JM: I haven’t thought about that sufficiently. I think there is now too easy an acceptance that people won’t get good jobs and that the future may not be very good. That’s rather a new thing in America. One of my favorite stories is from Fernand Braudel, the historian, who says, way back who knows when, a Frenchman wrote a letter from Wyoming or somewhere like that. He said, “You can’t believe what they are doing in this town. They are building City Hall a mile from where we all live, and where the town center now is. Why? Because they’re so optimistic the town is going to grow so much that will be the new center.” I don’t think we have much of that kind of optimism. Ironically, the great so-called optimistic president, Ronald Reagan, in my view, was the guy who made us all pessimists -- that we can’t rely on government to make things better and that all we have to do is have good thoughts and things will get better on their own. So now that I think about it and you brought it up, I think there is a pessimism that’s taking root in our society that is very dangerous. I don’t think if you talk to people who are 35 now and have children that they are extremely optimistic about prospects for their children. 

CH: The closing panel at the jobs conference will address momentum building. What can people expect to take away from that?

JM: I think that most of us don’t think that a jobs conference or a well-written jobs proposal is immediately going to result in action. I think we have to win people over with argument, and persuasion, and facts, and a sense of what is really at stake here. And I think that’s what building momentum is about. One can say, “Win over one person at a time, and then eventually you get a movement.” It is something like that. And I think that is what Rediscovering Government is going have to be dedicated to. We are not going go down there and change the world on June 4th, but we want to lay the groundwork for fighting the ongoing battle. And indeed, laying the groundwork and setting the political agenda for the elections of 2014, and especially 2016. We want to influence elections. We want a job-creating President and a job-creating Congress.

The full agenda for the June 4th conference is now available online. Click here to learn more about the speakers and RSVP today.

 

Job search image via Shutterstock.com

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How to Pensa 2040: Italy's Millennials Share Their Blueprint for Change

May 13, 2013Alan Smith

An Italian offshoot of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network shows that Millennial policy priorities reach across national borders.

An Italian offshoot of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network shows that Millennial policy priorities reach across national borders.

In 2010, the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network created the Blueprint for Millennial America, a generational vision for the country we hoped to see by the year 2040. In the conversations that established the backbone of the blueprint, we identified a core set of values shared by Millennials. The top three -- a deeply held concern for equity, a respect for the individual and society, and a belief in community empowerment and self-determination – represent a commonality that we think underlines what is unique about this generation of Americans. We are a group that seeks self-empowerment and strives to improve our society, but not always through the traditional power structures.

Over the last year, a similar project has been taking root on university campuses and among active Millennials – except this time it’s in Italy, where students have stepped up to take charge of their country’s uncertain future. “Pensa 2040” has taken the values-based collective ethos of the Roosevelt Blueprint and the Budget for Millennial America but introduced an Italian perspective. More than a thousand Italians have participated in conversations similar to those that built the Blueprint, and a Millennial vision for Italy is coming into focus.

If we’ve learned anything at the Campus Network, it’s that ownership of the process is equally as important as ownership of the outcomes. From what we’ve seen so far, the leaders of the Pensa 2040 process have carried on the successes of the Thinks 2040 framework by being willing and able to customize their discussions for the people in the room and the issues that are near and dear to their hearts. Holding discussions that engage people through the fundamental framework of values, and in so doing asks participants to examine which issues they truly believe are the most important, can yield a deeper and more lasting engagement on the issues that the community decides on together. 

So, what happened in Pensa 2040? The top-ranked value listed by the Italian Millennials reveals a clear difference between our two cultures: a deeply held respect for the idea of “legality.” This concept, rooted in Italy’s ongoing problems with the mafia and organized crime, extends to ending tax evasion and corruption within government. The very fact that the idea of legality would be a core value reveals a desire for order that is not at the forefront of many Americans’ minds. Still, some of the outcomes that students hope for in this category include a fair tax system and a more effective and fair legal system – important underpinnings of the Government By and For Millennial America discussion. 

It is in the second and third values expressed by the Italian students that we find a direct match with their American counterparts: equality and respect for the rights of the person. These essentially match word for word the underpinnings of the American Blueprint, and we find kinship with a generation focused on an absolute right to citizenship, same-sex marriages, and “civil service for all” (outcomes under “Uguaglianza”) as well as a right to health and full access to the sorts of “primary goods” that people need to be active and successful citizens (outcomes listed under “Rispetto per i diritti della persona”). There is something here, direct and definable, that speaks to a global generational identity. 

This sympathetic outlook makes sense: there are more and more shared experiences for people across borders and oceans. Not only could we jump on Skype to hear the results of the Pensa 2040 discussions, but many of the core issues facing Millennial Italians are the same issues facing American students in the Campus Network. Global climate change, economic uncertainty, and the challenges of a consistently volatile yet ever-more-interconnected world mean that the experience of being young often establishes a stronger bond than the experience of being “American” or “European.” While the 39 percent youth unemployment rate in Italy dwarfs the 17 percent unemployment rate for American youth, both countries are experiencing talk of a “lost generation,” and anyone trying to get a job out of college right now can tell you that unemployment is only a part of a bitter cocktail that includes low-wage jobs and student debt.  The economic example serves to highlight a greater truth: that a generational movement is real and important. 

Pensa 2040 has moved from the conversation stages to the building of a values-based blueprint for Italy. Students are working with other stakeholders now to write policy recommendations for Italy going forward, and to follow in the footsteps of the Campus Network by creating a crowd-sourced and collaborative budget for Italy that tackles their ongoing economic woes from a place of shared values. We’re excited that Italian students have taken on a part of our brand of collective discussions and are using it to build something equally as empowering and exciting for themselves. Look for a Blueprint for Millenario Italia entro il 2014! 

Alan Smith is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's National Policy and Program Director.

 

"Made in Italy" image via Shutterstock.com

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What is the Crash Generation?

Apr 29, 2013Nona Willis Aronowitz

Down but not out, Millennials who came of age during the Great Recession could reshape the American economy and society.

The economy is personal. It colors our decisions about everything: when to have kids, what city to move to, who to vote for, who to sleep with. And nobody knows this better than the biggest generation in history: the Millennials. These 80 million Americans have come of age during the worst economic recession since the Depression, an experience that will have profound repercussions on our lives—and our political consciousness.

Down but not out, Millennials who came of age during the Great Recession could reshape the American economy and society.

The economy is personal. It colors our decisions about everything: when to have kids, what city to move to, who to vote for, who to sleep with. And nobody knows this better than the biggest generation in history: the Millennials. These 80 million Americans have come of age during the worst economic recession since the Depression, an experience that will have profound repercussions on our lives—and our political consciousness.

I call us the Crash Generation. For many of us in our twenties, 2008 was a period awash in exhilarating highs and terrifying lows. The words “depression,” “economic crisis,” “mass layoffs,” and “foreclosures,” along with “hope,” “change,” and “Obama,” all clogged the headlines and made their way into whiskey-fueled party conversations. Washington and the media had never been so frank about the cataclysmic proportions of a financial crash. And a candidate had never kicked young voters into such high gear like Barack Obama, who seemed to reflect the seismic demographic shift our generation was heralding. The mythic American dream-bubbles were bursting for young people at the exact moment we had begun to wield our political influence. That second half of 2008 was our JFK assassination. Our Vietnam. Our Great Depression. 

Study after study finds that Millennials are “materialistic” or obsessed with money. But really we're obsessed with the money we don’t have; put in political terms, we’re class-conscious. Thanks to Occupy Wall Street and Mitt Romney’s slipups, the concept of income inequality is finally part of the public conversation. The economic patterns of the past few decades, with the financial crisis as their crescendo, have yielded an atmosphere ripe for a youth-led social movement that hinges on our bottom lines. Because of our sheer numbers, we have enormous potential to transform waves into tsunamis, and we have already flexed our political muscle in two elections. Those of us who came of age when the bubble burst, particularly the downwardly mobile “privileged poor,” have a tangible common experience, a renewed indignation.

But too often, this indignation often has nowhere to go, and is enveloped in our frenetic lives of multiple jobs, demoralizing underemployment, or joblessness—the constant physical and emotional stress of keeping our heads above water. Years later, the status quo has not budged. We haven’t done much to shrink the income gap or encourage upward mobility. We haven’t gotten our leaders to address anemic state budgets, deregulation, unions’ decline, freelancers’ precarity, shrinking wages, student debt, or the insane cost of living in major cities. All those economic pressures have primed this era for an economic shift. Yet those same pressures limit our freedom to protest or push for policy changes. In other words, we’re pissed—but we’re paralyzed by the very forces we’re pissed about.

Right now, most of the permanent underclass feels politically frozen: When one missed paycheck means descending into poverty without a safety net, unions and political activism seem like a low priority. Educated young people are frozen, too—caught in the privileged-poor paradox. Our meager (or nonexistent) paychecks incite righteous anger—especially when we think of our middle class parents’ luck at their age—but they also choke our very ability to organize, create, and take risks. As our wages fall, our degrees lose value, prices of food and rent rise, and workdays expand, we have less and less time to read a book, to join a rally in the next town over, to hop a bus to Washington, to even have a hours-long discussion about politics with our friends. Most Millennials aren’t starving, Great Depression-style, but they are starved for a low cost of living and a baseline of economic freedom.

Here's the good news: For every 10 twentysomethings seized with frustration, there’s one pushing the conversation forward and coming up with compelling solutions, however flawed or nascent. This seething discontent signals the start of a major shift. The fizzling of Occupy Wall Street, for instance, shouldn’t depress us; Roosevelt Institute fellow Dorian Warren recently reminded me that if this is our civil rights movement, we’re only in 1957—a year after the Montgomery bus boycott. So far, our empty wallets and our denial have hindered our ability to meaningfully influence policy, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen soon.

Some people think that entrepreneurship, not government policy, will save Millennials. The truth is, not everyone has the support and connections to launch their own business or score a job at a scrappy start-up. Besides, start-up culture and economic reform aren’t mutually exclusive. In a post-recession era, both social change and entrepreneurism stem from being able to live securely and cheaply. A 2008 study from the RAND Corporation found evidence of "entrepreneurship lock," where workers resist leaving firms offering health care due to the high premiums of the individual health insurance market. Compare this reticence to places like Norway: When journalist Max Chafkin visited the country in 2010, he reported on a spate of Norwegian entrepreneurs who not only were happy to pay high taxes, but attributed their penchant for risk-taking to a strong social safety net. (There are also more entrepreneurs per capita in Norway than in the United States. Same with Canada, Denmark, and Switzerland.)

Millennials are starting to realize that if their lives are going to improve, there needs to be policy that addresses unemployment, student debt, and income inequality. Young people like the ones striking outside McDonald’s in New York, or the students who won a minimum wage hike in San Jose, or the ones in Roosevelt’s Pipeline and Campus Network across the country—they’re all updating historic social movements (and the policies they’ve pushed) that have improved the lives of middle and working class Americans. 

The future movers and shakers of the Crash Generation have a modern sensibility. We’re Internet natives. We’re optimists. We believe in community and the “sharing economy.” We’ve all but settled the culture wars. But we also have faith in the idea of government, if not its current reality, and we’re not afraid to engage with successful historical models.

Nona Willis Aronowitz is a Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow. Join her tomorrow night at the Roosevelt Institute for a Crash Generation salon on "Why Millennials Should Care About Family Policy," with guest speaker Sharon Lerner of Demos. She will also be moderating a panel on paving the path to good jobs at A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency on June 4th.

 

Woman looking for work image via Shutterstock.com

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