Daily Digest - September 29: Local Investing for Local Community Growth

Sep 29, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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GWU Students Tackling Income Inequality in Their Own Backyard (USA Today)

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GWU Students Tackling Income Inequality in Their Own Backyard (USA Today)

Campus Network Northeast Regional Coordinator Areeba Kamal profiles the George Washington University chapter's Bank on DC initiative, which asks the university to invest at least $250,000 in a community development bank.

Failing the Midterms (In These Times)

Chris Lehmann considers why the Democrats lack a solid midterm agenda. Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Tom Ferguson places the blame on the power of wealthy donors in finance and Silicon Valley.

Inside the New York Fed: Secret Recordings and a Culture Clash (ProPublica/This American Life)

Jake Bernstein reports on recording made by a New York Federal Reserve bank examiner embedded at Goldman Sachs, which show the Fed's reluctance to take risks and push back on the banks.

Goldman Bans Employee Stock Trading Following “This American Life” Broadcast (Buzzfeed)

Matthew Zeitlin reports on Goldman's new policies, which appear to respond to concerns about conflict of interest policies raised in the ProPublica/This American Life report.

Bad Tech Helped Banks Screw Homeowners (Medium)

By choosing not to update their technology, mortgage servicers have an easier time covering up the illegal foreclosures that boost their profits, writes Alexis Goldstein.

Obamacare’s Good News Week (MSNBC)

Suzy Khimm highlights new evidence of the Affordable Care Act's success, including hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid seeing fewer uninsured patients, which reduces costs.

New on Next New Deal

Democracy, Economic Crisis, and “Rethinking Communities”

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Sabeel Rahman looks at the Campus Network's Rethinking Communities initiative as a successor to post-Gilded Age reforms, focusing on local power and participatory democracy.

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Daily Digest - September 19: This Bus Doesn't Stop for Big Money

Sep 19, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Catholic Nuns Take On Dark Money In Politics With Nationwide Bus Tour (ThinkProgress)

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Catholic Nuns Take On Dark Money In Politics With Nationwide Bus Tour (ThinkProgress)

Sister Simone Campbell, the 2013 FDR Four Freedoms Awards laureate for Freedom of Worship, is leading a new Nuns on the Bus tour, this time focused on disenfranchised voters, writes Jack Jenkins.

Tenants Facing Eviction in Era of Skyrocketing Rents Need Legal Assistance (TAP)

Martha Bergmark emphasizes the need to support legal aid programs, noting that legal representation doubles tenants' chances of staying in their homes when fighting eviction.

Workers Deserve to Benefit from Their Productivity, Too (WaPo)

Harold Meyerson says newly proposed legislation from Rep. Chris Van Hollen that ties the performance pay tax deduction to workers' wage increases is necessary to ensure a fair deal for workers.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Holmberg and Campus Network alumna Lydia Austin look at the broader problems with the performance pay provision in the tax code.

Does Silicon Valley Have a Contract-Worker Problem? (NY Mag)

Kevin Roose dives deep into the so-called "1099 Economy," in which start-ups have independent contractors galore, many of whom may legally qualify as employees.

Demonizing the Minimum Wage (New Yorker)

William Finnegan looks at the range of statements against raising the minimum wage, which consistently misrepresent minimum wage workers. They aren't just teenagers with after-school jobs.

New Republican Bill Would Paralyze National Labor Relations Board (In These Times)

Bruce Vail explains why and how the Republicans are aiming to gridlock the National Labor Relations Board, a goal that he says is primarily based in anti-union, anti-worker bias.

Tax Cuts Can Do More Harm Than Good (AJAM)

David Cay Johnston looks at a new report on tax cuts, which shows that short-term economic growth aside, badly structured tax cuts just push costs to the future and can incentivize bad investments.

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Daily Digest - September 15: Violence Against Women is Still a Threat, Abroad and at Home

Sep 15, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Hillary Clinton Seeks End to Gender Violence by Terrorist Groups (CBS News)

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Hillary Clinton Seeks End to Gender Violence by Terrorist Groups (CBS News)

Clinton also spoke about issues of violence against women in the U.S., reports Hannah Fraser-Chanpong, reiterating her stance that domestic violence requires criminal, not cultural, responses.

White House Photo Ops, Old School (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow David Woolner says the new Ken Burns film The Roosevelts: An Intimate History highlights the interconnectedness of the lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor.

Shareholders Say, ‘Show Me The Money’ (In These Times)

David Sirota explains the fight over corporate political spending disclosures. A proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule has significant public support – and plenty of corporate pushback.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Holmberg looks at the costs and benefits of mandating corporate political spending disclosure.

Workers Go on Strike at Hammond Automotive Seats Plant (Chicago Tribune)

The workers are "tired of being treated like fast-food industry employees," writes Alexandra Chachkevitch. They are asking for the elimination of a salary cap instituted during the financial crisis.

Workers in Maine Buy Out Their Jobs, Set an Example for the Nation (Truthout)

Rob Brown, Noemi Giszpenc, and Brian Van Slyke explain why the creation of the Island Employee Cooperative in Deer Isle, Maine is a particularly groundbreaking achievement.

New on Next New Deal

How Much are Local Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses Driven By the Feds? A Reply to Libertarians

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal counters libertarian arguments, showing that the profit motive is bottom-up: asset forfeiture in non-Federal cases is driven by local policy.

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Daily Digest - September 8: What Ever Happened to the Public Option?

Sep 8, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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To Improve ‘Obamacare,’ Reconsider the Original House Bill (AJAM)

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To Improve ‘Obamacare,’ Reconsider the Original House Bill (AJAM)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues that the House's public option for health care reform, which was missing from the Senate bill that became law, would greatly strengthen the Affordable Care Act.

SEC Faces Renewed Pressure to Consider a Corporate Disclosure Rule (The Nation)

One million comments submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission have called for requiring companies to disclose political donations to shareholders, writes Zoë Carpenter.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Holmberg finds that corporate political spending disclosure has substantial benefits.

Why the Worst Governments in America Are Local Governments (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait looks at the problem of "Big Small Government," meaning local governments that act as oppressive forces. He says neither Democrats nor Republicans offer useful solutions.

Paid Sick Leave is Healthy for Business (SFGate)

Carl Guardino, a Silicon Valley CEO, explains the business advantages of instituting paid sick leave in California. He focuses on improvements to health, safety, and economic security.

Some Retail Workers Find Better Deals With Unions (NYT)

The retail union in New York City has secured protections for its members that other retail workers are fighting for, like plenty of advance notice on schedules, says Rachel Swarns.

Unemployment Rate Continues To Be Elevated Across the Board (Working Economics)

The combination of declining real wages and elevated unemployment rates for college graduates indicates the impossibility of a skills mismatch in today's labor market, writes Elise Gould.

Nearly a Quarter of Fortune 500 Companies Still Offer Pensions to New Hires (WaPo)

Since companies are scaling back the generosity of these pensions through hybrid plans that cost workers more, Jonnelle Marte says that number sounds deceptively good.

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Daily Digest - September 3: Soaring Inequality Isn't Inherent to the System

Sep 3, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Democracy in the Twenty-First Century (Project Syndicate)

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Democracy in the Twenty-First Century (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz says that wealth inequality, thrown into the spotlight by Thomas Piketty, is the result of government-supported distortion of the market.

A Competition to Make the City More Resilient (Tech President)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford explains how the RISE:NYC contest was structured to ensure that it sparked sustainable and innovative ideas to protect the city from future storms.

How Amazon Plans to Storm Cable's Castle (Bloomberg View)

Susan Crawford suggests that Amazon's purchase of Twitch, a live-streaming video game platform, aims to increase its negotiating power with Internet service providers.

America’s Growing Food Inequality Problem (WaPo)

Researchers have found a growing dietary quality gap that parallels income inequality, says Roberto A. Ferdman. The study says the gap is partially cost-driven, since healthy food is pricier.

New Voter Guide Follows the Money (NYT)

Derek Willis looks at Crowdpac, a site that is creating a voter guide based on campaign finance data. Crowdpac argues that the source of campaign dollars says the most about a candidate.

It's Time to Raise the Minimum Wage. If Congress Would Rather Suck Up to the Koch Brothers, We'll Raise It Anyway (The Guardian)

Sarah Jaffe says that as long as politicians see wealthy donors instead of workers as their base, organizers must continue to take the wage issue out of legislators' hands.

Fast-Food-Worker Civil Disobedience? (Philadelphia Daily News)

Will Bunch reports on the planned acts of civil disobedience, including sit-ins and marches, that will represent a major escalation of the fast-food strikes tomorrow.

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Daily Digest - August 1: Too Big to Fail vs. Too Small to Matter

Aug 1, 2014

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An In-Depth Look at Campaign Finance Reform (MSNBC)

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An In-Depth Look at Campaign Finance Reform (MSNBC)

In this extended online segment, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren speaks with Zephyr Teachout about using multiple matching funds as a tool to increase the power of small donors.

Playing the ‘Who’s the Boss?’ Game with Employees (WaPo)

The National Labor Relations Board ruling that McDonald's can be held accountable for franchise labor violations sheds light on the ways employers try to dodge responsibility, writes Catherine Rampell.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong and Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch commented on the NLRB decision earlier this week.

‘Pension Smoothing’: The Gimmick Both Parties in Congress Love (NYT)

Josh Barro says pension smoothing, which increases revenues by allowing smaller pension contributions, and other gimmicks provide funding on too-short timelines, requiring another hunt for funds soon after.

Feds Say Big Banks Are Still Too Big to Fail (MoJo)

Despite Dodd-Frank's financial regulations, a new Government Accountability Office report says investors still expect bailouts if the largest banks fail, giving those banks advantages over smaller ones, writes Erika Eichelberger.

Hope Springs Eternal, But The Data Is Actually Pretty Mixed About Whether Or Not Recovery Is Accelerating (Working Economics)

Josh Bivens cautions against excitement about GDP and job growth as signs of a speedier recovery. The data isn't actually that strong, and he sees the potential for job growth to slow.

New on Next New Deal

Let's Hope the GAO Report Ends the Too-Big-to-Fail Subsidy Distraction

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal writes that the existence of a too-big-to-fail subsidy isn't as important or potentially destructive as the systemic problems of the financial system.

Education Left Behind

Edyta Obrzut, the Campus Network's NextGen Illinois Research Fellow, examines the challenges facing education policy in Illinois today, and the potential solutions put forward by NextGen caucuses.

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Daily Digest - July 31: The IRS Can't Follow the Money When It Has None of Its Own

Jul 31, 2014

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IRS Failing to Regulate Dark-Money Political Spending (Real News Network)

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IRS Failing to Regulate Dark-Money Political Spending (Real News Network)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Thomas Ferguson explains how reduced funding for the IRS is preventing the agency from properly determining what groups need to report political spending.

3 Reasons Subsidized Jobs Should Be Part of an Economic Mobility Agenda (CAP)

Rachel West says that subsidized job programs are effective at bringing people who have been left out into the labor force, even in non-recessionary times.

It’s a Reasonable Goal: Wages That Pay the Bills (Boston Globe)

Steven Syre questions why public support is so much higher for groups fighting to maintain their hard-won living wages than it is for fast food workers seeking the same level of stability.

Obama Plans New Scrutiny for Contractors on Labor Practices (NYT)

A new executive order will require federal contractors to disclose any labor violations from the past three years, and give preference to cleaner records, report Steven Greenhouse and Michael D. Shear.

Why the House of Representatives Just Voted to Sue President Obama (Vox)

Neither legislative body has ever sued the President for failing to enforce the law, explains Andrew Prokop, so this has broad implications for who controls how policy is implemented.

New on Next New Deal

Leadership Wanted: The College Access Crisis Needs You, Mayor de Blasio

Kevin Stump, Leadership Director for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, says that Mayor de Blasio must invest in programs that increase college access alongside those that help at-risk students.

In the Artisanal Economy, Work Is What You Make of It

In his speculation for the Next American Economy project, Harvard economics professor Lawrence Katz suggests that an economy of craftsmanship could create higher wages out of low-end work.

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Money in Politics is a Local Problem, Too

Jun 30, 2014Eugenia Kim

Large donors dominate our politics even at the local level, but communities have the power to overcome them.

Large donors dominate our politics even at the local level, but communities have the power to overcome them.

Last summer, I interned for mayoral candidate Gary Holder-Winfield in New Haven, CT. New Haven is not a small town. While it’s 130,660 residents pale in comparison to New York’s 8,405,837, it is a major city in Connecticut. In New Haven, which is primarily Democratic, the real race for mayor was in the primary. In a local election with seven candidates, there are not going to be seven radically different perspectives.  Most of the candidates generally held the same values, to the point that the race was decided more on the likability of the candidates then the content of their platforms.

In trying to differentiate Gary Holder-Winfield from the field, we got in touch with voters directly. I saw him work a full day at his job and then come in to the campaign office and knock on doors for hours until after dark on weekdays, and then walk all day knocking on doors on the weekends, rain or shine. I saw him write his personal phone number on literature to give out to his community.

I also saw Holder-Winfield forced to drop out because of lack of money. He had agreed to fund his campaign through the Democracy Fund, which restricts the amount of campaign expenditures allowed, limits individual contributions to $370, and prohibits any PAC or business from donating all together. In return, the Democracy Fund matches donations up to $125,000 and provides a $19,000 grant for the primary and general elections. Ultimately, all of the candidates that ran in the mayoral election with the Democracy Fund were defeated. While the new mayor of New Haven, Toni Harp, is extremely qualified and will do well as New Haven’s next mayor, I am disappointed that the process of getting there required raising more than half a million dollars.  

Despite Holder-Winfield dropping out of the race, I was not yet completely disheartened.  But when I went to work on aldermanic campaigns, I realized that money was the largest barrier to entry in politics today. Aldermen in New Haven are the equivalent of city councilmen. They each represent particular neighborhoods in New Haven, making their concerns and constituents hyper-local. Some sitting members on the Board of Aldermen in New Haven have been there for decades without a serious challenge, in part because local interest groups have backed them financially.

By helping to run the campaigns of aldermanic candidates who wanted to run free of these local interests and maintain a campaign on very few funds, I learned what an uphill battle it was to get money out of politics even at such a local level. We backed five candidates; only one was elected. It’s sobering when paying for lawn signs is out of a campaign’s budget. It’s disheartening to see a second candidate  I worked for drop out because of funding. It’s devastating that a group of dedicated volunteers can spend weeks systematically knocking on doors and hours on phone calls with potential voters, only to have the incumbent pay for enough canvassers in the week leading up to election day to pull off the votes to win.

That summer, it became very clear to me that democracy came with a high price. This is not a call to action for my congressman or senator to advocate for campaign finance reform; I am too realistic for that request. My call to action is for people who care about their communities. Some people may not vote because they feel like their votes do not matter, and it's easy to understand why in heavily partisan national elections. However, the closest aldermanic race was won by 81 votes. Local elections are where our votes matter most, and where we are least aware of where power lies.

Money in politics has permeated the governance of local issues, so we need to start identifying the drivers of local politics. In New Haven, politics are centered on the effects of Yale University as an anchor institution. Aldermanic races are shaped by the influence of the unions partnered with Yale. We need to impress the importance of local elections and analyze the drivers of these local communities. We must identify who holds power, economically and socially in these communities, and harness that power. Locally, there is still a chance for the voices of voters over large donors.

Eugenia Kim is the Rethinking Communities Intern at the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, and a member of the Rethinking Communities Brain Trust.

Image via Thinkstock

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Working Families Party Endorsement of Cuomo Shows Progressive Political Power

Jun 3, 2014Richard Kirsch

If the goal is to achieve real progressive change that improves lives, then New York Governor Cuomo's deal with the Working Families Party is on the right track.

It would be a mistake to think that the New York Working Families Party's endorsement of a Wall Street, austerity Democrat – Andrew Cuomo – is a defeat for the surging progressive wing of the Democratic Party. In fact, just the opposite is true. The endorsement was a demonstration of how to build power to do what progressive politics is ultimately about: delivering real improvements in people’s lives.

If the goal is to achieve real progressive change that improves lives, then New York Governor Cuomo's deal with the Working Families Party is on the right track.

It would be a mistake to think that the New York Working Families Party's endorsement of a Wall Street, austerity Democrat – Andrew Cuomo – is a defeat for the surging progressive wing of the Democratic Party. In fact, just the opposite is true. The endorsement was a demonstration of how to build power to do what progressive politics is ultimately about: delivering real improvements in people’s lives.

Up to 24 hours before the WFP’s Saturday convention, it looked like the Party would nominate Zephyr Teachout, a law professor and activist leader in the fight to reverse Citizens United and enact robust public campaign financing, who ran Howard Dean’s breakthrough online organizing and fundraising campaign for president. Public opinion polls taken earlier in May showed that a progressive WFP candidate could get more than 20% of the popular vote, radically shrinking Cuomo’s victory margin and his quest to demonstrate nationally that he would be a credible candidate for president.

That threat forced Cuomo to agree to make a u-turn in the way he has dealt with the New York State Senate and to agree to push for the passage of six very important progressive priorities in the legislature. After Cuomo, looking to me like a cornered man, made those pledges by video and phone to the WFP convention, a majority of delegates (58 percent), including me – I’m a member of the WFP State Committee – approved his endorsement.

Cuomo’s key concession was to end his support for the coalition between Republican state senators and a handful of breakaway Democratic state senators, which effectively had maintained Republican control of the State Senate. With the exception of a brief period four years ago, Republicans have controlled the New York’s State Senate for decades, blocking an Empire State Building-high pile of progressive bills passed by the State Assembly.

Cuomo agreed to join New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York unions active in the WFP – including SEIU, New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, CWA, and UAW – to create a well-funded campaign to elect Democrats and to run primaries against any Democrats who do not agree to fully support Democratic control of the state senate.

But what swayed my vote and the vote of other delegates is the specific package of legislation that Cuomo agreed to push for, should the campaign be successful in putting Democrats in control of the Senate.

One is immediately raising the minimum wage in New York to $10.10, indexed to inflation, and agreeing to allow local governments to raise wages 30% higher. Cuomo has been strongly opposed to giving local governments the authority to do that. This alone is a huge victory for the fast-food workers’ movement, which originated in the city, as there is little doubt that Mayor de Blasio and the progressive City Council majority elected with him will quickly take advantage of their new power if given the opportunity.

A second bill would decriminalize marijuana. New York would become the first state to do so legislatively, rather than by referendum. Given the huge racial imbalance of pot arrests in the city, which continues to ruin the futures of generations of young Black and Latino men, this is an enormous step forward for racial justice and against mass incarceration.

The New York Dream Act is on the list, which would provide tuition assistance to DREAM kids, aspiring immigrant college students who were brought to the United States as children. The Governor also committed to support funding of 100 community schools in low-income communities outside of NYS, which provide social, health and emotional services and act as community centers. Mayor de Blasio will support funding another 100 in New York City.

Another bill is the Women’s Equality Act, with ten provisions including one that the Republican controlled State Senate has opposed – codifying the right for women to determine whether to have an abortion. The Act would includes measures on promoting pay equity, stopping sexual harassment, preventing pregnancy discrimination in all workplaces, strengthening human trafficking laws, bolstering protections for domestic violence victims, and ending family status discrimination.

Last but absolutely not least is finally a robust small-donor public financing bill for statewide and legislative races. In the long run, if this becomes law, it will be the most significant part of the agreement. As Mayor de Blasio pointed out in his speech urging the WFP delegates to give Cuomo their votes in return with this agreement, he could not have been elected mayor without the New York City public financing law, which is the model for the state bill.

De Blasio began his remarks reminding the WFP delegates that he had been a founder of the Party. De Blasio brokered the deal between the WFP and the Governor, saying that he could not deliver on a progressive agenda in New York City unless Democrats gained control of the state senate.

The delegates who voted for Teachout were motivated by two factors, which were shared by almost everyone who attended the convention. One is a strong distaste and distrust for Cuomo. The second is the heartfelt pull to vote for Teachout as a candidate who shares our values and worldview. Particularly in the context of the national debate within the Democratic Party over whether it will become the Party of Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio, this was a powerful attraction for Teachout’s candidacy.

As those of you who follow my writing know, I work a lot on helping progressives promote our ideology, our worldview. As such, you might have expected me to decide that Teachout’s campaign – which would have given voice to that worldview – would have been where I stood. But for me, the reason I focus on changing worldviews is not just because I want people to agree with us. It is because when people share our worldview, they are much more likely to support candidates and policies that deliver on our core beliefs.

For me, this is the ultimate purpose of politics: to enact laws that deliver concrete improvements in people’s lives, that help them care for and support their families and live in dignity, that protect us and our planet.

 

On Saturday, WFP used its political muscle – built through a 16 year process of organizing, coalition building, and electing progressives to higher and higher offices – to take what could be a game-changing step in New York to winning real improvements in people’s lives and making it possible for candidates in New York to win office without relying on big campaign contributions. That’s what political power should be used for. And like any muscle, using it just makes it – and in this case progressive political power – stronger.

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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Daily Digest - May 16: American Dreamers Wake Up to Inequality

May 16, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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It’s Now the Canadian Dream (NYT)

Nicholas Kristof quotes Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz on how inequality of opportunity has diminished the American Dream.

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

It’s Now the Canadian Dream (NYT)

Nicholas Kristof quotes Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz on how inequality of opportunity has diminished the American Dream.

  • Roosevelt Take: Stiglitz spoke to the Senate Budget Committee about growing inequality of income and opportunity in the U.S., and how policy can push back.

Harry Reid Backs Campaign Spending Amendment (Politico)

The Senate Majority Leader has backed a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United and McCutcheon, writes Burgess Everett, though it's unlikely to pass.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch calls for political organizing to protect democracy in the wake of McCutcheon.

Biggest Fast Food Strike Ever Attracts Global Support (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff reports on the expansion of the fast food strikes that began a year and a half ago in New York City. Yesterday brought strikes in 150 U.S. cities and 33 other countries.

Fast Food, Slow Movement (TAP)

Paul Waldman says the slow growth of the fast food movement could be to its advantage when it comes to developing demands, strategies, and leadership.

Another Conservative Governor Finds a Way to Expand Medicaid (WaPo)

Expanding Medicaid without provoking GOP opposition, as Indiana's governor is attempting to do, could be key to closing the coverage gap, writes Jason Millman.

New on Next New Deal

In Georgia, Lawmakers Taking Pride in Policies That Hurt the Poor

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn explains why Georgia's active efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act are making things worse in a state with an already high poverty rate.

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