"Inequality for All" is "The Progressive Economic Narrative: The Movie"

Sep 27, 2013Richard Kirsch

The new film starring Robert Reich delivers a powerful message about what's wrong with the economy, though it may leave viewers wondering what they can do about it.

With the release of the documentary Inequality for All today, the core progressive story about what is wrong with the economy is now on the silver screen. For those of us who have been working to articulate what we call a progressive economic narrative, it is a major milestone.

The new film starring Robert Reich delivers a powerful message about what's wrong with the economy, though it may leave viewers wondering what they can do about it.

With the release of the documentary Inequality for All today, the core progressive story about what is wrong with the economy is now on the silver screen. For those of us who have been working to articulate what we call a progressive economic narrative, it is a major milestone.

The right spent decades projecting their view that prosperity is created through limited government and free markets, concepts that still dominate most Americans’ thinking, even as the American dream is becoming a nightmare for more and more families. The new movie provides a powerful way to popularize a very different story.

Inequality for All is based around a big lecture course that Robert Reich gives at the University of California Berkeley. Reich and the film’s director, Jacob Kornbluth, mix facts, infographics, documentary footage, and profiles of families whose lives have been scarred by the new economy with the personal story of Reich’s lifelong work to push for a just economy, including his frustrations serving as Labor Secretary during President Clinton’s first term. Reich’s personality, his humor, feistiness, and passion, drive the film.

The progressive economic narrative can be encapsulated in four sentences:

  • Working families and the middle class are getting crushed while the super-rich game the system.
  • Working families and the middle class are the engines of the economy.
  • We build a strong middle class through decisions we make together.
  • It’s up to us to build an America that works for all of us.

Inequality for All tells the same story. In the movie, Reich ties the vast increase in income inequality to the loss of unionization, the diversion of economic growth from wages to CEO compensation and profits, the financialization of the economy, cutting taxes for the wealthy, and the failure of government to keep investing in education and infrastructure.

Reich shows how a virtuous cycle of higher wages and productivity, which put more money in consumers’ pockets, thus driving the economy forward and raising revenues for government investment, was replaced by a vicious cycle in which stagnant wages undercut consumer purchasing, leading to lower demand and more layoffs along with declining tax revenues and government spending.

While most Americans know that the rich are getting richer while everyone else is being squeezed, the crucial contribution the movie makes is explaining the two key economic concepts needed to discredit the conservative economic story.

The most powerful messenger for the first concept is not Reich, but Nick Hanauer, a Seattle billionaire, who made his fortune in both the old and new economy. Hanauer’s family business is one of the world’s largest pillow manufacturers, but his latest fortune is as an early Amazon investor. Hanauer tours his pillow-making factory, pointing out that “a person like me who earns 1,000 times as much as the typical American doesn’t buy 1,000 pillows a year. Even the richest person only sleeps on one or two pillows. The pillow business is quite tough, as it is for many, many industries, because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy the products we make.”

When consumers are able to afford a new item, many now go to places like Amazon, which Hanauer points out employs 60,000 employees to achieve the same volume of sales that mom and pop businesses would hire 600,000 for.

The second key concept, hammered home over and over again by Reich, is “We make the rules of the economy and we have the power to change those rules.” He says his first studies of economics, as a Rhodes Scholar, taught him that there was “no such thing as a perfectly free market anywhere. Government sets the rules by which the market functions… The real question is who do these rules benefit and who they hurt.”

The driving narrative behind Inequality for All, and the most important point for people to learn, is that the crushing of the middle class did not happen by accident; it happened because of decisions that were made by business and government. Reich’s message is that we can make different decisions to create an economy of shared prosperity.

The last third of the movie emphasizes that the biggest obstacle to change is the capturing of our democracy by big money. Reich, who is the chair of Common Cause, warns that because of the “threat to democracy” from the rising concentration of wealth, “we are seeing an entire society that is starting to pull apart.”

Reich concludes with a call for building a movement, telling a personal story of why he became an activist. Reich, who is less than five feet tall, was saved from bullying by an older schoolmate, Mickey Schwerner, who was murdered along with two other young civil rights volunteers in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964. That event, Reich says, changed his life.

His final charge to his students is a call to action: “You've got to mobilize, you've got to organize, you've got to energize other people. Politics is not out there. It starts here…. History is on the side of positive social change… You can be a leader.”

The biggest weakness of the film, which undercuts his hopeful conclusion, is that Reich does not propose any specific solutions. He says that “policy ideas are plentiful” but doesn’t provide them. As a result, the call for action may ring hollow. Action toward what? I know that one group of Millennials who saw a preview came away feeling both educated and discouraged. The movie would have benefited mightily from connecting to movements for change.

Reich and Inequality for All’s distributors are trying to make up for that through their website, which moviegoers will see as the film ends. The website links to actions people can take and organizations people can work with on six broad issues: raising the minimum wage; strengthening workers’ voices; investing in education; reforming Wall Street; fixing the tax system; and getting big money out of politics. Progressive groups are sponsoring showings of the film, and the website invites people to arrange for a showing at a theater in their communities. I hope many local progressive organizations will sponsor showings and engage the audience in a discussion afterward on how they can take action.

Still, Inequality for All is a powerful narrative vehicle for the progressive story about why income inequality is not just unfair, but the driving force behind the fading American dream and the fraying of our democracy. In his passionate final charge to his class, Reich offers one version of the core progressive idea, “we all do better when we all do better.” Hearing that message on the big screen, released by a Hollywood powerhouse like the Weinstein Group, is an affirmation that our history may indeed be moving toward positive social change.  

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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Inequality Broke the Economy. How Can We Fix It in New York City?

Sep 26, 2013Nell Abernathy

The Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, and the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute recently convened a panel of local policy experts to discuss inequality in New York and how the next mayor can address it. Watch the video below.

The Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, and the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute recently convened a panel of local policy experts to discuss inequality in New York and how the next mayor can address it. Watch the video below.

“The economy is broken and inequality broke it,” James Parrott, Chief Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute, said Tuesday night at the Roosevelt Institute’s forum on Inequality in New York.

The divide between the rich and the poor in New York and across the nation is not an inevitable consequence of technology, globalization, or even human capital, each of the panelists reiterated. “This is the result of policy choices,” Parrott continued. Learn more about what the next mayor should do to tackle inequality and how he can pay for it by watching the video of the event below:

Maya Wiley, Founder and President of the Center for Social Inclusion, emphasized the role of government in creating opportunity. “Fundamentally what we’ve had is a narrative that government gets in the way, rather than recognizing that we created a middle class in this country beginning with the New Deal, continuing with the Fair Deal, based on a series of policies that brought it into being in the mid-20th century. By and large, the middle class as we know it today didn’t even exist until the middle of the 20th century. And we forget that. It wasn’t some natural occurrence.”

Tsedeye Gebreselassie, Staff Attorney at the National Employment Law Project, said a key driver of inequality in New York City has been the stagnation of wages for the working and middle class. New York’s current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour equates to an annual income of $15,000 a year. Our next mayor, she argued, should work with Albany and the City Council to increase the city’s minimum wage, following the example of other high-cost cities like San Francisco, which has a floor of $10.55 an hour.

“Depending on how high you raise that wage, you could impact nearly a million workers living in the city,” said Gebreselassie. “It’s a tremendous policy in terms of boosting the wage floor across the low-wage labor market and putting money in the hands of people who will spend it immediately at local business, giving a stimulative effect to our economy as a whole.”

Lawrence Aber, a professor of psychology and public policy at NYU, said the next mayor should focus public investment on poor children ages 0-5. “We now know that poverty literally gets under the skin and into the mind.” Under-nourishment during the first few years reduces human development and puts children at a lifelong disadvantage. Every dollar invested to beef up New York’s existing child health programs, he explained, goes much further than public money spent to correct developmental challenges further down the road.

When an audience member questioned panelists about how they planned to pay for their proposed programs, answers varied.

The next mayor could use budget policy to reshuffle priorities. For example, tax breaks for real estate development in New York grew 180 percent under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, to a total of $3 billion a year, Wiley said. Given the booming nature of New York’s real estate market, that public money could be better spent. Aber said the next mayor could use the bully pulpit to advocate for a shift in national budget priorities.

While an increase in local revenue cannot fund all the panelists’ priorities, there is room to raise taxes on the city’s top income bracket, Parrott said. Critics of progressive policy often cite income tax data to emphasize the percentage of city taxes paid by the rich, but Parrott showed that when property taxes and sales taxes are included, the rich, in fact, pay only 25.2 percent of the city’s tax burden while taking home 33.8 percent of total income.

The breadth of the challenge can be daunting, but panel moderator David Jones, President and CEO of Community Service Society, sounded a message of optimism. "I don't know if a decade ago we could gather this many people together to talk about this as a critical issue," he told an audience that had filled both auditorium and overflow room. "This is obviously a pivotal moment where people are taking this seriously."

Join Jeff Madrick, Director of Rediscovering Government, at the Frances Perkins Center in Portland, ME on October 4 for "Rediscovering Government: Making People Matter." The Frances Perkins Center will present Ai-jen Poo with its Intelligence and Courage Award and Sally Greenberg with its Steadfast Award, and Madrick will moderate a panel discussion. More information here.

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

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Daily Digest - September 25: Listening to Shareholders on CEO Pay

Sep 25, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Can Say-on-Pay Curb Executive Compensation? (Roosevelt Institute)

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Can Say-on-Pay Curb Executive Compensation? (Roosevelt Institute)

In her new policy note, Roosevelt Institute Director of Research Susan Holmberg argues that Say-on-Pay, which allows shareholders to vote on executive pay packages, is working, because even when shareholders approve CEO pay, boards are paying attention to the dissenters.

How a Churchgoing Urban Planner Became Compton’s Millennial Mayor (Next City)

Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz profiles Aja Brown, the new mayor of Compton who is focusing her administration on growth. Her work on basic quality of life issues is increasing her popularity in the old guard of Compton politics.

Washington Dysfunction Threatens U.S. Economy (MSNBC)

Suzy Khimm looks at just how badly a government shutdown would hurt the economy, from federal workers to B&B owners near national parks. Experts say that a shutdown longer than a few days could wipe out an entire quarter's economic growth.

The Path to Dysfunction (NYT)

Jared Bernstein looks at what got us to the point where a government shutdown seems possible next week. There are plenty of reasons, but he's most concerned by the lack of facts in any of these debates, since each side of the aisle has its own set.

Why Obama Can’t Pay a Debt-Ceiling Ransom This Time (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait thinks that Republicans need to realize that the President is serious when he says he won't negotiate on the debt ceiling this time around. The GOP seems convinced they can get concessions, but they're more likely to drive us into a default.

GOP Launches Race War to Boost the 1 Percent (Salon)

Brittney Cooper writes that Republicans are using racial stereotypes to stir up support for their food stamp cuts. By invoking the "welfare queen," they can get support for cuts that primarily effect poor whites in red states, while keeping those voters on their side.

Mortgages are Easier to Get These Days … Watch Out, it Could be a Trap! (The Guardian)

Heidi Moore thinks people should be cautious before celebrating the fact that banks are giving more mortgages to people with lower credit scores. These lowered standards could be an early red flag, since similar patterns led up to the housing crisis.

New on Next New Deal

War-Weary Millennials See Few Good Options in Syria

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Defense and Diplomacy Jacqueline Van de Velde argues that Millennials would be happiest with a diplomatic solution to Syria's chemical weapons, but she's not sure it's doable.

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The Next Real Fight for Obamacare Will Be in 2014

Sep 23, 2013Richard Kirsch

Progressives must get out in front of the battle to preserve the biggest expansion of the social safety net in decades.

It's been 100 years since ideological conservatives joined with doctors and insurance companies to kill the first movement in the United States for what was then called "compulsory health care." Now, on the eve of their epic loss, those who deeply hate the idea that we have a collective responsibility to care for each other are desperately trying to stop history's clock.

Progressives must get out in front of the battle to preserve the biggest expansion of the social safety net in decades.

It's been 100 years since ideological conservatives joined with doctors and insurance companies to kill the first movement in the United States for what was then called "compulsory health care." Now, on the eve of their epic loss, those who deeply hate the idea that we have a collective responsibility to care for each other are desperately trying to stop history's clock.

Beneath the tested rhetoric from opponents like the Heritage Foundation and Texas Senator Ted Cruz about a government takeover or Obamacare killing jobs and the economy, we can find expressions of the driving force behind the right's obsession. One telling quote is from Missouri State Senator Rob Shaaf, who declared, “We can’t afford everything we do now, let alone provide free medical care to able-bodied adults.” Another is the proud statement from Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey, who told me in a debate on Obamacare at the FDR Library, “I only care about me and my family.”

These celebrations of extreme individualism are bald expressions of the "47 percent of Americans are takers" ideology that has become the driving fixation of Republicans, with the latest example being the vote in the House to deny food stamps to 4 million people because they are unemployed.

The right most fears the establishment of another new program based on our common humanity. With her gift for sarcasm, New York Times columnist Gail Collins captured the irony of the Republican’s desperation to stop Obamacare before it starts: “The new health care law is going to be terrible, wreaking havoc on American families, ruining their lives. And they are going to love it so much they will never have the self-control necessary to give it up.”

If this is a defining moment for the right, it is also for the left. As Jonathan Chait wrote this week, in a great restrospective on Republican opposition to the ACA, “The transformative potential of Obamacare is not a conservative hallucination.”

For all its faults, the Affordable Care Act is the biggest expansion in half a century of the progressive belief that we all do better when we all do better. Almost 50 years ago, Medicare was greeted by Ronald Reagan – then a mouthpiece for the American Medical Association –  as a foot in the door to a totalitarian takeover. The right has long understood how high the American view of the role of government would be lifted if people came to rely on government for something as essential to a person's well-being as health care.

The battleground now shifts to how the public perceives the law's impact. I would like to believe that Ted Cruz was right about this, at least, when he told The Daily Caller, “President Obama wants to get as many Americans addicted to the subsidies because he knows that in modern times, no major entitlement has ever been implemented and then unwound.”

However, the lesson of the past three years is that the rhetoric has been more powerful than the reality. The most telling data is that the age group that has most definitively benefited from the Affordable Care Act, seniors, has the highest disapproval rating of the law. Thanks to the ACA, some six million seniors have received free preventive care under Medicare and 6.3 million people on Medicare saved over $6.1 billion on prescriptions. Still, the relentless attack messages aimed at seniors, starting with the death panel lies during the legislative debate on the law and accelerating in the 2010 election, have taken their toll.

On its face, opposing Obamacare should not be a winning electoral issue in 2014, if only because it will actually affect so few people. Several million people will get health coverage and very little else will change. But we can be certain that the right will continue to blame every established long-term trend in health care and the workforce – rising premiums, higher deductibles, fewer people getting health coverage at work – on the ACA.

The implementation of the ACA will also give its opponents new ammunition. Not just from the inevitable glitches in signing up people, made worse by Republican sabotage in many states, but from the law's biggest shortcoming: while millions will gain access to affordable coverage for the first time, others will be asked to pay more than they can afford or pay a fine.

Still, the fact that Obamacare will finally be doing what it was designed to do puts its defenders on higher ground, if we embrace the hard lessons of the past three years. Cementing the Affordable Care Act as a pillar of social security will require that Obamacare's champions aggressively respond to attacks and tell the stories of people whose lives have been transformed by the law. 

Until now, it has been almost impossible to explain to people how the Affordable Care Act will work. It has been a new, complicated concept rather than a real-life gate to getting health coverage. But the millions who will begin to benefit on January 1 will be able to tell a different story: the cancer survivor who can get coverage despite his preexisting condition; the budding entrepreneur who can leave her job to start a small business; the 60 year-old who lost her job but was still able to get health coverage.

With Obamacare a reality, not just a threat, their stories can be added to stories of a senior who is saving hundreds of dollars on Medicare prescriptions and the family whose finances were not wiped out when their 24-year-old son, still on his parents' health plan, was in an accident. 

The debate will be sharpest, and have the most impact, leading to the 2014 congressional elections. Republicans will be pushed by the right to make Obamacare a big issue, regardless of whether their pollsters advise that the failure of the world to implode after its implementation has taken some of the sting out. We can be sure that the Koch brothers will fund attack ads in swing districts and states. In 2010, the failure by Democrats to vigorously defend the law, particularly among seniors who vote most heavily in non-presidential elections, was a big factor in Republican success.

Progressives must engage in the fight now and prepare for 2014. It will not be enough to enroll people in Obamacare. We will need to organize new enrollees, their families, and their communities to be powerful spokespeople for the Affordable Care Act.

The ACA has proven to be the cat with nine lives, surviving near-death experiences during the legislative battle, the Supreme Court ruling, congressional and presidential elections, and the barrage of repeal votes, which are reaching their height now. The new day that the right has feared for a century will start in just three months. But the battle will not end then. The next big test will be November 2014. The stakes for people’s lives and livelihoods, and for the progressive expression of the American values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, could not be higher. 

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.

 

Health care costs image via Shutterstock.com

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Why New York is Home to So Many of the Working Poor, in Graphs

Sep 16, 2013Nell Abernathy

The Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative is trying to understand how New York got so unequal. And we're looking for solutions.

The Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative is trying to understand how New York got so unequal. And we're looking for solutions.

So what is behind this big shift toward income inequality in New York? Income trends in the city represent an amplified version of our national problems: low-wage jobs without benefits are replacing middle-wage jobs that could support families. Nationwide, middle-wage jobs constituted 60 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession and only 22 percent of those regained during recovery, according to analysis from Roosevelt Institute’s Annette Bernhardt at NELP. Meanwhile, low-wage jobs made up only 21 percent of recession job losses and 58 percent of jobs gained since.

The national trend started well before the Great Recession.

And in New York, it’s been the same, but worse. A 2012 report from the Federal Reserve found that middle-income jobs comprised 67 percent of employment in downstate New York in the 1980s, but by 2010, that number fell to 55.8 percent.

Top that off with the fact that for the last decade, wages have risen for the top 5 percent and stagnated or fallen for middle- and low-income workers, and you begin to see the currents driving our inequality crisis.

Why is this happening? Technology? Wall Street? Policy? Education?

We’ll explore those questions and potential solutions at our upcoming panel, "Inequality in New York: The Next Mayor’s Challenge."

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

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The 2 Train Travels Between New York's "Two Cities"

Sep 13, 2013Nell Abernathy

New York City is as starkly divided along economic lines as it is connected by its famous subway lines.  The Roosevelt Institute is looking for solutions.

New York City is as starkly divided along economic lines as it is connected by its famous subway lines.  The Roosevelt Institute is looking for solutions.

Another fun/depressing/informative infographic on New York City’s stunning wealth divide: Back in April, before the election was heating up, the good people at The New Yorker plotted the diverging extremes in median income of New York neighborhoods along the subway lines. It turns out you can actually ride the 2 train from prosperity to poverty.

The neighborhood surrounding the 2 train Chambers Street stop in Tribeca  has a median income of $205,192 and is among the city's wealthiest.

Fourteen miles further north, around the East 180th Street stop in the Bronx, median income is $13,750. For those who think income is irrelevant as long as you can access the American dream, opportunities aren't so great up there, either.

 Come learn about solutions from the experts at our September 24 event, "Inequality in New York: the Next Mayor’s Challenge."

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

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Daily Digest - September 13: Labor for Healthier Politics

Sep 13, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Joe Stiglitz: The People Who Break the Rules Have Raked in Huge Profits and Wealth and It's Sickening Our Politics (Alternet)

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Joe Stiglitz: The People Who Break the Rules Have Raked in Huge Profits and Wealth and It's Sickening Our Politics (Alternet)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz addressed the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles earlier this week. Alternet has the transcript, and the video is available on Youtube.

Trumka's Ploy (TAP)

Harold Meyerson argues that the AFL-CIO President was intentionally radical in his suggestions prior to the convention. That way, he got the reform he wanted: non-union workers' groups welcomed into labor, and more permanent partnerships with progressive allies.

The Rise of the New New Left (The Daily Beast)

Peter Beinart uses the NYC mayoral race as emblematic of a new political generation, one that sees progressive values as more than just ideals. The group coming of age under this economic crisis, he says, is shifting the political conversation to an anti-corporate, populist message.

  • Roosevelt Take: Many of Beinart's claims about the Millennial political generation line up with the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's findings in Government By and For Millennial America, which discusses what kind of government Millennials want.

Mayor Gray Vetoes ‘Living Wage’ Bill Aimed at Wal-Mart, Setting up Decisive Council Vote (WaPo)

Mike DeBonis reports on the Washington, DC mayor's veto of the Large Retailer Accountability Act. Mayor Gray called for a city-wide minimum wage increase instead, but didn't specify an amount he would support.

How Wal-Mart Keeps Wages Low (WaPo)

Josh Eidelson examines how Wal-Mart discourages workers from organizing so that they won't have to raise wages. With a model built on the lowest possible prices, higher wages would presumably cut into the all-important shareholder profits.

Can the Government Actually Do Anything About Inequality? (NYT)

Tom Edsall looks at a number of studies to question what, if anything, government could do to reduce economic inequality. He sees policy tied to the deepening and spreading of inequality, which presumably means policy could work in the other direction as well.

Congress Searches For A Shutdown-Free Future (NPR)

Frank James reports on the steps being taken in Congress to negotiate away from a potential government shutdown. The Republicans are finding themselves stymied by Tea Partiers, for whom a 42nd symbolic repeal of Obamacare isn't good enough.

New on Next New Deal

The 1 Percent Took Home the Largest Share of Income Since 1928 Last Year

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal points out that the 1 percent's share of all income has vastly exceeded pre-Recession levels. This trend makes it hard to say that everyone in the U.S. wants policy change to help strengthen the recovery.

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Three Graphs That Show Why Inequality Matters in the New York City Mayoral Race

Sep 11, 2013Nell Abernathy

The New York City primary results show that the issue of rising inequality is striking a chord with voters. Here's why.

The results are in and two (or three) candidates are one step closer to Gracie Mansion. What we know for certain is that along with winning international attention and prime seats at Yankee Stadium, New York’s next mayor will inherit a city that is more unequal in terms of income than any other major city in America.

The increasing polarization of wealth in New York has been a hot topic and served as the campaign centerpiece for one of yesterday’s big winners, Bill de Blasio. We are trying to resist pointing out that experts like our own Jeff Madrick were talking about this problem even before the drum circles of Zuccotti Park, but we’re happy that the city’s Sierra Leone-like inequality is at last making headlines.

Because we know that we can do better, and we hope our next mayor will at least try, the Roosevelt Institute’s Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative is taking a look back at some of the most compelling charts and graphs to surface on the long road to Election Day.

From James Parrott, at the Fiscal Policy Institute, who will be a panelist at our upcoming forum on inequality:

The top 1 percent are capturing a growing portion of the nation’s economy, and nowhere is that trend more pronounced than in New York.

The top 1 percent, in fact, pay less than their fair share of the tax burden:

Meanwhile, the poverty rate in New York City continues to rise: 

We will be back tomorrow with more infographics. To learn more about potential solutions to our growing wealth gap, join us for our panel discussion on Tuesday, September 24:

Inequality in New York: The Next Mayor’s Challenge

September 24, 2013

6:00 p.m. cocktail reception

6:30 – 8:00 p.m. panel discussion

Roosevelt House, Public Policy Institute at Hunter College

49 East 65th Street

New York, NY 10065

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

The New York City primary results show that the issue of rising inequality is striking a chord with voters. Here's why.

The results are in and two (or three) candidates are one step closer to Gracie Mansion. What we know for certain is that along with winning international attention and prime seats at Yankee Stadium, New York’s next mayor will inherit a city that is more unequal in terms of income than any other major city in America.

The increasing polarization of wealth in New York has been a hot topic and served as the campaign centerpiece for one of yesterday’s big winners, Bill de Blasio. We are trying to resist pointing out that experts like our own Jeff Madrick were talking about this problem even before the drum circles of Zuccotti Park, but we’re happy that the city’s Sierra Leone-like inequality is at last making headlines.

Because we know that we can do better, and we hope our next mayor will at least try, the Roosevelt Institute’s Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative is taking a look back at some of the most compelling charts and graphs to surface on the long road to Election Day.

From James Parrott, at the Fiscal Policy Institute, who will be a panelist at our upcoming forum on inequality:

The top 1 percent are capturing a growing portion of the nation’s economy, and nowhere is that trend more pronounced than in New York.

The top 1 percent, in fact, pay less than their fair share of the tax burden:

Meanwhile, the poverty rate in New York City continues to rise: 

We will be back tomorrow with more infographics. To learn more about potential solutions to our growing wealth gap, join us for our panel discussion on Tuesday, September 24:

Inequality in New York: The Next Mayor’s Challenge



September 24, 2013



6:00 p.m. cocktail reception



6:30 – 8:00 p.m. panel discussion



Roosevelt House, Public Policy Institute at Hunter College



49 East 65th Street



New York, NY 10065

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

 

New York City skyline image via Shutterstock.com

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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 - July 4: Holiday Edition

Jul 4, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Happy Fourth of July! Today's Daily Digest is an abridged holiday edition. We will return to the full-length Daily Digest tomorrow.

Paid Sick Leave Laws Generate More Concern Than Pain (NYT)

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Happy Fourth of July! Today's Daily Digest is an abridged holiday edition. We will return to the full-length Daily Digest tomorrow.

Paid Sick Leave Laws Generate More Concern Than Pain (NYT)

Robb Mandelbaum reports that it turns out paid sick leave laws aren't such a big deal for small businesses after all. In municipalities that have already instituted such laws, more business owners are finding the costs minimal.

Progressives' Post-DOMA To-Do List (TAP)

In response to people questioning whether same-sex marriage has eclipsed everything else on the progressive agenda, Scott Lemieux has a list of projects to work on now that DOMA has been overturned.

Less-white and less male: Labor movement finds new support (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff reports on a survey that gives a new image of union supporters, full of women, people of color, and young people. Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren explains that the past picture of labor is due to exclusionary policies that have shifted in most unionized fields.

New on Next New Deal

Will Delaying the Employer Mandate Deny Health Coverage to Workers?

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch questions whether the Obama administration's decision to push back the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act for a year is going to increase costs for employees who thought they would be insured in January.

New Texas Abortion Law Could Be Worst Yet for Poor Women

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn examines how the abortion law being debated in a second special session of the Texas legislature after its defeat by filibuster last week will harm poor women by destroying their access to clinics that provide low-cost reproductive health care.

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