Daily Digest - August 29: Economists' Inspiration in the March on Washington

Aug 29, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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How Dr. King Shaped My Work in Economics (NYT)

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How Dr. King Shaped My Work in Economics (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz remembers the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and reflects on the gap between the goals and aspirations of that march and what we have accomplished today. A black President, he notes, isn't everything.

NYT (Susan Crawford)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford examines the flaws in a recent New York Times article on high-speed Internet access. Without going into the extremely high costs of Internet access, it missed a big part of the connectivity problem.

Dr. King, Full Employment, and Some Provocative Wage Trends (On The Economy)

Jared Bernstein says Dr. King's was right to call for full employment to reach economic justice . The only progress made towards increasing real wages for African American workers in southern states was in the low unemployment years of the late 1990s.

What Obama Didn’t Say in His March on Washington Speech (The Daily Beast)

Jamelle Bouie thinks that while the President understood the importance of economic justice in the original March on Washington, he left out much of the modern issue. The wealth gap between African-Americans and whites won't be closed with general economic fairness.

Five Reasons for Optimism About Unions This Labor Day (The Hill)

John Logan is excited about the labor movement going into the holiday, because unions are becoming more popular, more flexible, and more open then they have been in some time. It's a conveniently-timed turning point for labor supporters.

Why Business Needs a Stronger Labor Movement (MSNBC)

Timothy Noah argues that the increasing claim of capital on corporate income over labor is destroying growth. Stronger unions would force business back on track by shifting more income to labor, where it belongs if we want the economy to grow.

Another Failed Drug-Test Experiment (Maddow Blog)

Steve Benen reports that Utah is following in the footsteps of Florida by mandating drug screening for welfare applicants. They're also following Florida into failure: the state has spent $30 grand to eliminate only twelve applicants out of thousands.

New on Next New Deal

Fifty Years After the March on Washington, Equality Remains a Dream

Jim Carr, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, writes that we haven't accomplished nearly enough in the past fifty years. Some old problems have been solved, but economic opportunity is still unequal and disproportionately divides along racial lines.

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Fifty Years After the March on Washington, Equality Remains a Dream

Aug 28, 2013Jim Carr

We've made progress on addressing many blatant injustices since 1963, but people of color still don't have an equal opportunity to succeed.

We've made progress on addressing many blatant injustices since 1963, but people of color still don't have an equal opportunity to succeed.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s electrifying speech at that event was inspiring and unforgettable. Those remarks, combined with hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall marching for jobs and freedom, seemed to electrify American society to its core. As President Bill Clinton recently remarked, “I remember thinking that, when it was over, my country would never be the same.”

Over the five decades since the March on Washington, much has changed. No longer do black students require National Guard escorts to enter the school of their choice. No longer are protesters for civil or human rights at risk of being beaten or attacked by dogs for exercising their constitutional right to challenge unfair or otherwise unwise laws.

No longer are jobs and opportunity blatantly denied on the basis of an individual’s race or ethnicity, gender, physical appearance, or sexual preference. No longer are America’s cities burning. And perhaps most significantly, no longer is the office of the President of the United States off-limits to an African American.

Yet in spite of these and many other successes that have been achieved over the past five decades, much of the forward momentum seems unsustainable, or old problems are replaced with new ones that continue to deny opportunities disproportionately to people of color.

Take, for example, the fact that our cities are no longer burning in protest to blatant acts of discrimination and denial of civil rights. While that’s true, the city of Detroit has never recovered from the tumultuous days of the 1960s. In fact, Detroit has continued to decay, literally, into bankruptcy. The city’s official unemployment rate was a staggering 16 percent in April 2013, with a black unemployment rate over 20 percent. And Detroit is not alone among cities with exceptionally high black unemployment rates.

The acceleration of the exodus of non-Hispanic white families from the nation’s inner cities, in part to avoid integration after passage of the major Civil Rights laws, combined with the relocation of manufacturing jobs first to the suburbs and later overseas, has created urban economic deserts that deny opportunities as powerfully as any segregationist policies.

National Guard troops no longer stand in front of school houses to block admission—they do not have to. Racial and ethnic residential segregation in many of the nation’s largest cities is so high that black and Latino students do not live within physical proximity of isolated non-Hispanic white suburban enclaves in sufficient numbers to achieve meaningful school integration.

Furthermore, the cost of college tuition is so high these days that no armed presence is needed to prevent young African Americans or Latinos from entering. The majority of African American and Latino students cannot afford access the nation’s major universities even where they meet the academic standards.

In fact, economic deprivation is so great among blacks and Latinos that race is used as a reliable proxy for exploitation by financial firms. Leading up to the recent collapse of the housing market, subprime lenders disproportionately targeted African American and Latino communities for their reckless and irresponsible high-cost loans. They generated huge profits while originating loans that were designed to fail.

The subsequent loss of homeownership among African Americans and Latinos has been the largest contributor to a staggering loss of wealth for African American and Latino households during the Great Recession. Latino and black households have lost two-thirds and more than half of their net wealth, respectively. The result is that today, the racial wealth gap between blacks and non-Hispanic whites, and Latinos and non-Hispanic whites, is greater than it was two decades ago.

Over the next decade, seven of ten new households will be headed by a person of color. In fact, already, the majority of babies born in America are of color. Yet the majority of their economic futures are not promising.

This dramatic shift in the composition of the nation’s population gives even greater impetus now than was the case a half century ago for America to become a more economically inclusive society. Today, economic equality is as much an issue of economic competitiveness and national security, for example, as it is social justice. After all, how can America maintain its economic and military leadership role in the world if the fastest growing segments of the population, i.e., people of color, remain economically marginalized?

In spite of the success we have achieved as a nation in breaking down the barriers to opportunities based on racial or ethnic bias, we remain far from Dr. King’s dream and vision of a just and equitable society.

Jim Carr is a Distinguished Scholar with The Opportunity Agenda and Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress. He is also co-editor of Segregation: The Rising Costs for America.

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Daily Digest - August 7: Who Owns Your Rental?

Aug 7, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Obama Suggests Re-Examination of America's Renters Policy (All In With Chris Hayes)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal considers some of the implications of the President's housing speech. He notes that any changes to the mortgage markets also affects renters, because someone owns that home too.

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Obama Suggests Re-Examination of America's Renters Policy (All In With Chris Hayes)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal considers some of the implications of the President's housing speech. He notes that any changes to the mortgage markets also affects renters, because someone owns that home too.

The R-Word (The Daily Show)

Roosevelt Institute Engagement Editor Dante Barry appears in a segment on race relations in America. Dante (who sits on the right, in the front row) brings up the intersectionality of this issue: it's not just black people who face racial discrimination in their daily lives.

Jeff Bezos Can Make Newspapers Profitable (Bloomberg)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford bets that a single large investor, like Bezos, has the best opportunity to make a newspaper succeed in this digital era. She suggests focusing on the local needs and opportunities, which have less competition.

What Should the Minimum Wage Be? (The Week)

Keith Wagstaff speaks to Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, who agrees with fast-food strikers that $15 an hour is necessary for a worker to do more than survive. Those who approach this question as one of profits instead of people disagree.

President Obama's Amazon Jobs Pitch is Hard to Buy with One Click (The Guardian)

Helaine Olen sees heavy irony in the President's choice to discuss good jobs at an Amazon warehouse, which creates temporary, low-income, unreliable jobs. These aren't jobs to be celebrated, no matter how hard Obama tries to pitch it as such.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch is similarly concerned by the President's attempt to spin Amazon warehouses as good jobs.

L.A. Story (TAP)

Harold Meyerson looks at the work of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. He thinks that their model of organizing workers in their communities and working with municipalities could be a model for labor, or even progressives as a whole, to follow.

California Considers Ending Rule That Penalizes Low-Income Women For Having Kids (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert reports that California might remove a limit that prevents families on benefits from getting increases with new children. This rule puts unpleasant limits on poor women's reproductive choices, and punishes children for the sin of being born into poverty.

New on Next New Deal

Whatever Happened to the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index?

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal questions why the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index is falling to 2008 levels, but the recovery isn't speeding up. Mike suggests that this is proof of the limited effects of uncertainty on the economy.

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Policy Note: Can Social Impact Bonds Unlock Private Money for Public Goods?

Aug 5, 2013

Download the policy note (PDF) by Georgia Levenson Keohane

In a new policy note, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane analyzes a new model of social entrepreneurship, which utilizes private funds to solve social problems. Social impact bonds finance preventative programs that the government does not have the budget to fund, but raise questions about whether a return-on-investment model is really the best way to approach social needs and if the funding sources affect the work being done.

Download the policy note (PDF) by Georgia Levenson Keohane

In a new policy note, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane analyzes a new model of social entrepreneurship, which utilizes private funds to solve social problems. Social impact bonds finance preventative programs that the government does not have the budget to fund, but raise questions about whether a return-on-investment model is really the best way to approach social needs and if the funding sources affect the work being done.

Read the policy note: "Can Social Impact Bonds Unlock Private Money for Public Goods?" by Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane.

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Daily Digest - August 5: Big Business Fighting for Public Good

Aug 5, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Can Social Impact Bonds Unlock Private Money for Public Goods? Innovation in Pay-for-Success and Social Finance (Roosevelt Institute)

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Can Social Impact Bonds Unlock Private Money for Public Goods? Innovation in Pay-for-Success and Social Finance (Roosevelt Institute)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane analyzes a new model for solving social ills. Social impact bonds finance preventative programs with private funds, but raise questions about whether a return-on-investment model is best here.

Can Larry Summers Play Nice With Other Financial Regulators? (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal looks at how Summers worked with other regulators when he was Deputy Treasury Secretary, and concludes that Summers as Fed Chair might try to interfere with more aggressive regulators at other agencies.

For Millennials, Leaving the Nest is Hard To Do (LA Times)

Emily Alpert and Ricardo Lopez speak to Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz about how the recession has changed young adults' living arrangements. Nona says that Millennials no longer see the trends that lead them to live at home as temporary.

This Week in Poverty: Chairman Ryan and the Real World (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann reports on testimony by Sister Simone Campbell at a congressional hearing on the War on Poverty last week. Campbell says that religious groups cannot solve poverty due to the scale of the problem, which puts government in a better place to implement solutions.

  • Sister Simone Campbell is one of the honorees at this year's Four Freedoms Awards, which will be presented at a public ceremony on Wednesday, October 16 in New York City.

Fulfilling the Promise of Medicare (HuffPo)

Representative John Conyers and Robert Weissman think that the Affordable Care Act doesn't go far enough. Medicare-for-All would save $350 billion per year, according to a recent study, and fulfill a moral obligation to provide all Americans with healthcare.

Another Reason Janet Yellen Should Run the Fed (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger argues that gender does matter in choosing the next Fed Chair, because there aren't enough women in the senior economic policy jobs. With a well-qualified female candidate, the President should make the barrier-breaking choice.

New on Next New Deal

The Amazon Economy Undercuts Obama's Message

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch was impressed by the content of the President's speech on jobs last week, but not the setting. Amazon warehouses don't provide the good jobs that Obama was talking about, or even a living wage for a single person.

Delaying Abortions: A Harmful Consequence of the Pro-Life Agenda

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn and Director of Research Susan Holmberg look at how new anti-choice laws place serious burdens on women. The unintended consequences included more unplanned pregnancies and more abortions.

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Delaying Abortions: A Harmful Consequence of the Pro-Life Agenda

Aug 2, 2013Andrea FlynnSusan Holmberg

The burdens placed on women's health by new anti-choice laws in the states have unintended consequences: more unplanned pregnancies, more abortions, and more abortions occuring later in pregnancy.

The burdens placed on women's health by new anti-choice laws in the states have unintended consequences: more unplanned pregnancies, more abortions, and more abortions occuring later in pregnancy.

Over the past two years, conservatives have successfully maneuvered around Roe v. Wade to enact sweeping abortion restrictions across the country. In the first half of 2013, lawmakers enacted 43 pieces of legislation restricting abortion access – as many as were enacted during all of 2012. These laws – and the ones that are sure to follow – infringe on women’s rights to access family planning and abortion services, will result in more unplanned pregnancies and therefore more abortions, and are likely to have the unintended consequence of pushing abortions later into pregnancy.

For years women have had to navigate numerous restrictions when they attempt to have an abortion. In deciding Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1991, the Supreme Court overturned Pennsylvania’s spousal notification law but upheld both the parental consent and informed consent statutes on the basis that they did not impose an “undue burden” on women trying to abort their pregnancies. Since then, numerous states have implemented abortion restrictions on the basis that they do not constitute an undue burden.

  • Twenty-six states have waiting periods ranging from 24 hours to 72 hours. In South Dakota, weekends and state holidays do not count towards the 72-hour waiting period, meaning some women would have to wait nearly a week after their first visit before getting an abortion. Ten states have counseling requirements that also necessitate two visits to a clinic.
  • Thirty-eight states require minors to obtain parental consent and/or notification before having an abortion. Many of those states enable young women to obtain judicial bypass, a process many young women are likely to find intimidating and that surely delays the procedure into further into pregnancy.
  • Eleven states require that a physician be present to administer medication abortion, essentially outlawing telemedicine for this purpose.
  • Many states currently restrict abortion coverage in private plans, and others are beginning to impose the same restrictions on plans accessed through the health exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act. The Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions. The result is that women seeking abortion services – particularly low-income women who are un- or under-insured or are covered by Medicaid – must pay out of pocket.

Most recently, anti-choice legislators have added to those regulations even more restrictive policies that make abortion increasingly difficult to access – in some places almost impossible to access – let alone in a timely manner. Over the past few weeks, lawmakers in Texas and North Carolina passed sweeping regulations that threaten to shutter nearly all abortion providers in those states. The Texas law restricts medication abortions, places onerous requirements on physicians who perform abortions, and imposes the increasingly popular and effective TRAP laws (targeted regulations of abortion providers) on providers, requiring them to increase the width of hallways, add janitor closets, expand operating rooms, etc.

Women’s health advocates have argued that these laws will lead to more unplanned pregnancies and result in a greater number of unsafe abortions. It is also likely that women will require abortions later in their pregnancies – the very situation conservatives are legislating against.

TRAP laws have become a favorite strategy of the anti-choice movement and have the effect of closing clinics that actually perform a wide range of reproductive health services. Anti-choice activists and lawmakers often refer to these clinics as if their sole function is performing abortions. In actuality, these clinics are a pillar of our nation’s health infrastructure. They prevent thousands of unwanted pregnancies each year by providing poor women, young women, immigrant women, and women of color low- and no-cost family planning. These clinics provide pregnancy education, testing, and counseling, which enables women who do choose to have an abortion to do so early in pregnancy. It is not hard to imagine that women will have more unintended pregnancies and require abortions later into pregnancy as those providers close their doors. 

The Guttmacher Institute reports that already seven in 10 women who had a second-trimester abortion wanted to do so earlier in pregnancy but were unable to because they could not afford it. Economists who study family planning policy argue that the costs a woman seeking an abortion faces do not only come in the form of dollars, but also in the time required to access an abortion. A 2001 study by Marianne Bitler and Madeline Zavodny shows that state restrictions that impose mandatory waiting periods (in other words, a time cost) also delay abortions into the second trimester. A 1994 study of Mississippi’s mandatory delay laws showed a 17 percent jump in second trimester abortions after the law took effect.

Other research shows that adolescent women and low-income women are more likely to have abortions later in pregnancy. These are the very groups of people who rely on publicly-funded family planning clinics and who are most affected by the new abortion regulations. These studies are relatively dated; given that state-level restrictions have only ramped up since this research was conducted, the number of women delaying their abortions has likely escalated too.

These patterns are only deepened when lawmakers target not only abortion but the full range of family planning and reproductive health services that women rely on to take care of themselves and their families. Over the past two years, family planning providers across the nation have already been forced to decrease staff, cut hours, reduce services, and close as a result of funding restrictions and budget cuts. Under the new wave of restrictions, they will now face further cuts and many will be forced to close.

Anti-choice lawmakers insist their battery of abortion regulations aim to improve the health and safety of women and girls. This is simply not what the outcome will be. Women will experience more pregnancies and have abortions at later gestational ages, which only subjects them to greater financial burdens and much greater health risks. For example, the average charge for a second trimester abortion is double that for the first trimester. In addition, the potential for a major complication or death is also much higher for a second trimester abortion. If that’s not the definition of an undue burden, we don’t know what is.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. She researches and writes about access to reproductive health care in the United States. You can follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Susan Holmberg is the Director of Research at the Roosevelt Institute. She holds a Ph.D. in economics and studies gender issues, international development, and corporate governance. 

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Daily Digest - August 2: Higher Wages Don't Destroy Fast Food

Aug 2, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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What Happens When Fast Food Actually Pays (The Daily Beast)

Daniel Gross examines burger chains that pay their brand new employees a living wage. Unsurprisingly, high wages can lead to more prosperous companies, and those companies aren't getting the bad press about wage-related strikes.

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What Happens When Fast Food Actually Pays (The Daily Beast)

Daniel Gross examines burger chains that pay their brand new employees a living wage. Unsurprisingly, high wages can lead to more prosperous companies, and those companies aren't getting the bad press about wage-related strikes.

The Uneven Geography of America's Fast Food Jobs (Atlantic Cities)

Richard Florida breaks down data on the wages and growth of fast food jobs by city. The fast food workers who are striking aren't making the worst wages in their industry; if their wages aren't livable, what does that say for those making even less?

Why Do the People Raising Our Children Earn Poverty Wages? (The Nation)

E. Tammy Kim looks at childcare workers who accept public subsidies, which often results in poverty wages. When subsidies assume only thirty hours of care a week, these care providers don't have many options if they want to keep their clients.

How Vast Error-Prone Databases Are Trashing Our Economic Lives (TAP)

Amy Traub reports on how major databases are keeping people from opening bank accounts and preventing them from accessing credit at the right rates. These mistakes affect too many people, and on too broad a scale, to be ignored.

Wall Street Decimates Black America (Salon)

Laura Gottesdiener explains how the foreclosure crisis has disproportionately hit black neighborhoods, which were targeted by banks for predatory loans. Now, these houses remain empty, and the banks take no responsibility for the effect on the neighborhood.

Sex, Money and Gravitas (NYT)

Paul Krugman argues that the sexist campaigns against Janet Yellen for Fed Chair are also full of bad economic analysis. The Fed hasn't been causing runaway inflation, and Yellen has proven to be far better at economic forecasting then her hawkish peers.

Obama Finally has a Good Economic Idea – too Bad No One's Listening (The Guardian)

Heidi Moore thinks that Obama's grand bargain is a sign that he's ready to make allies instead of enemies in the GOP. Unfortunately, the Republicans don't seem to care either way, so they're still ignoring his ideas.

New on Next New Deal

Delaying Abortions: A Harmful Consequence of the Pro-Life Agenda

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn and Director of Research Susan Holmberg point out that the results of laws restricting abortion access don't follow their proponents' intentions. These laws increase unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and abortions later in pregnancy.

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What Mia Macy's Victory Means for Transgender Workers' Rights

Jul 29, 2013Tyler S. Bugg

The Justice Department's ruling in Mia Macy's lawsuit against the ATF is a significant win in the fight against employment discrimination for the transgender community, but there's still more to be done.

The Justice Department's ruling in Mia Macy's lawsuit against the ATF is a significant win in the fight against employment discrimination for the transgender community, but there's still more to be done.

It has been over a year since I last wrote about Mia Macy and her lawsuit, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and the state of employment discrimination for transgender people like Macy. To review, Macy was tentatively offered a position as a ballistics expert at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), pending a background check, and the background check revealed her gender transition. The hiring manager then told Macy the position was being eliminated due to budget cuts and hired another applicant. Her high-profile lawsuit against the ATF for rescinding this job offer has resulted in a long and arduous battle in court. Now her work has finally paid off.

Earlier this month, a Justice Department decision was handed down in favor of Macy, ruling that the ATF broke the law in not offering her a job as a ballistics expert -- a move the ruling says was motivated by direct discrimination based on her gender identity. The ruling requires the ATF to again offer the job to Macy, pay her back pay and benefits with interest, and cover all of her legal costs. Even better, the decision stipulates that the agency must implement its own anti-discrimination policies to be applied to all its other employees and future job applicants.

Macy’s hallmark challenge was already considered a victory last year when the complaint she filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prompted the agency to independently rule that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bans employers from discriminating based on an employee’s gender identity or expression. Her Department of Justice suit win this year only extends and celebrates the progress she began in ultimately ensuring a more just and equitable body of employment law for the United States labor force.

The benefit this has for employer-employee relations, employee productivity, and general satisfaction with job environment safety and morale is obvious. I have written previously about why more inclusive employment anti-discrimination protections are both sound social policy and sound business policy – employees and job applicants feel less anxiety about their workplace environments, employers reap the benefits of happier and more qualified applicant pools, and diverse workplaces encourage a respectful and productive mode of labor that better mirrors the country’s diversity outside of the workplace.

All of those outcomes remain true with Macy’s DOJ win. What is unique about Macy’s case is that, for the first time, the federal government is backing challenges of private and government employers by the transgender community. The DOJ decision in Macy’s case represents a significant precedent in the government’s interest in and implementation of more aggressive anti-discrimination policies, especially at the federal level.

The federal government’s sudden activism on behalf of transgender employees is curious, then, as it also continues to stall the passing of ENDA at the federal level. While Macy’s DOJ win is significant, it only applies to her individual case and to her particular employer. ENDA, as a more comprehensive plan to protect all of the nation’s employees, is a preventative measure, and remains absolutely necessary. If the government wishes to remain consistent with the spirit of its findings in Macy’s case, then it must move forward in considering ENDA. Its passage will be an important next step for extending benefits of protection past Macy to all other persons fired, not hired, or denied a promotion or salary increase as a result of their gender and sexuality identity statuses.

However, even ENDA has its limits, and they point to the failings of employment and labor law in this country more broadly. While ENDA certainly has a symbolic significance and a legal usefulness for transgender employees, real change cannot only rely on the jurisdictions of the court system. The effectiveness of employment protections for everyone, not just transgender people, is less than satisfactory. While proponents of ENDA push its necessity by pointing out that it is legal to fire someone for identifying as transgender in 34 states, in the 49 states where “at-will” employment law is the overarching standard, it is completely legal to fire someone for any reason at all and without explanation.

As we move away from Macy’s case, it is economically, socially, and legally important that transgender activists mobilizing within workers’ rights causes have a stake in the larger, more structural state of employment law for everyone, and vice versa. It is only when we finds the ways to consider all critiques across the board that we can find the change-oriented solution that the transgender community has been fighting for throughout Macy’s legal battles. With this shared understanding, we can build the most just and equitable workplaces for transgender people, and indeed all people.

Tyler S. Bugg is a New York-based writer, activist, and artist and an alumnus of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

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Why the Right Doesn’t Really Want Euro-Style Reproductive Health Care

Jul 24, 2013Andrea Flynn

U.S. conservatives want Europe's abortion restrictions, but they oppose the generous systems and legal exceptions that support women's health.

U.S. conservatives want Europe's abortion restrictions, but they oppose the generous systems and legal exceptions that support women's health.

Earlier this month, Texas lawmakers witnessed and participated in passionate debates about one of the nation's most sweeping pieces of anti-choice legislation. That legislation, known as SB1, was initially delayed by Wendy Davis's now-famous filibuster and was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry last week during a second special legislative session. It bans abortions after 20 weeks, places cumbersome restrictions on abortion clinics and physicians, and threatens to close all but five of the state’s 42 abortion clinics. Throughout the many days of hearings anti-choice activists relied on religious, scientific, and political evidence to argue that the new Texas law is just and sensible.

Many of those arguments are tenuous at best, but it is the continued reference to European abortion laws that most represent a convenient cherry-picking of facts to support the rollback of women’s rights. Many European countries do indeed regulate abortion with gestational limits, but what SB1 supporters conveniently ignore is that those laws are entrenched in progressive public health systems that provide quality, affordable (sometimes free) health care to all individuals and prioritize the sexual and reproductive health of their citizens. Most SB1 advocates would scoff at the very programs and policies that are credited with Europe’s low unintended pregnancy and abortion rates.

Members of the media have also seized on European policies to argue that Texas lawmakers are acting in the best interest of women. Soon after the passage of SB1, Bill O’Reilly argued that “most countries in the world have a 20-week threshold,” and Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, wrote, “It’s not just that Wendy Davis is out of step in Texas; she would be out of step in Belgium and France, where abortion is banned after 12 weeks.”

It’s hard to imagine any other scenario in which O’Reilly and Lowry, and most conservative politicians and activists, would hold up European social policies as a beacon for U.S. policy. After all, the cornerstones of Europe’s women’s health programs are the very programs that conservatives have long threatened would destroy the moral fabric of American society. One cannot compare the abortion policies of Europe and the United States without looking at the broader social policies that shape women’s health.

Both Belgium and France have mandatory sexuality education beginning in elementary school (in France parents are prohibited from removing their children from the program). France passed a bill earlier this year that allows women to be fully reimbursed for the cost of their abortion and guarantees girls ages 15 to 18 free birth control. Emergency contraception in both countries is easily accessible over the counter, and in Belgium the cost of the drug is reimbursed for young people and those with a prescription. Both countries limit abortion to the first trimester but also make exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and fetal impairment, to preserve woman’s physical or mental health, and for social or economic reasons. None of these exceptions are included in the new Texas law, and I’d guess it would be a cold day in hell before the likes of O’Reilly and Lowry advocate for more expansive health policies or for including such exceptions in abortion laws.  

But it would be wise if they did. This availability of preventative care contributes to the overall health and wellness of women in Europe and enables them to make free and fully informed decisions about their bodies over the course of their lifetimes. The demonization and lack of progressive sexual health policies in Texas, and in the United States more broadly, drives high rates of unintended pregnancy, teen pregnancy, maternal mortality, sexually transmitted infections, and abortion. 

Unfortunately, Texas couldn’t be further from France or Belgium when it comes to the care it provides to women and families before, during, and after delivery, as I’ve written about before. The Texas teen birth rate is nearly nine times higher than that of France and nearly 10 times higher than that of Belgium. Nearly 90 percent of all teens in France and Belgium reported using birth control at their last sexual intercourse, compared with only 53 percent in Texas. The infant mortality rate in Texas is twice that of Belgium and France. The poverty rate among women in Texas is a third higher than that of women in Belgium and France, and the poverty rate among Texas children is 1.5 times higher. Less than 60 percent of Texas women receive prenatal care, while quality care before, during, and after pregnancy is available to nearly all women throughout Europe.  

None of those hard facts were compelling enough to amend – let alone negate – the new law. It seems impossible these days to find a common ground between anti- and pro-choice individuals, but if conservatives wanted to have a conversation about enacting European-style sexual and reproductive health policies in the United States, that just might be something that could bring everyone to the same table. The more likely scenario is that once conservatives have plucked out the facts that help advance their anti-choice cause, they will promptly return to tarring and feathering Europe’s socialized health system.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. She researches and writes about access to reproductive health care in the United States and globally. She is on Twitter at @dreaflynn.

 

Woman and doctor banner image via Shutterstock.com

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Daily Digest - July 23: Your Internet Access Isn't So Great

Jul 23, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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What Verizon's Op-Eds Won't Tell You About America's Slow, Costly Internet Access (Next New Deal)

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What Verizon's Op-Eds Won't Tell You About America's Slow, Costly Internet Access (Next New Deal)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford responds to two recent New York Times op-eds that claimed the U.S. has great high-speed internet access - and criticized her work. She says the U.S. is paying more for lower speeds and lower quality access.

Rush Limbaugh on Slavery in America (The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren speaks about the right-wing response to President Obama's Friday speech on race. He argues that when the right complains about discussions of race, they ignore facts and history in a way that is dangerous for the black community.

Inequality, Mobility and the Policy Agenda They Imply (NYT)

Jared Bernstein argues that when Miles Corak pushes for accessible healthcare and high-quality early childhood education to improve income mobility, he doesn't go far enough. Education can't overcome the inequalities that require structural change.

Mr. President, Have Pity on the Working Man (Bill Moyers)

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship contend that President needs to do something about the millions of federally subcontracted jobs that have very low pay and no benefits. With an executive order, he could mandate a living wage for these government employees.

Subsidizing Poverty (TAP)

Harold Meyerson explains the problem with enterprise zones, which subsidize the wages of jobs that businesses might have created anyway. In San Bernadino, CA, the subsidized jobs were almost all low-wage, to the point where residents were subsidizing workers' poverty.

Why Won’t Obama Pay His Interns? (Buzzfeed)

Evan McMorris-Santoro reports on the work of Mikey Franklin, who is pushing back against the federal government's unpaid internship culture. Franklin can't accept a White House that pushes minimum wage increases without paying interns minimum wage.

Here’s how Goldman Sachs is making your beer more expensive (WaPo)

Lydia DePillis gives a step-by-step explanation of how Goldman Sachs's involvement in the aluminum market is raising prices. Goldman owns aluminum warehouses, and the cost of rent to store aluminum is eventually passed to buyers, inflating the price of the commodity.

New on Next New Deal

Delaware Welcomes Corporations That Put People Ahead of Profits

Roosevelt Institute Research Intern Suzanna Fritzberg explains how new legislation creating benefit corporations in Delaware could mean a major expansion of this form of social entrepreneurship, thanks to Delaware's corporation-friendly atmosphere.

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