Roosevelt Reacts: What Does Last Night Mean and Where Do We Go From Here?

Nov 7, 2012

President Obama won a second term. How did he get there? And what should he do now? Roosevelt weighs in.

Thomas Ferguson, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow, Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, and Contributing Editor, AlterNet:

President Obama won a second term. How did he get there? And what should he do now? Roosevelt weighs in.

Thomas Ferguson, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow, Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, and Contributing Editor, AlterNet:

Now that it’s over, it’s time to take stock. All counts are incomplete, but something like 116 million votes were cast. The presidential election alone cost about $2.6 billion, or a bit more than $22 dollars per vote. But that money wasn’t spread evenly over America; in battleground states like Ohio, the sums per voter were much larger. Now look at the exit polls in today’s New York Times. Yes, indeed, Obama did very well among women, Latinos, and African-Americans. But in sharp contrast to 2008, the partisan split along income lines is huge. Obama’s vote percentage declines in straight line fashion as income rises. He got 63 percent of the votes of Americans making less than $30,000 and 57 percent of those making between $30,000 and $50,000. Above $50,000, the Other America kicks in. Romney won 53 percent of the votes of Americans making between $50 and $100,000 and 54 percent of the votes of Americans making above $100,000. The Democrats’ poor showing in the House elections – they way under-performed for a party that had lost so many seats two years before – probably reflects a Republican advantage in money, including the famous Super PACs, some of which poured resources into congressional races. It was surely also affected by the White House’s reluctance to spend time and resources trying  to elect Democratic House candidates. As the president negotiates for a Grand Bargain in the face of the fiscal cliff, these are realities that are worth remembering

Jonathan Silverstone, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network member and sophomore at Yale University:

In the months leading up to yesterday's reelection of President Barack Obama, both candidates said very little about a critical issue in the ongoing economic recovery: housing. Yet President Obama’s reelection can certainly provide affordable housing advocates hope in the face of some of the things Governor Mitt Romney had to say on the campaign trail. Eliminating the Department of Housing and Urban Development and scaling back key grant programs were just two of the possible policies a Romney administration may have enacted had he won the presidency. While this general direction for the federal government has been avoided, there is a larger issue at hand.

A report by the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness demonstrates just how urgently we need a policy solution to the fundamental lack of affordable housing. It points to HUD figures that show a growing gap between low-income housing demand and current low-income housing stock during a time of increasing rates of homelessness in America. This gap reached 5.5 million units in 2009. The Obama administration must act to ensure demand for affordable housing is met and to assist low-income households in being able to afford this housing.

More immediately, the broad budget cuts constituting January’s scheduled sequestration present the president with a much more pressing housing issue. If Washington does not devise a budget compromise, multiple key housing programs that help fund public housing operations and provide rental assistance to low-income families stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. As America looks toward another four years of President Obama, and hopefully toward revamped policy that combines with market incentives to meet affordable housing demand, the lame duck Congress must work with the administration immediately to make sure crucial housing programs remain untouched before we hit the fiscal cliff in January. 

Tarsi Dunlop, member of the Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline in DC:

Now that the election results are in (well most of them are), we can start looking forward to the next four years. It is difficult to figure out where to start, but the first issue will be the rapidly approaching "fiscal cliff." We cannot bask in the glow of the election for long; we must protect the middle class from devastating cuts to essential programs and services. Beyond that, we must advocate for a federal budget that deals with our deficit in a responsible manner over the long-term; we are slowly recovering from the Great Recession, but progress is fragile and many American families are still suffering from unemployment (or underemployment). We cannot afford cuts that will undermine our gradual economic growth, growth that is by some estimates expected to produce 12 million more jobs over the next four years. Building, or in this case re-building an economy, takes time and we won’t turn back now.

This fall, President Obama asked the nation to give him four more years, to continue the work we started in 2008. Other issues that should be on the progressive agenda include protecting and expanding the social safety net for future generations, pursuing policies to reduce our impact on the environment in hopes of addressing the ever-growing threat of climate change (an issue rarely mentioned on the campaign trail), and advocating for responsible policies that will help our nation’s schools provide a quality education for each child. Our efforts to invest in the middle class continue and as we implement the Affordable Care Act, we know we won’t need to defend it against potential attacks from a Romney administration. By 2014, more Americans will feel the benefits of the president’s signature domestic achievement.

President Obama, and the progressive community as a whole, will find powerful allies in the United States Senate come January with Tammy Baldwin’s election as the first openly gay U.S. Senator and Elizabeth Warren’s win in Massachusetts. Indeed, the Bay State has sent another liberal lion to the Senate floor to advocate for policies that help working and middle-class families. These voices will defend a woman’s right to choose and make decisions about her own body. As progressives, we believe in inclusivity and justice for those of all backgrounds, and they will stand for those with no lobby. They will challenge the influence of oil companies and large corporations.  They will push the discussions we should have when it comes to governing and the role of government. It is time to continue that discussion.

However ambitious we are, we must recognize that the work will go on long after President Obama leaves office. The young people who once again broke sharply for the incumbent understand this reality and are rising to the challenge. Although Millennials are faced with dim job prospects, less security in their retirement, and in many cases, high levels of student debt, they are community oriented and civically engaged. They care about the vulnerable children as child hunger rates remain stubbornly high; they care about the dignity and security of our seniors and the mental and physical health of our veterans. They care about our infrastructure and want to see us investing in our nation’s roads, water pipes and public transportation. In 2008, when then-Senator Barack Obama said “Yes We Can,” he meant we, the people. As one man, he (and U.S. presidents before and those to come) cannot create change. We must work toward that change, over the next four years and the next four decades in our communities and local governments. The question we are asking now, one that we should also ask of ourselves, is: what’s next?

Melia Ungson, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Northeast regional coordinator and student at Yale University:

Last night, I breathed a sigh of relief instead of jumping for joy (though, admittedly, there were shouts of excitement). Watching results from other races and ballot initiatives come in, I was similarly relieved to see voters in so many places support candidates and ballot measures to protect equal rights, which will hopefully elevate the discourse.  

Even though I go to school in Connecticut, which had a close senate race, I vote in California, largely because of the propositions, which are often close. In a state known recently for its budget issues and gridlock in the state legislature, the propositions serve as an alternate route for voters to address issues directly. Last night, California voters narrowly approved Prop 30 to help fund education and approved Prop 36 to reform the three strikes law, both exciting victories. However, voters failed to approve Prop 34 to repeal the costly and archaic death penalty and Prop 37, which would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. California prides itself on being a forward-thinking state at the forefront of technology, environmental policy, and social equality, but voters do not always reflect this with propositions.

With all these election results, good, bad, mixed, or still to be decided, the pressure is on to start getting things done. I was excited that Obama alluded to issues like climate change and LGBT rights in his speech last night, and am hopeful that he and other re-elected or newly elected representatives will make progress on these and other issues come January. Our job as Millennialis is to continue to drive meaningful discourse, continue to put forth our own ideas on how best to work toward a stronger future, and ensure that issues important to young people don't fall by the wayside. 

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The Maryland Dream Act: Giving Undocumented Students Like Me a Fair Shot

Nov 5, 2012Jonathan J. Green

Higher education should be accessible to all students looking to better themselves and give back to their communities.

Higher education should be accessible to all students looking to better themselves and give back to their communities.

Marylanders will see a long list of referenda items in this year’s ballot when they head to the polls tomorrow. For me, the most important one is the Maryland Dream Act, a bill that would allow the state’s undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at its public colleges and universities if they meet certain eligibility criteria and would give all students an equal shot at higher education. I am a living, breathing example of the type of student who would be helped by this bill – someone simply trying to better himself and give back to his community who met obstacle after obstacle in trying to attain higher education. The whole state stands to benefit when students like me can afford to attend the school of their dreams.

I grew up in an immigrant household. My family and I moved to the United States in 2005 and I entered 8th grade as an ESOL student shortly afterwards. The only guidance I was given in regards to school was “go to school and do well.” So I focused on academics like my parents suggested. I started high school taking all ESOL classes, but managed, with a lot of hard work, to move to honors courses, then AP courses, and even participated in a dual-enrollment program at my local community college.

But in my high school years, something else happened: I became a Marylander. I was so impressed by the dedication of the teachers and adults around me, and felt so fortunate to live in a state where education is valued and made accessible to everyone, that I had to give back. I started volunteering in my church, became part of mentoring groups, organized community service projects, and even became my senior class vice president. I was so involved at the end of my high school career that I racked up over 1,000 community service learning hours, far above the 50 that were required for graduation.

Throughout all of my work, I had thought I was like every other student in my high school. But during my senior year I realized that my parents’ legal troubles would have a significant impact on my road to higher education. Even though my weighted GPA at the end of my high school career was over a 4.0 and I had been involved in several leadership and community service activities, I couldn't attend the college of my dreams because my undocumented status meant I couldn't receive financial aid. Luckily I was able to gain admission into my community college’s highly selective honors program and received a private scholarship to fund my education for two years. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to attend college at all.

At the end of my two years at community college, my dream was to transfer to the University of Maryland, College Park to study public policy or sociology. It seemed like the obvious choice since their programs for both disciplines are among the best in the nation and the school is located about 15 minutes away from my house. Despite gaining admission to the school, I could not attend because, as an undocumented immigrant, I wasn’t considered an in-state student. Instead of paying the more reasonable in-state price tag of $8,500, my legal status meant that I’d have to come up with $24,000 a year without any financial aid. That difference was more than my family could afford.

Again, I was fortunate. Goucher, a private college in the state of Maryland, was able to offer me some aid, which had made it a little more affordable than the public school of my dreams.

I have been lucky. But it is unacceptable that it is more affordable for me to attend a private school and live on campus than to attend the public school around the corner. Tomorrow, Maryland voters will consider Question 4, known as the Maryland Dream Act. It would give Maryland’s undocumented students the opportunity to pay in-state tuition if they meet certain eligibility criteria: attending and graduating from a Maryland high school or its equivalent, filing income taxes, attending a community college for the first two years, and others.

This bill is financially profitable for the state. Its passage will generate $66 million in revenue per graduating class for the state, according to an independent University of Maryland, Baltimore County study. The revenue comes from the fact that the more educated our workforce is, the more workers earn and thus pay in taxes back to the state. According to the study’s calculations, only about 435 students will take advantage of the Dream Act, or about 0.1 percent of the students enrolled in public higher education institutions in Maryland.

The Maryland Dream Act gives young Marylanders like me who come from tax-paying families a shot at higher education. Had it not been for Goucher, I would not have been able to continue my education and had the chance to improve my situation. There are hundreds of Maryland students like me hoping for a chance to succeed in life and give back to their home state of Maryland.

Jonathan Jayes-Green is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's education policy center director at Goucher College and is a junior.

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Standing Up for the 6 Million Americans Who Can’t Vote on November 6th

Oct 24, 2012Brandi Lupo

Voting is a fundamental right -- unless you're ensared in the penal system.

Voting is a fundamental right -- unless you're ensared in the penal system.

This November, the presidential election may hinge on a few thousand votes. This same November, nearly 6 million Americans will be kept from the polls, disenfranchised under a number of ever more aggressive state laws barring felons and ex-felons from the voting booth. This is detrimental to our justice system and a vicious threat to our democracy.

A report by The Sentencing Project estimates that these laws currently disenfranchise 5.85 million Americans. Of them, a whopping 75 percent are no longer inmates in prison or jail. Instead, they are serving parole, probation, or, in the case of 2.63 million individuals (nearly half of the entire population measured), are living in their communities freely, having already completed their sentences in full. Eleven states require a waiting period before voting after one’s sentence is complete; a lifetime ban awaits those with a felony record. The diagnosis is even grimmer when looked at by race. The report estimates that felony disenfranchisement laws in Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia each disenfranchise over 20 percent of their respective adult black American populations.

Undeniably, the convicted felon and ex-felon populations are two of the least politically popular groups facing disenfranchisement, potentially making their case for participation in democracy the most difficult. Opponents deploy a number of arguments against this crucial step toward universal suffrage. Some argue that if someone chooses not to follow the law, then he does not have the right to help select those who make the laws. They say that the right to vote is one that can be taken away as punishment—even well after an individual has completed her sentence.

Yet since the nation’s founding, a key concept prevailed and proved fundamental to democracy: the idea, explicitly stated in the Declaration of Independence, that government must derive its power from the consent of the governed. Despite having committed a crime, most felons and ex-felons are citizens, governed and affected by the decisions made in Washington. As an essential protection from government tyranny, corruption, and unjust laws, it is crucial that all citizens can (and do) contribute to the discussion of what type of society they would like to live in and what the laws dictating that society are.

Laws against voting are not common sense measures promoting the public safety or welfare. For those worried that felons and ex-felons may unite into some powerful anti-criminal justice voting bloc, think again: there is no evidence to support such a unity amongst the group, such illicit views among felons in the criminal justice system, or such single-issue behavior. Like the rest of us, felons who choose to vote have a number of political ideas to balance in the booth.

On top of all of this, public opinion here leans in favor of universal suffrage. Recent studies show that a clear majority favor restoring voting rights specifically to people who have exited prison and have served their entire sentence, are on parole, or are under supervised probation.

Voting is essential to a valid democracy. It is both a right and a duty—not a privilege. It is fundamental to the rigorous and diverse discussion required by our society. Yet this November, nearly 6 million citizens will be barred from the voting booth, silenced and ostracized. This number begs the question: how can this be right? We at the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network want to ask this question through Government By and For Millennial America, our new initiative focused on identifying the current problems in our government and providing solutions to create a better, more equal, and more accountable framework. Our polished vision will be ready to be put in place by Inauguration Day this January. Stay tuned.

Brandi Lupo is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Equal Justice and a student at New York University.

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The Biggest Debate Question: Where Were the Real Policy Solutions?

Oct 17, 2012

After last night's debate performance, did any substantive policy solutions get through? Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network students didn't hear a lot to go on.

Lydia Austin, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Economic Development and Chapter Head at the University of Michigan:

After last night's debate performance, did any substantive policy solutions get through? Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network students didn't hear a lot to go on.

Lydia Austin, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Economic Development and Chapter Head at the University of Michigan:

It's unfortunate that political debates are primarily judged on the candidate's personalities, and not their policies. Much of the consensus regarding "who won" is based on who was perceived to be in charge, who didn't get rattled, and who made it through the night without a bemused look upon his face. President Obama won the personality debate, but what about the actual policy proposals? Some of the most outstanding moments from the policy debate came from Mitt Romney: he championed flexibility for working women in a way that indicated how much he truly valued their presence in the workplace, and he put forth an interesting capital gains tax proposal. As part of Governor Romney's tax proposal, he would eliminate capital gains taxes for individuals making under $200,000 a year. The implications of this proposal are interesting: while it would encourage people to invest in savings, it would also benefit those individuals who already earn much of their income from investments (up to a certain point). Democratization of capital holdings is essential for a thriving middle class, and while both candidates implicitly addressed this in the debate, Romney's tax plan was what caught my attention.

Jessie Molloy, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network member at DePaul University:

The selected voters had some interesting and insightful questions, but neither Governor Romney nor President Obama seemed particularly inclined to answer them. Instead, both candidates fell back into familiar side-step routines and parroted over and over again the same answers and points they have given a dozen times before at the conventions, at rallies, and at the first debate.

One particularly good example of this indirect approach to answers was on the issue of inequality in women’s pay. Obama talked about his mother “hitting the glass ceiling” and then spun the question into a tangent about education and creating opportunities for America’s youth. Romney discussed his experience as governor when he reportedly saw too many male cabinet candidates and sent out his staff to find “binders of women.” In the eight minutes or so the topic was on the table, neither candidate actually acknowledged how he would ensure women would be paid the same as their male counterparts. 

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Bryce Covert: Lack of Ambition Isn't to Blame for the Gender Wage Gap

Aug 28, 2012

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, Fireside Chats, NND Editor Bryce Covert talks to National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru about what's behind the gender wage gap.

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, Fireside Chats, NND Editor Bryce Covert talks to National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru about what's behind the gender wage gap. Their discussion began with a recent Bloomberg View column in which Ramesh argued that there may be factors other than discrimination, such as career choices, that account for women receiving lower pay. Bryce responded at The Nation by citing studies that show discrimination is a real problem, and Ramesh followed up with her at The Corner. In the video below, the two finally come face to face (sort of) to get to the bottom of what's keeping women down.

Responding to Ramesh's suggestion that women may be paid less at least partly because they are "not as aggressive as men in asking for salaries," Bryce concedes that "the idea that women aren't ambitious enough is not one that you find only on one side" and that "society does tend to shape men to be more aggressive and women to be more cooperative, for lack of a better word." But she notes that studies have found that "even if there is some sort of ambition gap," women who are just as ambitious as their male peers are "still not getting the money. The ones that ask still are not rewarded for asking." She also cites a study that shows managers are likely to offer men more as a baseline in salary negotiations, which means that "if a woman's going to go in and try to negotiate and be aggressive and ask for the money, she's already at a disadvantage before she even gets there." Given that the same behavior has been observed in female managers, Bryce argues that this "is not just the patriarchy keeping women down," but an "unconscious bias" shared by both men and women in the workplace.

For more on this debate, including our employers' Leave It to Beaver mindset and why fair pay laws alone aren't enough, check out the full video below:

 

Gender gap image via Shutterstock.com.

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Bryce Covert: Lack of Ambition Isn't to Blame for the Gender Wage Gap

Aug 28, 2012

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, Fireside Chats, NND Editor Bryce Covert talks to National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru about what's behind the gender wage gap.

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, Fireside Chats, NND Editor Bryce Covert talks to National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru about what's behind the gender wage gap. Their discussion began with a recent Bloomberg View column in which Ramesh argued that there may be factors other than discrimination, such as career choices, that account for women receiving lower pay. Bryce responded at The Nation by citing studies that show discrimination is a real problem, and Ramesh followed up with her at The Corner. In the video below, the two finally come face to face (sort of) to get to the bottom of what's keeping women down.

Responding to Ramesh's suggestion that women may be paid less at least partly because they are "not as aggressive as men in asking for salaries," Bryce concedes that "the idea that women aren't ambitious enough is not one that you find only on one side" and that "society does tend to shape men to be more aggressive and women to be more cooperative, for lack of a better word." But she notes that studies have found that "even if there is some sort of ambition gap," women who are just as ambitious as their male peers are "still not getting the money. The ones that ask still are not rewarded for asking." She also cites a study that shows managers are likely to offer men more as a baseline in salary negotiations, which means that "if a woman's going to go in and try to negotiate and be aggressive and ask for the money, she's already at a disadvantage before she even gets there." Given that the same behavior has been observed in female managers, Bryce argues that this "is not just the patriarchy keeping women down," but an "unconscious bias" shared by both men and women in the workplace.

For more on this debate, including our employers' Leave It to Beaver mindset and why fair pay laws alone aren't enough, check out the full video below:

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Single Women Voters Need One Voice, But Not One Issue

Aug 27, 2012Suzanne Kahn

Not so long ago, single women weren't just an important voting bloc  they were an organized group that made specific political demands.

Not so long ago, single women weren't just an important voting bloc  they were an organized group that made specific political demands.

This political season, single women keep finding themselves at the center of political firestorms. Both parties and the media have recognized that single women are one of the country’s fastest growing demographics and a potentially crucial voting bloc. As the New York Times recently wrote, single women lean strongly toward Obama in polls, but they are not reliable voters, often feeling like politics don’t address their everyday concerns.

Democrats hope to turn single women out by reminding them of the party’s defense of reproductive rights—a job Republicans like Todd Akin make easy. Republicans, in turn, claim that women should and do care about more than their reproductive rights and will turn to the GOP when they consider the bad economy. Absent from this debate is any sense that single women might have some very specific demands beyond reproductive freedom that are not addressed in either party’s appeals.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the number of single women in this country also grew dramatically. A rising number of divorces and increasing economic opportunities for women outside of marriage created new constituencies. Finding their access to economic resources—from credit to pensions—severely limited in a political economy built around the assumed norm of a nuclear family, these women organized. They formed groups like the Older Women’s League and the Alliance for Displaced Homemakers, which demanded legal reform to give single women access to badly needed resources. They proposed creative solutions to the problems single women faced on a day-to-day basis – for example, new ways of calculating Social Security benefits based on a couple’s shared earnings.

These women organized for a number of reasons. Looser divorce laws meant that women who never expected or wanted to be single found themselves suddenly without partners after a lifetime of dependency on their husbands. In this new position, they ran up against laws and customary practices that blatantly discriminated against women. Divorced women, who had paid family credit card bills for years, could not get cards on their own. Women who divorced after less than 20 years of marriage lost access to Social Security benefits. Health insurance companies actively discriminated against women without husbands by charging them far more to purchase an insurance plan. Newly divorced women discovered institutions putting up roadblock after roadblock as they tried to put their lives back together. So they organized—not only within existing women’s organizations, but also by creating their own.

It was, of course, a political moment that fostered identity politics. The burgeoning women’s movement created spaces for single women to meet and discover their shared problems. It also provided organizational support for single women to organize. The National Organization for Women, for example, created special committees to address the problems facing divorced women, widowed women, and never-married women.

Single women identified equal access to credit, affordable health insurance, pension rights, affordable childcare, Social Security reforms, and much more as single women’s issues. They approached these issues not in a general way, but with very concrete demands to address the specific challenges they faced. They proposed specific laws to give women credit access, to reform the Social Security system so that married women were not treated exclusively as dependents, and to provide affordable childcare so that women could work. These organizations won important victories, like the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, but they also left unfinished work, such as the fight for quality, affordable childcare.

Many commentators have pointed out that reproductive rights are deeply tied to economic rights for women, and they are. But a real appeal to single women as voters would recognize the many other ways to improve single women’s economic fate, like paid maternity leave and labor laws that protect the many women who work in the service economy.

Single women today, like those in the 1970s and 1980s, are strapped for time as well as money. Asking that single women create brand new organizations is a tall order. But our absence from the political scene as vocal, self-organized participants has allowed the parties to adopt a severely limited vision of women’s demands.  

Suzanne Kahn is a Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow and a Ph.D. student in history at Columbia University.

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The Republicans’ Medicaid Cruelty

Jul 30, 2012Jeff Madrick

This piece originally appeared in The New York Review of Books.

“The essential American soul,” claimed D.H. Lawrence, “is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.” While the rejection by five state governments of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion may not precisely illustrate Lawrence’s heated observation, it does suggest a contemporary vein of cruelty in America that is deeply disturbing.

This piece originally appeared in The New York Review of Books.

“The essential American soul,” claimed D.H. Lawrence, “is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.” While the rejection by five state governments of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion may not precisely illustrate Lawrence’s heated observation, it does suggest a contemporary vein of cruelty in America that is deeply disturbing.

A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that providing greater medical insurance coverage for the poor has saved lives. Moreover, the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid requires little state money, since the federal government will pick up more than 90 percent of the costs over time, and 100 percent of the costs for the first few years. Yet Texas, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Mississippi—which together account for more than a sixth of the overall US population—have already rejected the plan, and as many as twenty other states, including New Jersey, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Nevada, have indicated they may follow suit.

Furthermore, these states already have among the highest numbers of citizens with no health insurance. Twenty-five percent of non-elderly Texans have no health insurance, for example, compared to the national average of about 18 percent. If the Obama Medicaid reforms were fully implemented, 15 to 17 million of the nation’s 50 million without health insurance would be covered. In a report just issued in late July, however, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Medicaid expansion will only cover some ten million more, or a full third fewer than anticipated, because of the rejection of the plan by large states like Florida and Texas and others who have not yet formally announced their intentions.

This is particularly troubling in view of how important the Medicaid expansion is to low-income Americans. The two Harvard economists who authored the NEJMstudy have found that there are 6 percent fewer deaths in several states that had expanded Medicaid in earlier years compared to nearly contiguous states that did not. Fortunately, according to the recent CBO report, three million of those who will not be covered in states that reject the Medicaid expansion will qualify for and probably buy insurance through another provision in the ACA—a program that provides subsidies to buy insurance for those who earn between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $22,350 for a family of four.

What has enabled states to reject the expansion is the curveball thrown by the Supreme Court in its decision in June to uphold President Obama’s Affordable Care Act: not only did the court argue that the states need not participate in the new expansion, which the Obama administration had intended to be mandatory; it also said that the federal government could not withhold Medicaid payments for states that decide not to participate. Thus, the court created a way to undermine one of the most admirable achievements of the ACA, a sweeping expansion of a medical safety net for the neediest.

Read the full article here. 

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What Policy Agenda Follows From "You Didn't Build That?"

Jul 20, 2012Mike Konczal

(Note: There's a previous post on this subject of "you didn't build that," taking apart the conservative agenda around "job creators," which you can read here.)

(Note: There's a previous post on this subject of "you didn't build that," taking apart the conservative agenda around "job creators," which you can read here.)

The right is freaking out about President Obama's "you didn't build that" comment. Well, let's hope the conservatives in the audience have their fainting couches nearby and pearls sufficiently clutched, because I am going to start by kicking out two jams by my man, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from back from when he was on the campaign trail:

"Our Republican leaders tell us economic laws--sacred, inviolable, unchangeable--cause panics which no one could prevent. But while they prate of economic laws, men and women are starving. We must lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature. They are made by human beings." (Nomination Address, July 2nd, 1932, Chicago, IL)

"To insure the first set of rights, a Government must so order its functions as not to interfere with the individual. But even Jefferson realized that the exercise of the property rights might so interfere with the rights of the individual that the Government, without whose assistance the property rights could not exist, must intervene, not to destroy individualism, but to protect it." (Commonwealth Club Address, September 23, 1932, San Francisco, CA)

Now as long as people are guessing as to what the true, deeper, esoteric meaning is of President Obama saying, "Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that," let throw something out there. It may be less a legal argument for how all property is the creation of the state - or as Roosvelt said, "the Government, without whose assistance...property rights could not exist" - and more a genuine call for actually building roads and bridges, something Congress is no longer capable of doing in these times. The current House went to war over whether or not to fund transportation infrastructure. It barely passed in a last-minute bill that left many issues still on the table. Former Republican congressman and now Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Politico that the original proposal was “the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.” Given that capital markets are willing to lose money to loan to us for 20 years and there's lots of unemployed people around, this should be a no-brainer.

There's two responses I've seen on the right to this topic that I'd like to address on the "you didn't build that" point, and both come up in Julian Sanchez's post "What Follows from 'You Didn't Build That'?" One is that President Obama is addressing a strawman, and that unless you are speaking to an anarcho-capitalist nobody would disagree with this. "Even we minarchist libertarians are already on board with" basic public goods, he writes, and President Obama's vision of the role of the state is much more expansive than that. I disagree that there is no disagreement. I think that the current vision animating conservatism broadly and GOP policy narrowly is one of an economy in which value is created top-down by "job creators," which I outlined at length here. Rather than "Social Darwinist," as the president refers to it, I think it is clearer to say that the current GOP policy, centered around the Ryan Budget, is "Randian." Now, that doesn't mean the opposition believes every part of Ayn Rand's theories; it just means that their political compass is orientated towards her vision, and if you step in that direction you are getting closer to your goal.

The other response is that what Obama says is largely true, but there's no actual politics that falls out of it. Sanchez writes, "It’s not that the 'you didn’t build that' argument is wrong as a factual matter—it’s that it’s true about everything, and therefore doesn’t get you much of anything."

That's a good point. What does a "you didn't build that" agenda look like? Here's what I think it should include broadly, and what matters it should be concerned with, at least on all things related to economics. (Noting in advance that I'm pretty sure the mainstream Democratic Party and President Obama aren't going to sign up for most of this.)

The first step is what President Obama was calling for in the speech, which is progressive taxation. This doesn't require the state to do more than what it does now, or less than what it does now, but instead changes how we pay for those things. And here the idea would be that those who have benefitted the most have an obligation to contribute the most. This has historically been a controversial policy - when the French economist and statesman Turgot was presented with a project for progressive taxation he responded "we must execute the author, not the project" - and I think it is useful to consider the Ryan Plan as ending progressive taxation. There's a lot of ways to argue for progressive taxation, including shared sacrifice of marginal utility, and this is another.

Another would be emphasizing that public goods are actually that: publically provided and shared. There's been a move to both privatize large parts of the government and to emphasize putting costs for the use of publically provided infrastructure directly on end users instead of making them paid for broadly. Higher education, for instance, is now less a conscious set of planning the government does to make sure all who need education can receive it, which is paid for broadly through taxes, but instead of a series of coupons -- grants, loans, tax subsidies -- to subsidize individuals purchasing a self-investment by and for themselves, with the assumption that the "for-profit" sector and innovation broadly will expand in size and quality to pick up the slack of decreasing public provisioning. A broader question is what is treated as a commodity, and under what terms. Fighting back against both of these issues would be part of the agenda.

Continuing the inter-generational pact of the welfare state is another part. David Frum recently described the current GOP as "a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation." Not wrecking the entire social safety net and the mechanisms of the goverment on the way out the door, and instead thinking of the government as a pact through time, is another important point to emphasize.

Now for property. Conn Carroll at the Washington Examiner brings up Robert Hale and the progressive, legal realist attack on laissez faire, and Sanchez brings up the similar arguments of the Nagel/Murphy book “Myth of Ownership.” These arguments are partially inherited from people like Jeremy Bentham, who argued that “property is entirely the creature of the law.”

One of the critiques that comes out of these arguments is that the picture of property rights as a vertical relationship between a person and an object, one where the issue at play is whether the person's right over the object is “deserved all the way down,” is flawed, or at least insufficient. Property is really a horizontal set of relationships between people; it isn't just your control of an object but your control over others with respect to that object. The fundamental right of private property, of course, has always been the power to exclude others. But in the 1910s, a law professor named Wesley Hohfeld formalized property "rights" into a series of four capacities: "right," "privilege," "power," and "immunity." They contrast with four incapacities: "duty," "no-right," "liability," and "disability" (see here or here for more). Each type of property right is predicated on being able to force others to respond a certain way -- you have certain immunities while others have disabilities in response, certain powers while others have liabilities, and so on.

And so "liberty" for one comes at an expense of "liberty" for another. Since there's no neutral way for the government to set these rules, certainly no abstraction like "economic liberty" to guide the path, the question over social control of property, as Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse put it, is "not of increasing or diminishing, but of reorganizing, restraints." The issue here isn't that everything is up for grabs - it's that there is no "neutral," and appealing to higher abstractions as "rights" or "ownership" don't get you anywhere.

Perhaps you find that objectionable or maybe you don't, so let's build out the You Didn't Build That Agenda in regards to property. The first stop is that there needs to be a democratic element and accountability in setting up these rules. If only because trying to back out a system of rules from vague appeals to "liberty" (especially as interpreted by courts) don't actually get us anywhere. The second issue would be acknowledging and confronting the issue that the current set up of the rules of property and economic exchange are important in creating our current economic inequality, from the runaway wealth of the top 1% to the stagnating wages of everyone else.

The way we set up the rules creates a lot of winners. The top 1% consists mostly of corporate CEOs and financial wealth. The former are influenced by the way we structure corporations through law -- read Demos' Anthony Kammer on "Reimagining the Corporate Form: Toward a More Democratic System of Corporate Governance" -- and compensation packages through tax law. The latter has a clear link with financial deregulation and much of the system exists in a way where finance's failure can pose huge externalities on other market actors and the macroeconomy as a whole. Another example is patent law which, as many note, provides large windfalls for owners. Over half of the windfall that comes from the fact that we privledge income from capital over income from labor in taxation goes to the top 0.1%. Dean Baker’s e-book, "The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive," is great on these points.

The way we set up the rules also creates a lot of losers. Bankruptcy law has become tougher on regular people while corporations do fine under it, something Robert Kuttner writes about as an important double standard. It is harder to unionize, and simple measures to allow for card check have failed in Congress. Inequality at the low end can be largely attributed to decreased unionization (for men) and a stagnant minimum wage (for women), both of which reduce bargaining power for their respective parties.

There's also macroeconomic policy, something the government does (or doesn't do) that has significant impact on economic outcomes but that impacts all kinds of claims to property. As Ryan Avent notes, commenting on the You Didn't Build That issue, the "operating monetary principle over the past generation—price and financial stability at all costs, help for the unemployed if we get around to it and only to the extent that the first priorities aren't endangered—has facilitated the creation of an enormous amount of financial wealth," as well as stagnating wages for everyone else. Full employment for all is a great start, though there's no way to appeal to it by referencing abstractions of economic liberty.

What else needs to be part of the agenda?

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The Conservative War on Single Mothers Like Jessica Schairer

Jul 19, 2012June CarboneNaomi Cahn

Conservatives want to have their cake and eat it too: decry the rise in nonmarital births but make life even harder for women facing single motherhood.

Conservatives want to have their cake and eat it too: decry the rise in nonmarital births but make life even harder for women facing single motherhood.

Ever wonder what the “war on women” is really about? An article in the New York Times, “Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do’: For Richer Marriage, for Poorer, Single Motherhood,” provides some clues. The article documents the growing class divide in family form. College graduates like Chris and Kevin Faulkner, who were profiled in the article, postpone starting families, produce marriages with lower divorce rates than a generation ago, and reap the rewards in terms of greater time and resources to invest in children. In the meantime, women like Jessica Schairer who do not graduate from college, also profiled in the article, are increasingly raising children on their own. These women often give up on the men in their lives and struggle to balance the demands of low-paying jobs with the attention their children need.

The article presents a compelling portrait of the causes and the effects, but not of the partisan divide over the potential solutions. That divide can be summed up by a struggle over a simple question: are women like the single mother, Jessica Schairer, the victims of our economy or the problem? Those who see them as the problem are setting forth proposals to make their lives (and their children’s lives) worse. Those of us who see Jessica Schairer as a victim of increasing economic inequality recognize that supporting her ability to care for her children is critical to the strength of the country’s next generation. The political war for the future of Jessica Schairer is under way.

The change in family structure is a consequence of growing economic inequality that further increases inequality in the next generation of children. The most startling change is the increase in non-marital births. In 1990, just 10 percent of white women with some college education had a birth outside of marriage; today the figure is 30 percent, compared to 8 percent of whites with a college degree and 40 percent for the country as a whole. Meanwhile, 86 percent of black high school dropouts have children outside of marriage. The likelihood that a child will be raised in a two-parent family has become a marker of class.

The Times article documents the consequences of this change, as it describes the limited ability of single parents to pay for sports participation, attend school events, stay on top of homework, and provide adequate role models. Harvard’s Robert Putnam adds that the growing class gap in childrearing affects everything from the time parents spend playing patty-cake with their pre-schoolers to the likelihood that a high school senior will be the captain of a sports team.

In considering the causes of class divergence, the Times articles documents a negative spiral. It observes that economic woes speed marital decline “as women see fewer marriageable men.” Women do not commit to men without steady employment, and a shortage of “good men” encourages the employed to play the field. A long list of academic studies demonstrates that when marriageable women outnumber the men, everyone’s norms change and marriage rates decline. For single mom Jessica Schairer, as for many other women today, there was no point to marrying the father of her three children. Instead, for her the issue is “why she stayed so long with a man who she said earned so little, berated her often and did no parenting.” On the other hand, marriage also encourages men to shape up. Kevin Faulkner, the married father in the story, explained that he returned to college because he wanted to get married. Other studies show that not only has the premium for college graduates increased over the last generation, but the job stability of less educated men has fallen more than for other parts of the population and male layoffs often break up relationships and discourage marriage.

While the documentation of these differences is now well established, the solutions are not. Yet there are two obvious ones, rarely discussed in explicit terms. The first recreates the links between stable jobs and stable families. This requires greater economic equality, more opportunities for blue-collar men, more family-friendly workplaces, greater support for higher education and job training, and better access to contraception and other supports for delaying family formation. A growing literature suggests that greater equality itself creates virtuous cycles that deter teen births and encourage longer lasting family relationships.

The alternative? Bring back patriarchy. Conservatives like Charles Murray blame changing values, charging that the men have gotten lazy because women no longer depend on them or fail to sleep with them until they shape up. The secret to bringing back female dependence and male virtue? Make the women desperate. Murray has made a career of blaming government programs such as welfare for the destruction of the American family because such programs cushion the impact of single parenthood. For conservatives who see single mothers like Jessica Schairer as the problem and who refuse to see inequality itself as the explanation, the result is a war on women.

Virtually every conservative Republican, from Paul Ryan’s budget to Mitt Romney’s platform, would cut the benefits on which single mothers like Jessica Schairer currently depend. Indeed, shortly after Romney’s NAACP speech, he commented, “Remind them of this: If they want more free stuff from government, tell them to go vote for the other guy.” What could Romney have meant by “free stuff?”

First, start with food stamps. They are an important part of Jessica Schairer’s ability to feed three children on an income of $25,000 a year. Romney’s proposals would either force 13 million people off of food stamps entirely or cut benefits by $2000 per year per family.

Second, Romney’s budget would produce massive cuts in Medicaid programs that serve as the most important source of health care for working mothers without adequate benefits. 

Third, Romney’s tax proposals would raise Jessica Schairer’s taxes while providing for massive cuts for those with high incomes. 

Whether or not Romney specifically intends to make the lives of single mothers more perilous, his policies would do exactly that.

Social conservatives, in the meantime, have taken aim at the reproductive rights that make it possible for women to avoid inopportune births. The class divide in access to contraception and abortion is wide and growing. The Guttmacher Institute reports that between 1994 and 2006, the unintended pregnancy rate grew by 50 percent for women below the poverty line. During the same period, it fell by 29 percent for higher income women. Yet those who share Charles Murray’s sentiments about single mothers have done their best to make it worse.

For many of us, this is the most perplexing part of the war on Jessica Schairer, and it rests on conservatives’ analysis that the key to reforming the family is to deny men sex rather than prevent births. Indeed, Republican candidate Rick Santorum linked the increase in non-marital births to the “dangers of contraception,” which he categorized as "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

We noted in Red Families v. Blue Families that most conservatives do not oppose contraception per se, but they remain resolutely against the implied approval of non-marital sex that would accompany explicit support and the government subsidies necessary to make access more universal. In the name of religious liberty, they accordingly raised a furor over President Obama’s recent proposal to mandate employer coverage of contraception as preventive health care. With less publicity, they blocked inclusion of proposals to increase contraceptive access in the stimulus bill. And they defeated efforts to include contraception in any form as part of the health care package. Yet poor women’s lack of health care coverage is a major factor in the unplanned pregnancy rate.

If contraceptive access is controversial, abortion is off the table. Ms. Schairer considered one in response to the unplanned pregnancy that derailed her college education, but the father of her children opposed it. The Guttmacher Institute notes that the women most likely to end an unintended pregnancy by abortion are those who, like Ms. Schairer, are in college at the time of the pregnancy. Had Ms. Schairer not given birth when she did, she would have been much more likely to graduate, to avoid a non-marital birth, and to be able to secure a better job. But at the same time conservatives work to make life more difficult for mothers like Jessica Schairer, they argue that having the child is the only acceptable moral option.

For a generation now, Murray, the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, and many other conservatives have denied that inequality has anything to do with the changing family. Romney has joined the chorus, dismissing any discussion of inequality as “envy” and “class warfare.” It is time to recognize the truth. The policies they have championed are responsible for the class-based division in family form. The war on Jessica Schairer is claiming an increasing number of victims. 

June Carbone is the Edward A. Smith/Missouri Chair of Law, the Constitution and Society at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Naomi Cahn is the John Theodore Fey Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School. She is the author of numerous books and law review articles on gender and family law.

Cahn and Carbone are the co-authors of Red Families v. Blue Families.

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