Daily Digest - December 19: It's a Whole New Economic Policy-Making World

Dec 18, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Uncharted Interest Rate Territory (U.S. News & World Report)

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Uncharted Interest Rate Territory (U.S. News & World Report)

Jason Gold points out that since interest rates have been declining for 33 years, none of today's lawmakers know quite what they're in for when the Fed begins to raise rates in 2015.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that raising interest rates is not the way to fight "financial instability."

The Greatest Tax Story Ever Told (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Zachary R. Mider shares the story of the very first corporate tax inversion, in which a company incorporates abroad to avoid paying U.S. taxes. The idea was invented by a liberal tax lawyer in 1982.

A Big Safety Net and Strong Job Market Can Coexist. Just Ask Scandinavia. (NYT)

The strong safety net programs in Scandinavian countries, which include far more direct aid, might be more effective at getting people to work than the U.S. tax subsidy model, writes Neil Irwin.

How ALEC Helped Undermine Public Unions (WaPo)

Alex Hertel-Fernandez explains that ALEC's attacks on public sector unions aren't new: ALEC-backed anti-union laws were enacted in some states a decade before the Great Recession.

Pro-Warren Protesters Take Their Fight to Wall Street (MSNBC)

Zachary Roth reports on yesterday's protest at Citigroup's New York City headquarters, where protesters denounced the Citigroup-crafted measure weakening Dodd-Frank in the spending bill.

From the E.R. to the Courtroom: How Nonprofit Hospitals Are Seizing Patients’ Wages (ProPublica)

Paul Kiel and Chris Arnold profile the Missouri hospital that sues the most patients in the state. Nonprofit hospitals are required to offer low-cost charity care, but that isn't particularly regulated.

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Daily Digest - December 18: Can Subprime Lending Really Be Safe?

Dec 18, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Return of Subprime Lending (AJAM)

Matt Birkbeck says a new wave of subprime mortgages appear to be following much stricter rules and have far less usurious interest rates, but regulators are still watching closely.

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The Return of Subprime Lending (AJAM)

Matt Birkbeck says a new wave of subprime mortgages appear to be following much stricter rules and have far less usurious interest rates, but regulators are still watching closely.

Paid Maternity Leave Is Good for Business (WSJ)

Susan Wojcicki says that the United States is behind the rest of the world in not offering paid maternity leave to all mothers, and that such a policy makes good sense socially and economically.

Federal Reserve Says It Will Be ‘Patient’ on Interest Rate Timing (NYT)

Binyamin Appelbaum reports on the latest comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen about when the Fed will start raising interest rates. The process won't begin before April.

Fired Walmart Worker Says She Had to Choose Between a Paycheck and a Child (The Guardian)

Lauren Gambino and Jessica Glenza profile one former Walmart employee who was still asked to work with dangerous chemicals after her doctor said they would endanger her pregnancy.

What Was the Job? (Pacific Standard)

Kyle Chayka says the gig economy brought with it a massive reinterpretation of what it means to have a job, leaving behind a disenfranchised workforce without any of the benefits it once enjoyed.

New on Next New Deal

Ten Years: Students Moving the Country Forward

Roosevelt Institute Vice President of Networks Taylor Jo Isenberg reflects on the Campus Network's tenth anniversary, and how Roosevelters can continuing pushing for a better country for all of us.

Two Contradictory Arguments That Dodd-Frank is Crony Capitalism

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal compares two mutually exclusive conservative analyses of what crony capitalism means and how to fix it, which suggest this isn't a useful concept in policy debates.

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Daily Digest - December 17: Who Takes the Biggest Share of the Sharing Economy?

Dec 17, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Bloomberg Advantage: Konczal on Uber (Bloomberg)

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The Bloomberg Advantage: Konczal on Uber (Bloomberg)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that since most of the capital in Uber is in the cars, it's hard to justify the software developers getting such a large chunk of profits.

Senate Democrats Tell the SEC to Get Moving on CEO Pay Rule (HuffPo)

The public comment period for the CEO pay ratio rule expired a year ago, and some Senate Democrats are tired of waiting for it to be implemented, reports Zach Carter.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Holmberg explains the CEO pay debate in this recent primer.

Unions Sue to Stop Chicago Pension Overhaul (Chicago Sun-Times)

Fran Spielman explains why a dozen retirees and their four unions are suing the city: they say the changes are against the state constitution, which guarantees government pensions.

Some Investors Still Heart Big Banks, No Matter What Elizabeth Warren Says (The Guardian)

Suzanne McGee considers why some investors are putting their money with the big banks, despite the continued question of whether regulators will try to break them up.

Are the Democrats Allowing Social Security to Twist in the Wind? (LA Times)

Failing to vote on a Social Security commissioner is just another examples of Democrats' failure to provide this essential program with strong enough support, writes Michael Hiltzik.

The Great Budget Sellout of 2014: Do We Even Have a Second Party? (TAP)

Robert Kuttner characterizes the new spending bill as proof that our two major parties are fundamentally the same: willing to gut Dodd-Frank, defund the EPA, and cut Pell grants.

The U.S. Middle Class Has Faced a Huge “Inequality Tax” in Recent Decades (EPI)

Josh Bivens shows how U.S. middle-class income could have grown if it had matched the average growth rate over that time, as occurred following World War II.

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Daily Digest - December 11: We Don't Need Weakened Financial Regulations in the Spending Bill

Dec 11, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Democrats Revolt Against 'Wall Street Giveaway' In Deal To Prevent Government Shutdown (HuffPo)

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Democrats Revolt Against 'Wall Street Giveaway' In Deal To Prevent Government Shutdown (HuffPo)

Zach Carter and Sabrina Siddiqui quote Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz on why a provision that will bring risky derivative trades under FDIC protection is a disaster.

Warren Leads Liberal Democrats’ Rebellion Over Provisions in $1 Trillion Spending Bill (WaPo)

Senator Warren is calling on House Democrats to withhold support of the spending bill unless this derivatives provision is removed, report Lori Montgomery and Sean Sullivan.

Congress' Backroom Pension-Cutting Deal is Even Worse Than Expected (LA Times)

Michael Hiltzik details the pension-cutting measure attached to the omnibus spending bill, which he says has far fewer protections for older retirees than originally implied.

The Wall Street Takeover of Charity (ProPublica)

Donor-advised charitable funds, which are run by financial firms, aren't increasing charitable giving as much as they're making money for the firms, writes Jesse Eisinger.

Walmart Illegally Punished Workers, Judge Rules (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse reports on a National Labor Relations Board decision in California, which found that Walmart managers had illegally intimidated workers for supporting unionizing efforts.

The Economic Threat to Cities Isn't Gentrification; It's the Opposite (Vox)

With gentrification comes a higher concentration of poverty, writes Danielle Kurtzleben, and increased economic segregation comes with less economic mobility.

New on Next New Deal

The Financial Regulation Congress Is Quietly Trying to Destroy in the Budget

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal explains why Section 716 of Dodd-Frank was implemented in the first place, and why weakening it today would put the economy and taxpayers at risk.

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Daily Digest - December 1: Low Consumer Confidence is Boosting the Minimum Wage Fight

Dec 1, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Consumer Confidence Down Despite Economic Upswing (Melissa Harris-Perry)

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Consumer Confidence Down Despite Economic Upswing (Melissa Harris-Perry)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren ties business support for a higher minimum wage to the drop in consumer confidence: business owners know people need money to spend.

Five Economic Trends to Be Thankful For (NYT)

In the spirit of the holiday, Neil Irwin looks on the bright side of this year's economic news, highlighting trends like lower gas prices and increases in people voluntarily quitting their jobs.

The Big Business of Small Wage Gains (WSJ)

Justin Lahart suggests that the growth of large employers lessens worker's bargaining power over wages by giving them fewer options to choose from.

U.S. Cities Making It Harder to Feed the Homeless (The Guardian)

Suzanne McGee questions why 22 cities have passed ordinances that make it more difficult to feed the homeless in public places, seemingly motivated by downtown "revitalization."

An Udderly Bad Job (In These Times)

Joseph Sorrentino reports on the exceedingly poor labor practices that characterize the dairy industry. The sometimes-dangerous work includes low pay, no overtime, and no worker's comp.

Real World Contradicts Right-Wing Tax Theories (AJAM)

With California raising taxes and seeing higher job growth than Kansas, which cut taxes, David Cay Johnston says the real-world data disproves Republican theories.

New on Next New Deal

There Will Be Another Michael Brown: Millennial Perspectives on Ferguson

Campus Network members and staff respond to last week's news that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not stand trial for the shooting of Michael Brown.

Universities Can Prevent the Race to the Bottom for Labor Standards

Roosevelt Institute Associate Director of Networked Initiatives Alan Smith and Campus Network Midwest Regional Coordinator Julius Goldberg-Lewis argue that universities must set better standards for doing business in a tech-driven era.

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Daily Digest - November 25: Wall Street's Deals Hit Every Taxpayer

Nov 25, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Wall Street’s Taxpayer Scam: How Local Governments Get Fleeced — and So Do You (Salon)

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Wall Street’s Taxpayer Scam: How Local Governments Get Fleeced — and So Do You (Salon)

Elias Isquith interviews Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti about his new report on how governments can push back against Wall Street's predatory deals.

Food Pantries Stretched to Breaking Point by Food Stamp Cuts (AJAM)

Ned Resnikoff reports on the crisis facing food pantries in NYC, where one-third of food banks and soup kitchens had to turn people away in September.

Corporate America Is Using the Sharing Economy to Turn Us Into Temps (TNR)

Noam Scheiber says the sharing economy's expansion into temp work is part of a trend of workforce restructuring from hiring staff for peak loads to hiring the absolute minimum.

This Is the Next Big Fight Between Progressives and the Wall Street Dems (The Nation)

Senator Warren and others are protesting the nomination of Antonio Weiss to a major role in Treasury, citing his work on tax-avoiding practices like corporate inversions, writes Zoë Carpenter.

Let Old Labor Die (In These Times)

Jeremy Gantz reviews Tom Geoghegan's new book, which prescribes new models of labor organizing that are more democratic, outside of the bounds of the National Labor Relations Board.

New on Next New Deal

Artisanal Millennials and the Resurrection of Free Labor Ideology

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Economic Development Brit Byrd says growing preferences for artisanal products cannot be allowed to erase the importance of wage labor in our economy.

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Leadership Wanted: Governor Cuomo, Homeless Students Need College Support

Nov 20, 2014Kevin Stump

For homeless youth to make it through college, they need extra support, best provided through a government program of homeless liaisons.

For homeless youth to make it through college, they need extra support, best provided through a government program of homeless liaisons.

New York has been among the top 10 states with unaccompanied homeless youth (UHY) filing for federal financial aid for the last three years. In a private report to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, the United States Department of Education, reports that there were 2,215 college students applying for financial aid in New York who indicated on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid that they were homeless last year. This number does not include undocumented youth who are not eligible to apply for federal or state aid.

Unfortunately, these students are often left behind. It wasn’t until last year that New York changed an extremely outdated component of its $1 billion Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) that updated this 40-year-old in-state need-based financial aid program. The change made it so UHY are now eligible for the maximum TAP award of $5,165 that Dependent students are eligible for, versus the maximum TAP award of $3,025 available to Independent students.

In addition to outdated laws that limit the amount of aid they can receive, UHY face a number of other challenges including food insecurity, a lack of adult guidance and support, failure to access available support systems, lack of access to parental financial information, limited housing options, and a lack of financial means to live independently and safely.

New York should create a policy that models the federal McKinney-Vento Act on a college level. This landmark piece of legislation successfully creates safety nets and institutional support structures for K-12 students. By law, every school district in the country, and every school building in New York City, is required to have a liaison who is responsible for coordinating support and resources for homeless and unaccompanied youth. Every year, liaisons are required to undergo training to stay current on best practices to support and assist homeless students. Furthermore, their work has given lawmakers data and information on the best ways to support these communities.

There are more than 130,000 K-12 homeless students in New York. Among those students, nearly 11,000 11th and 12th graders approaching the end of their high school careers. These are only the numbers that are reported and do not account for the possibility of additional students who are in need.

Given the number of colleges and universities, the number of community based organizations and support networks that exist, and the high-level of poverty in New York, the state has the potential to become a leader in creating a framework of how states should build support systems for unaccompanied homeless youth to access and succeed in college.

Governor Cuomo should initiate the policy process to develop a law requiring a homeless liaison at every brick-and-mortar college and university in the state, to ensure that all former McKinney-Vento students are supported during their transition into college and throughout their tenure until graduation. The homeless liaison would be the first point of contact for professionals working with these young people and for the students who experience, or who are at risk of experiencing, homelessness while at college. The liaison would also be charged with coordinating all needed services. In addition, the liaison would be responsible for tracking and reporting all relevant data to help inform future policy regarding homeless college students and develop greater support services.

This kind of support and data-gathering could potentially exist without legislation. However, this issue is a prime example of where the state could do it better and more comprehensibly. With legislative protections and teeth to ensure sustainable and uniformed support is given, as well as appropriate resources for service delivery, training, technology, data collection, and future statewide policy initiatives, the liaisons will be able to provide better support to UHY in college. A statewide policy setting up liaisons would establish an infrastructure that can be used to easily implement future policy.

As economic inequality and homelessness rates remain high, and college attainment continues to be so crucial, it’s critical that New York take action to protect our most at-need college students to ensure that those who are pursuing their dreams don’t slip through the cracks.

Kevin Stump is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Leadership Director.

 

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Leadership Wanted: Pushing for More College Attainment? Start in Public Housing.

Nov 6, 2014Kevin Stump

Public housing creates an opportunity to bring together resources to increase college attainment and success for some of New York City's neediest students.

“We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love. And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York,” Mayor de Blasio stated during his Inauguration Speech on January 1, 2014.

Public housing creates an opportunity to bring together resources to increase college attainment and success for some of New York City's neediest students.

“We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love. And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York,” Mayor de Blasio stated during his Inauguration Speech on January 1, 2014.

As I discussed in “The College Access Crisis Needs You, Mayor de Blasio,” part of the “new progressive direction” Mayor de Blasio envisions must include a radical transformation of how we prioritize and invest in college access pipeline opportunities to combat economic and social inequalities.

The City should bring together all of the housing-related agencies to develop a strategy that will initiate an aggressive plan to further integrate and leverage community partners and key stakeholders to close the college readiness gap among students living in NYC public housing. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), whose mission is to “increase opportunities for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers by providing safe, affordable housing and facilitating access to social and community services,” is an ideal place to start.

There are well over 600,000 New Yorkers served by conventional public housing with an average family income of under $25,000 and nearly 250,000 families on a waiting list. As alarming as this reality is, it very clearly identifies hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who would greatly benefit from a strategic shockwave of investments – both political and financial – to radically open up the opportunities pipeline, focusing on increasing college attainment.

Public housing developments are almost always located in communities that are low-income and high poverty, with a disproportionate concentration of minorities. They were intentionally built in these communities as a response of America’s Great Migration from 1915 to the 1970s, in which blacks migrated from the segregated south to the northern cities. Consequently, these cities never fully integrated and still remain economically and geographically segregated today. About 75 percent of public students who live in NYCHA housing are eligible for a free school lunch (an indicator to identify poverty) and more than 75 percent of these students are Black or Hispanic.

It’s no secret. A kid living in public housing performs worse than a kid who doesn’t. By a lot. Only 38 percent of NYCHA students passed their reading exams and just 41 percent passed their math exams. Among non-NYCHA students, nearly 50 percent of students passed their reading exams while nearly 52 percent of students passed their math exams. What’s more is that only about 55 percent of NYCHA students graduate from high school versus 61 percent of their non-NYCHA peers. This might help to explain why only 3 percent of CUNY freshman come from public housing and why those freshmen require more remedial course work than their non-public housing counterparts.

It is important to note that there is some work being done already. NYCHA offers a few scholarships for public housing students to pursue higher learning. NYCHA also partners with groups like the Educational Alliance. Unfortunately, these efforts are not only underfunded but often focus only on admissions related topics rather than actually preparing for and succeeding at college.

In addition to leveraging NYCHA and other housing-related agencies to reach New Yorkers in public housing, New York City has about forty other agencies serving more than eight million residents and employing about 300,000 public employees.

The city needs to use the public housing infrastructure to develop comprehensive college access centers that utilize and leverage existing projects, organizations, and networks such as the College Access Consortium of New York, GraduateNYC!, Bloomberg Philanthropies new initiative, the Partnership for Afterschool Education, and many others. This includes more than just test prep and admissions advising. A comprehensive college access center would provide full academic, financial, and social support preparing students and their family communities from 9th grade, supporting them while they earn their college degree, and coaching them through the beginning of their career. Integrated into NYCHA space, these centers would build a partnership made up of only the most proven and effective models that currently exist allowing us to see where innovation may be required for this much needed policy experiment to increase college attainment and fight inequality.

Similar to Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine,” which argues that leaders use crisis to push through policies, Mayor de Blasio should use the crisis of great economic disparity to fundamentally reimagine how New York City is tackling economic inequality through college access pipeline opportunities by using all of government and its tools, starting with public housing.

Kevin Stump is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Leadership Director.

Photo via Flickr.

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Will Kansas Voters Choose to Continue Their Governor's Economic Experiments?

Nov 3, 2014Andrea FlynnShulie Eisen

In the past four years, Governor Brownback has brought radical tax cuts to Kansas, and the gubernatorial election will show if Kansans approve of the result. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

In the past four years, Governor Brownback has brought radical tax cuts to Kansas, and the gubernatorial election will show if Kansans approve of the result. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

Kansas governor Sam Brownback – one of the most conservative leaders in the nation – is in a close fight to prevent State Representative Paul Davis (D) from taking his seat. Four years ago Brownback took office with hopes of making Kansas a "real, live experiment" to create a mid-western conservative utopia. He has slashed business regulations; privatized Medicaid delivery; cut taxes for the wealthy; and practically eliminated income taxes, a move that Mother Jones recently described as putting the state into “cardiac arrest.”

The Kansas City Star recently wrote that Brownback’s dream is far from a reality. Since his radical tax cuts took effect “31 other states have added jobs at a faster clip than Kansas,” state revenue is hundreds of millions less than expected, and Kansas’ public services – particularly K-12 education – are seriously imperiled. And as a result, Brownback’s leadership is also in peril. Recent polls have the two candidates virtually tied. The victor on Tuesday will dramatically influence a number of important issues in Kansas, perhaps none more than those that have a disproportionate impact on women and their families. And the candidates couldn’t be further apart on those issues.

Where do women in Kansas stand?

As we described in our analysis of the Kansas Senate race, women in that state face high rates of poverty, un- and underemployment, and a persistent wage gap. Many still lack insurance coverage, suffer from a lack of paid sick and family leave, and have an unmet need for quality, affordable health care, particularly reproductive healthcare. Kansas is not participating in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), leaving nearly 80,000 adults currently uninsured, half of whom are women, who would have otherwise qualified. Kansas is also the only state in the country that saw its uninsured rate significantly increase in the last year.

Where do the candidates stand?

Affordable Care Act

Governor Brownback has refused federal funds to participate in Medicaid expansion under the ACA, and signed a bill that devolved the authority for Medicaid expansion to the legislature, where hell might freeze over before one of the main pillars of President Obama’s signature policy achievement is fulfilled. This move has guaranteed that even if Davis wins, Kansas is unlikely to see an expansion of Medicaid anytime soon, even though 52 precent of Kansans are in support of it. Forty-one percent have said that Brownback’s failure to expand Medicaid would make them less likely to vote for him.

Davis has said that expanding Medicaid is “the right thing” for Kansas to do.

 

Family Planning

Under Brownback’s leadership, Kansas passed a law in 2011 blocking all federal Title X family planning funds to clinics and other entities providing abortions, drastically limiting financial support for Planned Parenthood and other providers. 

Paul Davis has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

 

Abortion

Kansas has passed a number of restrictions on abortion, much of it under Brownback’s leadership, including, among other restrictions, a 24-hour waiting period; state-directed counseling; the requirement that an optional rider must be purchased at additional cost for abortion coverage in private insurance; the prohibition of telemedicine for medication abortions; parental consent for a minor; and an ultrasound requirement. Many of these requirements were passed in an omnibus bill, KS HB 2253, in April 2013 and are currently being challenged in two different lawsuits.

Brownback is one of the country’s staunchest abortion opponents. In his 2014 State of the State address, he went so far as to equate recent anti-abortion protests with the abolitionist movement and abortion with slavery (he was later criticized roundly for it).

Davis’s record on abortion is mixed but he is seen as largely pro-choice, and was endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. He has voted for a state requirement that abortion providers report the medical basis for their determination to perform an abortion to the Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment, but he has voted against a number of other state restrictions, including a state ban on so-called partial birth abortion and the 2013 bill, KS HB 2253.

Minimum wage and the social safety net

In 2007 and 2009, while serving as U.S. Senator (1996-2011), Brownback voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (meant to restore protections against pay discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, age, religion, or disability). Under Brownback’s leadership, 15,000 people have been kicked off welfare rolls. He also cut child tax credits, eliminated tax rebates for food and rent that had been aimed at the poorest residents, cut taxes for the rich and raised them for the poor, and changed the state’s food stamp rules, pushing 20,000 unemployed Kansans out of the program.

There is no public information on Paul Davis’s stance on these issues.

 

Economy

Brownback stands by his sweeping income tax cuts. "The state's economy is good and growing," Brownback said recently. "Overall, this economy in this state is performing well." The Kansas City Star reported that the state has seen “more robust growth in private-sector employment since Brownback took office in January 2011.” In the past few years the state gained more than 70,000 private sector jobs and its gross domestic product rose by 6.1 percent, a bit more than the United States overall. However, the paper also pointed out that “Kansas’ private-sector job growth was less robust than the nation's as a whole … And the state's private-sector job growth slowed after the tax cuts took effect in 2013 and has been about half the national figure since December 2012.” Additionally, unemployment rates have fallen less than in neighboring states, while payrolls have increased less. More people moved out of the state than moved in, and the tax cuts are blamed for the massive cuts in education spending – the state spent $100 million less on schools in 2014 than in 2009. But it appears as though Brownback would stay the course if re-elected.

Davis has argued that Brownback’s economic policies are a “failed ideological experiment that is bleeding state government while endangering public education and many other services.” But Davis is reluctant to say what policies he would put into place to address the state’s economic woes. He recently said that he is “spending a lot of time talking to business leaders and community leaders about how they believe we ought to grow the economy.”

Read the rest of this series here.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Shulie Eisen is an independent reproductive health care consultant. Follow her on Twitter @shulieeisen.

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Control of the Senate Could Lie With Kansas

Nov 3, 2014Andrea FlynnShulie Eisen

The Kansas Senate race could determine control of Congress - but there isn't a Democrat involved. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

The Kansas Senate race could determine control of Congress - but there isn't a Democrat involved. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

Kansas is in the midst of not one, but two, close-call midterm races: the Senate race between Senator Pat Roberts (R) and Greg Orman (Independent), and the Governor’s race between Governor Sam Brownback (R) and State Representative Paul Davis (D). The Senate race has been closely watched since the Democratic candidate, Chad Taylor, dropped out in September, launching Orman, running for Senate as an Independent, into the hot seat and giving the political landscape in Kansas an extra dose of unpredictability. Orman bills himself as “fiscally responsible and socially tolerant,” and it is unclear which party he would more closely align himself with if elected. What is clear is that Kansas voters are still undecided, with almost every poll predicting a different election outcome. The race for this Senate seat in Kansas may very well decide which party controls Congress, and women voters in Kansas could determine which way the tide turns.

Where do women in Kansas stand?

  • As in most states, women in Kansas face higher poverty rates than men, and women of color experience rates almost twice that of white women.
  • Over 40 percent of female-headed households live in poverty.
  • Kansas is the only state in the country that saw its uninsured rate significantly increase in the last year. Fourteen percent of women (18 percent of African Americans and 28 percent of Latina women) in Kansas (age 19-64) are uninsured.
  • Kansas is not participating in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, leaving approximately 78,000 currently uninsured adults, half of whom are women, who would have otherwise qualified, without coverage.
  • Sixty percent of minimum wage earners are women.
  • According to the National Women’s Law Center, the unemployment rate for women in Kansas in 2011 was 6.2 percent, a 2.1 percentage point increase since the recession began in December 2007. 41.7 percent of jobless women workers in Kansas had been looking for work for 27 weeks or more.
  • Women also face a persistent gender wage gap – while women overall make only $0.76 for every dollar a white man makes, African American women make $0.66 to the dollar and Hispanic women only make $0.50 to every dollar.
  • The state has no paid sick leave or family leave policies.
  • Kansas passed a law in 2011 that blocked any clinic or provider that provides abortions from receiving Title X federal family planning funds (federal law already prevents Title X funds from being used for abortion but does allow providers to use other funding sources to pay for such services).

Where do the candidates stand?

Affordable Care Act

Senator Pat Roberts has consistently opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and is a vocal critic who advocates for complete repeal of the law. He was the first to call for the resignation of Kathleen Sebelius, the then-Secretary of Health and Human Services, and supported the federal government shutdown during the debate to defund the ACA. In the past, Roberts has supported federal health care spending, voting for the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit and supporting efforts at the federal level to expand access to health care service delivery options in rural areas.

Greg Orman has criticized the ACA as an expansion of a “broken system” and says he would have voted against it if he had been in the Senate, but has said he does not support repealing the entire ACA. He has also said that Governor Brownback made a mistake in not accepting federal money to expand Medicaid in Kansas.

Family Planning

Roberts supported the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, saying “Every American has a right to the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to our Constitution.” Roberts voted no on adopting an amendment to the Senate’s 2006 budget that allocated $100 million to increase funding and access to family planning services (including creating and expanding teen pregnancy prevention and education programs).

Orman disagreed with the Hobby Lobby ruling, saying on his website that the case “is a dangerous precedent to set and opens the door to many more court challenges from private employers.” He also says that, “As a man, I’ll never face some of the decisions women have to make. I know the women of Kansas are smart, and I trust them to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.”

Abortion

Kansas has passed a number of restrictions on abortion, including, among other restrictions, a 24-hour waiting period, state-directed counseling, the requirement that an optional rider must be purchased at additional cost for abortion coverage in private insurance, the prohibition of telemedicine for medication abortions, parental consent for a minor, and an ultrasound requirement. Many of these requirements were passed in an omnibus bill in April 2013 and are currently being challenged in two different lawsuits.

Roberts is a staunch abortion rights opponent and has voted a number of times in support of federal restrictions on abortion access, including an amendment prohibiting minors from going across state lines for abortion services, a bill that would make harming a fetus during a violent crime a criminal offense, the 2003 “partial-birth” abortion ban, and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. In a recent debate with Orman, Roberts blasted him for suggesting that a debate on abortion was detracting from other important issues. "Get past the rights of the unborn? Get past the guarantee of life for those at the end of life? ... I think that's unconscionable," Roberts said.

Orman has said he supports access to abortion services and that he believes “it’s time for our government to move past this issue and start focusing on other important issues.”

Violence Against Women

Roberts was one of 22 Senators to vote against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013. It was his second time voting against the bill. Many who opposed VAWA considered it an overreach of the federal government to include specific new protections for immigrants, gays, and Native Americans.

Orman's campaign materials and website do not mention violence against women.

Minimum wage and the social safety net

Roberts does not support raising the minimum wage. Roberts also added an amendment, which ultimately did not pass, to the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (the Farm Bill) to cut $12 billion in addition to the $4 billion already in the bill that did pass from the SNAP program (also known as food stamps).

Orman supports tying a federal rise in the minimum wage to inflation, and believes that areas with higher costs of living should have a higher minimum wage. He has not said anything publically on food stamps or other social safety net programs.

Read the rest of this series here.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Shulie Eisen is an independent reproductive health care consultant. Follow her on Twitter @shulieeisen.

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