Daily Digest - December 18: Economic Liberalism is Not Just a Charity Project

Dec 18, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Is the Safety Net Just Masking Tape? (NYT)

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Is the Safety Net Just Masking Tape? (NYT)

Thomas Edsall uses Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal's blog post on "pity-charity liberal capitalism" to discuss the loss of economic liberalism in policy. They agree that without structural economic reform, the safety net is merely holding things together, not progressing the liberal project.

North Carolina Shows How to Crush the Unemployed (Bloomberg)

Evan Soltas suggests North Carolina's policies demonstrate what could happen across the U.S when the federal extension of unemployment insurance expires on January 1. The results aren't pretty; the state's labor force has shrunk, and food pantries are struggling to meet increasing needs.

Unemployment Benefits Are Ending for 1.3 Million Americans. What's That All About? (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger explains why federal emergency unemployment benefits are being cut off and what's likely to happen to the people who have been relying on those funds. In 2012, unemployment insurance kept 1.7 million people out of poverty. It's not difficult to imagine what 2014 could look like.

Washington, DC city council raises minimum wage to $11.50/hr in 2016 (Reuters)

Ian Simpson reports on the unanimous city council vote, which makes the mayor's opposition irrelevant. The city council coordinated with two neighboring counties in Maryland, and the combined region of 2.5 million residents will have a higher minimum wage than any state.

Supersize My Wage (NYT)

Annie Lowrey looks at a study on the effects of New Jersey's 1992 minimum wage increase on fast food restaurants on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. It showed no increase in unemployment, and advocates continue to use it to combat scaremongering about the federal minimum wage.

The Human Price of Innovation at Amazon (Policyshop)

David Callahan argues that since the most innovative big companies are often totally miserable to work for, free enterprise can't be the source of human happiness. Amazon and Wal-Mart have pioneered major changes in their industries, but they are also innovators in terrible labor practices.

New on Next New Deal

A Silicon Valley CEO's Words Can't Hurt the Poor, But Government Can Help Them

Nell Abernathy, Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, takes Greg Gopman's tirade about the homeless in San Francisco as a starting point to argue for the importance of government in fighting for social welfare.

Guest Post: Max Sawicky on the Liberal Case Against a Universal Basic Income

Max Sawicky argues that a Universal Base Income is actually about the dream of wiping the slate clean of our past anti-poverty programs. Instead of attempting something so fantastical, he says we need to spend more time considering the programs that are actually possible.

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Guest Post: Max Sawicky on the Liberal Case Against a Universal Basic Income

Dec 17, 2013Mike Konczal

Earlier this month, I was on a Wonkblog live event panel discussing a Universal Basic Income (some video clips here), a topic I wrote about at Wonkblog earlier in the year. There was two people for and two people against, one from the left and one from the right. The person who represented the liberal side who was against a Universal Basic Income was Max Sawicky, formerly of EPI and the blog Maxspeak. He had prepared remarks for his introduction. I asked him if I could post them here and he agreed, and here it is:

With the coming referendum in Switzerland has come a flurry of commentary about a “Universal Basic Income” (UBI). There are some strange bedfellows from left and right are saying nice things about it. I suggest that it can be a distraction from more important things.

If you don’t have time to read this, just consider that a payment of $10,000 to every U.S. adult, a pretty basic basic income, would cost $2.5 trillion. Game over.

That aside, first off we need to distinguish between the objective of ensuring a minimum standard of consumption for all persons and the specifics of a UBI. You can support the first without the baggage of the second. More plausible ways to pursue the objective include: promote full employment, raise the minimum wage, rationalize and expand our system of refundable tax credits in the Federal individual income tax, federalize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (reversing the welfare reform of 1996), establish the Federal government as an employer of last resort, support trade unions, and establish pay for caregivers. All of these in some combination are worth more of our time than a UBI. They are all more in keeping with our current system and our political culture.

What’s wrong with the UBI? It is not the utopianism. The measures I note, if you scale them up, are pretty ambitious. Nor do I see incentive problems with a UBI or similar measures. I do not believe that the availability of a UBI would spawn an army of slackers and moochers.

Let's start with the rationale for the UBI, which I would summarize as eliminating poverty with a low overhead cost. That still leaves a lot to the imagination. UBI proposals tend not to be fully baked. Presumably you reduce overhead by eliminating existing programs, but which ones? Are you willing to ding people at 105% of the poverty line to help others below it? Note you would still need eligibility determination and verification with a universal program. And how universal would it be? Immigrants? The aged? Children? Prisoners? Ex-convicts?

Like good fiction, the way to read the UBI is not as a real proposal, but as a message about something else: our existing system. But the implicit critique of the existing system underlying UBI advocacy is not well-founded.

Overhead cost is typically exaggerated in conservative discussions. Conservatives present comparisons of spending under a long list of Federal programs, many of which have broader or entirely different objectives than reducing poverty. The costs of programs that try to do things requiring public employees are not the same as ‘overhead,’ nor are these employees necessarily a bureaucracy. Even the programs explicitly aimed at reducing poverty are designed to cover more than just those under the poverty line. Moreover, the overhead costs of the main programs noted below are low, for the most part.

We also see exaggerations of the number of programs that are dedicated to reducing poverty. The fact is that most anti-poverty spending is concentrated in relatively few places: Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, unemployment compensation, and housing subsidies. Coverage in most of these programs goes well above the official poverty line.

In the current system, there is plenty to criticize. Eligibility could be simplified and broadened. Assistance could be increased. The main gap in coverage where a UBI would have the most impact is on able-bodied adults without children, who currently get the least from the current system as far as cash transfers are concerned. I’ve already mentioned easier ways to remedy that deficiency.

So why are we talking about the UBI? Dissatisfaction with the current system feeds a dream of wiping the slate clean, but motivations for a clean slate vary drastically.

Some on the right would like to replace existing programs because they disapprove of what those programs do, not because they fail to erase poverty. What the programs do is masked with the epithet of “bureaucracy.” Or they imagine a scenario where Federal spending decreases, and the remaining UBI programs can then be further whittled down over time. In effect, conservative supporters of the UBI concede their major, historic critique of anti-poverty benefits – the moocher issue. One naturally wonders how deeply felt this conversion really is.

Some on the left would like more ample, broader, simpler provision of benefits. This critique actually goes back to the 60s, when the principal anti-poverty program – Aid to Families with Dependent Children – was viewed as intrusive and demeaning.

If you like the transfer of cold cash, your chief target ought to be Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the fruits of the Clinton/Gingrich welfare reform of 1996. The Feds provide a grant to state governments, who busy themselves with helping people to help themselves. In the actual event, states helped a lot of people off the welfare rolls and into poverty. The national poverty rate, notwithstanding this reform, steadily went up after 2000. So if you want to strike a blow for reduced overhead, simplicity, and adequacy – if you’re serious – go ahead and make my day: Federalize TANF and establish it as an individual, adequate cash payment to which every resident has a legal right. To constrain its cost, limit eligibility to families with dependent children and phase it out as other income grows.

We do have a mix of programs – what’s been called a “mish-mosh” -- aimed at poverty reduction, among other objectives. Why this complexity?

1.  No surprise, poor people don’t have much political power. They are obliged to seek alliances with provider interests – most famously with agriculture behind the food stamp program (an alliance that may be ending).

2.  The disorganization of Congress and associated interest groups encourages fragmentation. Every member wants something specific to attach his or her name to. (In recent decades, instead of spending programs, we have tax breaks named after Members of Congress).

3.  Federalism, hard-wired into our constitution.

4.  Public opinion, a Tower of Babel.

In light of these constraints, why dwell on a proposal founded on the mirage of wiping the slate clean to start from scratch that presumes a completely fantastical political environment? The answer is, to avoid devices that have been used successfully in the past, that exist at some level and actually work, that stand better than a ghost of a chance at being enacted, and importantly, surviving.

People need a basic income, so they need us to talk about the best ways to get it.

Max Sawicky is employed with the Federal government. His views here do not represent those of his employer.

Follow or contact the Rortybomb blog:

  

 

Earlier this month, I was on a Wonkblog live event panel discussing a Universal Basic Income (some video clips here), a topic I wrote about at Wonkblog earlier in the year. There was two people for and two people against, one from the left and one from the right. The person who represented the liberal side who was against a Universal Basic Income was Max Sawicky, formerly of EPI and the blog Maxspeak. He had prepared remarks for his introduction. I asked him if I could post them here and he agreed, and here it is:

With the coming referendum in Switzerland has come a flurry of commentary about a “Universal Basic Income” (UBI). There are some strange bedfellows from left and right are saying nice things about it. I suggest that it can be a distraction from more important things.

If you don’t have time to read this, just consider that a payment of $10,000 to every U.S. adult, a pretty basic basic income, would cost $2.5 trillion. Game over.

That aside, first off we need to distinguish between the objective of ensuring a minimum standard of consumption for all persons and the specifics of a UBI. You can support the first without the baggage of the second. More plausible ways to pursue the objective include: promote full employment, raise the minimum wage, rationalize and expand our system of refundable tax credits in the Federal individual income tax, federalize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (reversing the welfare reform of 1996), establish the Federal government as an employer of last resort, support trade unions, and establish pay for caregivers. All of these in some combination are worth more of our time than a UBI. They are all more in keeping with our current system and our political culture.

What’s wrong with the UBI? It is not the utopianism. The measures I note, if you scale them up, are pretty ambitious. Nor do I see incentive problems with a UBI or similar measures. I do not believe that the availability of a UBI would spawn an army of slackers and moochers.

Let's start with the rationale for the UBI, which I would summarize as eliminating poverty with a low overhead cost. That still leaves a lot to the imagination. UBI proposals tend not to be fully baked. Presumably you reduce overhead by eliminating existing programs, but which ones? Are you willing to ding people at 105% of the poverty line to help others below it? Note you would still need eligibility determination and verification with a universal program. And how universal would it be? Immigrants? The aged? Children? Prisoners? Ex-convicts?

Like good fiction, the way to read the UBI is not as a real proposal, but as a message about something else: our existing system. But the implicit critique of the existing system underlying UBI advocacy is not well-founded.

Overhead cost is typically exaggerated in conservative discussions. Conservatives present comparisons of spending under a long list of Federal programs, many of which have broader or entirely different objectives than reducing poverty. The costs of programs that try to do things requiring public employees are not the same as ‘overhead,’ nor are these employees necessarily a bureaucracy. Even the programs explicitly aimed at reducing poverty are designed to cover more than just those under the poverty line. Moreover, the overhead costs of the main programs noted below are low, for the most part.

We also see exaggerations of the number of programs that are dedicated to reducing poverty. The fact is that most anti-poverty spending is concentrated in relatively few places: Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, unemployment compensation, and housing subsidies. Coverage in most of these programs goes well above the official poverty line.

In the current system, there is plenty to criticize. Eligibility could be simplified and broadened. Assistance could be increased. The main gap in coverage where a UBI would have the most impact is on able-bodied adults without children, who currently get the least from the current system as far as cash transfers are concerned. I’ve already mentioned easier ways to remedy that deficiency.

So why are we talking about the UBI? Dissatisfaction with the current system feeds a dream of wiping the slate clean, but motivations for a clean slate vary drastically.

Some on the right would like to replace existing programs because they disapprove of what those programs do, not because they fail to erase poverty. What the programs do is masked with the epithet of “bureaucracy.” Or they imagine a scenario where Federal spending decreases, and the remaining UBI programs can then be further whittled down over time. In effect, conservative supporters of the UBI concede their major, historic critique of anti-poverty benefits – the moocher issue. One naturally wonders how deeply felt this conversion really is.

Some on the left would like more ample, broader, simpler provision of benefits. This critique actually goes back to the 60s, when the principal anti-poverty program – Aid to Families with Dependent Children – was viewed as intrusive and demeaning.

If you like the transfer of cold cash, your chief target ought to be Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the fruits of the Clinton/Gingrich welfare reform of 1996. The Feds provide a grant to state governments, who busy themselves with helping people to help themselves. In the actual event, states helped a lot of people off the welfare rolls and into poverty. The national poverty rate, notwithstanding this reform, steadily went up after 2000. So if you want to strike a blow for reduced overhead, simplicity, and adequacy – if you’re serious – go ahead and make my day: Federalize TANF and establish it as an individual, adequate cash payment to which every resident has a legal right. To constrain its cost, limit eligibility to families with dependent children and phase it out as other income grows.

We do have a mix of programs – what’s been called a “mish-mosh” -- aimed at poverty reduction, among other objectives. Why this complexity?

1.  No surprise, poor people don’t have much political power. They are obliged to seek alliances with provider interests – most famously with agriculture behind the food stamp program (an alliance that may be ending).

2.  The disorganization of Congress and associated interest groups encourages fragmentation. Every member wants something specific to attach his or her name to. (In recent decades, instead of spending programs, we have tax breaks named after Members of Congress).

3.  Federalism, hard-wired into our constitution.

4.  Public opinion, a Tower of Babel.

In light of these constraints, why dwell on a proposal founded on the mirage of wiping the slate clean to start from scratch that presumes a completely fantastical political environment? The answer is, to avoid devices that have been used successfully in the past, that exist at some level and actually work, that stand better than a ghost of a chance at being enacted, and importantly, surviving.

People need a basic income, so they need us to talk about the best ways to get it.

Max Sawicky is employed with the Federal government. His views here do not represent those of his employer.

Follow or contact the Rortybomb blog:

  

 

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Daily Digest - December 10: A Reminder That Policy Affects Human Lives

Dec 10, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Invisible Child (NYT)

Andrea Elliot reports in great depth on the life of a homeless girl in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. By placing this story in context with Mayor Bloomberg's housing and homelessness policies, she makes the effects of bad policy on human lives crystal clear.

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Invisible Child (NYT)

Andrea Elliot reports in great depth on the life of a homeless girl in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. By placing this story in context with Mayor Bloomberg's housing and homelessness policies, she makes the effects of bad policy on human lives crystal clear.

Study: U.S. Poverty Rate Decreased Over Past Half-Century Thanks to Safety-Net Programs (WaPo)

Zachary Goldfarb reports on a new study from Columbia University, which contradicts the official poverty rate significantly. The researchers traced back poverty using newer standards, and found that the safety net is particularly effective at protecting kids from poverty.

How Inequality Became as American as Apple Pie (The Nation)

Jessica Weisberg compares the concepts of inequality and mobility, ways to discuss poverty that appeal to opposite ends of the political spectrum. The right may prefer to talk about mobility, but social mobility in the U.S. is pretty terrible, which maintains inequality.

Let's Get This Straight: AIG Execs Got Bailout Bonuses, but Pensioners Get Cuts (The Guardian)

Dean Baker asks why the White House had to maintain AIG's contractual obligations during the bailout, even when it meant paying bonuses in March 2009, but Chicago can ignore its contracts to pensioners today.

Robbing Illinois's Public Employees (TAP)

David Dayen explains how pension theft has become a new norm. Public employees can no longer count on ever seeing the pension funds they negotiate for today, and the current retirees are in an even worse place, because many don't receive Social Security.

Tea Party Representative Supports Wasteful Government Program, Because YOHO (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait says there's one clear tie among the government programs supported by Republican obstructionists: private profits. When sugar subsidies are "accepted norms," as Rep. Yoho (R-FL) said, it must be better to cut SNAP or Medicaid.

More Than Three-Quarters of Workers Missing from the Labor Force Are Under Age 55 (Working Economics)

Heidi Shierholz looks at a breakdown of "missing workers" (those who are neither employed nor looking for work) by age. Only a quarter of the missing workers could be early retirees, and the other 4.3 million will probably reenter the job market when it picks up.

New on Next New Deal

Think Global, Act Hyper-Local: Campus Network Rates Colleges on Economic and Social Impact in Their Communities

Roosevelt Institute Associate Director of Networked Initiatives Alan Smith explains a new Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network initiative, in which students will help their schools find ways to improve how they affect local communities.

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Daily Digest - December 6: The Sky Isn't Falling From Minimum Wage Hikes

Dec 6, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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The Roosevelt Institute joins in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela yesterday. Mandela received the 2002 Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal to honor his incredible legacy of civil rights work. You can read the citation written in his honor and his acceptance speech here.

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The Roosevelt Institute joins in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela yesterday. Mandela received the 2002 Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal to honor his incredible legacy of civil rights work. You can read the citation written in his honor and his acceptance speech here.

Minimum Wage, Major Fight (Jansing & Co.)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren argues that raising the minimum wage won't cause the sky to collapse, despite messaging from McDonald's and the rest of the fast-food industry. Higher wages would instead reinforce and grow the middle class.

Raising Interest Rates Now Would Be a Tragic Error (U.S. News & World Report)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick writes that our economy is still too fragile for the Fed to start raising interest rates. That would cause a cascade of other problems, including harming our already slack labor market.

Long-Term Unemployment is Still at its Highest Levels Since World War II (WaPo)

Brad Plumer points out that in the past, emergency unemployment benefits didn't end until the long-term unemployment rate was under half the current rate of 2.6 percent. But House Republicans don't seem to care that cutting benefits won't magically give people work.

Massachusetts Voters Will Weigh In On Guaranteeing Paid Sick Days (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert reports that activists turned in nearly four times as many signatures as needed to get paid sick leave on the ballot for 2014 in Massachusetts. They also delivered a petition for raising the minimum wage, but the state's legislature might beat them to it.

While Obama Talks Poverty, Stabenow Agrees to $8 Billion More in SNAP Cuts (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann reports that while the President was giving his speech on economic inequality, the Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee was agreeing to a deal on SNAP cuts. Never before has a Democratic-controlled Senate even proposed cuts to SNAP.

New on Next New Deal

Obama Updates His Story About America

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch examines President Obama's speech on economic inequality. He says the president is presenting inequality as a roadblock to the American Dream, and progressives should run with this story to inspire action.

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Daily Digest - December 4: Youth Unemployment Is Leading to Tragedy

Dec 4, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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"Tragedy as a generation" for U.S. Youth (Marketplace)

David Brancaccio speaks to Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick about the problems young people are facing in today's economy. He says that without professional lobbyists, other groups' needs are being heard over young people's.

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"Tragedy as a generation" for U.S. Youth (Marketplace)

David Brancaccio speaks to Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick about the problems young people are facing in today's economy. He says that without professional lobbyists, other groups' needs are being heard over young people's.

CFPB To Supervise Largest Student Loan Servicers (HuffPo)

Shahien Nasiripour reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has finalized a rule giving it oversight over the companies that collect payments on federal student loans. This should hopefully ensure more borrower-friendly practices.

Detroit Is Bankrupt: What Now? (Pacific Standard)

Anna Clark lists the three most important things to be aware of now that the courts have approved Detroit's bankruptcy filing. She notes that this case will have a major impact on other cities, which look to Detroit as an example of the possibilities in their future.

Fighting Corruption Polls Off the Charts (MSNBC)

Zachary Roth reports on a new poll from represent.us which shows that the vast majority of Americans support tougher campaign finance laws. Unfortunately, incumbents seem uninterested in changing the rules that helped to get them elected.

  • Roosevelt Take: Jeff Raines, Chair of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Student Board of Advisors, explains how a current Supreme Court case could further weaken campaign finance law.

Black Friday and the Race to the Bottom (The New Yorker)

George Packer ties low retail sales during the extended Black Friday weekend to the fights for a higher minimum wage. Executives should recognize the practical truth that workers need to be able to afford to shop too.

Tax Breaks for CEOs Pay for Million-Dollar Salaries (The Guardian)

Jana Kasperkevic explains the performance pay loophole that allows corporations to deduct millions in executive compensation from their federal income taxes. She draws a parallel between the results of that policy and the low wages of average fast food workers.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Director of Research Susan Holmberg and Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network alum Lydia Austin wrote a white paper calling on Congress to close the performance pay loophole. Read it here.

Low Bank Wages Costing the Public Millions, Report Says (WaPo)

Danielle Douglas writes that new data from the University of California at Berkeley's Labor Center shows that bank employees are relying heavily on public assistance, to the tune of $900 million a year. The banking industry reported $141.3 billion in profits last year.

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Daily Digest - December 3: Obamacare Doesn't Eliminate the Need for Title X

Dec 3, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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What's the Deal: Why Is Title X Important to the Success of the ACA? (Roosevelt Institute)

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What's the Deal: Why Is Title X Important to the Success of the ACA? (Roosevelt Institute)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn breaks down the connection between Title X family planning clinics and the Affordable Care Act. She says that fully funding Title X would greatly increase the successes of health care reform.

Doing Macro First (NYT)

Paul Krugman agrees with Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal's recent Wonkblog column where he suggested shifting the order of subjects in introductory economics courses. Putting macroeconomics first help students try to make sense of the current crisis.

The Exploited Laborers of the Liberal Media (Vice)

Charles Davis looks at the array of liberal publications that write about labor issues, including the internship economy, without paying their own interns. Some publications are finally changing that model, but only after public pressure.

The Solution to Unemployment Isn’t Better-Trained Workers: Or, Systemic Problems Have Systemic Solutions (An Und Für Sich)

Adam Kotsko points out that calls for better training won't do anything to solve the number of jobs available or the quality of those jobs. If worker education is expanded, as a Wal-Mart VP suggests in response to protests, Wal-Mart will just have a more educated staff.

Holiday Weekend Sales Dip on Discounts; E-commerce Jumps (Reuters)

Phil Wahba reports that while even more people went shopping over the holiday weekend, total sales were still down. Steep discounts may have drawn in shoppers, but they didn't help the stores' profit margins.

NY State Regulator Subpoenas 16 Websites for Ties to Payday Lenders (WSJ)

Shayndi Rice explains that the state's Department of Financial Services suspects these websites are selling personal information to payday lenders that charge illegally high rates. Some of these predatory lenders charge annual interest rates over 600 percent.

Fast-Food Workers In 100 Cities To Walk Off The Job (HuffPo)

Candice Choi and Sam Hananel report on the upcoming protest, which will happen on Thursday. Demonstrations are planned in another hundred cities in addition to the strikes, making this the largest protest yet in fast food workers' call for higher wages.

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Why Is Title X Important to the Success of the ACA?

Dec 2, 2013

As part of the Roosevelt Institute's "What's the Deal?" series, Fellow Andrea Flynn explains the importance of Title X in relation to the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

As part of the Roosevelt Institute's "What's the Deal?" series, Fellow Andrea Flynn explains the importance of Title X in relation to the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Read Andrea's paper here.

Have an idea or topic suggestion for our "What's the Deal" series? Let us know by tweeting at #RIExplains and @RooseveltInst.

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Daily Digest - December 2: Pushing Back on Low Wage Norms

Dec 2, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Will Low-Wage Jobs be the Norm? (Melissa Harris Perry)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren discusses low-wage work following Black Friday protests at Walmart and other retailers. As low-wage work grows, he says American social mobility has fallen to its lowest point in decades.

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Will Low-Wage Jobs be the Norm? (Melissa Harris Perry)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren discusses low-wage work following Black Friday protests at Walmart and other retailers. As low-wage work grows, he says American social mobility has fallen to its lowest point in decades.

The Spyware That Enables Mobile-Phone Snooping (Bloomberg View)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford explains how mobile phone companies' refusal to upgrade infrastructure leaves openings for private espionage. But since law enforcement uses these same weaknesses in the network, no one is rushing to solve this problem.

Colleges are Teaching Economics Backwards (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues that the perfect models of microeconomics give students in introductory economics courses the impression that markets should work. Why not start with the macroeconomic problems that affect them?

We’re Not Broke — We’ve Been Robbed (Other Words)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch points out just how important it is to remember that the government is not a household, and in fact should spend beyond its means during recessions. More budget cuts will just make our children's futures worse.

Forget “Double Down.” Here’s the Real Story of the 2012 Election (Salon)

Elias Isquith suggests that the data-driven analysis the 2012 election presented in a recent Roosevelt Institute working paper provides the most exciting take on the story. The surveillance state's support of the Obama campaign is the real surprise.

  • Roosevelt Take: Read "Party Competition and Industrial Structure in the 2012 Elections" by Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen here.

Activists Are Arrested Protesting Walmart’s Low Wages (The Nation)

Alison Kilkenny reports on Black Friday protests at Walmart, where workers and activists called for higher wages. For some, there was real risk in this protest: according to a charge from the National Labor Relations Board, Walmart has threatened and punished striking workers before.

A New Day, A New Danger: Temporary Workers Face Safety Hazards at Work (In These Times)

Michelle Chen writes about the particular challenges faced by temporary workers who may not even know what work they will do on a given day, let alone what safety precautions they should take. Meanwhile, no one seems to be accountable for their safety.

New on Next New Deal

Two Simple Reasons to Not Fight Bubbles With Higher Interest Rates

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues against raising interest rates to fight financial instability. Using one instrument for two targets is a bad idea, and it isn't clear that higher interest rates would actually work against instability.

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Abortion Restrictions Are Harming Women's Health and Human Rights in Texas

Nov 25, 2013Andrea Flynn

Abortion restrictions in Texas are hurting low-income women in the Rio Grande Valley, which is proof positive that the U.S. needs to think about human rights locally, not just internationally.

Abortion restrictions in Texas are hurting low-income women in the Rio Grande Valley, which is proof positive that the U.S. needs to think about human rights locally, not just internationally.

Last week the Supreme Court decided to leave in place a Texas law that has essentially closed a third of the abortion providers in that state. On their own, the abortion restrictions are devastating. But in the context of three long years’ worth of family planning and women’s health cuts that violate the human rights of women in that state, they are catastrophic.

Over the summer Wendy Davis launched Texas into the national spotlight when she filibustered the same sweeping anti-abortion laws that were upheld by the Supreme Court. But long before that, women’s health advocates were sounding the alarm bells about the impact of massive family planning cuts that dismantled the state’s health infrastructure, on which millions of low-income women relied.

In order to understand the full implications of this week’s ruling, one must consider the current state of women’s health care – particularly that of low-income women – in Texas. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) recently released a must-read report that illustrates the devastating human toll of family planning and reproductive health cuts on women living in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.

The Valley is a marginalized region inside a state with some of the worst health disparities and the highest percentage of uninsured adults in the country. Many women in the Valley live in colonias, unincorporated communities along the U.S.-Mexico border, which often lack clean water, plumbing, electricity, and public transportation.

The report profiles women whose health and lives have changed along with the landscape of health infrastructures and systems in their communities. Women who detected lumps in their breasts four years ago but cannot afford the mammogram to determine if they are cancerous. Women who have received mammograms months ago but cannot get results because of exorbitant doctor’s fees. Women with ovarian cysts and cervical pain who risk their lives swimming across the river and traveling through towns rife with violence to access care in Mexico.

These women – and the thousands more they represent – must decide between paying rent, giving their children food and a roof over their heads, or having a mammogram, a Pap test, or contraceptives. “It’s one or the other, but not both,” they say. They live with a constant din of anxiety and fear, not knowing what disease is or might be growing in their bodies, where they will get care in emergency situations, or what will happen to their children if they become sick (or worse).

These women are living the consequences of calculated decisions made by conservative lawmakers to dismantle the state’s health safety net. Over the last two years, they cut the state’s family planning budget by two-thirds, from $111 million to $37.9 million. They established a tiered system and forfeited $30 million in federal funds so they could exclude Planned Parenthood and other organizations affiliated with abortion providers from receiving state or federal resources.

The 2011 policies shuttered 76 family planning clinics across the state (including 9 out of the Valley’s 32) and caused 55 more to reduce hours. Publicly funded clinics served 77 percent fewer patients in 2013 compared to 2011 (202,968 and 47,322, respectively). In the Valley public clinics went from serving 19,595 in 2011 to 5,470 in 2013. These trends are particularly troubling when you consider that even before the cuts, publicly funded family planning programs were providing care to less than 20 percent of the population in need.

As the CRR/NLIRH report describes, women in the Valley – particularly Latina women – experience the grave consequences of living at the intersections of race, class, gender, and immigration in the United States. They are 31 percent more likely to die of cervical cancer than women in non-border communities. In the rest of the country, rates of cervical cancer have been plummeting thanks to early detection and treatment, but among Latinas in the Valley the rate is increasing and cervical cancer deaths among Latinas is nearly twice that of non-Latina white women.

The report exposes the lesser-known consequences of the cuts and regulations on clinics that are still open. Remaining providers have reduced hours, laid off staff, increased fees, and stopped providing the most effective family planning methods all while managing a rapidly growing demand for their services. The average cost of a one-month supply of contraception and the fee for an annual exam has increased three- to four-fold since 2010. Ultrasounds and mammograms, once accessible thanks to subsidized rates, are no longer in reach of most women. Wait times often exceed several months.

For women living in areas where clinics have closed, reaching neighboring providers is often impossible due to transportation barriers. Buses are nonexistent, infrequent, or unreliable. Gas is too expensive. Childcare is hard to find. Taking time off work is not an option. For undocumented immigrants, traveling to other communities requires passing through internal checkpoints and risking deportation.

So what happens? Women purchase unregulated contraceptives off the black market, without consulting a doctor about which form of family planning is best for their bodies. They seek care in Mexico, taking the risk that they will not make it back across the border safely. Or, like many of the women described in the report, they forgo contraception and medical care because they simply cannot afford it.

This is the background upon which the most recent abortion restrictions have occurred. There is not a single abortion provider left in the Valley. At a minimum, women must travel three to five hours each way to access an abortion (and must make that trip multiple times thanks to ultrasound and counseling requirements). For most women, it might as well be outlawed.

Many of the women in the Valley do not reap the benefits of federal programs and policies meant to support low-income women. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for public insurance programs. New immigrants must wait five years before becoming eligible for Medicaid. Texas is not expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving those who aren’t poor enough for Medicaid but are too poor to qualify for subsidies out of luck.

Title X, the nation’s only program dedicated to family planning – which once provided effective and far reaching family planning care for the state’s low-income women – was seriously weakened by the above-mentioned regulations. (Luckily, the Obama administration recently took Title X out of the hands of the state government and endowed it to the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, which has directed funding back to family planning clinics and even enabled a previously closed facility in the Valley to reopen.)

As the CRR/NLIRH report argues, the state of Texas has done more than just grievously neglect an underserved and marginalized community of women. It has violated the human rights of women in Texas, a duty it is legally obligated to respect, protect, and fulfill. American exceptionalism has relegated human rights to the international development sphere and deemed them unnecessary within our own borders. But for the health and lives of women in Texas and around the country, it is time we think about how we can use human rights to make America exceptional in ways we can be proud of. 

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

Photo via Shutterstock.

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Daily Digest - November 21: Lobbyists Without Big Money

Nov 21, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Witnesses to Hunger (and Poverty) on the Hill (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann reports on an unusual group of lobbyists on Capitol Hill: five "Witnesses to Hunger" who currently receive food stamps, who advocated for maintaining SNAP funding. Their goal was to give a face to social safety net programs.

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Witnesses to Hunger (and Poverty) on the Hill (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann reports on an unusual group of lobbyists on Capitol Hill: five "Witnesses to Hunger" who currently receive food stamps, who advocated for maintaining SNAP funding. Their goal was to give a face to social safety net programs.

Obama’s Mystery Man for Derivatives (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger profiles Timothy Massad, the relatively unknown nominee for Commodity Futures Trading Commission chair. He questions if Massad may be too friendly to banking interests for this particular regulatory role.

What would the Fed do if the US defaulted on its debt? (Quartz)

Tim Fernholz says that it appears the Fed has limited tools that it could use in the event of a default, which could be a concern again in March. What few tools might be usable are so politically tenuous that just not hitting the debt ceiling would be greatly preferred.

Federal Reserve weighs slowing bond buys soon (Marketwatch

Steve Goldstein says that according to minutes released from the Fed's October 30 meeting, quantitative easing is probably coming to a close soon. But that consensus doesn't mean the Fed has decided how to end the program.

Wal-Mart's No Good, Very Bad, Pre-Thanksgiving Week (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Susan Berfield reports on Wal-Mart's difficult news week. Between the food drive for their own employees and the new report from Demos explaining how they could pay more without increasing prices, Wal-Mart is probably looking forward to the holiday.

Detroit accused of exaggerating $18bn debts in push for bankruptcy (The Guardian)

Dominic Rushe looks at a new report from Demos that questions the way Detroit's debt was calculated for bankruptcy. The report suggests that cutting pensions would work against the city's long-term needs.

New on Next New Deal

How Can We Help America's Opportunity Youth? Five Lessons Learned in New Orleans

Following up on an event in New Orleans this summer, Nell Abernathy, Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, considers the steps that will be needed to help youth who are neither in school nor working.

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