The State of the Economy, Roosevelt’s SOTU Response, and the Longstanding Link Between Race and Economics

By Kendra Bozarth |

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top 5 stories of the week.

1. The Trump Economy

During Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Trump heralded a set of economic indicators—including the unemployment rate—to suggest that his policies are strengthening the U.S. economy. Unfortunately, the narrative Trump wove obscures the reality of the economic landscape for most Americans: jobs remain unstable and out of reach for many, and where there have been gains, they are largely due to progressive, rather than conservative, policy changes. The Roosevelt Institute has long exposed the various ways the economy isn’t working for the majority of Americans. To get the real story, read our economic fact sheet here.

2. Roosevelt’s Response

Following the president’s first State of the Union address, Roosevelt staff and fellows had a lot to say. In a press release, we shared our thoughts on Trump’s first year in office. “President Trump had a historic opportunity to try and change difficult, long-term trends for working Americans. Instead, he showered owners of wealth with unneeded tax cuts,” said Roosevelt Fellow Mike Konczal. On the needs of our country moving forward, Fellow Mark Paul elevated ways to achieve economic relief. “Relief comes from providing employment opportunities at non-poverty wages, investing in a robust array of public services, and supporting first-rate human and physical infrastructure,” he said.  

3. Bold Economic Policy

The economy’s progress does not warrant Trump’s self-congratulation. Rather, as explained by Roosevelt Fellow J.W. Mason, today’s economic developments are proof that expansionary monetary policy—an increase in the scope of the set of rules that influence overall economic growth—works. “While Trump and Congress can’t take credit for today’s relatively strong economy, the Federal Reserve (the Fed) does deserve some recognition,” he says. Extraordinary actions taken by the Fed during the Great Recession helped the economy at a critical moment. As everyday Americans begin to see the benefits—e.g., workers’ share of the economic pie is rising for the first time since the late 1990s—we can’t afford to let the Fed reverse course.  

4. Race and the Economy: A Deep-Rooted Connection

For New York magazine, Rebecca Traister spoke with Roosevelt’s Felicia Wong, Andrea Flynn, and Dorian Warren about the hidden rules of race and the economy. Economic justice is not possible without “applying a racial (and gendered) lens to the questions of how American disparities have been built and why they thrive,” writes Traister. And progressives cannot address racial injustice without accounting for economic inequality. “Democrats need to figure out how to combine issues linked to gender, race, and immigration … into a more coherent economic framework,” said Wong.

5. Achieving Justice for All

Roosevelt Fellow Dorian Warren joined The Open Mind—the longest-running program on PBS—to discuss law, order, and justice. Our nation’s electoral system should provide a pathway to equality for all Americans, he explains, but implicit and explicit rules—such as voter suppression—act as barriers that keep economic freedom and justice out of reach. To overcome these obstacles, we must undo the rules that create them and reclaim a better future. “No one through accident of birth should have to live in poverty in this country, and we should demand that as being part of a member of this political community,” Warren said.

What We’re Reading

In an op-ed for The New York Times, economist Stephanie Kelton explains why investing in infrastructure should (and can) mean more than investing in roads and bridges. Flagging it as a must-read, Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong put forward a thoughtful response: “Stephanie Kelton reminds us that infrastructure is a *public* good, that health care is worth spending money on, and that community investment creates jobs.”

EVENT

Written by Roosevelt Fellow David B. Woolner, The Last 100 Days: FDR at War and at Peace has received rave reviews. On Thursday, February 8th, Woolner will be at 92nd Street Y—a cultural and community center in New York City—to discuss President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s final days in office and in life. You don’t want to miss this conversation next week. Purchase your tickets here.

As Editorial Strategy Manager, Kendra Bozarth oversees the editorial process for the Roosevelt Institute’s think tank, student network, and advocacy team.