A Call for Vigilance, the Implosion of Health Care, and Abandoning Americans

October 13, 2017

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

1. Honoring Heroes of Democracy

On Tuesday evening, the Roosevelt Institute hosted the 2017 Four Freedoms Awards, an annual event that recognizes incredible civic leaders who embody the vision for a better world as articulated by FDR in his 1941 “Four Freedoms” address. The six laureates, including civil rights activist Harry Belafonte and veteran journalist Dan Rather, called for vigilance in protecting our core freedoms during this challenging time for our nation and the world. “Each of our honorees remind us that there are people across this country who have committed their lives to progress, justice, and building a better future,” said Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong.

2. The President’s Continued Assault on Health Care

Late last night, President Trump threw “a bomb into the insurance markets” by issuing an executive order that severely weakens the Affordable Care Act and endangers health care for millions. The administration’s intentional sabotage means that premiums will skyrocket and insurers will abandon the exchanges, a disastrous outcome that will predominantly hurt low-income Americans. It’s true: Obamacare is finally “imploding”—but only because Trump is “determined to dismantle it on his own.”

3. Abandoning Americans

Nothing lasts forever. But only three weeks after Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, leaving a majority of *American* residents in the territory without power and many lacking other basic needs like food and water, President Trump gravely warned that federal aid would eventually end—hinting at sooner rather than later. “President Trump has gotten bored with providing relief,” writes Katy Waldman in Slate. What’s deeply worrisome, Waldman explains, is that “the president is luxuriating in his power both to save lives and condemn them.” Trump often treats his authority like a game, with communities of color much of the time left to pay the price.

4. The Cost of College

Overspending on new facilities and modern renovations in an effort to attract more students, colleges and universities across the country are “borrowing billions” to hopefully boost admission rates, reports Jon Marcus in The Atlantic. Unfortunately, these efforts are not producing higher enrollment numbers, which means tuition revenue is dropping. But schools still need to pay down the debts they’re incurring, which often come with huge interest rates and service fees. Guess where they’ll try to find the money for these costs? As Roosevelt Program Manager Aman Banerji explains: “When you spend more on X, you have to bring in more money from Y, and that Y is usually student tuition.” Cuts in public support for higher education is partly responsible for this turn to complex financial deals with the private sector, which is a symptom of the financialization of higher education. The end result is a weakened higher education system and increased tuition costs that put college out of reach for more people.

5. Achieving Balance in Trade

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Barbuda is looking to resolve a long-standing trade dispute with the United States over remote gambling in the hopes of increasing revenue for the island nation’s recovery. Roosevelt Fellow Todd Tucker was in the Los Angeles Times on Monday to explain the United States’ opposition to online gambling over concerns of lax regulation. Looking at the broader ongoing trade debate, CNBC this week looks at Trump and trade deficits. Roosevelt’s J.W. Mason advises that efforts to achieve balance should focus on productive investments, both public and private. “All else equal, a more favorable trade balance will raise demand and boost employment,” he explains.

What We’re Reading:

In “Monopoly Men” Roosevelt Fellow K. Sabeel Rahman discusses the sharp recent rise in market power in Silicon Valley, and what Big Tech’s dominance means for democracy. On what’s at stake: “…private power is increasingly concentrated among a handful of tech platforms, representing a major challenge to the survival of our democracy and the potential for a more dynamic and inclusive economic order.”

What We’re Watching:

An iconic American hero.” That’s how Ford Foundation President Darren Walker introduced Freedom Medalist Harry Belafonte on Tuesday night. Belafonte’s speech was inspiring, honorable, and utterly moving. Renouncing the current administration, Belafonte spoke truth to power: “…with the warriors like those on this platform and those of you who sit in the audience, I think we will endure,” he said.


In two weeks, the Living New Deal Project and the National Jobs for All Coalition are hosting a launch event to celebrate LNDP’s new publication, the Map and Guide to New Deal New York City. Join us at The New School on Friday, October 27 for an evening discussion on this project and what FDR called “the despair of idleness.”