Embracing a Pro-Tax Agenda, Rewriting the Rules of Our Economy, and Rebuilding the Left

December 22, 2017

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top 5 stories of the week. Our office will be closed next week for winter break, so the rundown will return on January 5, 2018. From all of us at Roosevelt: Thank you for reading!

1. We’re Doing It Wrong

Despite a wave of public backlash, the GOP’s indefensible tax plan has been signed into law. How did this happen? In “Half a Century of Anti-tax Orthodoxy Is Wrong,” Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong argues that though Democrats have long rejected the false promise that tax cuts lead to economic growth, they “have yet to offer a positive argument for the role that taxes play in creating a healthy and strong economy.” To both overcome the brutal blow dealt by the GOP and build a better, more inclusive economy, progressives must champion real reform. This requires embracing a pro-tax agenda and embedding it as a core component of the party’s platform—in 2018 and beyond.

2. Undoing the Damage

Economic and political power are now inseparable—and this dynamic poses great harm to our democracy. In USA Today, Roosevelt Vice President of Research and Policy Nell Abernathy and Vice President of Advocacy and Policy Steph Sterling explain how the GOP tax plan is Exhibit A in the case for rewriting the rules of our economy. For decades, corporations and the super-rich have profited from a tax code tilted to the top, leveraging the wealth they’ve extracted to reshape our democracy. As illustrated in Vox, the tax bill will “shift the balance [of power] even further in favor of the rich.” The tax overhaul pushed through Congress is “a call to arms to dismantle not just the plan itself,” say Abernathy and Sterling, “but the structural conditions that wrought it.”

3. A Consolation Prize

The day the GOP tax plan was passed out of Congress, a group of American corporations, including AT&T, conveniently announced that they would be giving employees a one-time bonus of $1,000. In a new blog post, Roosevelt Fellows Andrea Flynn and Susan R. Holmberg unmask this economic and political grandstanding. These bonuses weren’t selfless gifts, but an attempt to make “President Trump look like the populist he pretends to be.” And when the tax bill is used as a catalyst to dismantle public institutions, like Medicare and student loan programs, $1,000 won’t go very far. Workers deserve this bonus—and a whole lot more. But with the top 1 percent set to receive a windfall in tax cuts, these bonuses alone feel like an insulting consolation prize.

4. Rebuilding the Left

Roosevelt Fellow Mike Konczal was on the ground in D.C. recently with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a political party rooted in left-wing populism whose membership has exploded in the past year. He says the organization is “changing the nature of the left in the Trump era”—and Democrats should take note. With campaigns like Stomp Out Slumlords, an initiative to undo unethical eviction practices, the group shows what can happen when we’re united by a common cause. As Konczal notes, “the first step of any new political movement begins with small groups of people finding each other and going out into the world.” Last November marked a critical juncture for progressives to redefine their politics. Democrats should pay heed to those rebuilding the left.

5. A Wave of Blue in 2018

new poll from CNN shows that a blue wave may hit the country next November. Not only are voters more likely to support Democrats in the midterms, but those on the left are increasingly enthusiastic to show up at the ballot box. After the special elections in Virginia and Alabama, “pollsters see reasons to expect a Democratic surge.” As Congress ends the year with two crucial issues unresolved—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—Democrats have another opportunity to distinguish themselves from their Republican counterparts. But a lot can happen in a year, so stay tuned.

What We’re Reading

Can Democrats win red states? A coalition that views “electoral politics as an extension of labor organizing” says yes. For The Nation, Nicolás Medina Mora and Rebecca Zweig explore a new wave of organizing in the Midwest. Shifting away from the “centrist politics” approach of yesteryear, Iowans on the left are going old-school: applying a union activism strategy to push a pro-jobs message that attracts voters—and closes the class/race divide. “If proven right, the prairie progressives could augur a path forward for the American left.”

Who We’re Following:

From Sandy Darity and his perspective on race to Annie Lowrey and her take on taming the top, we’re following a group of forward-thinking, influential people on Twitter who are pushing the economic and social debate forward. Whether it’s Chye-Ching Huang and John Cassidy on economics or Senators Brian Schatz and Sherrod Brown on politics and policy, big ideas are out there. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our very own Felicia Wong, who has a unique perspective on economic reform and actively engages partners and allies in this important work. It will take all of us to rewrite the rules. Join the conversation.