A Relentless Assault from the Right, Market Power in the Labor Market, and Big Ideas Matter

January 12, 2018

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

1. The GOP’s Relentless Assault

After passing a tax law that will harm economic growth and further exacerbates inequality in our economy, Republicans in Congress have now set their sights on core federal programs that serve millions of Americans. As The Washington Post reports, the GOP is working to stigmatize the poor by allowing states to impose work requirements for individuals who are on Medicaid. As Roosevelt Fellow Michael Linden suggests, if we want to target policy at those actually earning wealth without work, we should address the idle rich. “There is perhaps no better example of the moral rot at the core of the Republican Party than imposing so-called ‘work requirements’ on sick Medicaid recipients just weeks after passing a massive tax cut for rich heirs who literally did no work at all to inherit their wealth.”

2. Market Power and the Minimum Wage

The #FightFor15—a campaign to provide low-wage workers with a minimum wage of $15 an hour—has not only sparked an ongoing debate about inequality, but also economics. Opponents of a minimum wage often argue that higher wages lead to fewer jobs. In “Media Got the Minimum Wage Story Wrong,” however, economist Michal Rozworski cites recent research by Roosevelt Research Director Marshall Steinbaum to debunk this claim and challenge “standard assumptions about how job markets work.” As Steinbaum explains, market power in the labor market is holding wages back. To give workers the living wage our economy can afford, we must curb anticompetitive behavior by employers.

3. Baby Bonds

The economy has room to grow, which means it’s the right time to think big about the social safety net. Roosevelt collaborators, economists Sandy Darity and Darrick Hamilton, are doing just that. As a way to combat rising inequality and level the economic playing field in the U.S., they propose giving every newborn a “Baby Bond,” or a one-time deposit at birth tied to socioeconomic status. “The key ingredient of how successful you will be in America is how wealthy your family is,” Hamilton told The Washington PostEvery child deserves a fair chance. To build upward mobility for all Americans, big ideas are needed.

4. The Courts Check the GOP

From Trump’s continued attack on “DREAMers” to extreme gerrymandering in the states, the U.S. court system is often the last bastion for those seeking justice and equality in our country. In California, a U.S. District Judge issued a ruling to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients from deportation, as well as their ability to work, “while a lawsuit challenging the decision to end the program moves forward.” In North Carolina, judges ordered the state to redraw its congressional maps, citing unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. The GOP is actively working to build a less fair and just society, but the Constitution, and those committed to upholding it, will meet them every step of the way.

5. Trade Tensions

Amid rumors that the U.S. may withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada launched a “diplomatic grenade at the Trump administration’s ‘America First’ approach” this week by filing a trade case at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to challenge the United States’s use of tariffs. In Acquisition Finance Magazine, Roosevelt Fellow Todd Tucker called the move by Canada “misguided.” “It seems like an unusual way to send a message to Trump, to attack a longstanding U.S. policy approach,” he said. The Trump administration is increasingly skeptical of the WTO, and Canada’s case may add fuel to the fire.

What We’re Reading

On Thursday, President Donald Trump—the leader of the Republican Party—said he would prefer more immigrants from countries like Norway instead of “s–thole countries” like Haiti and El Salvador. Trump’s racist and extremely troubling remarks were timely given a recent article from The Atlantic: “It’s Joe Arpaio’s Party Now.” The president’s ongoing statements and actions have led former sheriff Arpaio, known for his brutal behavior and misconduct against immigrant communities in Arizona, to believe that our current political moment “has never been better for a candidate like him.”

What We’re Watching

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, could be the first female African-American governor in U.S. history. She sat down with Ashley Nicole Black this week for a light-hearted but insightful interview. Abrams, who has served as Minority Leader in the Georgia General Assembly since 2010, is campaigning with a playbook built from both sides of the aisle. “What the GOP has done effectively for the last 40 years is talk to voters who other people ignored,” she says. As progressives push ahead to November, Abrams—an accomplished black woman who is prepared to overcome the challenges of “being first”—is a must-watch candidate.