Inclusive Infrastructure, the Hidden Rules of Student Debt, and The Nation’s Monopoly Issue

February 16, 2018

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

1. Weak on Infrastructure

This week, the Trump administration released its highly anticipated infrastructure plan—and it’s a gimmick. The proposed $200 billion in “new” investments will be paid for with cuts to existing infrastructure programs. “All told, he’s basically proposing a $0 infrastructure plan,” said Roosevelt Fellow Michael Linden. For The Guardian, Roosevelt Program Director Rakeen Mabud and Program Manager Eric Harris Bernstein explain why we need an infrastructure plan that puts people and communities first: “America’s 21st-century infrastructure must lay the foundation of a more just, equitable, and inclusive society—something that Trump’s plan will not accomplish.”

2. The Full Employment Solution

Roosevelt Fellow Mark Paul, Duke University’s Sandy Darity, and The New School’s Darrick Hamilton have a bold plan to fix the U.S. economy: full employment. Having observed that “necessitous men are not free men,” FDR proposed full employment—an economic condition where anyone who wants to be employed can find a job—during his 1944 State of the Union address as part of an Economic Bill of Rights. As these three economists show, we can achieve full employment in the 21st century through a federal jobs guarantee program. A program that, unlike President Trump’s economic policies, will expand our infrastructure and grow the economy.

3. The Hidden Rules of Student Debt

For New York Magazine, Eric Levitz explores the disparities found in student debt that are “rooted in structural, race-based disadvantages.” Analyzing a recent research paper co-written by Roosevelt Research Director and Fellow Marshall Steinbaum—which models the economic impact of canceling all student debt in the U.S.—Levitz reviews de facto segregation in higher education. “One implication of this … is that student debt is significantly increasing the racial wealth gap among younger Americans,” he writes. To close the economic divide, we have to address the rules that shape our economy and undo the policies that hold certain Americans back—key objectives that Roosevelt and our partners discussed during a Twitter chat this week.

4. The Monopoly Issue

On Thursday, The Nation released a special issue that is dedicated to America’s monopoly problem. Roosevelt Fellow Mike Konczal interviews “the world’s most feared antitrust enforcer,” EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, and discusses the $2.7 billion fine she imposed against tech giant Google last year. In “Does Monopoly Power Explain Workers’ Stagnant Wages?” Roosevelt’s Marshall Steinbaum outlines a working paper he co-authored that examines market power in the labor market. His findings reinforce the reality of concentrated corporate power: lower wages and limited economic mobility for workers. Get the print edition of “Monopoly’s New Rules” on March 12, 2018.

5. Students Push Back

Last week, Roosevelt Fellow Susan R. Holmberg explained how hedge funds encourage destructive corporate behavior. This week, Roosevelters took action to push back against unchecked corporate power and protect the greater good. At Cornell University, our Network’s student chapter launched a resolution to challenge the University’s investments in The Baupost Group—a hedge fund that owns Puerto Rican debt and is pushing austerity measures for the island following Hurricane Maria. To ensure institutional decision-making is not above public input, youth-driven campaigns that hold the few accountable to the many are crucial.

What We’re Reading

Stock prices are high. And that’s a bad sign for the economy. In “Big Profits Drove a Stock Boom. Did the Economy Pay a Price?” the NYT’s Eduardo Porter connects long-term economic trends to the recent turbulence at the Dow. “From wage stagnation to the depressed investment rates that are holding back long-term economic growth, many of the fault lines running through the American economy can be traced back to the same root cause powering the rise of America’s overpriced stocks,” he says. The “free” market isn’t working. Until we rebalance the system with better rules, economic equality will remain out of reach.

Who We’re Following

In Arizona, Roosevelt Network alum and state representative Athena Salman (D-Tempe) is leading a campaign to persuade her colleagues to pass a bill she introduced that would provide an unlimited supply of menstrual products to inmates who need them. For many people, these personal care products are a necessity, not a privilege. During a recent hearing, Rep. Salman explained that by denying access to them, the system is violating basic human dignity.