Curbing ‘Shareholder First’ Corporate Behavior, How the #DoddFrankRollback Hurts Minority Consumers, and Trade Trouble

March 23, 2018

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

1. Toxic Corporate Behavior on the Rise

There has been a drastic increase in stock buybacks since the passage of Trump’s corporate tax cuts, but this practice has been a problem in the U.S. for decades. In Vox, Roosevelt Vice President of Policy and Research Nell Abernathy explains how the tax law “is just the latest in a long line of really bad economic policies” that amplify the harmful effects of extractive decision-making by executives and shareholders. For Boston Review, Roosevelt Senior Economist and Policy Counsel Lenore Palladino outlines how “shareholder first” corporate behavior stifles shared economic prosperity: “Stock buybacks are on the rise, and they are shortchanging workers and undermining our economy like never before.”

2. Putting a Stop to Stock Buybacks

In a new issue brief, Roosevelt’s Lenore Palladino defines stock buybacks, examines their rising prevalence, and outlines policy solutions to address the pernicious trend. This week, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation to change the rules for corporations and bolster worker power. Palladino and Roosevelt Fellow Mike Konczal applauded the Reward Work Act, which would ban stock buybacks and require companies to extend one-third of their board membership to a vote by employees. “A bold and targeted regulation like a buybacks ban puts us on the path to addressing excessive short-term thinking by corporate leaders,” Konczal said.

3. Dodd-Frank Rollback Hinders Minority Consumers

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators voted to roll back regulations put in place in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. On our blog, Roosevelt Fellow Andrea Flynn and Research Director Marshall Steinbaum explain how this recent legislation—should it become law—would further skew economic power to the top, making it easier for banks to discriminate against historically marginalized communities and harder for the rest of us to detect and deter that discrimination. “History tells us that unless held accountable, companies will continue to prioritize profits—by sidelining traditionally marginalized communities and perpetuating cycles of economic and racial inequality,” say Flynn and Steinbaum.

4. Trade Trouble

The president’s plan to target select Chinese exports with tariffs could prompt productive trade negotiations—or this move could set the stage for an international trade war. “Trump’s $60 billion tariffs on China are his biggest—and riskiest—trade move yet,” writes Vox’s Zeeshan Aleem. “With exports taking up a fifth of its economy, China has a keen interest in a prompt solution,” adds Roosevelt Fellow Todd Tucker. Co-authoring an op-ed for PoliticoRoosevelt Fellow Jennifer Harris argues that better trade rules would ensure that negotiations benefit workers, consumers, and the middle class: “Trade has often been a source of American strength, and it can support American prosperity in the 21st century, too.”

5. The Forge Fellowship

This week, the Roosevelt Network launched the Forge Fellowship, a summer fellows program extended to students who do not have an existing Roosevelt chapter on their community college or university campus. The Forge Fellowship was established in memory of Reese Neader, a former policy director at the Roosevelt Institute whose life’s work was dedicated to building power for marginalized communities. The Forge Fellowship seeks to empower a new generation of young leaders like Reese who enthusiastically envision and push for progressive policy change at the local level. The fellowship application deadline is April 20, 2018.

What We’re Reading

The Nation looks ahead to this year’s election and 2020 with “Why Democrats Should Embrace a Federal Jobs Guarantee.” Featuring a recent paper from Roosevelt Fellows Darrick Hamilton, Mark Paul, and Sandy Darity, the article aims to move a government-backed jobs guarantee to the center of our political debate. “A job guarantee offers a way for the Democratic Party to return to its roots as a multiracial working-class party,” the authors argue.

What We’re Watching

In the United States, the powerful few hold the majority of our country’s wealth. On Monday night, Roosevelt Fellow Darrick Hamilton joined Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as a panelist for a televised town hall on economic inequality, where he outlined the power of wealth. “It gives you choice. It gives you freedom. It gives you agency,” Hamilton said. Watch a short clip or check out the full event here.