Americans Are #Powerless, Market Power Is the Problem, and 10 Years of ‘10 Ideas’

March 30, 2018

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

1. Americans Are Powerless in Today’s Economy

In an in-depth report from Roosevelt’s Marshall Steinbaum, Eric Harris Bernstein, and John Sturm, we outline the rise of market power in the U.S. and explain how 40 years of lax antitrust policy have skewed the balance of economic power to the top. From deepening racial inequality, to diminishing workers’ wages, to sinking small businesses, our issue briefs further demonstrate the disastrous consequences that unrestrained market power has had on workers, consumers, and communities. While a renewed focus on antitrust policy alone is not enough to solve for market power, it is a crucial step in reducing the outsized power of the few and restoring market balance to ensure shared economic growth.

2. Market Power Is the Problem

Today’s market power problem distorts economic outcomes for the majority of Americans. On our blog, Roosevelt Research Director Marshall Steinbaum highlights two important implications from his latest report, Powerless: How Lax Antitrust and Concentrated Market Power Rig the Economy Against American Workers, Consumers, and Communities. First, our economy’s market power problem requires a comprehensive legislative solution. Second, any solution to tackle this problem must confront it directly. “Power is the problem, and democratizing the economy by rewriting our antitrust laws to attack market power head-on is the solution,” says Steinbaum. Read Roosevelt’s press release for Powerless here.

3. Antitrust Should Amplify Worker Power

The link between market power and workers can be seen through the lens of monopsony: the power a firm can wield over its suppliers, including suppliers of labor. This connection is evident between Uber and its drivers, who are treated as independent contractors and thus receive limited rights as workers. In Seattle, Uber drivers were granted the ability to build worker power through unionization, but the Trump administration is working to block this effort through antitrust laws. Roosevelt’s Marshall Steinbaum said the job of the federal government “is to make the economy competitive. That does not include siding with the Chamber of Commerce and Uber in a case against labor.”

4. 10 Years of 10 Ideas

Since 2008, the Roosevelt Network’s 10 Ideas journal has elevated the ideas of young leaders across the country advocating not only new rules for their communities but also fundamentally shifting who gets to write them. Young people are rising to the challenges of today and building their own rule book, so that government can be reflective of and responsive to the people it’s meant to serve. From eliminating commission payments for the use of prison phones to expanding community-shared ownership of green energy production, this year’s journal embodies Roosevelt’s commitment to regain public control over public goods.

5. Race Trumps Class

This week for The Guardian, Roosevelt Fellow Darrick Hamilton reviews a recent study showing that race matters; class does not protect black women and men from racial barriers built into our economy and society. “The evidence from the study makes clear that being upper class does not protect black children from a future of precariousness,” say Hamilton and Jennifer Cohen, the article’s co-author. Pointing to the adage that black Americans must “work twice as hard to get by,” Hamilton and Cohen elevate how class and health are linked: “The sad irony is that the added stress and physical strain … needed to overcome structural racism very well may worsen one’s health.”

What We’re Reading

As Congress works to roll back banking regulations that hinder an inclusive economy, the Trump administration is targeting fair housing enforcement. The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush details this policy agenda in “Under Ben Carson, HUD Scales Back Fair Housing Enforcement.” For decades, the hidden rules of our economy and society have held back the most marginalized communities—even as progressives have worked to rewrite the rules for the better. As former assistant secretary for fair housing Gustavo Velasquez explains, this action is an explicit “attempt to reverse all the advances we made through regulations and enforcement actions.”

Who We’re Following

The Roosevelt Network chapter at Michigan State University (MSU) is working together with students and faculty to challenge university spending. The increased power of financial interests over the university’s finances is deeply troubling. This dynamic—known formally as financialization—jeopardizes higher education by working against the best interest of the university’s core constituency: its students. An upcoming report from Roosevelt @ MSU will provide an in-depth look at financialization on campus.