Big Economic Ideas Now, #EmpowerWorkers, and the Reality of the Racial Wealth Gap

April 27, 2018

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

1. A Time for Big Economic Ideas

NYT opinion columnist David Leonhardt is reimagining the rules of our economy: in an era of deep economic stagnation, now is the time for bold, progressive economic policymaking, he says. And, as Leonhardt notes, most Americans support ambitious solutions. From a $15 minimum wage for infrastructure workers to a targeted response to rampant market power, voters are ready to make these big ideas real, so policymakers can move our country forward—toward an economic and political system that works for us all.

2. The Push for a Jobs Guarantee

Here’s a big idea: transforming work into a basic human right. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have all endorsed legislation for a federal jobs guarantee. This push for economic security follows a proposal from long-established jobs guarantee advocates Sandy Darity, Darrick Hamilton, and Mark Paul, fellows at the Roosevelt Institute. “This is an opportunity for something transformative, beyond the tinkering we’ve been doing for the last 40 years, where all the productivity gains have gone to the elite of society,” said Hamilton. In Voxwork from Fellows Mike Konczal and J.W. Mason is used to promote a more jobs-friendy Federal Reserve.

3. #EmpowerWorkers

On Thursday, leading members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Co-chair of the House Antitrust Caucus Keith Ellison (D-MN), introduced legislation aimed at curbing concentration in the labor market and restoring power to workers. In a statement, Roosevelt Research Director Marshall Steinbaum applauded the move: “I’m glad to see policymakers recognize the growing body of research establishing that labor markets are not competitive.” An issue brief from Research Associate Adil Abdela explains why accurate market definitions are crucial for Congress to pursue effective antitrust enforcement.

4. A Public Option for Banking

Back in 2014, Roosevelt Fellow Mike Konczal wrote about a proposal for the United States Postal Service (USPS) to expand access to financial services for low-income Americans, an initiative that would bolster economic participation and combat predatory lending practices. This week, Senator Gillibrand unveiled a similar plan, bringing this big policy idea to Congress for the first time. “This is a solution to take on payday lenders, to take on the problems that the unbanked have all across the country. It’s a solution whose time has come,” she said. For The Hill, Roosevelt’s Mark Paul makes the case for building financial infrastructure as a way to foster economic inclusion.

5. The Reality of the Racial Wealth Gap

An incredible team of researchers and economists, including Roosevelt Senior Fellow Sandy Darity, Insight CCED President Anne Price, and Brooklyn College professor Alan A. Aja, released a report debunking common myths about how to close the racial wealth gap. “It is simply ludicrous to think that individual effort outweighs larger structural conditions,” said Slate’s Jamelle Bouie. The racial wealth gap is severe, but until we address the policies and systems that sustain it, we’ll never be able to create a future of shared prosperity that Americans need.

What We’re Reading

“Smartest piece I have ever seen on why we should care about tech firms’ power, and how to curb that power,” said Roosevelt’s Felicia Wong after reading the latest long-read from Roosevelt Fellow K. Sabeel Rahman on corporate power. “The New Octopus” examines the outsized power of tech giants and proposes ways to free our democracy from their grasp.

Who We’re Following

For the Law and Political Economy blog, Roosevelt Senior Economist and Policy Counsel Lenore Palladino explains how today’s shareholder-first economy hurts jobs and wages. An edited version of the post will be published in the article, “Eleven Things They Don’t Tell You About Law & Economics: An Informal Introduction to Political Economy and Law,” in an upcoming edition of Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice from the University of Minnesota.