Bold Versus Old, How Corporate Consolidation Shrinks Wages, and Facing Our Monopoly Problem

May 18, 2018

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top 5 stories of the week. After a five-month sabbatical, Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong is back at the helm and leading the charge as we work to ensure the economy works for everyone.

1. Bold Versus Old

For Democracy Journal, Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong and Tom Perriello, a former member of the U.S. Congress from Virginia, write on why bold policymaking wins, what this means for traditional politics, and where progressives must go to move toward an economy and society that work for us all. “We know that our society works best when all people are included, which means acknowledging and making real amends for rules—written and unwritten, past and present—that keep black people, brown people, and women, out.”

2. Lawmakers Are Thinking Big, Too

This week, NBC News examines five areas where big, progressive ideas are gaining ground with Democratic policymakers in Washington: “On issues like health care, immigration, jobs, and crime, once-fringe policy proposals are gaining traction with lawmakers, activists, and wonks as they debate the party’s path out of its current wilderness.” The coverage includes the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act, introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and informed by the work of Roosevelt Senior Fellow Sandy Darity and Fellows Darrick Hamilton and Mark Paul.

3. Rising Corporate Consolidation and Shrinking Wages

In a NYT op-ed, economic journalist Bryce Covert connects the rise of corporate consolidation to low wages—elevating research from Roosevelt Research Director Marshall Steinbaum—and outlines how more robust merger review can bolster worker power. “In recent decades, antitrust regulators have effectively limited themselves to only one question: Will customers pay more? Today, that answer can’t provide a full picture of whether a merger will harm the economy,” she writes. Today’s anti-competitive economy is not a natural force beyond our control; with better economic rules, we can begin to fix it.

4. Employer Power Disadvantages Marginalized Americans

Corporate concentration in labor markets—what economists call monopsony—has allowed employers to gain outsized power over workers, leaving more Americans with less agency over the choices in their lives. On the blog, Roosevelt Program Associate Jess Forden explains what this means for women, people of color, and particularly women of color—those who already face structural barriers in the labor market and economy at large. “When increased monopsony decreases available jobs, lowers wages, and reduces job mobility for everyone, [marginalized Americans] face disproportionate constraints in their lives,” she says.

5. Getting Tough on Monopolies

Rohit Chopra, former Visiting Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, issued his first policy statement this week as a new commissioner of the Federal Trade Commision (FTC). Calling out the pattern of mega companies violating FTC orders—including tech giants Google and Facebook—ProPublica’s Jesse Eisinger called the statement an “unusually clear and forceful memo.” Bad corporate behavior paired with lax enforcement of the rules not only jeopardize our economy but also “undermine the rule of law,” argues Chopra. Read his statement here.

What We’re Reading

For Washington Monthly, law professor and economics pundit James Kwak reviews a new book from political scientist Steven Vogel, Marketcraft: How Governments Make Markets Work. Though Vogel rightly argues that the “free market” is a fallacy—healthy markets depend on rules to shape economic power between workers, consumers, and businesses—Kwak explains why we have to do more than correct for market failures for Americans to thrive. “Democrats’ vision that our broken economy simply needs to correct for market failures has its limits,” he says.


On June 27th, the Roosevelt Institute is honoring Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Distinguished Public Service Awards in Washington D.C. This annual event celebrates individuals whose careers exemplify FDR’s extraordinary dedication to public service and who seek to inspire a renewed national commitment to the principles FDR championed. Learn more and get your tickets here.