Why Automation Doesn’t Mean the End of Work, Curbing Corporate Cashouts, and One Step Forward, Two Steps Back in Antitrust

June 15, 2018

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

1. Don’t Fear the Robots

Roosevelt Fellow Mark Paul is challenging the narrative that large-scale technological change—or automation—will lead to fewer jobs and lower wages. In Don’t Fear the Robots: Why Automation Doesn’t Mean the End of Work, Paul argues that automation can’t be blamed for economic decline: “Blaming the robots, rather than the rules of the game, is a convenient narrative that misdirects workers’ concerns over a weak labor market and poor institutions.” The report garnered an exclusive in the NYT, and Roosevelt Editor Kendra Bozarth and Program Director Rakeen Mabud explain what Americans’ fear of automation reveals about our broken economy on the blog.

2. Curbing Corporate Cashouts

Robert Jackson Jr., Commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), delivered a bold speech on Monday, declaring that the rules governing stock buybacks can and must be changed. Roosevelt Senior Economist and Policy Counsel Lenore Palladino and Research Associate Adil Abdela responded with facts to back up Commissioner Jackson’s call. (For example, executives are selling an average of $500,000 worth of stock per day in 2018.) “The SEC should heed Commissioner Jackson, take the initiative to reform Rule 10b-18, and replace it with a commonsense framework that would curb extractive buybacks that are used to line executives’ pockets and instead encourage long-term, shared prosperity,” Palladino and Abdela wrote.

3. A Big Step Forward in Antitrust Enforcement…

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously in a historic antitrust decision, sending a case involving trade between China and the U.S. back to the lower courts for reconsideration. The original ruling—to reward the plaintiffs, two American companies, damages for antitrust violations—at the district level had been overturned after appellate judges deferred to the Chinese government, despite the risk of weakening antitrust enforcement. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed with the original appellate decision, writing in her opinion that U.S. judges need to consider all evidence before them. “Today’s Supreme Court’s decision is an important step in ensuring Americans’ ability to fight monopolies in an era of globalization,” said Roosevelt Fellow Todd N. Tucker.

4. …And Two Steps Back

This week, AT&T was authorized to move forward with its acquisition of Time Warner, despite the Department of Justice (DOJ) challenging the merger last year over concerns of reduced competition across industries and higher costs for consumers. Tuesday’s ruling will solidify the company’s standing as a corporate giant in the the telecommunications and media space. Roosevelt Research Director and Fellow Marshall Steinbaum strongly criticized the ruling in a statement: “This verdict clearly shows that we cannot rely on enforcement of existing antitrust policy to remedy [our market power] problem. We need a legislative solution.”

5. Time to Talk About the Hidden Rules of the Tax Code

This week, Tax March hosted an important conversation on the ways that the Trump tax law disproportionately harms communities of color. Based off of “Hidden Rules of Race Are Embedded in the New Tax Law,” the tweet chat was led by Roosevelt Fellows Darrick Hamilton and Michael Linden. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-NY), and actor Don Cheadle were among the 525 contributors engaged in the conversation, which was trending on Twitter in D.C. “We need a progressive tax code, in all senses of the word,” said Linden.

What We’re Reading

In “The Demise of Toys ‘R’ Us Is a Warning,” economic journalist Bryce Covert covers private-equity firms and the retail industry, demonstrating the outsized role the financial sector plays in today’s high-profit, low-wage economy. “Great piece chronicling the path of destruction paved by private equity firms in the retail sector,” said Demos Vice President of Policy and Research Tamara Draut.


Reminder: Next week, on the six-month anniversary of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Roosevelt Institute is co-hosting “Hidden Agenda: How the New Tax Law Amplifies Racial and Wealth Inequality” with Tax March. Panelists include AFL-CIO Chief Economist William E. Spriggs, Demos Political Director Adam Lioz, and Angela Peoples, Campaign Director at the Action Center on Race and the Economy. RSVP here and join us in D.C. on Wednesday, June 20th.