The Future of Work, Wages, and Labor, What’s at Stake, and a Lesson for Economists

September 7, 2018

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

1. The Future of Work, Wages, and Labor

On Wednesday, Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) and three colleagues released The Future of Work, Wages, and Labor report, outlining bold policy priorities necessary to strengthen worker power and rebuild the American workforce. The report features essential research from Roosevelt fellows and staff, including Nell Abernathy, Susan R. Holmberg, Katy Milani, Lenore Palladino, and Marshall Steinbaum. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) recognized Roosevelt on Twitter, applauding our “commitment to identifying gaps in our workforce and developing solutions to put workers first.” Learn more here.

2. What’s at Stake

Congress began the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh this week. For Cosmopolitan, Roosevelt Fellow Andrea Flynn elevates the injustices women face today, adding to the discussion of a post-Roe futureFlynn was also quoted in a Mic article on why Kavanaugh’s confirmation would be a profound blow to the economic security of women: “I think that a lot of times, we think about attacks on health and attacks on labor as two distinct efforts. And what makes me nervous about Kavanaugh is that he presents the intersection of so many trends that are really damaging for women.”

3. What Does Monopsony Mean? Chicken Farms Offer an Answer

In “The Rise of the Zombie Small Businesses,” The Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey examines the rampant monopsony power we see in the economy today through the investigation of one major sector: the poultry industry. Due to heavy market concentration, big businesses, like Tyson and Perdue, hold outsized buyer power and thus set the terms over small chicken farmers—who are “so controlled by their agreements with giant food corporations that they no longer act like independent entities,” writes Lowrey. “Between the Amazons of the world and the Ubers of the world and the chicken farmers, when you step back and look at it, you think, ‘Oh wow, this is not an isolated thing. This is actually a big thing,’” said Roosevelt Research Director Marshall Steinbaum.

4. The Case for a Public Banking Option

For Project Syndicate, Roosevelt Fellow Mark Paul and Assistant Professor of Economics at Loyola Marymount University Thomas Herndon continue to make the case for a public banking option, emphasizing the historical precedent set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “A forgotten lesson of the New Deal era is that a public option for basic services can both ensure universal access and empower regulators to curtail abuses. In the case of consumer finance, a public bank would go a long way toward improving the economic security of all U.S. households.”

5. A Lesson for Economists

For The Guardian—and as a follow-up to his recent column on secular stagnation—Roosevelt Chief Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz outlines key takeaways from the 2008 financial crisis that economists should heed before the next downturn, including the need for a more robust response to stimulate economic growth. “Inadequate financial regulation left Americans vulnerable to predatory banking behaviour and saddled with enormous debts. There were thus other ways of increasing aggregate demand besides fiscal stimulus: doing more to induce lending, to help homeowners, to restructure mortgage debt and to redress existing inequalities,” he notes.

What We’re Reading

For the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Roosevelt Fellow J.W. Mason and Associate Professor of Economics at UMass Boston Arjun Jayadev connect two opposing policy beliefs by explaining the aligned theoretical foundations they share“The debate between [mainstream macroeconomics and modern monetary theory] hinges not on any fundamental difference of analysis, but rather on different practical judgements—in particular what kinds of errors are most likely from policymakers.” In other words, this debate is just as much about politics as it is economics.