Not Buying It, a Matter of Concentration, and the $1 Trillion Question

October 26, 2018

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

1. Not Buying It

In a report published by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group (VSG), Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong explains what Americans really want from tax reform—and it’s not tax cuts for corporations and the already wealthy. For “The Daily 202,” WaPo’s James Hohmann connects the VSG’s polling results to the fact that few Republicans are touting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)—Trump’s only legislative achievement since taking office—on the campaign trail. Wong expanded on the power of a bold economic agenda in an interview with VICE: “Progressive politicians can actually use some of these policies to signal to conservative voters, Actually, we’re for you, too.”

2. FTC Signs off on Creating Gas Giant

On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved, with conditions, the merger of gas giants Linde AG and Praxair Inc., creating the world’s largest supplier of industrial gases. FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra dissented from the decision, noting that it would stifle competition and violate the Sherman Act. Roosevelt Senior Economist and Policy Counsel Lenore Palladino and Research Director and Fellow Marshall Steinbaum issued a statement: “Commissioner Chopra is right to point out that buyers must prove that they intend to govern their firm and invest for the long run in order to create a viable competitor, not exploit a weak asset just to sell it off again,” said Steinbaum.

3. A Matter of Concentration

With better rules, antitrust enforcers can protect competition in the economy and ensure that companies work in the interest of the many. In both print and online editions of the magazine, the Economist recently elevated the effective competition standard, as proposed by Marshall Steinbaum and Maurice E. Stucke. “Despite signs that industrial concentration is sapping the economy of its dynamism, regulators remain permissive. That might be because, when they scrutinize a merger, they focus solely on consumers’ welfare. A consideration of the impact on workers is overdue. Without competition, large firms become exploitative bureaucracies that are accountable to no one.”

4. The $1 Trillion Question

Stock buybacks are on track to reach $1 trillion in 2018. In “The $1 Trillion Question: New Approaches to Regulating Stock Buybacks” for the Yale Journal on Regulation, Roosevelt’s Lenore Palladino argues that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) should enact a new regulatory regime to rein in buybacks. If the SEC won’t act, Congress could write new legislation that would either ban or seriously constrain the harmful practice. “In order to ensure that capital markets are not manipulated by tremendous repurchase activity and that firms undertake true innovative enterprises that sustain prosperity, a new regulatory regime is required,” said Palladino.

5. Changing the Narrative on Student Debt

On NPR, Roosevelt Fellow Julie Margetta Morgan lays out the findings from Roosevelt’s recent report on the student debt crisis. It’s crucial to understand these dynamics, in order to inform better public policy that lifts students up, rather than maintain a system that holds them back. In MarketWatch, Jillian Berman discusses a recent speech by Seth Frotman, the former student-loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in which he made the case for reshaping student debt rhetoric. “The most important thing to remember here is that we can’t solve the problem until we name what it is,” added Morgan.

What We’re Reading

The Fight for the Supreme Court Is Just Beginning,” writes Data for Progress Co-Founder Sean McElwee for HuffPost. Through big ideas—court packing, for example—and bold action, progressives can reclaim democracy for the American people. “Benches full of reactionary old white men, systematically dismantling progress, are not an inevitable product of our Constitution; they’ve been built by decades of conservative activism,” writes McElwee. “Progressives can win this fight, but only if they understand that this is an exercise in politics, not justice.”