Movement in the Midterms, the Start of a Blue Wave, and What We Miss When We Talk about Student Debt

November 9, 2018

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

1. Movement in the Midterms

Two years after Donald Trump was elected president, American voters returned to the polls in record numbers. “It didn’t deliver a tsunami-like blue wave,” writes Vox’s Emily Stewart. However, “[v]oter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections appears to have surpassed previous midterms significantly.” Despite rampant voter suppression in states like Georgia, progressives earned major victories across the country. Most notably: Democrats took back the U.S. House of Representatives, and more than 100 women were elected to Congress, including 40 women of color. As Rebecca Traister writes, “the new face of power is taking shape.”

2. The Start of a Blue Wave

In response to Election Day, Roosevelt Network Director Katie Kirchner and Senior Program Associate Jade Wilenchik explore Tuesday’s triumphs and disappointments, explaining why the generation driving progressive change in this country is only getting started“Building lasting progressive infrastructure from the ground up was always going to take longer than one election,” they write. “The tides of this country are changing, but we must recognize that this moment is the first gust of wind on the open ocean—setting in motion a pathway toward building lasting power—that we are all part of growing over the coming years.”

3. Can American Democracy Come Back?

For Project Syndicate, Roosevelt Chief Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz examines how the failings of the Constitution (i.e., the Electoral College) and anti-democratic strategies like voter suppression have tilted American democracy away from the many and in favor of the few—and why progressives must not yield in correcting this. “America’s ideals of freedom, democracy, and justice for all may never have been fully realized, but now they are under open attack,” he writes. “Democracy is under attack, and we all have an obligation to do what we can—wherever we are—to save it.”

4. What We Miss When We Talk about Student Debt

Bloomberg’s Noah Smith recently wrote on how America’s $1.5 trillion student debt crisis is “crushing” young people, citing a recent paper by Roosevelt Fellow Julie Margetta Morgan and Research Director and Fellow Marshall Steinbaum. In a new “Why This Matters,” Deputy Editorial Director Kendra Bozarth delves deeper into Roosevelt’s findings, explaining why the media, policymakers, and borrowers themselves often fail to consider the ways that student debt plays into the systemic barriers that are built into our economy. “If higher education is the cost of a more enriched, [economically secure] life, it currently comes at too high of a price,” she writes.

5. Building Better Banks

Following Wells Fargo’s 2016 corruption scandal—which included employees opening fraudulent bank accounts to meet executives’ impossible sales targets—the company committed to “building a better bank.” Roosevelt Senior Economist and Policy Counsel Lenore Palladino shows that Wells Fargo has committed to enriching shareholders instead, authorizing $40.6 billion in stock buybacks since Trump’s tax bill was passed—funds that could have been used to pay employees better and avoid layoffs. “To build better banks, a better financial sector, and a better economy, we need better rules that encourage productive—not extractive—corporate behavior and foster the shared prosperity U.S. companies can clearly afford to provide,” Palladino writes.

What We’re Reading

For The Intercept, Lee Fang and David Dayen examine how corporations influence or pressure workers to vote for corporate interests—and, ultimately, against their own. In a labor market structured to disadvantage workers and strip them of their economic power, it’s deeply problematic that some U.S. companies are now targeting workers’ political power.