You Are #NotALoan, Share the Corporate Wealth, and Challenging the Court

November 30, 2018

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

1. You Are #NotALoan

Highlighting a new report from our partners at Freedom to ProsperSlate’s Jordan Weissman writes on the political popularity of canceling all student debt. On Thursday, Roosevelt continued the conversation with a Twitter chat on the #studentdebt crisisParticipants included Roosevelt Network Director Katie Kirchner, Fellow Julie Margetta Morgan, and Research Director and Fellow Marshall Steinbaum. “People don’t understand the degree to which [student debt] affects all Americans,” said UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus George Lakoff. “The student loan debt trap stifles our economic growth because debt holders can’t fully participate in the economy. If we free them from this trap, we also free ourselves.”

2. Share the Corporate Wealth

For Equal Times, Roosevelt Senior Economist and Policy Counsel Lenore Palladino and Program Associate Kristina Karlsson make the case for why corporations should invest in workers—and not just shareholders. Workers, who help create corporate profits through their labor, only see a sliver of the economic pie while shareholders and executives pocket more and more cash. “When companies claim that they cannot afford to maintain and create jobs, provide living wages and benefits to their workers, or invest in innovation, they are not telling the whole story,” write Palladino and Karlsson. Firms—and our economy—cannot prosper if we keep putting shareholders first.

3. More Buybacks, More Layoffs

This week, General Motors (GM) announced that the company will be laying off 15 percent of its workforce and suspending production at five North American factories. In many ways, the decision elevates runaway corporate power in today’s economy. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH), for instance, wants to explore possible connections to the Republican tax law. “The American people deserve to know if the tax cuts they paid for are being used to inflate corporate profits at the expense of their economic security and the survival of American workers,” he said. Roosevelt’s Lenore Palladino called out stock buybacks: “Maybe [GM] shouldn’t have spent $37.8 billion in stock buybacks over the last ten years.”

4. To Change the Economics Profession, Change the World

In “Pulling Rabbits Out of Hats,” a long-form essay for Jacobin, Roosevelt Fellow J.W. Mason considers whether a decade of crisis has changed economics. Mason argues that, while the evolution of economic theory since the 2008 financial collapse has not led to an intellectual revolution, bold ideas and new paths for the mainstream to take have been established. “Fantastic piece on economics since the crisis by [Mason], walking that fine line between justifiably critiquing the mainstream while still identifying the interesting and subversive elements radicals can build on, in both theory and policy practice,” tweeted researcher and writer Michal Rozworski.

5. Challenging the Court

Following the suppression of Merrick Garland’s nomination and the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it is clear that the judicial branch faces a crisis of legitimacy. HuffPost reporter Paul Blumenthal writes on a new fight for progressives: challenging the power of court. To tackle America’s most pressing problems, it will be crucial to ensure that the court is just. If we don’t eradicate corruption in our government, big (and bold) ideas will be that much harder to achieve. “Once you start to look at the aggressive Green New Deal policies that climate scientists say are necessary to head off these irreversible impacts over these next 10 or 20 years, that is where you’re going to see the rubber hit the road,” added Roosevelt Fellow Todd N. Tucker.

What We’re Watching

Roosevelt Fellow Darrick Hamilton joined MSNBC to discuss the hidden rules of homeownership and a new report from the Brookings Institution that shows that homes owned by Black Americans are profoundly undervalued. Hamilton argues for structural change as the key pathway to a more equitable, and ultimately fair and free, economy: “When you don’t have wealth, you don’t have choices.”