Government Shutdown Underscores Our Broken Economy, Curbing Corruption in Government, and the Barriers of Student Debt

January 18, 2019

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

1. Government Shutdown Underscores Our Broken Economy

Covering the government shutdown, ThinkProgress policy reporter Casey Quinlan connects the crisis to today’s high-profit, low-wage economy, noting the fact that many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and are unable to afford unexpected emergencies. Despite headline measures like low unemployment, it’s clear that workers are being left behind in today’s economy. “There are a few reasons why wages haven’t risen faster, including the decisions businesses make when only fewer of them have control over the labor market,” writes Quinlan, lifting Roosevelt research. Manufactured or not, the shutdown reinforces our call to rebalance power in the economy.

2. Can the Swamp Drain Itself?

Voters across the political spectrum want policymakers to enact anti-corruption legislation, and House Democrats responded by introducing the For the People Act, an ethics and government reform package. Though the bill is the first real movement in Congress on government corruption since the Watergate era, Roosevelt Fellow Julie Margetta Morgan explains why it falls short in one key area: curbing corruption in government via the influence of money in policymaking. “History shows us that when we foreclose on only some … pathways, those who wish to tilt policy in their favor simply flood the paths that remain open,” she says.

3. The Barriers of Student Debt

The weight of the student debt crisis is crushing economic opportunity, including homeownership. Focusing on homeownership—a forthcoming paper from the Federal Reserve says that 400,000 student loan borrowers were unable to buy homes—MarketWatch reporter Jillian Berman examines how student debt is a barrier to economic mobility. “We’re still selling people on the idea that higher education, no matter its cost and no matter the level of debt, is the ticket to a better more stable, more healthy life,” said Roosevelt’s Julie Margetta Morgan. “For many people, that’s not the case.”

4. Making the Economic and Moral Case

Following her recent 60 Minutes interview, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) sparked a debate on taxes. Many outlets and organizations are digging into her suggestion to raise the marginal tax rate to 70 percent on individuals making more than $10 million. Though some skeptics have raised concerns over how much revenue can be raised, Roosevelt Fellow Michael S. Linden was cited in The Hill for reminding policymakers and pundits to weigh the economic and moral arguments for a higher marginal tax rate. He expanded upon his reasoning on Twitter: “the wealthy aren’t *earning* all their income, they’re extracting it.”

5. The Future of Progressive Action Is Now

A recent Washington Post headline resonates with what we’re seeing across Roosevelt’s student network: “The next generation of voters is more liberal, more inclusive and believes in government.” From fighting gun violence to standing up for Black lives, today’s young leaders (and soon-to-be voters) understand the need for transformative, structural change—and they believe in public power to achieve it. “It’s important that this cohort as a whole, like us at @RooseveltNTWK, believes in government and its potential to act for the public good,” tweeted Roosevelt Network National Director Katie Kirchner.

What We’re Watching

On the potential for the government to act in service of the collective good, we’re rewatching Roosevelt Fellow Darrick Hamilton’s “We the Future” Ted Talk on baby bonds. This bold idea “could go a long way towards eliminating the transmission of economic advantage or disadvantage across generations and establishing a more moral and decent economy that facilitates assets, economic security, and social mobility for all,” he says.