On the Left, Taxing the Wealth of the Rich, and Caught in the Web of Corporate Power

January 25, 2019

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

1. On the Left

Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong returned to Left, Right & Center last Friday, this time as a co-host. One of many key takeaways, Wong noted that “people are starting to understand really the role of government in their daily lives and in the broader economy.” She’ll be back on LRC today, leading from the left on big topics that include the sixth week of the government shutdown, how the Trump administration is failing federal workers, and Senator Kamala Harris’s (D-CA) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) 2020 policy agendas. Keep an eye out for the episode later today.

2. Taxing the Wealth of the Rich

The tax debate never ends, but progressives are starting to reclaim it. Ahead of Sen. Warren’s wealth tax proposal, Roosevelt Fellow and Research Director Marshall Steinbaum and Fellow JW Mason spoke to In These Times about our out-of-balance economy. “We know the things that rich people do in order to be rich come at the expense of everybody else,” said Steinbaum. “Concentration of wealth may be even more problematic than the concentration of income, in terms of the political power it gives you and what it does to perpetuate inequality from generation to generation,” added Mason.

3. Progressive Tax Policy Can Save Democracy

What’s the reasoning behind a higher top marginal tax rate? “Shrinking rents. Equalizing power. Curtailing inequality. Safeguarding democracy,” answered economist Gabriel Zucman. Roosevelt’s Felicia Wong shared Emmanuel Saez and Zucman’s bold NYT op-ed, emphasizing that “Taxation is at the heart of any serious economic agenda. Raising top rates on the very wealthy will renew and further our American democracy.” Roosevelt Fellow and Great Democracy Initiative (GDI) Executive Director Julie Margetta Morgan echoed this point on Twitter: “Concentration of wealth in our economy is hugely problematic, but so is the concentration of power in our political system that comes along with it. Taxes can help solve both.”

4. Why the Trends of Today’s Labor Market Are Not New

The 21st century has provided employers with new technological and legal tools, which have reinforced their outsized power in the workplace. In her first article as a Forbes contributor, Roosevelt Fellow Rakeen Mabud explains why employers’ dominance over the labor market—at a great disadvantage to workers—is not new. “We cannot think about the future of work without the context of long-running power dynamics between employers and employees,” she writes. Mabud will be writing regularly for Forbes about work in the 21st century economy, labor markets, and how they interact with broader structural forces.

5. Caught in the Web of Corporate Power

Nearly 1,000 media professionals lost their jobs this week in a string of layoffs at companies including HuffPost and BuzzFeed. From subscription costs to the rise of Reddit, the public isn’t sure who or what is to blame. On Twitter, Roosevelt Director of State Advocacy and Government Affairs Madeline Neighly connected the dots“Corporate consolidation, short term focus on shareholder payouts over long term investment in innovative products, anti-union behavior, & hedge fund vultures all at play in newsroom layoffs. In addition to crushing job loss, we’re losing democratic accountability.”

What We’re Reading

We at Roosevelt understand that many of today’s economic problems are about who holds power in our society—and who doesn’t. Throughout our history and in this current moment, particular communities have been left out and left behind so that others can get ahead. Following the incident at the Lincoln Memorial between a group of schoolboys and an indigenous elder, the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart wrote about “the smirk,” putting it into a larger context. Capehart’s op-ed was inspired by a recent column by Roosevelt Executive Vice President Jeff Krehely.