The Racist Roots of Tipping, Racial Equality Is Economic Equality, and NYC Rejects Amazon

February 15, 2019

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

1. The Racist Roots of Tipping

This Black History Month—and every day—we must consider how the hidden rules of race have been built into the rules of our economy and become normal in our daily lives. For Forbes, Roosevelt Fellow Rakeen Mabud explores the history of the tipped minimum wage—a legacy of slavery that she says is baked into today’s society. “It is easy to condemn blackface, but as we reflect on Black History Month, it is important to recognize that we cannot truly address injustice without directly tackling the dangerous ways that racism has been codified in our laws and normalized in our society.”

2. Racial Equality Is Economic Equality

We cannot have economic equality without racial equality. Examining FDR’s proposal for an economic bill of rights and the racialized rules and outcomes of education in America, Roosevelt Fellow Darrick Hamilton shows that we can use the strengths of government—by making inclusive policy choices—to break ongoing cycles of exclusion and create shared prosperity. “Embracing this vision means advocating for an economy that is both race- and gender-inclusive, and one that puts the onus of inequality not on the individuals but where it belongs: centuries of discrimination and intergenerational resource hoarding,” he writes.

3. Ending Our Shareholder-First Economy

For nearly 50 years, America’s public corporations have been driven by “shareholder primacy,” a framework that incentivizes corporate leaders to increase profits for shareholders above all else—including raising worker pay. Roosevelt Senior Economist and Policy Counsel Lenore Palladino examines why shareholder primacy is a flawed theory and offers a bold policy agenda to rebalance power. In a video released by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Palladino debunks President Trump’s chief economist’s argument for buybacks—a runaway product of shareholder primacy—explaining why they benefit shareholders at the expense of employees and our economy.

4. Student Loan Watchdogs Tell On Themselves

The Department of Education released an audit report this week, revealing failures in its own oversight of student loan servicers. The department’s inspector general said that the agency “relied on the memories” of employees who manage servicers and the $1 trillion in student loans that they handle. On Twitter, Roosevelt Fellow Julie Margetta Morgan explained why this is a clear example of powerful interests corrupting the system. “Higher ed policy experts and advocates have been trying to hold @Navient and other loan servicers accountable through the rules of the student loan system,” she said. “But as long as money can dictate whether those rules are enforced, we won’t see real change.”

5. NYC Rejects Amazon

Following ongoing protests from grassroots movement leaders in New York City, Amazon on Tuesday withdrew its proposal to build an expansive corporate campus in Queens. “There’s no reason that we should have ever considered giving $3 billion to this corporation to come to New York City,” said Zachary Lerner, the labor organizing director for NY Communities for Change. “This is an amazing victory for the activists who stood up to the governor and the mayor as well as the world’s biggest corporation. An inspiration for us all,” tweeted Roosevelt Fellow JW Mason.

What We’re Reading

This week, Business Insider’s Rich Feloni wrote on calls to end the ability to become a billionaire. “For the first time on a large scale, Americans are not only questioning billionaires’ roles in society, but whether they should even exist in a healthy economy,” he explained in a Twitter thread. Citing Roosevelt Vice President of Advocacy and Policy Steph Sterling, Feloni underscored why asking questions about the skewed power dynamics in today’s economy is not radical—it’s common sense.