The Loss of a Legend, Fixing the Senate, and Joining Together to Make Bold Change

March 22, 2019

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

1. The Loss of a Legend

Intellectual giant and economics professor Alan B. Krueger passed away on Saturday. “When I first learned of … Alan Krueger’s tragic passing over the weekend, I thought about happiness,” writes Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell. “To some economists, investigating happiness probably seemed silly. But Alan saw it as a central mission of his discipline. The whole point of economics is to figure out how, in a world of scarce resources, we can make people’s lives better.” Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan professor, also shared insight into his work and life. Fellows and staff of the Roosevelt Institute extend our condolences to Alan’s family, and we will all aim to achieve his vision: “Don’t concede anything. The idea of turning economics into a true empirical science, where core theories can be rejected, is a BIG, revolutionary idea.”

2. Why Is Getting Out of Poverty So Hard?

Last week, Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong joined writer Hanna Brooks Olsen as a guest for the latest episode of  Pitchfork Economics with Nick Hanauer. During the episode, which focused on poverty in America, Wong not only explained why poverty is more than just a problem for a small fraction of the population—it is actually the disenfranchisement and erosion of power for most Americans, she said—but also underscored the need for public power, via government intervention, to end it. “All reduction in poverty has occurred through government action,” she said. “It’s government that reduces poverty rates.”

3. Fix the Senate

Some of the most pressing challenges of our time—including inequality and climate change—require bold political reforms that are capable of setting the US and the world on a new trajectory. In Fixing the Senate: Equitable and Full Representation for the 21st Century, Roosevelt Fellow Todd N. Tucker explores five ways to realign the body with the functions it is meant to serve. His proposals include “full representation,” which would be achieved through a constitutional amendment to add eight Senate seats for DC, overseas territories, and Native American tribes. On the blog, Roosevelt Editorial Director Kendra Bozarth explains how the structure of the Senate works against racial equality.

4. Presidential Candidate Gives Nod to Roosevelt Fellow

On Sunday’s episode of Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke to name a few books that matter to him and inform his thinking. After listing The Odyssey and The Uninhabitable Earth, O’Rourke said this: “I’m reading some articles right now by an economist named Darrick Hamilton that talk about how wealth is accumulated in this country; that it disproportionately favors white households at the expense of Black household.” Not only is it great to see that a presidential candidate is reading the work of fellows and staff, but it is also promising that those running for office in 2020 are getting serious about wealth inequality.

5. Joining Together to Make Bold Change

When it comes to today’s broken economy—including America’s monopoly problem and the concentration of wealth in the hands of too few—bold solutions are needed. This week, Community Change released a video from last week’s “Bold v. Old” conference, where thought leaders, politicians, and policy experts joined Community Change, the Roosevelt Institute, the Economic Security Project, and the Hewlett Foundation to showcase how a new partnership of thinkers and doers is embracing big economic ideas. “What we really mean by ‘bold’ is ideas that fundamentally change the power structures of our economy,” said Wong.

What We’re Reading

Across American mega corporations, CEO pay skyrocketed by tens of millions of dollars from 2017 to 2018. And the CEOs of the six largest banks in the US accumulated more income last year than they did in 2008—during the midst of the financial crisis. “Large US banks’ disclosures on executive compensation tell an important story: The market’s collective memory is about 10 years,” writes Al Root for Financial News. That policymakers are still debating a $15 minimum wage while leaders of the companies that wrecked the economy in ’08 regularly receive sky-high pay increases is painfully ironic.