#NewRules21C, the Fight of Our Lives, and Rethinking the Future of Work

April 19, 2019

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

1. #NewRules21C

Last week in DC, we released New Rules for the 21st Century: Corporate Power, Public Power, and the Future of the American Economy, a report by Roosevelt’s Nell Abernathy, Darrick Hamilton, and Julie Margetta Morgan. Our worldview offers policymakers a progressive “one-two punch”: ways to curb corporate power in markets and politics and also deploy public (or government) power in new and expansive ways to ensure that all Americans thrive. “Policymakers who adopt this worldview have empirics, morality, and the American people on their side,” said Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong. In her keynote, Stacey Abrams underscored our forward-thinking message: “When we work together, when we reimagine the rules and write a new playbook—we can win.”

2. The Fight of Our Lives

The release of New Rules for the 21st Century is a bold pathway forward for our economy. The report garnered an exclusive by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent: “At the core of this blueprint is a fundamental idea: ‘Our economy rewards those who have power.’” For the New Yorker, John Cassidy underscored the crucial need for a robust response to 50 years of distorted policy choices, calling Roosevelt’s worldview “a new roadmap for progressives.” The Nation‘s Greg Kaufmann referred to our report as “the plan to save our economy,” and the video for #NewRules21C explains how we can save our democracy too. And in outlining our one-two punch for WaPo, Katrina vanden Heuvel said, “What the report makes clear is that the conservative era is bankrupt. Fundamental reform is imperative.”

3. Fixing the Tax Code

The US tax system is not working for most Americans—but it is helping big corporations and wealthy executives hoard profits. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy recently showed that at least 60 Fortune 500 companies paid zero federal income tax last year, which is double in the years before the 2017 tax law. It doesn’t have to be this way. As highlighted by Truthout, #NewRules21C shows how higher taxes on the top can rectify extractive corporate behavior: “As a new Roosevelt Institute report puts it, these taxes send ‘a clear message that local governments—and the federal government—can use [the CEO-worker pay ratio] as a powerful tool in highlighting bad governance decisions that harm workers and our economy.’”

4. New NAFTA: Favorable Toplines, Disappointing Conclusions

Yesterday, the US International Trade Commission issued the government’s official projection for the impact of the Trump administration’s proposed updates to the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Despite a small boost in growth, Roosevelt Fellow Todd N. Tucker argues in a statement that NAFTA 2.0 doesn’t meet the standard of a robust, sustainable domestic policy agenda. “The goal of democracy should be to boldly and continuously rewrite the rules to meet people’s needs,” he said. “Inflexible and one-sided treaty-like arrangements make this aim harder and take the public’s focus off of the bold progressive agenda we need to fight existential threats like climate change and inequality.”

5. How Marketized Government Exacerbates Racial Inequality

Fortune explores how disparities in employment benefits entrench the racial wealth gap: “According to the study, barriers to pension benefits diminish the wealth of Black and Latinx workers by $5,600 and $9,800 respectively. Employers’ denial of health care coverage takes $2,700 in wealth from Black workers and $5,400 from Latinx ones.” Roosevelt Communications Director Kendra Bozarth lifted #NewRules21C co-author Nell Abernathy’s response to the article on Twitter: “Benefits left to the whim of employers and not guaranteed as a public good ‘is a very clear example of how marketized government reinforces and further entrenches existing inequalities.’”


We can redefine the future of work today, but this will require fundamentally rethinking the role of government and business and rewriting the rules of the economy. On Monday, April 29, the Ford Foundation is hosting an evening of conversation with experts from the labor and technology fields, including Roosevelt’s Felicia Wong, and exploring how to spark change in these critical areas—and beyond. Learn more and RSVP today here.