#Juneteenth2019, Exploring a Guaranteed Income, and Rewarding Work, Not Wealth

June 21, 2019

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

1. Juneteenth 2019

People across the US celebrated Juneteenth on Wednesday, an annual holiday that commemorates the abolition of slavery. For the blog, Roosevelt Fellow Rakeen Mabud tells the story of Juneteenth and outlines the legacy of slavery in today’s economy. “The holiday reminds us that this country is a work in progress. Without acknowledging and concretely dealing with the racism that this country was built on, we will never be able to deliver equitable progress for all,” she says. “Ultimately, Juneteenth is a day we should commemorate–in part because of how far we have come, but also as a reminder of how far we still have to go.”

2. Achieving Race and Gender Justice Through a Guaranteed Income

Inequality at large and wealth inequities by race and gender specifically represent some of the greatest failures of the American economy. For Roosevelt, Insight Center Vice President of Programs and Strategy Jhumpa Bhattacharya explores how a guaranteed income can rectify these trends“If we want to see real change, we have to come to terms with the reality that anti-Black sentiment, xenophobia, and sexism have led to unconscionable economic stratification,” said Bhattacharya. On the blog, Mabud and Roosevelt Communications Director Kendra Bozarth explain why this matters for economic policymaking, racial and gender justice, and freedom.

3. The High Cost of Sky-High Shareholder Power

In the third brief of our pharma series, Roosevelt Fellow Katy Milani illustrates the magnitude of the financial incentives that are driving Big Pharma’s extractive corporate behavior, focusing specifically on the rising prevalence of stock buybacks. Milani found that 7 of the 10 leading pharmaceutical companies spent over 100 percent of their net income to enrich shareholders, meaning that they borrowed funds or used cash reserves to buy back stock and inflate share prices. “This might be funny if it weren’t so sad. People’s lives are at stake,” tweeted Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). For the industry to serve the public good over private interests, policymakers must rein in shareholder power.

4. Rewarding Work, Not Wealth

On Wednesday, Representatives Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced legislation to curb buybacks and boost wages. This is a companion bill to the Reward Work Act, which was put forward in the Senate by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in March. During Thursday’s Financial Services Committee hearing on diversity in the boardroom, Garcia cited research by Roosevelt Senior Economist Lenore Palladino and former Research Associate Adil Abdela on buybacks and worker payHe and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also elevated the need for worker representation on boards, as explored by Roosevelt Fellow Susan R. Holmberg among others.

5. Big Ideas Breakfast: The Climate Crisis

Americans are calling for big and bold solutions to the many challenges facing our economy, society, and the very health of our planet. On Wednesday, June 26, we’re hosting a special breakfast discussion of new ideas to meet this critical moment, including our framework to save our democracy and decarbonize the US economy. Speakers include Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong, Vice President of Policy and Strategy Nell Abernathy, and Fellow JW Mason. Learn more about Roosevelt’s new economic playbook and reserve your spot today.

What We’re Reading

Before Tuesday’s House Budget Committee hearing on poverty in America, Reverend Dr. William Barber II and Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis penned an op-ed on the fight for the “heart and soul” of our democracy, elevating the rise of a new electorate in the Midwest and South. “In state after state, coalitions are emerging that will transform the political landscape in 2020 and beyond by demanding both parties address the real issues impacting poor people,” they write.

And speaking of buybacks, we’re also reading this excellent profile on economist William Lazonick, who has been sounding the alarm on the harmful consequences for decades. Palladino  made closing remarks, saying: “I think there’s a real danger of stock buybacks topping out the market, and then the bubble bursting. We know who gets hurt when the bubble bursts. It’s the majority of us.”