Debate *This*

September 12, 2019

Here’s what the 2020 candidates should be talking about.

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

1. The Racial Wealth Gap and Student Debt

Due to structural racism, the $1.6 trillion student debt crisis is especially harmful for Black students and families, who pay more, owe more, and see worse outcomes when it comes to higher education. In Bridging Progressive Policy Debates: How Student Debt and the Racial Wealth Gap Reinforce Each Other (produced in partnership with Demos and The Century Foundation), Roosevelt Institute Program Manager Suzanne Kahn and her co-authors bring together research on both higher education and the racial wealth gap, tracing the historic policy decisions that have shaped structural inequities. “To fairly evaluate any higher education reform proposal, we must understand the ways that these dual burdens—less wealth and more debt—lead to worse outcomes for Black students than white students.” Every 2020 candidate should pay attention to why this matters.

2. Shareholder Capitalism

To curb runaway shareholder power, the candidates can look to the UK for inspiration. For the Washington Post, Roosevelt Senior Economist and Policy Counsel Lenore Palladino and Roosevelt Fellow Todd Tucker explore the Labour Party’s hopes to dismantle shareholder primacy by extending ownership of companies to employees. “Creating inclusive ownership structures would try to build a very different understanding of how businesses operate and what they owe their employees and other stakeholders,” they write. “The US economy … performed better when shareholders faced legal and cultural constraints from hoarding all the wealth,” said Tucker in a Twitter thread.

3. Power and Corruption

“The crises our country faces—the daily threat of gun violence; the precarity caused by sky-high drug prices, health care costs, insufficient savings, and low wages; and the existential peril of climate change—are all connected by a single thread: power.” To gauge how serious the candidates are about structural change, Roosevelt Fellow Julie Margetta Morgan wants to know if the candidates are serious about shifting the power dynamics in our economy and our democracy. Tonight, “moderators should press candidates on how their policy platforms would dismantle—or reinforce—concentrated power in the economy” and “ask candidates how their views on power shape the way that they choose to run their presidential campaigns.”

4. Gender Inequality

Our economic system is really bad for women, especially women of color,” Roosevelt Fellow Andrea Flynn writes for the blog. As conservative-dominated courts across the country curb labor and reproductive rights, all Americans need to hear how the candidates plan to defend womens’ health, safety, and economic security. “A progressive agenda that proudly centers women is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good policy and smart politics. Women—and specifically women of color—are the backbone of the Democratic party, and their votes will be needed to send a Democrat to the White House in 2020.”

5. Housing Affordability

A problem that’s gotten little (if any) of the spotlight this campaign season: high housing costs. For the blog, Roosevelt Fellow Katy Milani diagnoses the trends that got us here and suggests how we can reimagine the role of government in the housing market. “First, any plan must rein in—or better yet prohibit—predatory Wall Street investors (specifically [private equity]) from buying homes and hiking up rental costs. Second, we need to think boldly about how the federal government can and should directly provide housing—especially since housing is a fundamental necessity for human thriving, and the private sector is failing to provide safe, affordable housing to all.”

What We’re Reading

In a piece on Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Workplace Democracy Plan, which would end “at will” employment and strengthen the right to strike, New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie describes how mass strikes and picketing have spurred federal action throughout history. “Workers’ rights to strike and picket are their most powerful weapon; they counterbalance employers’ property rights,” Roosevelt Fellow Brishen Rogers tweeted in response to the column. “If we want decent work, and economic equality, we need to protect the right to strike once again.” There’s no better place to make that case than tonight’s debate stage.