We Can Afford It.

October 25, 2019

And more public spending is good for the economy, too.

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

Why We Need More Public Spending

The climate crisis will cost our economy more than we think. As professors Dr. Naomi Oreskes and Nicholas Stern write in a New York Times op-ed, “A set of assumptions and practices in economics has led economists both to underestimate the economic impact of many climate risks and to miss some of them entirely.” In an appearance with author Naomi Klein on Pitchfork Economics, Roosevelt Fellow JW Mason argues that we can and must spend more to combat this unprecedented challenge—and that we can afford it.

  • How we pay for it: Public spending on this generational challenge isn’t just doable; it’s desirable. “In short, our current economy stands only to benefit from increased public spending. Therefore, it should be seen as a feature—not a bug—of future economic policymaking.” Learn more in Roosevelt’s latest spending factsheet.
  • Another angle:“What does it mean that the CBO keeps revising its forecasts of future interest rates downward, even as the federal debt continues to rise? Quite obviously: The tight relationship between a high debt-GDP ratio and rising interest rates—that austerity-promoting economists like to predict—doesn’t exist,” Roosevelt Fellow JW Mason writes for the blog. Read on.
  • Coming soon: Next week, a report by Mason and Roosevelt Senior Associate/Research Assistant Kristina Karlsson will outline why we can afford 2020 candidates’ Green New Deal proposals. Watch this space.

Student Debt Cancellation’s Newest Advocate

Upon resigning from the US Department of Education this week, senior student-loan official A. Wayne Johnson criticized a “fundamentally broken” system and endorsed the cancellation of student debt. As Roosevelt Fellow Julie Margetta Morgan responded in a statement, he’s not alone: “Nearly two-thirds of registered voters said that they would support a plan to make public colleges tuition-free and to cancel most existing student loans. The evidence is out there, and people on both sides of the aisle are beginning to listen. It’s time to stop industry insiders from reaping billions in profits at the expense of not just students but also our nation’s collective economic future.” Read more.

How the Post Office Can Solve Our Banking Crisis

About 8 percent of Americans are unbanked, and about 20 percent live in underbanked areas. Roosevelt Fellow Mehrsa Baradaran has a bold solution: postal banking. “Banks want to be efficient, they want to make lots of money, and when the law doesn’t prevent them, they’re going to merge and close up certain areas, and then you’ll have a large swath of the population that has to rely on nongovernment-subsidized lenders,” Baradaran tells Fast Company. “The post office is not motivated by profit, so it can help everyone.” Read on.


At this week’s #SOCAP19 gathering, Roosevelt President & CEO Felicia Wong joined Black Lives Matter co-creator Alicia Garza, Color of Change President Rashad Robinson, and Common Future CEO Rodney D. Foxworth for a conversation on impact investing and the racial wealth gap. “Wealth is crystallized history,” Wong said. “It’s about power, not empowerment, for people of color.”

Rebuilding Worker Voice

Testifying before the House Committee on Education and Labor in the midst of strikes across the country, Roosevelt Fellow Brishen Rogers deployed years of labor research to make the case for worker power. “For decades, our labor and employment laws have been a key part of our social contract. But that social contract has been eroded in recent years, due to changes in our economy, to various legal doctrines that have undermined workers’ bargaining power, and to employer strategies designed to limit labor costs,” Rogers testified. “To ensure that workers in today’s economy can thrive, we need to restore the right to organize, while also considering more fundamental, structural changes to our labor law.”

  • Why this matters: “Autoworkers, teachers, and other workers accepted austerity when the economy was in a free fall, expecting to share in the gains once the recovery took hold. In recent years, however, many of those workers have come to believe that they fell for a sucker’s bet, as they watched their employers grow flush while their own incomes barely budged.” Read more from the New York Times.

What We’re Reading

Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do About It – Heather Boushey

The Student Vote Is Surging. So Are Efforts to Suppress It. – New York Times

Want to Vote? Pay Up. – New Republic 

Racial Bias in a Medical Algorithm Favors White Patients over Sicker Black Patients – Washington Post

Exxon Is on Trial, Accused of Misleading Investors About Risks of Climate Change – NPR

Lawmakers Grill Zuckerberg on Cryptocurrency, False Claims in Political Ads – PBS

The Great Antitrust Awakening Can’t Be Stopped – Bloomberg