Stacey Abrams’s Southern Roadmap

December 13, 2019

The Southern Economic Advancement Project is ready for equity.

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top stories of the week. Note: The Roosevelt Rundown will be on hiatus until January 10. Happiest of holidays to you and yours, and see you back here in 2020!

The Southern Economic Advancement Project

This week marked the launch of the Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP), a policy initiative founded by Stacey Abrams and fiscally sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute. Bringing particular attention to the intersection of race, class, and gender in economic and social policy, SEAP seeks to spark innovation and collaboration and build a more equitable future for Southern states. “Across the South, we have local leaders dedicated to improving the lives of those around us, and our goal is to call upon that common bond and support this transformative work,” SEAP Executive Director Stacey Abrams said in a press release. “We are thrilled to be SEAP’s fiscal partner as it works to elevate and bridge progressive work happening in the South, ultimately moving us toward a better future for all,” said Roosevelt President & CEO Felicia Wong.

  • Listening tour: A new report from SEAP Research Director Sarah Beth Gehl reveals findings from a listening tour with Southern nonprofit leaders—and explains how they’ve shaped SEAP’s roadmap for the future: “SEAP has based our research agenda on feedback from these conversations and expanded our capacity-building and network-building services. For example, we offer microgrants to organizations wishing to engage in policy for the first time or in a new way,” Gehl writes. Read more.
  • In related news: Echoing SEAP’s mission to “change the narrative of the South,” Roosevelt Communications Director Kendra Bozarth recently joined Hidden Truths, an Insight Center podcast, to discuss getting regional stories right. “We’ve really reduced entire communities, entire regions, to these really flawed and, I feel, offensive political headlines,” she says. “We have all these big ideas happening right now . . . but policy change cannot be real until we change the way we talk about policy and people.” Listen here.

Why Capitalism’s Salvation Depends on Taxation

Conscious policy choices that allowed for the dismantling of public power and plummeting tax revenues pose an existential risk to both our economy and our democracy, as Roosevelt Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz, Roosevelt Fellow Todd Tucker, and the University of California, Berkeley’s Gabriel Zucman argue in an essay for Foreign Affairs. “The direct consequences of this shift are clear: crumbling infrastructure, a slowing pace of innovation, a diminishing rate of growth, booming inequality, shorter life expectancy, and a sense of despair among large parts of the population. These consequences add up to something much larger: a threat to the sustainability of democracy and the global market economy.”

2020’s Billion-Dollar Challenge

In an op-ed for USA Today, Roosevelt Vice President of Strategy and Policy Nell Abernathy argues that the wealth of billionaire 2020 candidates Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer has allowed them to drown out competition—in this election and in our economy more broadly— in ways that are both undemocratic and reflective of deeper root issues. “We’ve let the wealthiest among us, including presidential hopefuls Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, take home more wealth and then hoard it. The next president must prioritize unrigging the very economic system from which billionaires have so richly benefited,” Abernathy writes. Read more.

The Perks of Free College

As 2020 candidates spar over their free and debt-free college plans, and who exactly should benefit from them, Roosevelt Program Manager Suzanne Kahn is making the case for universal free college. “The promise of universal free access can cut through yearly budgetary fights, reduce bureaucratic hurdles to access, and increase citizens’ trust in and willingness to use the program,” she told the Associated Press this week. Coming soon, two new reports from Kahn will define a progressive values framework for free college proposals and examine the lessons of existing American programs that make public goods broadly accessible—including Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance. Watch this space.

Making Private Equity Equitable

“What enables a market economy to serve American society is informed competition with a fair set of rules where decision makers bear the full consequences of their actions,” Joseph Stiglitz writes in an op-ed for Business Insider. “A system in which private equity can hoodwink investors, rely on debt to fund acquisitions—raised by banks that pass the risk on to others—and then extract wealth from viable going concerns, is a far cry from a just market economy. It is a creation of already rich Wall Street financiers who win even if everyone else loses. If private equity is to work to the benefit of all stakeholders, then Congress needs to demonstrate the same talent for making markets work that bad actors on Wall Street have shown for sabotaging them.” Read on.

What We’re Reading

RIP, World Trade Organization? – The Nation

Defeating the HIV Epidemic Is More About Politics Than Science – The Guardian

2 Million Federal Workers Are Poised to Get Paid Parental Leave for the First Time Ever – Vox

The Case for Growth Centers: How to Spread Tech Innovation Across America – Brookings

A 5,000-Year-Old Plan to Erase Debts Is Now a Hot Topic in America – Bloomberg

An Administrative Path to Student Debt Cancellation – Great Democracy Initiative