New Year, New Progressivism

January 10, 2020

2020 deserves a new worldview.

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


Beyond Neoliberalism

On Wednesday, January 15, the Roosevelt Institute will lead an event dedicated to moving beyond neoliberalism and building an affirmative alternate vision rooted in progressive ideas, rules, and institutions. Highlighting two forthcoming Roosevelt reports focused on the empirical failures of neoliberalism and emerging alternatives, the Washington, DC, conference will feature a panel discussion including:

  • Roosevelt President & CEO Felicia Wong
  • Roosevelt Fellow Mike Konczal
  • New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie
  • Wellesley College historian Quinn Slobodian
  • Omidyar Network principal Joelle Gamble

Reserve your spot today.

A Progressive Framework for Free College

It’s not always clear what we mean when we say “free college.” In a new report, Suzanne Kahn—deputy director of the Great Democracy Initiative and a Roosevelt Institute expert on education initiatives—cuts through the noise, proposing a progressive values framework and examining policy design choices beyond budgeting. “Political realities and fiscal concerns will inevitably influence the debate about free college. But by grounding themselves in a clear framework, policymakers can ensure that those factors influence a free college plan without compromising its core purpose.” Read more.

  • Why this matters: “Against the backdrop of a $1.6 trillion student debt crisis and declining college enrollment, free college has emerged as a political lightning rod in today’s higher education debate. Questions about who should and will benefit⁠—and what ‘free’ even means⁠—have created a free-for-whom free-for-all, with proposals varying both by student and institutional access,” writes Roosevelt Editorial Manager Matt Hughes. “To evaluate these policies, and the profound impact they’re likely to have on racial and wealth inequality and economic and democratic access, we need a values framework.” Read on.

New Ideas for Free College

In crafting free college plans, policymakers have much to learn from the current landscape of public good provision in the US. In a second report, Kahn surveys design models across the policy spectrum—including Medicaid, K–12, and the postal mail service—and explores how components of each might be applied to higher education policy. “Existing US social programs offer many valuable ideas for how to provide broad access to public goods while addressing a wide range of issues that have surfaced in the free college debate—from credentialization to the future of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Ultimately, the design choices about which pieces of each model to use in the case of higher education come down to questions of values and intent.” Read more.

The Application Barrier

Even applying for college can be difficult, as Roosevelt Fellow Mehrsa Baradaran and high school senior Kayla Sasser explain in a segment on NPR’s Weekend Edition. “Admissions fees, just tuition, room and board, access—you have two different Americas essentially, right?” Baradaran says. “You’ve got people who are very connected. And you have people who are not connected. And I think there’s just whole swaths of the country that don’t have access to this stuff. And this is the class issue. It’s a geography issue. But it also has to do with race.” Listen here.

The Failure of Trumponomics

In a piece for CNN Business Perspectives, Roosevelt Fellow Michael Linden argues why President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has been an economic flop: “The idea that tax cuts aimed at corporations and the rich would bestow economic gifts on all of us is flawed. Because that’s not how the economy works in real life. Corporations don’t make investment decisions based on tax giveaways. And wages don’t automatically increase with tax cuts or with productivity improvements.” Read on.

What We’re Reading

What Is Private Equity, and Why Is It Killing Everything You Love? – Vox

Can Regulators Catch up to Tech Changes? – American Banker

Economists Question the Benefits of Targeted Tax Breaks – Wall Street Journal

A Year After a #MeToo Reckoning, Economists Still Grapple with It – New York Times

Raising the Minimum Wage Just $1 Would Cause Suicide Rates to Drop – Fast Company

The Minimum Wage Is Rising, but These Workers Are Being Left Behind – New York Times

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