Celebrating Roosevelt’s Life and Legacy

January 31, 2020

And carrying it forward with new progressivism.

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

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

As FDR once said, “The most serious threat to our institutions comes from those who refuse to face the need for change.” This week, we celebrate the president’s birthday and legacy with an eye to progressivism’s future. “We @rooseveltinst work to construct new ways to think about our economy and our democracy. We honor FDR’s legacy today—and every day,” Roosevelt President & CEO Felicia Wong tweeted. “We believe Franklin would be proud of us today. Eleanor too! We’re here to bring their ideals into the 21st century. Government for the common good. Civil rights = women’s rights = human rights.”

How Executive Action Could Curb the Climate Crisis

To start addressing climate change at the federal level, a president wouldn’t need Congress’s approval. The reason: Dodd-Frank, as Graham Steele explains in a new Great Democracy Initiative (GDI) report. “Dodd-Frank established new mechanisms for federal regulators to tackle risks that threaten the entire financial system, many of which can be deployed to mitigate the financial risks of climate change,” Steele writes. “If these measures prove insufficient, financial agencies have authority to prohibit institutions from making further investments in climate change drivers and to require divestment from climate-related assets.” Read more.

  • Why this matters: “Some individual investors and financial institutions have already chosen to divest on their own terms—for their own interests, their own values, or some combination of both,” Roosevelt Editorial Manager Matt Hughes and Senior Network Program Manager Fernanda Borges Nogueira write for the blog. “Private actors may change of their own volition, but government action is necessary to hold all entities to the standards necessary for the scope and scale of the climate crisis. Until climate deniers cede the Senate, Dodd-Frank may be our best hope for a path forward. As Americans continue to clamor for bolder action, comprehensive legislation is the next frontier.” Read on.
  • Divested development: In a second blog post, Borges Nogueira and Hughes explain how student movements helped normalize divestiture. “As Roosevelters know well, who writes the rules matters; in the case of divestiture, students have taken the lead in rewriting them. While we find avenues for action today—such as the Dodd-Frank approach proposed by Graham Steele—students show us the possibilities of tomorrow. Luckily for the planet, they’re ready.”

Why We Shouldn’t Fear the Deficit

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the next decade, and deficit hawks are already seizing on the numbers. A closer look, however, suggests that deficit fears are overblown. Roosevelt Fellow JW Mason writes for the blog: “However worried we were about government debt six months ago, the latest CBO numbers should make us less worried—and more confident in our ability to spend more on the major challenges facing our nation.” Read more.

  • Another angle: “You’re driving down a road you don’t know and trying to drive based on where the car will be in two miles, you can’t do that. We can solve immediate pressing problems, and when debt seems like a problem, cut spending and raise taxes,” Mason tells the American Prospect in a piece on the CBO. Read on.

What We’re Reading

The Road to the Green New Deal Lies Through This Overlooked Agency – The Nation

Conservatives’ Newfound Interest in Dignified Work – Boston Review

How Republicans Made Millions on the Tax Cuts They Pushed Through Congress – Vox

Labor Law Makes It Too Hard to Start Unions. Workers Deserve a Bigger Voice – CNN Business

Congress’s Most Ambitious Attempt to Strengthen Unions in Years Is Set for a House Vote Next Week – Washington Post

Finally, a Bipartisan Bill That Would Help All Families – The Nation

What Happens When the News Is Gone? – New Yorker

Has Davos Man Changed? – Project Syndicate