The HEROES Act, Explained

May 15, 2020

An equitable response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires structural change.

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

Austerity Is Not the Answer

The need for structural policy change has never been clearer. Nearly 40 percent of low-income American households have now experienced job loss during a crisis that’s disproportionately harmed our nation’s most vulnerable. And as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell explained this week, our recovery will be slow without swift government action on the scale this crisis requires: “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.” The bill introduced by House Democrats this week—the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act—is a step in the right direction, with $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments and another wave of $1,200 cash payments, among other essentials. But as Roosevelt President & CEO Felicia Wong writes for the blog, the bill does not do enough to mitigate long-lasting macroeconomic consequences, prevent corporate extraction, or rebalance power. Read why.

  • The dangers of austerity: This coming Monday, a webinar hosted by the Roosevelt Institute, Groundwork Collaborative, and partner organizations will trace the history of American austerity and explain the urgent need for increased federal spending—with featured panelists Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, historian Kim Phillips-Fein, and Community Change President Dorian Warren. RSVP now.
  • Green stimulus: Evergreen—a group co-founded by Roosevelt Fellow Bracken Hendricks—and Data for Progress have unveiled a $1.5 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan, which pitches federal funding for state and local clean energy programs and technology incentives. Learn more.
  • Rewrite the rules: “Helping businesses to keep paying their workers, as Rep. [Pramila] Jayapal’s Paycheck Guarantee Act does, is the most efficient way to stop millions of Americans from being laid off, protect access to health care at a time when it is especially needed, and keep businesses of all sizes from permanently shuttering,” says Roosevelt Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz. For Barron’s, Roosevelt Fellow Lenore Palladino suggests Seattle councilmember Kshama Sawant’s “Amazon tax” proposal as a nationwide model.

The Right to Employment

A federal job guarantee has deep roots in the presidency of FDR, whose Economic Bill of Rights included a right to employment. Now, the idea may be the ticket for a V-shaped recovery. Radical Imagination host Angela Glover Blackwell and Roosevelt Fellow—and member of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s economic unity task force—Darrick Hamilton explain in a New York Times op-ed: “An updated version of Roosevelt’s vision would increase bargaining power and expand the social safety net for all workers. By hiring workers at the beginning of a downturn, a permanent job guarantee would operate as an automatic stabilizer in perpetuity, maintaining consumer spending and protecting us from recessions—making our economy more resilient as well as more inclusive.” Read more.

  • Hidden rules of race: “Black [people] are generally the last hired, and they will bear the brunt of this unless we do something transformative,” Hamilton told the Washington Post this week. As he explained to PBS NewsHour“this pandemic has demonstrated that we have a great deal of public power where we can intervene to limit economic insecurity and vulnerability.”

Antitrust + Labor Policy = Worker Power

Much of employers’ power exceeds the reach of antitrust policy. Rebalancing the scales for workers, therefore, requires an antitrust-plus agenda, including labor policies that raise the minimum wage and promote unionization. In a new Roosevelt Institute report, Roosevelt Fellow Suresh Naidu and the University of Chicago’s Eric A. Posner catalogue and evaluate the effectiveness of various proposals; and for the blog, Roosevelt Editorial Manager Matt Hughes explains how COVID-19 has reframed the conversation.

What We’re Reading

The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying – The Atlantic

Why The Crisis May Make Powerful Corporations Even More Powerful – NPR

How the Coronavirus is Killing the Middle Class – The New Yorker

The American Unemployment System Is Broken by Design – Vox

Don’t Blame Econ 101 for the Plight of Essential Workers – The Atlantic

Democratic Campaign Vets Unveil 2020 Climate Push – Axios

COVID-19 Reality Has a Liberal Bias – New York Times

Biden Is Planning an FDR-Size Presidency – New York Magazine