The Country We Deserve

June 26, 2020

Our institutions are not immutable.

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

State Insurance Reforms and the Trade-Offs of a Public Option

If the first wave ever ended, the second has clearly begun: This past week saw the highest volume of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began—and the nation’s heath care system remains unprepared. Per the Journal of General Internal Medicine18.2 million Americans at risk of severe COVID-19 illness are uninsured or underinsured, a group that disproportionately includes Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people. With this Congress unlikely to expand coverage under the 10-year-old Affordable Care Act (ACA), states are exploring their own options—including a public option. In a new report, Roosevelt Fellow Naomi Zewde and Lafayette College’s Adam Biener analyze state-level efforts in New Mexico, Colorado, and Washington and explore the trade-offs policymakers face in balancing consumer affordability and market stability. One takeaway: “The more price savings realized, through reduced fees or administrative savings, the more disruptive a public option may be.” Read on.

  • The COVID-19 effect: “COVID-19 has both complicated these efforts and exacerbated the consequences of earlier inaction,” Roosevelt Editorial Manager Matt Hughes writes for the blog. “Several states, including New York, have proposed Medicaid cuts to balance strained budgets. Meanwhile, 14 states have still not adopted the Medicaid expansions embedded in the ACA, depriving lower-income people of health care they desperately need and disproportionately harming Black people, who are more likely to live in these predominantly Southern states.”
  • White supremacy is the preexisting condition: “The corrective to the racial wealth divide must come through structural change, not the actions of individuals,” Roosevelt Fellow Darrick Hamilton co-writes for In a new report prefaced by Hamilton, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Chuck Collins, and Omar Ocampo—all of the Institute for Policy Studies—outline eight post-COVID economic solutions that can reduce the racial wealth gap, including Medicare for all and a federal jobs guarantee.

What Is Owed

In a New York Times piece, Pulitzer Prize-winner Nikole Hannah-Jones draws on the work of Roosevelt Senior Fellow Sandy Darity and folklorist A. Kirsten Mullen to explain why reparations must be central in closing the racial wealth gap. “The process of creating the racial wealth chasm begins with the failure to provide the formerly enslaved with the 40 acres they were promised,” Darity tells Hannah-Jones. “So the restitution has never been given, and it’s 155 years overdue.” In another NYT article, Darity observes the political shifts in the last year: “It’s striking to me that people campaigning to be elected officials are mentioning the word at all . . . There seems to be a sea change.”

  • The road to reparations: “As a prelude to a comprehensive program of reparations for Black Americans, a parallel commission should be mobilized to produce a report that details the case and a plan for restitution. HR 40 provides the opportunity to establish such a commission,” Darity and Mullen write in an op-ed for The Grio. Read the latest coverage of their reparations work in The Guardian and The Economist, and listen to Darity on WBUR.

A More Representative Senate

In a historic vote, the House voted today to approve statehood for Washington, DC, and overdue enfranchisement to around 700,000 people—about 45 percent of whom are Black. Though it’s certain to fail in this Senate, the vote spotlights the structural racism embedded in some of the nation’s democratic institutions. “The Senate entrenches white, male, rich rule, and will do so for a long time in the future. And that’s kind of by design,” Roosevelt Director of Governance Studies Todd Tucker tells HuffPo. For the blog, Tucker explains another potential benefit of DC statehood: reminding Americans that our government institutions and Constitution are not immutable and have never been this static. Read more, and revisit Tucker’s 2019 report Fixing the Senate: Equitable and Full Representation for the 21st Century.

Worker Power and Voice in the Pandemic Response

In a report released this week, Harvard Law School’s Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs expand upon their Clean Slate for Worker Power framework and propose comprehensive COVID-19 policy interventions—in labor and beyond—to amplify worker voice, boost workplace equity, and dismantle systemic racism. “Economic issues are life-and-death issues” Block tells Annie Lowrey in an Atlantic exclusive. “What COVID has done is illustrate the life-or-death nature of those economic issues in a very accelerated time frame.” Read the full report.

What We’re Reading

The Second Great Depression – The Atlantic

WTO Tobacco Industry Ruling Marks End of an Era [by Roosevelt’s Todd Tucker] – Medium

In Praise of Polarization – Vox

The Stock Market Feeds the Racial Inequality It’s Free to Ignore [feat. Roosevelt’s Lenore Palladino] – Bloomberg

5 Big Ideas to Narrow the Racial Wealth Gap [feat. Roosevelt’s Sandy Darity, Darrick Hamilton, and Naomi Zewde] – Forbes

What Economists Fear Most During This Recovery – FiveThirtyEight

[Roosevelt’s] Stiglitz, Roubini and the Post-Pandemic Future of Capitalism – Bloomberg

The Jobs We Need – New York Times