A Fair Wage Guarantee

July 10, 2020

Congress could raise workers’ wages—and rebalance power in the economy.

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

Raise Wages, Reverse Economic Inequity

With the CARES Act’s expanded unemployment benefits set to expire by the end of the month, Congress has both an obligation and an opportunity: extending increased benefits—which have exceeded the pre-pandemic earnings of 68 percent of unemployed people—and making changes that can translate the short-term boosts into long-term wage increases for millions. Roosevelt Managing Director of Corporate Power Bharat Ramamurti and Great Democracy Initiative Fellow Lindsay Owens explain in a New York Times op-ed: “First, change the rules so that people lose unemployment insurance only if they turn down offers with wages comparable to their current unemployment benefits. That gives laid-off workers leverage to bargain for an offer that sustains their new, higher level of income. Second, to protect employers and encourage them to offer these higher wages, provide employers with a federal subsidy that covers the full difference between an unemployed worker’s former wage and their new one. Call it a ‘fair wage guarantee.’” Read on.

  • Send regular stimulus checks: In an open letter published this week by the Economic Security Project, 156 top economists—including Roosevelt Fellows Darrick Hamilton, Michael Linden, Lenore Palladino, and Naomi Zewde—call for recurring direct stimulus payments tied to economic indicators. “Direct cash payments are an essential tool that will boost economic security, drive consumer spending, hasten the recovery, and promote certainty at all levels of government and the economy—for as long as necessary,” they write. Read more.

The Ongoing Fight for Women’s Rights

The Supreme Court’s June Medical Services v. Russo decision last week to uphold abortion rights in Louisiana is an important, though incomplete, win for reproductive freedom, as Roosevelt Director of Health Equity Andrea Flynn writes for Ms. Magazine. But on Wednesday, the court squelched any fleeting relief with its Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania ruling, which strikes again at the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate and will deprive as many as 126,400 women of no-cost contraceptive services. As Flynn writes, “We are in the middle of a global pandemic to which conservative lawmakers are arguably negligent; we face an unprecedented public health and economic crisis that is disproportionately harming women; and anti-choice activists and lawmakers remain laser-focused on eroding access to reproductive health care.”

  • How school closures affect women: In a new explainer, Vox’s Anna North examines the debate over K–12 school reopenings and the potential effects on parents and students. As Michelle Holder (assistant professor of economics at John Jay College, City University of New York) tells North, “Closing public schools on a prolonged basis poses real difficulties for low-wage workers”—particularly for women of color and single mothers. Such unique difficulties for women might garner more attention in the policy sphere if women were better represented in the field of economics, as Holder said in a Bloomberg piece on the Federal Reserve’s diversity problems. “In the economic profession, women are the significant minority . . . Issues that affect women don’t really bubble to the surface in terms of mainstream economic theory.”

Black Americans Can’t Breathe

Per new federal data, Black and Latinx Americans have been three times as likely to be infected by the coronavirus and almost twice as likely to die from it than white Americans. As Roosevelt Senior Research Associate Kristina Karlsson argues for the blog, disproportionate lifetime exposure to toxic air pollution could well explain some of the disparities: “What’s being overlooked, or even ignored, is the fact that health outcomes are often influenced by levers of systemic racism . . . In this case, naming and investigating the environmental determinants of COVID-19 death, such as air pollution, underscores the already dire need to implement Black-centered climate policies as we combat the climate crisis.” Read on.

Hidden Rules of Wealth and the Role of Reparations

On Tuesday, July 14, at 12 pm ET, join Roosevelt President & CEO Felicia Wong, Roosevelt Senior Fellow Sandy Darity, and Community Change President Dorian Warren for a webinar discussion of how the hidden rules of race have driven today’s wealth inequality—and how reparations are a critical and powerful tool to move forward. Register now.

What We’re Reading

The Recession Will Scar Gen Z. And It Could Be Even Worse for Black Youth [feat. Roosevelt’s Mehrsa Baradaran] – CNN Business

The “Black Tax” on Homeownership [feat. Roosevelt’s Sandy Darity] – Nonprofit Quarterly

I’m Leaving Sleeping Giants, but Not Because I Want To – Medium

Cooperative Ownership: A Covid Recovery Strategy – The Nation

Congress’s COVID-19 Rescue Plan Was Bigger Than the New Deal. It’s about to End. – Vox

6 Takeaways from the Biden-Sanders Joint Task Force Proposals [feat. Roosevelt’s Darrick Hamilton] – New York Times

At Last, a Climate Policy Platform That Can Unite the Left – Vox