- On Capitol Hill
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- Policy Reform Work
Our projects are designed to empower policy makers to create positive change. With a focus on collaboration and outreach, we provide original, standards-based research on key policy issues.
SCEPA joined with the Economic Policy Institute on Capitol Hill to brief congressional staff and policy experts on tax expenditures, or incentives given through the tax code without scrutiny by Congress.
SCEPA economists are working on the prospects for a more progressive economic order to emerge from the shock of the recession. They have published papers and documents that place current events in a longer-term context as well as policy proposals to deal with short-term concerns. They are also documenting the emerging discussion of how the discipline of economics is reacting to the Great Recession and the questioning of conventional economic analysis.
Lance Taylor, a SCEPA Faculty Fellow, presents an overview of his new book, Maynard’s Revenge, in a Google Tech Talk.
The book, published this November by Harvard University Press, is a timely analysis of mainstream macroeconomics, posing the need for a more useful and realistic economic analysis that can provide a better understanding of the ongoing global financial and economic crisis.
The government spends $143 billion through tax breaks in an effort to expand pension coverage and security. Yet, over half of the American workforce does not have a pension. Retirement insecurity hurts business plans, workers’ lives and retiree well-being. Reform is needed.
SCEPA’s Guaranteeing Retirement Income Project, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and in collaboration with Demos and the Economic Policy Institute, has a plan to guarantee safe and secure retirement income for all Americans.
by David Howell, SCEPA Faculty Fellow
Two decades of research on cross-generational mobility have shown that America’s performance on this key dimension of the American Dream is among the worst in the affluent world. This means that the probability of children ending up on a higher rung of the income distribution than their parents is lower in the US than in most other rich countries. Indeed, the US is at the top of the “Great Gatsby Curve” with the UK, with both extreme income inequality and very low mobility.
So American mobility is remarkably low by international standards, but has it been rising or falling in recent decades? Is opportunity for upward mobility in America at least improving, as conservatives would like to believe, or is it just getting worse?
New findings by prominent inequality researchers Raj Chetty and Emmanuel Saez show that intergenerational mobility remained remarkably stable in the 1980s and 1990s. And based on earlier studies, this stability apparently extends back to the 1960s and 1970s. This could be seen as good news: as the US transitioned from high to extreme inequality in the post-1980 period, at least this indicator of social mobility hasn’t worsened.
But what does this mean for the actual welfare of American families? No doubt it’s bad for children to be locked into the same bottom rung as their parents, but what makes this particularly bad in the US is how poor families are in this lowest quintile.
by David R. Howell, SCEPA Faculty Fellow
Last week two prominent Republicans lashed out against the growing outcry about American’s rising inequality and unshared growth. New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote that “Suddenly the whole world is talking about income inequality” and this debate “is confusing matters more than clarifying them, and it is leading us off in unhelpful directions.” A few days earlier, leading Republican economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former chief of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, dismissed the whole debate as “faulty” since “Inequality means little”.
For both Brooks and Holtz-Eakin, the only real distributional issue America faces is poverty, and the only solution is upward mobility, and that requires growth, skills and good behavior. At root, it’s about free markets for growth and individual productivity.
Each pushes a different strand of the conservative free market vision. Holtz-Eakin demands “sustained rapid economic growth” so that “the hardest working will rise upward in the roster of economic affluence with additional income.” Brooks demands that we confront the dysfunctional behaviors associated with a “frayed social fabric”.
The facts fly in the face of these two strands of Republican apology for the rise of extreme inequality.
by Rick McGahey, SCEPA Faculty Fellow
As the new Congressional term gets underway, one of President Obama's priorities is to regain "fast track" authority (FTA) for foreign trade pacts, so he can pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation deal involving Pacific Rim nations. (I discussed this today on MSNBC's "The Cycle."
"Fast track" authority allows the President to submit a final deal to Congress, where they can only vote up or down on the whole package, and can't amend it. Although some think this is the only way a trade deal can be enacted, others criticize the procedure as anti-democratic, and favoring special interests that can negotiate trade benefits in secret.
Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders who are close to some business interests are supporting fast track. But led by Sander Levin (D-MI,) the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, many Democrats oppose FTA and the TPP in its current form. Levin has called for a different type of authority, with more Congressional involvement, more transparency over negotiations, preservation of labor and environmental standards, and procedures to address currency manipulation that favors exports into the U.S.
Opponents of TPP fear that labor and environmental standards will be weakened even further, while pharmaceutical companies will get increased patent and copyright protection, making medicines more expensive, especially in the developing world.
Stay tuned. Trade is a volatile issue, especially in an election year, and there is a big divide between President Obama and Congressional Democrats on this one; last November, 151 of the 200 Democrats in the House sent Obama a letter saying they would not renew FTA in its current form.