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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.
So far, capital has been resistant to the regulation of time. Rather than balance the demands of work and life, US capitalism was dependent on the hidden subsidy of the American wife, a behind-the-scenes, stay-at-home fixer of what economists call market failures. When women left the home—out of desire and necessity—the old system fell apart. Families and the larger economy have yet to recover, and employers' demands for more of their employees’ time is a growing reality in US capitalism.
Economist Heather Boushey, a New School PhD and outside advisor to the Hillary Clinton campaign, presented SCEPA's annual Irene & Bernard L. Schwartz Lecture, “The Political Economy of Time and Work-Life Conflict” on April 6th, 2016.
Boushey argued that economic efficiency and equity are not natural enemies. In fact, they must be reconciled to fulfill our country’s economic potential. In her new book, Finding Time, Boushey presents innovations to help Americans find the time they need and help businesses attract more productive workers.
The lecture was followed by a panel discussion with Economics PhD student Katherine Moos and moderated by New School Economics Professor Teresa Ghilarducci.
Boushey is executive director and chief economist of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. The New York Times called Boushey one of the “most vibrant voices in the field.” She testifies often before Congress on economic policy issues and received her PhD in economics from The New School.
Follow the conversation on Twitter with @SCEPA_economics using #worklife.
SCEPA's annual Irene & Bernard L. Schwartz Lecture works to contribute to discussion of the crucial policy issues facing the U.S. and world economies by bringing a distinguished speaker or panel to the university. Past speakers include Thomas Piketty, Paul Krugman, Robert Rubin, Andy Stern and Laura Tyson.
The event is free and open to the public.
Lydia DePillis, writing for the Washington Post’s WonkBlog, quotes economist David Howell, professor of urban policy at The New School, in “The $15 Minimum Wage Sweeping the Nation Might Kill Jobs - and that’s Okay.”
While liberal economists agree the minimum wage should be raised, they differ over how high it should go. Mark Levinson, chief economist at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is a vocal proponent of a national $15 per hour minimum wage. Alan Krueger, a former Obama Administration official, supports a $12 per hour minimum, but worries that $15 would lead to job loss in some parts of the country.
Howell offers a different perspective. “Why shouldn’t we in fact accept job loss? What’s so bad about getting rid of crappy jobs, forcing employers to upgrade, and having a serious program to compensate anyone who is in the slightest way harmed by that?” he told DePillis. Howell is a proponent of a program similar to Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which helps workers who lose their jobs to foreign trade.
The reported unemployment rate for older workers often looks better than that for younger workers. Today’s March employment report shows an unemployment rate for workers aged 55 to 64 of 3.9%, an increase of 0.1 percentage points from the February rate of 3.8%. While older men’s unemployment stayed the same at 4.0%, older women’s unemployment increased from 3.5% to 3.8%.
However, older workers don’t always have an easy time finding jobs. Since the economic recovery starting in 2009, the labor market for older workers has recovered less robustly than for younger workers.
The headline unemployment rate (referred to as U-3) understates the true level of unemployment by only including those actively looking for work in the past four weeks. A broader measure of unemployment - called U-6 - includes both part-time workers who would prefer a full-time job and workers who would look for work if they thought they could get a job (including discouraged workers who have recently given up looking for work). Economists consider U-6 a good measure of slack, or excess supply, in labor markets.
The more inclusive U-6 unemployment rate for workers aged 55 to 64 shows a weaker recovery after the Great Recession. The February 2016 rate of 6.5% (the most recent data available) remains 48% higher than its pre-crisis low of 4.4%, reached in December 2006. In contrast, U-6 for all workers is only 21% higher than its pre-crisis low reached in March 2007.
Two important factors contribute to older workers facing particular difficulties in a recovering labor market. First, older workers are less likely to switch industries relative to prime-age workers. Second, older workers experience longer average spells of unemployment than prime-age workers.
Advocates for cutting Social Security benefits by increasing the retirement age point to headline unemployment rates, which have nearly returned to pre-crisis levels, as evidence that older workers can delay retirement. But the U-6 unemployment rate for older workers suggests otherwise - that delaying retirement is not a one-size-fits all solution for those nearing retirement age without enough retirement savings.
Rather than forcing older workers to fend for themselves in an unfriendly labor market, we need Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs) to allow workers a safe, effective vehicle to accumulate savings over their working lives so that those with limited labor market options can retire in dignity.