- On Capitol Hill
- On Wall Street
- In the Press
- 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.
Willi Semmler, SCEPA Faculty Fellow and head of the Economics of Climate Change project, is working with Kewulay Kamara, a New School student working towards his PhD in economics, to raise funds to bring renewable energy to a school in Sierra Leone without electricity. The Dankawalie Secondary School (DSS), located in a the Dankawalie village, hopes to install solar panels on the school's library, which also serves as a resource for the entire community.
Solar-powered electricity will enhance the learning environment for the 150 students currently enrolled. The library will serve as a space for students who are unable to study at home. Having a study space allows children to succeed and focus on their school work. This is especially important for girls, who are often required to do household chores when they are home and are often not given time to study when they are home with their families.
For more information about the Dankwalie Secondary School, please visit: www.badenya.org.
With the recent passage of California legislation that creates retirement accounts for private workers, states are taking action to expand retirement security. SCEPA is working closely with state elected officials to support similar efforts across the country. Below is a summary of a new report on the policy, known as State GRA's.
STATE GUARANTEEDRETIREMENT ACCOUNTS: A Low-Cost, Secure Solution toAmerica’s Retirement Crisis
The share of workers without any retirement plan at work has risen dramatically over the past decade. The percentage of workers whose employer did not sponsor any type of retirement plan rose from 39 percent to 47 percent—a 21 percent increase. This alarming trend is a call to action for state and local policymakers who want to prevent old age hardship by ensuring all workers can invest adequately, efficiently, and safely for their own retirement.
We propose states offer all workers a voluntary, low-fee, low-risk, State Guaranteed Retirement Account (State GRA) to help boost savings for retirement. State GRAs are individual accounts where benefits at retirement are based solely on contributions and returns.
THE STATE GRA’S MAJOR FEATURES ARE:
Consistent contributions: as in a 401(k)-type plan, workers and/or their employers would contribute at least 3 percent of pay into their individual State GRA. Contributions could be channeled through the already-existing payroll deduction system, reducing administrative burden and minimizing costs.
Pooled investments: all individual account assets would be invested together in one large pool, with an emphasis on low-risk, long-term gains. Pooling takes advantage of economies of scale and minimizes financial risks.
Guaranteed returns: each account would be guaranteed to earn a return of at least 3 percent, or about 1 percent above inflation, protecting funds from the volatility of the stock market. Because funds are invested in longer-term assets as one large pool, the risk and costs associated with insuring the minimum guarantee would be negligible, and could be backed by private insurance contracts without posing any risk to the state or employers.
Portable accounts: Individual State GRAs would be portable; the account would automatically move with a worker from job to job.
Lifelong retirement income: at retirement, workers would convert all or part of their State GRA balance into an annuity—a guaranteed stream of income for life—to ensure that they do not outlive their savings.
Independent administration: a newly created independent board of trustees would oversee the plans’ operations. The board would assume all fiduciary responsibility for the fund’s investment decisions and administration.
Public investment management: costs could be minimized by using the already-existing public pension infrastructure to invest the funds. State pension funds operate on a not-for-profit basis and have highly skilled, professional investment managers and administrators that are charged with overseeing and investing more than $3.1 trillion in retirement savings. Assets in State GRAs would be kept in a separate investment pool from public pension fund assets.
by Rick McGahey, SCEPA Faculty Fellow
If you heard a large "woosh" this morning from the direction of the White House, it wasn't an after-effect from Hurricane Sandy. It was a massive sigh of relief when President Obama's team saw this morning's release of the employment report for October. Jobs rose by a healthy (at least by current standards) 171,000, and the unemployment rate stayed below 8 percent, at 7.9. Employment rose in most sectors, while staying flat in manufacturing, where it has been since April.
The jobs numbers were revised upward for both August (+50,000) and September (+34,000), further adding to a picture of a strengthening economy. Consumer confidence in October was at its highest level since February 2008, and the Case-Shiller home price index rose for the fifth month in a row.
It should be noted that Hurricane Sandy had no effect on the employment report. Data for the unemployment report, which comes from a survey of households, was gathered before the hurricane, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that data gathered from businesses, which gives the jobs number, came in normally with no significant blips. The highly professional and apolitical staff at BLS worked hard to get the report out on time, to assure that no further conspiracy theories about manipulation of the numbers were put forward.
Right-wingers at Fox Nation and elsewhere already were setting up a story that BLS would delay the numbers for political reasons, but presumably that particular falsehood won't be used now in the run-up to Tuesday's election. Mitt Romney focused on the high unemployment rate, saying it was a "sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill."
And, truth be told, if these job and unemployment numbers were coming under a Republican president, Democrats and progressives would be hammering them. Although Republicans have blocked any modest job creating measures proposed by the Obama Administration, these numbers are still far too high. Even if the economy continues to add this many jobs every month, it will take over 3 years to get the unemployment rate to 6 percent.
Prospects for further stimulus and job creation are bleak even if Obama wins re-election; Washington's chatter is all about austerity and spending reductions. Progressives need to make the case for restoring full employment; a good place to start is with Robert Pollin's new book, Back to Full Employment and the blog he's established with other progressive economists (disclosure: including me) to create a dialogue on what policies we need to achieve that goal.
Even if Obama wins, the fight for real progressive economic policy is just beginning.