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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.
SCEPA’s Retirement Equity Lab (ReLab) is honored to be selected to participate in AARP’s Social Security Innovation Challenge. The project supports research by SCEPA Director Teresa Ghilarducci and ReLab Research Director Anthony Webb on “Catch-Up Contributions: A Voluntary, Equitable, and Affordable Solution to the Retirement Savings Crisis.”
AARP launched its Innovation Challenge in 2016 to identify and support policy proposals to strengthen Social Security. After receiving an “overwhelming number” of submissions, ReLab’s proposal is one out of seven chosen after a blind review by an expert panel.
Ghilarducci and Webb’s proposal aims to alleviate the lack of retirement savings amongst older workers and retirees by allowing workers to make “catch-up” contributions to Social Security via increased payroll deductions starting at age 40 or 50. At age 40, the contribution would constitute an additional 1.86% of salary in payroll taxes; at age 50, the contribution would be 3.1% of salary. Workers would be defaulted into the program with the ability to opt out – this way, contributions are viewed as a purchase of valuable future benefits rather than as a tax. The employer contribution would remain unchanged to ensure that older workers seeking employment would not face additional age discrimination.
Today’s New York Times summarizes Republican legislation to replace Obamacare as “cut[ting] back on financial assistance for relatively low-income insurance shoppers [while] offer[ing] new financial benefits for the upper-middle class and the rich.”
This description supports Harvard Professor Theda Skocpol’s assertion that ObamaCare and other U.S. health insurance programs are “at the heart of the politics of inequality.” In a presentation at The New School on February 6th titled, “Democrats, Republicans and the Explosive Politics of Health Insurance,” Skocpol argued that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the largest redistributive policy in recent history.
While the United States suffers from rapidly rising healthcare costs and a large and disproportionately poor uninsured population, the ACA reduced health care cost inflation by 2 percentage points (from 4% in 2010 to less than 2% in 2015) and decreased the level of those without health insurance by 7 percentage points (from 18% in 2013 to 11% in 2016).
Despite these positive outcomes, public consensus regarding the ACA is divided. The Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll, conducted one week after Trump won office, found that 48% of people support repealing the ACA while 47% are opposed. However, some components of the ACA have majority support. More than 65% said that lowering health care costs should be a top priority for the new administration.
As for politics, Skocpol notes that Republican efforts are supported by a strong wave of conservative lobby groups, think tanks and activists while Democrats suffer from a lack of consistent and assertive mobilization in support of the ACA.
What will happen? Skocpol ended her remarks by saying, “Quiet evisceration will happen, even if overt total repeal does not.” However, in a sign of hope, she urged her fellow professors and members of think tanks and activists to express the urgency and importance of keeping healthcare affordable and accessible for all.
Lily Batchelder joined ReLab's Political Economy of Aging speaker series to present a lecture titled, "Improving Retirement Savings Choices Through Smart Defaults."
Americans are not saving enough for retirement. One of the most powerful levers for influencing retirement savings behavior is through defaults, but there have been relatively few reforms to leverage their influence within our voluntary retirement system over the past decade. Making defaults "smarter"-including adjusting defaults based on socioeconomic characteristics of savers-is a simple way that policymakers could dramatically improve retirement security at little cost to taxpayers. Professor Batchelder made the case for making defaults smarter, and the normative, legal, and practical challenges to such reforms.
Lily Batchelder is professor of law and public policy at NYU School of Law and an affiliated professor at the NYU Wagner School of Public Service. From 2010 to 2015, she was deputy director of the White House National Economic Council and deputy assistant to the President. Batchelder received an AB in Political Science from Stanford University, an MPP in Microeconomics and Human Services from Harvard's Kennedy School, and a JD from Yale Law School.
The Political Economy of Aging speaker series is a forum for academics and practitioners to share and engage in cutting edge research in social policy and the political economy of aging. The series is designed to forge interdisciplinary connections and examine how to progressively manage an aging society. The series is sponsored by SCEPA's Retirement Equity Lab, led by economists and retirement experts Teresa Ghilarducci and Tony Webb.