- 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.
by Rick McGahey, SCEPA Faculty Fellow
Charles Murray is back. The notorious co-author of 1994's The Bell Curve, who claimed that racial differences in IQ tests and socio-economic status could be explained in part by genetic transmission of intelligence, is out with a new book. Coming Apart looks at growing differences between lower and upper-income whites, and notes that social problems—crime, divorce, unemployment—are growing for the lower income, while the upper income group prospers and is more socially stable.
Murray blames this not on income gaps, but, as a good neo-conservative will do, on liberals in the 1960s. "The '60s were a disaster in terms of social policy," Murray argues, saying that work and morality were de-incentivized, creating negative trends that "soon became self-reinforcing."
You would think the ensuing policy discussion would focus on how to get better-paying jobs for low income people, and how to improve schools that serve the poor, but instead (at least in The New York Times) it is about cultural difference between the rich and poor and early childhood education.
A new report by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, which includes an article by SCEPA's Teresa Ghilarducci, shows that Californians have less access to employer-sponsored retirement benefits than the rest of the nation, leaving a significant number of today's workers at risk for serious economic hardship in retirement. Much of the problem is that retirees don't have access to traditional pension plans and don't have enough savings for retirement, leaving many retirees to depend solely on Social Security in their golden years. As Ghilarducci notes in the article, titled "Fewer Employer Retirement Benefits Lead to High Retirement Insecurity in California," by Callie Shanafelt, "If something isn't done we'll have the biggest downward mobility since great depression."
by Rick McGahey, SCEPA Faculty Fellow
This morning's release of the January unemployment report has good political news for the Obama Administration, but not good enough news for the nation's economic recovery. The unemployment rate fell from 8.6 percent in December to 8.3 percent; it has now dropped almost a full point from the 9.1 percent for August 2011. Payroll employment increased by 243,000 jobs, after last month's increase of 203,000.
Initial responses are very favorable. The Dow Jones average jumped by 140 points in the first half-hour of trading. The Associated Press says there was a "hiring burst" in January , while even Fox Business News calls it a "strong jobs report," creating a "jobs jolt" to the economy.
But the gains in the report, while another welcome signal that the economy is not heading into a second recession, do not mean the economy is out of trouble. The job creation numbers are good, but not great by historical standards, and not enough to recover the losses from the Great Recession any time soon.
The net employment gain of 243,000 for January is one of the highest monthly numbers in all of President Obama's term (gains in March 2011 were around 290,000, and May 2011 had a sharp gain, but almost all from temporary Census workers being hired). In contrast, under President Clinton, average monthly job growth was close to 240,000—that's the average gain for every month in his eight year term.
And what about recovering from the Great Recession? Heidi Scherholtz at the Economic Policy Institute estimates the economy suffers a total "jobs deficit" of over 10 million, taking into account both the losses from the recession, and the job growth needed just to keep up with growth in the population and labor force. Her computation shows that we need 320,000 jobs per month, each and every month, to get to full employment by 2016. That's four years of average monthly growth over 30 percent higher than the figures reported today.
So today's reported progress is good, but it is not nearly enough. And the effects of the too-small stimulus program are running out this year, while state and local government employment and spending declines continue to drag down jobs and economic growth. More stimulus and job creation are necessary, but not possible as Republicans want more economic contraction, in part to damage Obama's chances of re-election. Obama has to hope that the real progress shown in today's numbers keeps up, and that voters will be satisfied that the trend is in the right direction, even though the economy is still not recovering fast enough.