Americans Across the Political Spectrum Support Increasing Worker's Role in Corporate Decision-making

Americans across the Political Spectrum Support Increasing Worker's Role in Corporate Decision-making

While many issues seem to divide Americans today, there are policies advocated by the left that can achieve broad-based support. One such example is a proposal to institute laws that mandate employee representation on corporate boards.

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Safe Streets As Progressive Imperative

In the United States, of the over 37,000 people killed in automobile crashes last year, more than 6,000 were pedestrians, crushed under a vehicle's wheels or killed by the collision's impact. This problem is getting worse: since 2013, traffic fatalities nationwide are up more than 13% and in cities, towns, and suburban communities, they have increased by 25 percent.

Across the country, advocacy for safer streets has grown in kinship with environmental activism, organized labor and people fighting against income inequality. In recent years, it has moved from a niche issue to a solid part of the progressive policy matrix in major cities.Street safety fits neatly into the coalescing progressive vision for our towns and cities: Dense, affordable housing. Parks and open space. Reliable public transit. Walkable and bikeable streets.

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Identifying the Working Class

“Working Class” remains a contentious term in popular discourse. As I discussed in a previous blog, this term is embedded with assumptions not only about socioeconomic status but race and occupation. We recently fielded a survey with YouGov Blue in order to get more precise handle on what it means to be “working class” and how those who fit this description vote.

To start, we asked 1,282 voters to write, in their opinion, what “it means to be working class in America today”. Below shows the top words, bigrams (two words together) and trigrams (three words together) after stemming the responses. This shows the words that were commonly used across all survey respondents. What we see are words generally associated with work near the top (work, job, and paycheck) for example. This is not surprising, as working class starts with some initial idea of working for a living opposed to living off of inheritance or investments. We also see a lot of reference towards economic instability or poverty. This is apparent in words and phrases like “live paycheck to paycheck” or poor.

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Millennials Are More Likely To Oppose Racism

A few days back, DfP proclaimed that Millennials were helping to kill incorrect beliefs about the racism industry. Interpreting this statement is pretty straightforward. Looking at a measure of “racial resentment,” Millennials appear more sensitive to institutional discrimination than their older peers. Given what we know about the link between racial attitudes and voting – people who perceive institutional discrimination as a problem are more likely to vote for Democrats – that’s a serious assertion.

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The New Fight For Affordable Housing

Last week, tenants and housing activists all across the country staged protests and lobby sessions as part of the Renters Rising for Rent Control Day of Action to demand immediate relief from the housing crisis. In New York, California, Illinois, and other states across the country, activists are rallying around rent control - a policy once widely available, highly effective, and broadly popular with the American people that is starting to make a comeback in policy and academic circles.

The rent control movement, which is growing rapidly among activists and public policy makers, is a testament not only to the gravity of the housing crisis facing low and middle income renters in all types of living arrangements, but also to the disgust that they share with the political and market system that so far has utterly failed to address it. The growing political alignment around renters rights unites downwardly mobile millennials -- whose student debt precludes a mortgage -- and long time renters -- many of whom people of color who have been left behind by a bipartisan public policy consensus around homeownership for far too long.

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AOC is Right: A Society With Both Poverty and Billionaires is Immoral

New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez made a splash with her proposal to restore the top marginal tax rates on income to levels from the 1960s. In a recent interview on Martin Luther King day, she argued that a society where some can accumulate billions in wealth while others are denied their basic needs such a healthcare is an immoral one. The data clearly show that we have the ability alleviate poverty, but poverty persists nonetheless. Further, while the wealthy have been able to capture increasing proportions of income and wealth, extreme poverty has gotten worse in the US. Regardless of one’s own perspective on morality, it’s impossible to justify this on moral grounds.

As we have noted before, after tax corporate profits as a fraction of the national gross value added, which is the value of all goods and services produced in the country, have been rising. From the 50’s through the mid 70’s, about 2 cents of after tax profits were generated from one dollar of goods and services produced. By 2017, this figure exploded to 10 cents on the dollar. This generated enormous wealth in the form of stock values and income in the form of dividends and capital gains, which mostly accrued to those who were already very wealthy. Over the same time period, the share of wealth held by the top 0.01% of households also shot up.

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What Democratic Presidential Candidates Can Learn from Gavin Newsom's Housing Hardball

For the first time in generations, housing will play a key role in the race for president. As of January 2019, three of the five high-profile Democrats officially running for president have made housing central to their agendas. As more candidates announce, it seems inevitable that more affordable housing proposals will follow. The campaign for the Democratic nomination is going to be long, and given the potency of housing with Democratic base voters, we can expect an arms race for bold solutions on the issue. For a bit of extra inspiration, they should look to Gavin Newsom’s gutsy stare-down of exclusionary zoning in California.

So far, the announced presidential candidates who center housing have taken divergent approaches. Kamala Harris is offering cash rental assistance to cost-burdened renters; Julián Castro’s announcement speech promised to “invest in housing that’s affordable to the middle class and the poor,” presumably suggesting boosting federal dollars for housing; Elizabeth Warren has laid out the most comprehensive proposal, with a massive expansion of funding for affordable housing, down-payment assistance for first-time homebuyers in historically oppressed communities, and incentive funds to end apartment bans (legal restrictions that mandate only single-family houses can be built there, thus shutting out anyone who cannot afford the most expensive form of housing). Check back here in the coming weeks and months for analysis and recommendations about every candidate’s housing agenda.

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Living Off the Interest

New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez sparked a debate over top tax rates when she proposed a 70% marginal rate on income over 10 million. Income and wealth inequality are accelerating while rates of extreme poverty are rising, so it’s an important debate to have. However, it’s difficult to conceptualize how extreme inequality has become because the wealthy make up such a small part of the population and control amounts of wealth that are so vast that it defies imagination.

To try to put things into perspective, we pulled data from the IRS statistics of income, which breakdown reported earnings by size of income and income type. The wealthy make most of their money from capital income, or returns on assets they own, as opposed to labor income or social insurance. Capital income includes things like interest, dividends, inheritance, capital gains, and a portion of income from small businesses. Excluding business income for now, the capital income in the form of interest, dividends, inheritance, and capital gains taken by filers with over 10 million in income in 2016 was more than five times greater than the cost of ending child poverty in the United States. That’s about 16,000 households who make up the top 0.01% of the income distribution and take more than five times the income needed to lift 5.7 million families out of poverty.

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Progressives Don’t Face False Choices In Strengthening the Labor Movement

The collapse of the American labor movement has been devastating for the economy—and also for progressive politics. As my co-authors and I have documented, conservative efforts to weaken the unions through state legislative cutbacks and legal challenges have cost Democrats at the polls and helped to shift policy and politics to the ideological right. To reduce inequality and bolster their long-term political power, Democrats need to roll back conservative victories on labor law while also passing new laws that will help unions rebuild their membership and clout.

What kinds of Democrats are most likely to support such efforts to cultivate a new labor movement? A new survey I fielded indicates that when looking for pro-labor Democrats, progressives do not face trade-offs between supporting politicians who are progressive on labor issues and on other policies, like the climate change or reproductive rights. Instead, I find that the more progressive a state Democratic politician is on social and economic issues, the more likely they are to support expanding legal rights for unions. As Data for Progress has documented before, the choice between a progressive movement rooted in economic issues and one involving social identities is a false one. The case of labor rights is no different.

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How Run of the Mill Progressivism Became Radical

A recent post by Samuel Hammond of the Niskanen Institute, a center right think tank, criticized Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent proposal to impose a 70% marginal tax rate on income over 10 million dollars. A few of the points raised in the piece are interesting jumping off points for discussion.

Hammond presents a figure on the wealth shares held at different levels of the wealth distribution in Sweden over the 20th century, which shows that the top 1% of Swedes held over half of the wealth in the early 1900s. This amount dropped to the neighborhood of 20% by 1970, and has held relatively stable since. Hammond suggests that this stability is proof that high marginal income tax rates in Sweden cemented the country’s old dynastic families in their positions of wealth, while locking out everyone else. This is ultimately a good point that the left should take seriously, but it’s not a particularly good argument against raising marginal rates on income.

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