More and more analysts, including many at the Fed, seem to have decided that the U.S. economy has reached full employment. They might be right, but the data on this is far from a slam dunk—and the costs of prematurely declaring full employment and working to slow the recovery far exceed the costs of waiting too long to restrain growth and allowing some wage and price inflation.
While the unemployment rate has ticked down considerably over the last few years, there still seems to be considerable slack in labor force participation, as evidenced most strongly in quite depressed employment-to-population ratios of even prime-aged (25-54 year old) workers. If this weren’t the case—if the apparent slack in these employment and participation numbers wasn’t real—we would be seeing faster wage growth as employers bid up wages to attract and retain the workers they want. So, what am I looking for in Friday’s jobs report, and what do we need to see to validate judgements that we have attained genuine full employment? Signs of stronger wage growth.
Year-over-year nominal wage growth has picked up over the last several years (as shown in the figure below). It’s now at about 2.7 percent growth, up from 2.4 percent the previous year, and up from an average of about 2.0 percent in 2010 through 2014. While this is certainly a welcome sign, it is still below levels consistent with the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent inflation target combined with trend productivity growth of 1.5 percent.
Under new bill’s election standard, unions would never win an election—and neither would the bill’s cosponsors
Before leaving for recess last week, congressional Republicans introduced a bill that would make it more difficult for workers to form a union and collectively bargain. The misleadingly named Employee Rights Act has been introduced in prior Congresses as well. The legislation would strip workers of many rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). For example, it would prohibit voluntary employer recognition of a union. (Under existing law, an employer is free to recognize a union and bargain with its workforce when workers show majority support for the union.) The bill also reinstitutes unnecessary delay in the union election process, mandating that parties litigate issues likely to be resolved in the election.
Perhaps most ridiculous is the bill’s requirement that a union win the support of the majority of all workers eligible to vote in the union election—not just those workers who vote. Imagine if the bill’s sponsor, Congressman Phil Roe (R–Tenn.), had had the same requirement in his own election. He would have lost, and so would all of his Republican colleagues who cosponsored the bill.
Votes cast for winning candidate as a share of eligible voters and actual winning share, 2014 and 2016 elections
|Votes cast for winning candidate as share of all eligible voters (Employee Rights Act election requirement)||Winning election results|
|Rep. Phil Roe||TN 01||20.7%||35.5%||82.8%||78.4%|
|Rep. Joe Wilson||SC 02||24.0%||36.2%||62.4%||60.2%|
|Rep. Doug LaMalfa||CA 01||24.1%||33.8%||61.0%||59.1%|
|Rep. Jeff Duncan||SC 03||23.0%||38.8%||71.2%||72.8%|
|Rep. Rob Woodall||GA 07||25.2%||38.6%||65.4%||60.4%|
|Rep. Gus Bilirakis||FL 12||NA||45.9%||Ran unopposed||68.6%|
|Rep. Richard Hudson||NC 08||22.8%||35.6%||64.9%||58.8%|
* US citizens, ages 18 and up are considered eligible voters (see Citizen Voting Age Population from the American Community Survey).
The Employee Rights Act is a clear example of Republican contempt for workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively. The legislation rigs the union election system, instituting standards for unions that no elected official could survive.
On the same day that Rep. Roe and his colleagues introduced their anti-worker legislation, Democrats introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024. The proposal would lift pay for 41 million workers—nearly 30 percent of the U.S. workforce. Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would begin to reverse decades of growing pay inequality.
H-2B crabpickers are so important to the Maryland seafood industry that they get paid $3 less per hour than the state or local average wage
Earlier this week, Washington D.C.’s WAMU aired a report highlighting—and celebrating—the hardworking Mexican women on Maryland’s Eastern Shore who pick crabmeat by hand. The Mexican women are in the United States temporarily, on a nonimmigrant guestworker visa called H-2B, which allows employers to hire migrant workers for non-agricultural seasonal jobs. The subheading of the story reads “Maryland crab processors say they couldn’t stay in business without Mexican guestworkers.” A tweet with an accompanying GIF from WAMU suggests that the reason employers hire H-2B workers to pick crab is because they’re so fast at what they do.
— WAMU 88.5 ? (@wamu885) May 22, 2017
Impressive to say the least. I don’t doubt how productive and valuable these workers are. Their bosses say they’re the heart of the crab industry. But upon closer inspection, it seems the seafood companies don’t really think this important work is worth a fair wage. The companies have lobbied tenaciously to make sure that the legal and regulatory framework of the H-2B visa program allows them to legally underpay their workers compared to what they would have to pay to attract workers in the free market—and the two employers featured in the WAMU story are perfect examples.
This week, the Trump administration published its full budget request for fiscal year 2018. The proposal makes it clear that President Trump has no intention of honoring his State of the Union pledge to work to create “jobs where Americans prosper and grow.” The Trump budget would impose a major drag on economic growth and lead to job-losses totaling 1.4 million in 2020. Beyond the stark job-loss numbers, the budget proposal includes severe cuts to anti-poverty programs including food stamps and children’s health insurance. Below is information on the Trump budget cuts to worker protection programs.
The Trump budget reduces funding for the Department of Labor (DOL) by nearly 20 percent. Most of the cuts come from job training programs. However, the Trump budget also severely reduces funding for unemployment insurance program administration. On top of this cut, Trump’s budget would require this already stretched program to administer a new program— six weeks of paid family leave—with no new funding. Currently, only one in four jobless workers collect unemployment benefits and only 21 states have adequate reserves in the event of another recess.
One agency within the DOL would receive a substantial increase in funding under the Trump budget. The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) would see its funding increase by 20 percent. OLMS is responsible for enforcement of the Landrum-Griffin Act, which requires unions to report on their finances and gives the Secretary of Labor the authority to investigate unions and audit union finances. This budget increase stands in stark contrast to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which would see its funding cut by six percent.. The NLRB is responsible for enforcing workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act which gives workers the rights to organize and join unions and bargain collectively with their employers for better pay, benefits, and working conditions. Unlike OLMS, which has jurisdiction only over union activities, the NLRB’s jurisdiction covers the right of all workers—whether union members or not—to seek better wages or working conditions. In spite of this, OLMS gets the additional funding in Trump’s budget while the agency tasked with protecting workers’ rights sees its funding reduced.
Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA)—legislation designed to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The House of Representatives passed the AHCA earlier this month, in its second attempt at doing so , before the CBO released a score. The bill makes substantial changes to current law, which have large effects on both the costs of care and the coverage rates. I’m going to walk through some key provisions and their effects on specific populations, and compare these effects to those in the version of the AHCA that the CBO scored in March. The bottom line is that, if the AHCA becomes law, the number of uninsured Americans will grow by 23 million by the year 2026—just a bit lower than the 24 million more people who would have been uninsured under the original bill. This is the result of about 14 million fewer people on Medicaid, 6 million fewer with nongroup insurance coverage, and 3 million fewer with employer-sponsored health insurance; substantially fewer people will be on nongroup coverage under the House-passed bill than in the originally-score bill, while more will be covered by employers, likely because of provisions that make the nongroup market considerably less desirable.
The total change in coverage from all these sources is shown in the figure below, copied in its entirety from Figure 2 in the CBO cost analysis. The share of each age group without coverage under current law is shown in the first bars of each set in dark blue, under the March 23 CBO score in the second set in the lightest blue, and under the legislation passed by the House is shown in the third set (mid-tone blue). The three sets of bars on the left show coverage rates for nonelderly adults below 200 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL), while the three sets of bars on the right show coverage rates for those above 200 percent of FPL. The width of the bars represents the relative size of the population, so you can see that adults between 19 and 29 years of age are more likely to be lower income, while those between 30 and 64 years of age are more likely to be higher income. In general, low-income adults are more likely to be uninsured under current law, but that difference is exacerbated under the proposed legislation. However, no group is spared. While low-income people face much higher rates of uninsurance, even significant shares of high-income young and middle-aged adults will be less likely to be covered.
Breaking a promise not to cut Social Security, the Trump administration released a budget that would slash Social Security payments for disabled workers by shrinking many of the federal government’s disability-based programs by $72 billion over the next decade. Press coverage has emphasized that the budget avoids large cuts for programs that benefit mostly older workers, but this is inaccurate—especially for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which disproportionately benefit older Americans.
It is true that the Trump administration is desperate to cut programs like food stamps that overwhelmingly benefit poor children, but it is incorrect to claim that the administration’s draconian budget reductions spare older people. In fact, the administration’s budget cuts are remarkably comprehensive in their cruelty across the age distribution. Cuts to Social Security disability payments will especially burden older Americans, as they are precisely the individuals most likely to be disabled. Do you know people with cancer advanced enough that it prevents them from working? Or how about a family member with diabetes or arthritis? These and other illnesses prevent older Americans in particular from holding steady employment.
The figure below shows that the share of the population receiving disability insurance payments indeed rises rapidly with age. Nearly one-in-ten (9.9 percent) people between the ages of 50 and 65 receives SSDI, in contrast to the small shares of younger individuals receiving these payments. As a result, nearly three quarters of those receiving Social Security disability are between the ages of 50 and 65.
Trump’s budget tried to side-step taxes. Today’s Ways and Means hearing with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin should not.
Today, the House Committee on Ways and Means is holding a hearing on President Trump’s budget proposals, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin providing testimony.
In the past, Mnuchin has claimed that in the Trump administration’s tax plan, “there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class.” This claim has been dubbed the “Mnuchin rule.” However, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that both the Trump campaign and House GOP “Better Way” tax plans flagrantly violate this rule. Tax Policy Center (TPC) estimated that 47 percent of the Trump campaign tax plan would go to the top 1 percent while 76 percent of the House GOP tax plan would go to the top 1 percent in their first years, and this regressivity just grows over time. And the scarce details from the administration on their tax plan have not deviated much from the campaign plan.
Despite this, yesterday at the 2017 Peter G. Peterson Fiscal Summit, Mnuchin again echoed (see 2:08 in the video) this claim, stating that “the president’s objective is to create a middle-income tax cut, it’s not to create tax cuts for the high-end.”
Trump budget proposal is a potential jobs-killer, imposing a major fiscal drag that would radically slow job growth in coming years
Today, the Trump administration published their full budget request for fiscal year 2018. The budget is basically par-for-the-course with recent Republican budgets— doubling down on the austerity policies that have been harming American households for about a decade. But besides containing cruel cuts and deeply-dodgy economic assumptions, this proposal should also dispel any last remaining hope that fiscal policy under the Trump administration would boost, rather than drag, on growth and jobs. Were this proposal enacted, it would put a large and rapidly growing drag on economic growth going forward. All else equal, job-losses stemming from this budget’s spending cuts would total 177,000 in 2018, 357,000 in 2019, and 1.4 million in 2020. While it gets increasingly hard to estimate precise numbers further into the future, the fiscal drag just increases dramatically after 2020.
The economic intuition for why the Trump budget’s cuts would hinder growth is simply that they would reduce growth in economy-wide spending, or aggregate demand. It is always possible that the spending slowdown caused by the Trump budget could be neutralized by spending increases in other parts of the economy. Before the onset of the Great Recession, it was thought that this spending increase could be reliably engineered by the Federal Reserve lowering short-term interest rates. Since the Great Recession, however, the economy saw seven years of historically slow recovery even while the Fed held short-term rates at zero (and undertook other measures to boost growth). The reason for this slow growth despite expansionary monetary policy is clearly historically austere public spending.
This should make clear that while the Fed certainly has the ability to curtail growth by raising interest rates, their ability to offset a negative fiscal shock by lowering rates seems severely constrained. Given that a monetary policy response should not be relied on to neutralize the negative fiscal shock of the Trump budget and the AHCA, we think these estimated job-losses should certainly inform the debate. Further, the federal funds rate (the rate the Fed lowers to offset negative demand shocks) sits at just about 1 percent today, meaning the Fed simply doesn’t have much room to boost the economy in response to contractionary fiscal policy that begins next fiscal year and then ramps up. For reference, in the past five recessions, the peak-to-trough change in the federal funds rate as the Fed aimed to stop the contraction and spur recovery was over 3.5 percent.
The president’s budget was released today and a House budget resolution will follow in June. Though the two plans will undoubtedly differ in certain areas—the president’s budget includes infrastructure and paid parental leave proposals that aren’t guaranteed to be taken up by the House—both will seek deep cuts to programs helping vulnerable citizens while calling for immense tax cuts for the wealthy.
The proposed budget and tax cuts come on the heels of the House effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with their American Health Care Act (AHCA), which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted would be “the largest transfer in modern U.S. history from low- and moderate-income people to the very wealthy,” should it become law. The White House is banking on this repeal passing, assuming $250 billion in supposed savings in the president’s budget.
Voters who believed Trump’s assurances that he opposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid may be surprised to learn that he wants to gut Medicaid (not just reversing the expansion embedded in the ACA, but essentially doubling the cuts in Medicaid called for in the House-passed AHCA), cut Social Security Disability Insurance, and hasten the exhaustion of the Medicare trust fund. Funding for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would be slashed by $616 billion over the 10-year budget window, as Medicaid would be transformed from a coverage guarantee for low-income families and nursing home residents who have exhausted their savings into block grants or similar programs constrained by per capita spending limits at a time when Baby Boomers are aging into their peak Alzheimer’s years. The Medicaid cuts would do nothing to restrain health cost inflation but would leave sick kids and frail seniors to fend for themselves.
Every year, retirement savers lose $17 billion because they receive bad advice from financial advisers—like being steered into investments that provide larger payments to the adviser but lower returns for the saver. Currently, that fleecing of retirement savers is legal. Unlike the strict requirements in place for lawyers and doctors, not all financial advisers are legally required to act in their clients’ best interest. Just over a year ago, the Department of Labor issued a rule (known as the “fiduciary rule”) that would close this loophole and require financial advisers to act in the best interest of clients saving for retirement. But the Trump administration has made its interest in weakening or rescinding this rule clear. Following direction from President Trump, the Department of Labor delayed the implementation of the rule by 60 days, from April 10th to June 9th, to conduct a new “examination” of the rule, despite the fact that the department has already conducted an exhaustive analysis.
Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, after earlier saying he was actively seeking a way to further “freeze the rule,” has now stated that while the Department “should seek public comment on how to revise this rule,” they “have found no principled legal basis to change the June 9 date while we seek public input.” The fact that there will be no further delay is very good news. Further delay of the rule would have been a huge win for the financial industry and a huge loss for retirement savers all across the country, with every additional week of delay costing retirement savers $431 million over the next 30 years. However, while the rule’s fiduciary standard will take effect on June 9th, key compliance provisions built into the rule’s exemptions have been further delayed to January 1st, 2018. Moreover, the department has stated that it will not enforce the rule the during the gap period between June 9th and January 1st. This means the loopholes that allow financial advisers to take advantage of savers are not fully closed, and retirement savers will continue to be harmed during this period. Further, it is far from certain that the rule will in fact become fully applicable on January 1st. The Department has made clear (see Q4 in these Department of Labor FAQs ) that—as requested by the financial industry—they are considering proposing additional changes to the rule and delaying it beyond January 1st. Thus, we can expect further attempts in coming months to weaken and delay the rule—actions that would yet further harm retirement savers. In order to truly protect retirees and working people saving for retirement from predatory financial advisers, we need a fully applicable, vigorously enforced rule to protect their savings from the large losses that conflicted advice is causing.
One year ago, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule to update the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime rules. The old rules—written by the Bush administration in 2004—have a loophole that leaves millions of salaried employees without the right to overtime pay (and even without the right to be paid the minimum wage). An employer may legally require salaried employees earning as little as $23,660 a year to work 70 or 80 hours a week with no additional pay. If an employer determines that a salaried employee works in an “executive, professional, or administrative capacity” the employee’s effective hourly pay could fall below $6.00 an hour.
If the new rule had taken effect on December 1, 2016, as planned, 4 million employees would have become entitled to overtime pay and another 9 million would have had their right to overtime pay strengthened and clarified. In 2017 alone, workers would have gotten $1.2 billion in extra pay.
But Republican politicians and big business groups sued to block the rule, and a U.S. District Court judge in Texas blocked the rule from taking effect, not just in Texas, but nationwide. Obama’s Department of Labor appealed the case, but the Trump administration has repeatedly delayed the appeal while it figures out whether to side with the employees or with big business.
This week was the first week in which the Congressional Review Act could no longer be used to block regulations issued in the final months of the Obama administration. But congressional Republicans were undeterred, and continued to advance an anti-regulatory agenda that threatens workers’ health and safety, wages, and retirement security. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs approved the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), a sweeping measure that threatens all kinds of important worker protections. That same day, the administration delayed a rule that requires employers to electronically submit injury and illness data that they already record. And yesterday, the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing attacking the fiduciary rule, which requires that financial advisers act in their clients’ best interests when giving retirement advice.
The RAA, which was advanced by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, would fundamentally alter the regulatory process, giving corporate interests unprecedented power to interfere with and delay the regulatory process. The bill lets big business and special interests submit alternative regulatory proposals, and requires that agencies consider these proposals and adopt the rule that is least costly for corporations. By prioritizing industry profits over health, safety, and other public goods, the RAA is a direct threat to workers and the American people.
In January 2010, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowed corporations, for the first time ever, to spend unlimited money on politics. Within a few months, Republican strategists and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hatched a plan to take advantage of the newly available corporate cash. They called it Project “RedMap,” or “Redistricting Majority Project.” Its goal was to use corporate money— much of it contributed secretly through the Chamber— to win Republican control of state legislatures in the Fall of 2010. That year’s elections were particularly important because the officials who came into office that year would be charged with redrawing legislative district boundaries based on the 2010 census.
The business lobbyists were more successful than they could have hoped. With their help, eleven states that had previously been governed by a combination of Democrats and Republicans became wall-to-wall Republican, with the GOP controlling both houses of the legislature along with the Governor’s mansion. Critically, this included a swath of traditional swing states with strong labor movements running from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin across the upper Midwest.
Sixty-three years ago on Wednesday, the Supreme Court prohibited school segregation. In the South, Brown v. Board of Education was enforced slowly and fitfully for two decades; then progress ground to a halt. Nationwide, black students are now less likely to attend schools with whites than they were half a century ago. Was Brown a failure?
Not if we consider the boost it gave to a percolating civil rights movement. The progeny of Brown include desegregation of public accommodations and the mostly unhindered right of African Americans to compete for jobs, to vote, and to purchase or rent homes. Brown’s greatest accomplishment was its enduring imprint on the national ethos: the idea of second-class citizenship for African Americans, indeed for any minority group, is now universally condemned as a violation of the Constitution and of American values. None of these transformations came easily, and none are complete, but none would have happened were it not for Brown.
Yet the decision could not accomplish its stated purpose. Today, nearly half of all black students attend majority black schools, with over 70 percent in high-poverty school districts. New York is the most segregated state: two-thirds of its black students attend schools that are less than 10 percent white. A growing number are “integrated” with low-income Hispanics and other recent immigrants, but still isolated from the mainstream.
Because schools remain segregated, we have little chance to substantially boost the achievement of black children, especially those from low-income families. Of course, some children will always surmount their disadvantages and excel. But when separate schools concentrate students who are in poorer health and more frequently absent, who may be homeless or in unstable housing, and whose parents are less-educated, achievement lags when teachers are overwhelmed by non-academic challenges.
Yesterday was the final day congressional Republicans could use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block regulations issued in the final months of the Obama administration. The CRA is a controversial law that gives Congress the power to overturn rules put in place by the previous president for 60 legislative days after the president leaves office—and robs future administrations of the ability to implement new rules. Republicans have used this rather obscure law to block an unprecedented 14 regulations.
The rules blocked by congressional Republicans and President Trump provided important protections ensuring the health and safety of consumers, working people, and the general public. The five labor-related rules that were blocked would have made it harder for companies to get federal contracts if they violated labor laws, made it easier for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to track workplace injuries, helped people save for retirement, and made it easier for people to collect unemployment insurance.
The blocked Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule required companies applying for federal contracts to disclose violations of federal labor laws and executive orders addressing wage and hour, safety and health, collective bargaining, family medical leave, and civil rights protections. Currently, there is no effective system for distinguishing between law-abiding contractors and those that violate labor and employment laws. By blocking this rule, Republicans have ensured that businesses that violate basic labor and employment laws will continue to be rewarded with taxpayer dollars.
In a previous post, we noted that annual work hours for all workers, especially low-wage African American workers and women, increased between 1979 and 2015. Working moms are significant contributors to this trend—half of all African American female workers are moms, as are 55.3 percent of Hispanic working women and 44.5 percent of white female workers. While all moms are working more hours per year and contributing more to their households financially, African American working moms are uniquely central to the economic well-being of their families.
To begin with, more than two-thirds of all African American working mothers are single moms, making them the primary, if not sole, economic providers for their families. By comparison, 29.6 percent of white working mothers and 47.9 percent of Hispanic working mothers are single.
The unemployment rate has fallen steadily over the last several years, and many have said that the current rate of 4.4 percent means we are back to (or have even dropped below) full employment—meaning that pushing unemployment any lower would cause inflation to accelerate above the Federal Reserve’s preferred 2 percent target. That is why many observers have applauded the Fed’s recent decisions to raise rates, even though the rate hikes occurred before most workers have seen the economic recovery translate into consistently strong nominal wage growth.
The fact is that the headline unemployment rate continues to understate slack in the labor market. Today’s 4.4 percent unemployment rate is associated with a much lower prime-age employment-to-population ratio (EPOP)—the share of the working age population who is actually working—than in the recent past. While there may be reasons other than labor market slack for today’s lagging labor force participation, by looking just at the prime-age EPOP, we can at least eliminate any distortions caused by the wave of retiring baby boomers. The graph below shows that the prime-age EPOP averaged 81.2 percent in the five months the unemployment rate hit 4.4 percent in 1998 and 1999 (including one month in 2001), and 80.5 percent in the four months unemployment hit 4.4 percent in 2006 and 2007. On average, those nine months saw a 2.1 percentage point higher prime-age EPOP (80.7 percent) than the 78.6 percent we see today.
Yesterday, on President Trump’s 105th day in office, House Republicans approved a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act. President Trump celebrated the House passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and stated that he is confident that the measure will pass the Senate. Under the AHCA, 24 million Americans would lose their health insurance coverage. The majority (14 million) would lose coverage as the result of staggering cuts (almost $900 billion over the next decade) to the Medicaid program, which provides health care coverage to low-income Americans. An additional 7 million Americans would lose the coverage they get through their employer. In addition to taking coverage away from millions of Americans, the AHCA would have a significant impact on our nation’s overall economy. Large cuts to Medicaid and the subsidies for those buying health insurance on the ACA exchanges, combined with the AHCA’s tax cuts benefitting the top 1 percent of households, would be a drag on the economy and hurt job growth. Nationally, the job losses would reach 460,000 by 2020 and 1.8 million by 2022.
Earlier in the week, House Republicans voted in favor of legislation that would give employers the right to delay paying any wages for overtime work for as long as 13 months. The deceptively named “Working Families Flexibility Act” (H.R. 1180) would allow private-sector employers to “compensate” hourly workers with compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay. Contrary to proponents’ claims, the bill does not give employees the right to comp time, it takes away their right to overtime. The legislation forces workers to compromise their paychecks for the possibility—but not the guarantee—that they will get time off from work when they need it.
Everyone who works in the education world—from researchers and policymakers, to teachers and school board members—is familiar with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly called the “Nation’s Report Card.” Every two years, scores from the NAEP on reading and mathematics tell us what students across the country and in every state know and can do. NAEP also paints a picture of progress over time in our children’s proficiency in these subjects and the degree to which race- and income-based gaps in educational achievement are narrowing. (For the record, we have continued to make progress on both subjects, and those gaps are narrowing, albeit much more slowly than we want or need them to.)
But even those of us who rely on NAEP, whether for research or policymaking purposes or otherwise, are probably a lot less conversant with other aspects of the assessments. In the past few weeks, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which oversees and manages NAEP, unveiled two new sets of findings that illuminate key realities relevant to children’s futures and provide important guidance for policy and practice. They could not be more timely.
Last week, the Board hosted an event at the Kennedy Center to discuss the results of the 2016 NAEP arts assessment. Every decade since 1997, eighth graders have been assessed for their skills in music and visual arts, the latter including both what they know about art and how well they can practice it. The good news, if you can call it that, is that our children haven’t lost ground on scores despite major cuts to art programs during the big recession; overall, they have held fairly steady since the last arts NAEP, in 2008.
As we await Friday’s employment report, and the likely bounce back from the disappointing payroll numbers we saw last month, I’m going to take the opportunity to discuss a couple key questions we should ask as the economy continues inching towards full employment. First, are we simply adding jobs or are we adding better-quality jobs? Second, is the recovery reaching all corners of the labor market?
Except for last month, the economy has been adding enough jobs over the last year to not only keep up with population growth but to pull in more workers off the sidelines. These workers come from those who were unemployed—that is, people who have been actively looking for a job—as well as those who were out of the labor force but who we would expect to return as job opportunities get stronger. As those formerly-sidelined workers get added to the employment rolls, there will be fewer workers left out trying to get in. Right now, employers hold the cards when it comes to determining employment conditions because, for the most part, they don’t have to offer better wages and benefits to attract and retain the workers they want—both employers and workers know those would-be workers are out there ready to replace any incumbent who makes wage demands that employers deem excessive.
As we approach full employment, that dynamic should slowly shift. We’ve begun to see evidence of broad-based wage growth in the last year as some amount of bargaining power moves in workers’ favor as the labor market tightens. With fewer workers on the sidelines, employers will have to work a bit harder—offering higher wages and better benefits—to attract and retain the workers they want. That is not to say that we should expect rapid and uncontrolled acceleration in wage growth, which the Federal Reserve fears will set off an inflationary spiral. Instead, upward pressure on wages will likely happen slowly and gradually, perhaps in one sector before others or in one part of the country before others. But, it will not happen at all if the Fed raises rates and slows down or halts the recovery.
A vote in favor of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) today would be a vote to make the vast majority of Americans poorer, less healthy, and more financially insecure. The AHCA would cost 24 million Americans their health insurance coverage. The majority (14 million) would lose it to breathtakingly large cuts (almost $900 billion over the next decade) to the vital Medicaid program. Further, 7 million Americans would lose the coverage they get through their employer if AHCA passes.
Costs would skyrocket for those who still needed coverage in the nongroup market. A 64 year-old making 175 percent of the federal poverty line would pay $12,900 more each year for the health insurance plan’s premiums under AHCA, but would also face deductibles and co-pays that would cost thousands more than they do currently. For the entire nongroup market, out-of-pocket costs after premiums would rise by $25 billion each year by 2026 if AHCA is passed.
On top of this severe degradation of health and financial security, the AHCA would also drag on job growth in coming years. This drag would occur because the AHCA cuts to Medicaid and insurance subsidies reduce growth in economic activity and job creation far more powerfully than the AHCA tax cuts boost this growth. By 2022, this drag could lower employment by 1.8 million unless some countervailing macroeconomic boost neutralized the AHCA job losses. This drag on job growth would felt in nearly every congressional district.
How many jobs could the AHCA cost in your congressional district?: Potential fewer jobs by congressional district due to drag on growth from the AHCA, 2017–2022
|State||District||Representative||2019 potential job loss||2020 potential job loss||2021 potential job loss||2022 potential job loss|
|Alabama||4||Robert B. Aderholt||429||1,108||1,522||1,647|
|Alabama||6||Gary J. Palmer||174||662||974||1,032|
|Alabama||7||Terri A. Sewell||528||1,338||1,827||2,006|
|Arizona||3||Raúl M. Grijalva||2,182||5,606||7,640||8,789|
|Arizona||4||Paul A. Gosar||1,498||3,885||5,310||6,074|
|Arkansas||1||Eric A. “Rick” Crawford||1,085||2,815||3,849||4,390|
|Arkansas||2||J. French Hill||777||2,127||2,941||3,342|
|California||6||Doris O. Matsui||1,351||3,540||4,852||5,517|
|California||18||Anna G. Eshoo||543||21||437||539|
|California||21||David G. Valadao||1,658||4,250||5,793||6,635|
|California||24||Salud O. Carbajal||834||2,405||3,364||3,786|
|California||28||Adam B. Schiff||726||2,332||3,321||3,752|
|California||32||Grace F. Napolitano||1,018||2,643||3,622||4,048|
|California||35||Norma J. Torres||1,202||3,065||4,181||4,719|
|California||38||Linda T. Sánchez||892||2,354||3,239||3,607|
|California||39||Edward R. Royce||549||1,768||2,524||2,809|
|California||44||Nanette Diaz Barragán||1,532||3,886||5,293||5,985|
|California||46||J. Luis Correa||1,262||3,232||4,414||4,960|
|California||47||Alan S. Lowenthal||1,026||2,827||3,919||4,410|
|California||49||Darrell E. Issa||386||1,590||2,349||2,631|
|California||52||Scott H. Peters||258||1,305||1,973||2,201|
|California||53||Susan A. Davis||897||2,469||3,424||3,830|
|Colorado||3||Scott R. Tipton||2,339||6,134||8,395||9,669|
|Connecticut||1||John B. Larson||982||2,879||4,029||4,616|
|Connecticut||3||Rosa L. DeLauro||953||2,768||3,869||4,426|
|Connecticut||4||James A. Himes||145||1,504||2,372||2,784|
|Connecticut||5||Elizabeth H. Esty||853||2,626||3,706||4,249|
|Delaware||Statewide||Lisa Blunt Rochester||1,202||3,381||4,698||5,362|
|DC||Statewide||Eleanor Holmes Norton||303||1,542||2,321||2,691|
|Florida||2||Neal P. Dunn||652||1,696||2,333||2,533|
|Florida||3||Ted S. Yoho||699||1,798||2,469||2,667|
|Florida||4||John H. Rutherford||574||1,563||2,177||2,309|
|Florida||5||Al Lawson, Jr.||907||2,234||3,034||3,319|
|Florida||7||Stephanie N. Murphy||845||2,176||2,998||3,147|
|Florida||10||Val Butler Demings||969||2,462||3,383||3,550|
|Florida||12||Gus M. Bilirakis||639||1,702||2,361||2,492|
|Florida||15||Dennis A. Ross||678||1,773||2,446||2,615|
|Florida||17||Thomas J. Rooney||788||1,953||2,663||2,853|
|Florida||18||Brian J. Mast||807||2,168||3,013||3,155|
|Florida||20||Alcee L. Hastings||1,533||3,616||4,880||5,170|
|Florida||22||Theodore E. Deutch||1,024||2,775||3,868||4,028|
|Florida||23||Debbie Wasserman Schultz||1,120||2,927||4,050||4,207|
|Florida||24||Frederica S. Wilson||1,717||4,082||5,522||5,828|
|Georgia||1||Earl L. “Buddy” Carter||682||1,773||2,439||2,653|
|Georgia||2||Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.||761||1,946||2,660||2,961|
|Georgia||3||A. Drew Ferguson, IV||561||1,512||2,095||2,275|
|Georgia||4||Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr.||918||2,285||3,117||3,348|
|Georgia||10||Jody B. Hice||669||1,736||2,385||2,606|
|Georgia||12||Rick W. Allen||751||1,928||2,640||2,907|
|Idaho||1||Raúl R. Labrador||1,094||2,743||3,743||4,069|
|Idaho||2||Michael K. Simpson||1,084||2,757||3,773||4,113|
|Illinois||1||Bobby L. Rush||1,376||3,656||5,021||5,744|
|Illinois||2||Robin L. Kelly||1,481||3,850||5,264||6,023|
|Illinois||4||Luis V. Gutiérrez||1,593||4,132||5,646||6,464|
|Illinois||6||Peter J. Roskam||9||722||1,202||1,358|
|Illinois||7||Danny K. Davis||1,480||4,271||5,955||6,875|
|Illinois||9||Janice D. Schakowsky||501||1,860||2,701||3,101|
|Illinois||10||Bradley Scott Schneider||377||1,552||2,286||2,609|
|Indiana||1||Peter J. Visclosky||863||2,305||3,173||3,594|
|Indiana||5||Susan W. Brooks||393||1,380||1,994||2,230|
|Kansas||1||Roger W. Marshall||351||959||1,332||1,448|
|Kentucky||3||John A. Yarmuth||3,086||8,156||11,172||12,952|
|Louisiana||2||Cedric L. Richmond||2,632||6,759||9,221||10,510|
|Louisiana||5||Ralph Lee Abraham||2,264||5,834||7,961||9,108|
|Maryland||2||C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger||1,552||4,199||5,784||6,659|
|Maryland||3||John P. Sarbanes||794||2,646||3,780||4,373|
|Maryland||4||Anthony G. Brown||1,042||3,059||4,280||4,929|
|Maryland||5||Steny H. Hoyer||650||2,184||3,123||3,614|
|Maryland||6||John K. Delaney||942||2,987||4,235||4,879|
|Maryland||7||Elijah E. Cummings||1,974||5,499||7,613||8,817|
|Massachusetts||1||Richard E. Neal||1,258||3,365||4,632||5,257|
|Massachusetts||2||James P. McGovern||920||2,630||3,669||4,154|
|Massachusetts||4||Joseph P. Kennedy, III||107||1,098||1,739||1,976|
|Massachusetts||5||Katherine M. Clark||236||1,391||2,126||2,423|
|Massachusetts||7||Michael E. Capuano||1,528||4,261||5,906||6,772|
|Massachusetts||8||Stephen F. Lynch||476||1,774||2,582||2,925|
|Massachusetts||9||William R. Keating||841||2,431||3,398||3,837|
|Michigan||4||John R. Moolenaar||1,184||3,093||4,236||4,814|
|Michigan||5||Daniel T. Kildee||1,340||3,470||4,742||5,414|
|Michigan||9||Sander M. Levin||1,053||2,825||3,896||4,374|
|Michigan||11||David A. Trott||321||1,269||1,866||2,075|
|Michigan||13||John Conyers, Jr.||2,037||5,211||7,098||8,154|
|Michigan||14||Brenda L. Lawrence||1,568||4,192||5,765||6,594|
|Minnesota||1||Timothy J. Walz||715||2,022||2,808||3,253|
|Minnesota||7||Collin C. Peterson||799||2,180||3,007||3,476|
|Minnesota||8||Richard M. Nolan||910||2,448||3,367||3,892|
|Mississippi||2||Bennie G. Thompson||820||2,075||2,830||3,146|
|Mississippi||4||Steven M. Palazzo||520||1,387||1,912||2,132|
|Missouri||1||Wm. Lacy Clay||790||2,035||2,792||3,035|
|Nevada||2||Mark E. Amodei||1,440||3,826||5,256||5,994|
|New Hampshire||1||Carol Shea-Porter||968||2,733||3,805||4,295|
|New Hampshire||2||Ann M. Kuster||952||2,683||3,733||4,227|
|New Jersey||1||Donald Norcross||2,149||5,769||7,932||9,145|
|New Jersey||2||Frank A. LoBiondo||2,418||6,419||8,807||10,153|
|New Jersey||3||Thomas MacArthur||1,004||2,958||4,142||4,753|
|New Jersey||4||Christopher H. Smith||1,532||4,511||6,312||7,292|
|New Jersey||5||Josh Gottheimer||705||2,590||3,757||4,322|
|New Jersey||6||Frank Pallone, Jr.||1,705||4,827||6,706||7,731|
|New Jersey||7||Leonard Lance||189||1,583||2,471||2,887|
|New Jersey||8||Albio Sires||3,348||8,947||12,287||14,218|
|New Jersey||9||Bill Pascrell, Jr.||2,776||7,473||10,280||11,864|
|New Jersey||10||Donald M. Payne, Jr.||3,553||9,339||12,781||14,782|
|New Jersey||11||Rodney P. Frelinghuysen||153||1,411||2,215||2,584|
|New Jersey||12||Bonnie Watson Coleman||1,343||4,101||5,773||6,682|
|New Mexico||1||Michelle Lujan Grisham||3,748||9,795||13,389||15,497|
|New Mexico||2||Stevan Pearce||4,438||11,467||15,636||18,106|
|New Mexico||3||Ben Ray Luján||3,867||10,066||13,748||15,911|
|New York||1||Lee M. Zeldin||132||271||538||695|
|New York||2||Peter T. King||102||237||462||594|
|New York||3||Thomas R. Suozzi||656||531||402||331|
|New York||4||Kathleen M. Rice||240||150||418||576|
|New York||5||Gregory W. Meeks||588||1,737||2,427||2,843|
|New York||6||Grace Meng||459||1,483||2,104||2,476|
|New York||7||Nydia M. Velázquez||1,091||3,203||4,472||5,245|
|New York||8||Hakeem S. Jeffries||1,076||3,019||4,181||4,888|
|New York||9||Yvette D. Clarke||789||2,349||3,287||3,857|
|New York||10||Jerrold Nadler||249||716||1,352||1,735|
|New York||11||Daniel M. Donovan, Jr.||410||1,444||2,074||2,456|
|New York||12||Carolyn B. Maloney||896||501||182||5|
|New York||13||Adriano Espaillat||1,393||3,769||5,183||6,048|
|New York||14||Joseph Crowley||817||2,268||3,135||3,661|
|New York||15||José E. Serrano||2,002||5,192||7,080||8,238|
|New York||16||Eliot L. Engel||114||985||1,533||1,864|
|New York||17||Nita M. Lowey||190||409||807||1,045|
|New York||18||Sean Patrick Maloney||51||691||1,096||1,340|
|New York||19||John J. Faso||374||1,224||1,739||2,051|
|New York||20||Paul Tonko||386||1,302||1,858||2,196|
|New York||21||Elise M. Stefanik||585||1,651||2,289||2,678|
|New York||22||Claudia Tenney||656||1,833||2,536||2,966|
|New York||23||Tom Reed||687||1,922||2,661||3,112|
|New York||24||John Katko||561||1,662||2,324||2,727|
|New York||25||Louise McIntosh Slaughter||590||1,763||2,468||2,898|
|New York||26||Brian Higgins||800||2,219||3,067||3,585|
|New York||27||Chris Collins||250||896||1,290||1,528|
|North Carolina||1||G. K. Butterfield||1,315||3,320||4,522||5,075|
|North Carolina||2||George Holding||878||2,347||3,240||3,580|
|North Carolina||3||Walter B. Jones||985||2,531||3,464||3,852|
|North Carolina||4||David E. Price||948||2,611||3,626||4,016|
|North Carolina||5||Virginia Foxx||1,021||2,677||3,680||4,085|
|North Carolina||6||Mark Walker||847||2,271||3,138||3,465|
|North Carolina||7||David Rouzer||1,090||2,804||3,839||4,256|
|North Carolina||8||Richard Hudson||1,132||2,864||3,904||4,356|
|North Carolina||9||Robert Pittenger||280||1,248||1,867||2,019|
|North Carolina||10||Patrick T. McHenry||1,042||2,674||3,660||4,048|
|North Carolina||11||Mark Meadows||1,148||2,889||3,939||4,349|
|North Carolina||12||Alma S. Adams||1,580||3,951||5,376||5,966|
|North Carolina||13||Ted Budd||612||1,829||2,583||2,814|
|North Dakota||Statewide||Kevin Cramer||934||2,624||3,646||4,151|
|Ohio||2||Brad R. Wenstrup||1,057||2,963||4,111||4,725|
|Ohio||5||Robert E. Latta||957||2,602||3,589||4,122|
|Ohio||10||Michael R. Turner||1,298||3,489||4,800||5,525|
|Ohio||11||Marcia L. Fudge||1,957||5,194||7,124||8,226|
|Ohio||12||Patrick J. Tiberi||655||2,063||2,922||3,364|
|Ohio||14||David P. Joyce||604||1,848||2,607||2,972|
|Ohio||16||James B. Renacci||565||1,673||2,347||2,673|
|Oklahoma||3||Frank D. Lucas||292||823||1,154||1,226|
|Oregon||4||Peter A. DeFazio||3,882||10,040||13,698||15,812|
|Pennsylvania||1||Robert A. Brady||1,262||3,318||4,553||5,160|
|Pennsylvania||6||Ryan A. Costello||163||912||1,393||1,532|
|Pennsylvania||8||Brian K. Fitzpatrick||227||1,013||1,518||1,629|
|Pennsylvania||12||Keith J. Rothfus||417||1,304||1,851||2,067|
|Pennsylvania||13||Brendan F. Boyle||690||1,975||2,761||3,078|
|Pennsylvania||14||Michael F. Doyle||901||2,417||3,330||3,768|
|Pennsylvania||15||Charles W. Dent||574||1,652||2,310||2,581|
|Rhode Island||1||David N. Cicilline||1,736||4,626||6,354||7,303|
|Rhode Island||2||James R. Langevin||1,378||3,700||5,092||5,833|
|South Carolina||1||Mark Sanford||218||754||1,099||1,118|
|South Carolina||2||Joe Wilson||228||682||970||998|
|South Carolina||3||Jeff Duncan||332||845||1,163||1,208|
|South Carolina||4||Trey Gowdy||328||902||1,262||1,300|
|South Carolina||6||James E. Clyburn||426||1,036||1,410||1,472|
|South Carolina||7||Tom Rice||486||1,197||1,637||1,695|
|South Dakota||Statewide||Kristi L. Noem||239||748||1,069||1,128|
|Tennessee||1||David P. Roe||1,049||2,712||3,711||4,181|
|Tennessee||2||John J. Duncan, Jr.||819||2,223||3,074||3,452|
|Tennessee||3||Charles J. “Chuck” Fleischmann||928||2,443||3,354||3,779|
|Texas||7||John Abney Culberson||100||474||869||899|
|Texas||10||Michael T. McCaul||239||946||1,401||1,466|
|Texas||11||K. Michael Conaway||249||820||1,178||1,263|
|Texas||14||Randy K. Weber, Sr.||291||919||1,314||1,404|
|Texas||18||Sheila Jackson Lee||586||1,557||2,154||2,312|
|Texas||19||Jodey C. Arrington||321||910||1,274||1,383|
|Texas||26||Michael C. Burgess||165||771||1,166||1,199|
|Texas||30||Eddie Bernice Johnson||632||1,591||2,176||2,335|
|Texas||31||John R. Carter||288||886||1,263||1,325|
|Texas||33||Marc A. Veasey||758||1,832||2,480||2,681|
|Utah||4||Mia B. Love||610||1,540||2,114||2,208|
|Virginia||1||Robert J. Wittman||156||742||1,125||1,145|
|Virginia||3||Robert C. “Bobby” Scott||448||1,150||1,580||1,693|
|Virginia||4||A. Donald McEachin||406||1,103||1,539||1,593|
|Virginia||5||Thomas A. Garrett, Jr.||440||1,208||1,687||1,762|
|Virginia||8||Donald S. Beyer, Jr.||310||184||547||520|
|Virginia||9||H. Morgan Griffith||434||1,124||1,549||1,644|
|Virginia||11||Gerald E. Connolly||117||486||908||887|
|Washington||1||Suzan K. DelBene||819||2,627||3,732||4,294|
|Washington||3||Jaime Herrera Beutler||1,797||4,732||6,484||7,453|
|Washington||5||Cathy McMorris Rodgers||2,105||5,508||7,534||8,686|
|Washington||8||David G. Reichert||1,217||3,485||4,855||5,584|
|West Virginia||1||David B. McKinley||1,801||4,706||6,435||7,436|
|West Virginia||2||Alexander X. Mooney||1,623||4,284||5,869||6,778|
|West Virginia||3||Evan H. Jenkins||2,121||5,509||7,520||8,701|
|Wisconsin||1||Paul D. Ryan||270||803||1,138||1,187|
|Wisconsin||5||F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.||147||604||901||925|
|Wisconsin||7||Sean P. Duffy||492||1,244||1,710||1,776|
The nongroup market spending is the net outcome of repealing ACA subsidies and introducing new AHCA tax credits. We take estimates of current health exchange enrollees by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and apply estimates from Cutler (2017) on the change in enrollment spurred by the AHCA to get a measure of remaining enrollment in nongroup markets by congressional district (CD). We use this measure to allocate the nationwide amount of tax credits estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). We also provide an age adjustment that estimates higher tax credits going to CDs whose age 18–64 population skews older, reflecting the fact that under the AHCA tax credits are larger for older enrollees. Specifically, we multiply the share of the 18–64 population that is between 30 and 49 by 1.375 and the share that is 50 and over by 1.875, reflecting the greater generosity of tax credits for these populations relative to those received by the under-30 population.
For Medicaid spending we allocate the CBO estimates of Medicaid spending reductions across states by using the Blumberg et al. (2016) estimates of how partial ACA repeal would be borne. Within states, we allocate the incidence of these spending cuts across CDs proportionally to each CD’s share of the population with incomes beneath the federal poverty line.
For tax cuts, we assume 40 percent of the revenue accrues uniformly across CDs, while allocating 60 percent of it proportionally to each CD’s total share of the population with incomes over $150,000.
Output multipliers are 1.4 for the nongroup spending reductions, 2 for Medicaid spending reductions, and 0.4 for the tax cuts. These parameter choices are explained in Bivens (2017). In 2019, we divide the output change by $146,000 to get employment changes, also explained in Bivens (2017). For each year after 2019, we increase this divisor by 1.5 percent, reflecting expected productivity growth over that time.
Source: Author's analysis of U.S. Census Bureau (2013), U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC 2016a), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2016e), and BLS Employment Projections program (BLS-EP 2014a and 2014b). For a more detailed explanation of data sources and computations, see the appendix.
A Senate vote on House Joint Resolution 66 may come as early as tomorrow. H.R. 66 would put roadblocks in front of states setting up convenient low-cost individual retirement accounts (IRAs) for workers who aren’t covered under an employer-based plan such as a 401(k) or a traditional pension. These plans, sometimes called “Secure Choice” plans, are well advanced in many states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon. They’re designed to make it easy for workers whose employers don’t offer retirement plans—shockingly, around half of all workers—to contribute to low-cost IRAs through automatic payroll deductions. Workers who stand to benefit are disproportionately low-wage workers and small business employees.
Support for meddling with these useful, if limited, programs tends to split along party lines, though at least one Republican, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, has publicly opposed H.R. 66 and a similar bill and others appear on the fence.
Passage of the bill in a GOP-controlled Congress would belie the party’s claim to respect states’ rights. Republicans have historically supported retirement savings accounts, and the state plans only offer a low-cost, hassle-free way for uncovered workers to do something they can do already—contribute to an IRA. So why are some members of Congress trying to derail the state initiatives? They claim to be concerned about workers, but it should come as no surprise that the mutual fund industry is behind H.R. 66, presumably because state plans offering low-cost investment options could serve as a nudge to employers to rethink the high-cost funds they offer in their 401(k)s.
After President Trump’s first 100 days in office, it’s clear that his promises to help the working class were little more than a campaign ploy. His dismantling of Obama-era regulations like the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule and deregulation of the financial industry reveal what he really cares about—lining the pockets of America’s ultra-rich.
Nothing demonstrates his disdain for working people more than his budget proposal. In it, he cuts 31 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s budget, which ensures people across the country have clean air and water, and 21 percent from Department of Labor programs that provide job training to seniors and disadvantaged youth. Instead of helping working people, Trump’s budget imposes a hiring freeze on crucial federal agencies and calls for many more staff to be laid off from public sector jobs—the largest reduction in the federal workforce since World War II.
The FY 2018 People’s Budget: A Roadmap for the Resistance by the Congressional Progressive Caucus stands in stark contrast to Trump’s budget. The People’s Budget is a plan to actually help working Americans who have felt left behind by an economy rigged against them. Our budget, is a roadmap for the resistance, investing in the progressive priorities and kitchen table issues that matter to real people: infrastructure to create jobs and ensure public safety; education to help our kids reach their full potential; and sustainable energy to protect our precious environment.Progressives in Congress fully want to make investments in our future generations and protect programs that improve the lives of people every day. We believe our budget should strengthen Social Security and Medicare and invest in job growth through infrastructure, education, and research and development, while responsibly reducing our deficits and cutting wasteful spending and redundant programs where they exist.
Does Trump really believe U.S. companies should “Hire American?” Not if he allows Congress to expand the H-2B guestworker program.
On Monday morning, members of Congress in the House and Senate made public the text of omnibus appropriations legislation to fund the U.S. government through September 2017. The legislation includes a “rider” provision that will double the size of the H-2B nonimmigrant visa program, a temporary foreign worker (or “guestworker”) program that brings up to 66,000 migrant workers per year to the United States for up to nine months at a time to perform low-wage seasonal jobs in industries like landscaping, forestry, housekeeping, seafood processing, and construction. The fact that the legislation was unveiled on May Day makes it sadly ironic, because if President Trump signs it without pressuring congressional leaders to remove this H-2B rider, it will become the latest example of Trump’s aggressive anti-worker agenda. There is still a chance that the final version of the bill might not include it, but it’s a longshot unless Trump demands that Republican leaders in Congress take it out.
H-2B visas are sponsored—in other words owned and controlled—by the employers who hire H-2B workers. In practice that means H-2B guestworkers cannot switch employers if they are cheated or abused. For H-2B workers, losing their visa makes them instantly deportable, which is why they often work for low wages in poor conditions without complaining. In addition, EPI research has shown how H-2B wage rules have often allowed H-2B workers to be paid less than local average wage rates for similarly situated U.S. workers, and how H-2B workers earn no more than undocumented workers on average. Moreover, there are numerous cases of litigation, reports in the media, and government audits documenting how migrants employed through the H-2B program are often exploited and robbed by employers, and even are victims of human trafficking. Because U.S. workers are forced to compete with vulnerable H-2B workers, in turn, this degrades wages and working conditions for all workers in major H-2B occupations. Thus, there’s no question that the H-2B program needs major reforms to protect migrant and American workers—but any push to expand H-2B should be made through the regular legislative process and after a full debate in Congress, so that members are accountable for their votes—not as a fly-by-night provision on a must-pass spending bill.
Included in President Trump’s announcement of his tax plan earlier this week is a promise to provide “tax relief for families with child and dependent care expenses”. Without more details about his plan, however, it’s near-impossible to judge, but we make an attempt nonetheless.
Various news outlets and advocates have speculated that Trump’s initial interest in reforming Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (DCFSA) has since shifted to address a more widely utilized tax credit, referred to as the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (see here, here, and here).
There are three central questions to ask when facing reforms billed as improving access to effective, high-quality child care and education: (1) Does the policy allow all parents the option to stay home with their infants, newly adopted children, or new foster children? (2) Does the policy relieve the cost burden of early child care and education for low- and middle-income families? (3) Does the policy improve quality by investing in the early care and education workforce?
Given the wording of the president’s plan outline, it would appear his efforts will focus on (2) affordability—by either reforming or expanding the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC)—while remaining silent on (1) parental leave policies and (3) improving child care quality. Right off the bat, his hint at child care reform misses key components, and we will show you below that improving affordability through current tax programs misses the target.
Relying on the tax system to improve access to affordable, high quality child care has a number of limitations. As a whole, using the tax system to expand access to affordable child care is especially misguided for three key reasons. First, many families do not have the cash on hand each month to pay out-of-pocket and wait for the end of the year’s tax return. Second, not all current tax credits benefiting household with children are refundable, meaning they are useless if a family owes no taxes. Finally, existing tax programs for child care are not well targeted. In a zero sum world of child care subsidies, many families who arguably don’t need assistance are getting a large share of it.
Besides the labor secretary, President Trump will name countless federal officials responsible for advocating for working people. One of the most important agencies to which Trump will nominate officials is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which protects the rights of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve their wages and working conditions.
On April 25, POLITICO reported that the Trump administration is considering Minneapolis attorney Doug Seaton to fill a vacancy on the NLRB. Seaton is a well-known union-avoidance consultant, otherwise known as a “persuader” or, more accurately, a union buster.
When workers seek to organize and bargain collectively, employers often hire so-called “persuaders” to orchestrate and roll out time-tested, anti-union campaigns. Union-avoidance consultants do exactly what their job titles describe: they help employers keep their businesses union-free, by either defeating union organizing campaigns or assisting with decertification efforts to unseat an existing union.
Tomorrow marks the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. EPI released a report examining President Trump’s actions in his first 100 days in office and their impact on U.S. workers and our economy. The report reveals that Trump’s top priorities include rolling back worker protections, advancing a budget proposal that would dramatically cut funding for the agencies that safeguard worker’s rights, and nominating individuals to key posts—even to the Supreme Court—who threaten workers’ wages, safety, and bargaining power. But, it is important to remember that President Trump did not accomplish this alone—Congress has been instrumental in advancing this agenda.
Congressional Republicans passed each of the resolutions Trump signed blocking much-needed worker protections. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), after refusing to allow Senate consideration of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, set a new precedent in the Senate in order to confirm a Supreme Court justice with a record of ruling against workers. Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Alexander Acosta to serve as labor secretary, despite the fact that Acosta failed to answer basic questions regarding how he would run the Labor Department.
As we evaluate Trump’s first 100 days in office, we should consider the important role Congress has played in helping the president accomplish his priorities. Because of the Congressional majority, federal contractors who violate labor and employment laws will continue to be rewarded with taxpayer dollars, unemployment insurance applicants will have additional hurdles to navigate in obtaining earned benefits, and workers will be more likely to be injured or killed on the job. The Perkins Project Policy Watch will continue to track the Trump administration and Congress and provide information on how their actions impact on our nation’s workers.
In 2015, 4,836 workers died on the job. That’s nearly five thousand husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers who walked out their door in the morning and never came back home.
April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day—an international day of remembrance for workers killed, disabled, or sickened by their work. And as highlighted by the AFL-CIO’s 2017 Death on the Job Report, it is also an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace deaths and injuries, and a day of action to fight for improvements in workplace safety.
One important way we can honor the memories of our fallen loved ones is by learning from what happened, and enacting laws and regulations to make workers safer in the future. In fact, many workplace safety laws and regulations are passed in memory of workers who died on the job.
Take, for example, the Miner Act of 2006—a mine safety law enacted after the deaths of 21 miners within the first few months of that year. The Senate report explaining the necessity of the enhanced mining safety provisions states that, “these tragedies serve as a somber reminder that even that which has been done well can always be done better.” Or California’s 2016 Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care regulation, promulgated to protect health care workers against workplace violence after the deaths of a psychiatric technician and a registered nurse who were killed during patient assaults. Documentation supporting the regulation states that, “the deaths of theses health care workers demonstrate the need for better security measures, procedures, and practices.”
The foundational step in enacting new worker safety rules is recording and reporting workplace incidents, because if we don’t know about the problems, we cannot solve them. For example, many people may be surprised that in 2016, the private-sector jobs with the highest rates of injuries included not only tractor-trailer truck drivers and warehouse laborers, but also nursing assistants. And the top five public-sector occupations with the highest rates of injury included sheriff’s patrol officers and firefighters, but also janitors, cleaners, and teacher assistants.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for tracking workplace injuries and illnesses, and issuing new rules and regulations to keep workers safe going forward. But OSHA cannot read minds: it requires employers to record and report injury and illness rates in their workplaces. Yet, many employers evade their statutory recording and reporting duties, sweeping deaths and injuries under the rug to avoid liability. That is one reason why OSHA enacted a recordkeeping rule last year, enhancing its enforcement powers to issue citations and fines to employers who fail to maintain these critical injury and illness records.
Yet, one of the first things President Trump and congressional Republicans did this year was overturn OSHA’s recordkeeping rule, and establish that OSHA can never promulgate a similar rule again unless Congress specifically authorizes it to do so.
So now workers may not only die at work, they could die in vain. Or lose a limb, lose their eyesight, or develop lung cancer from exposure to toxins. And instead of honoring their tragedies by recording and reporting them to learn what we can do better, much if it could all quietly brushed under the rug. Without any evidence of the problems of the past, we can have no solutions for the future.
What will happen next year if, because OSHA’s enforcement powers have been stripped down, workplace tragedies go unreported? Sadly, it’s something we all should think about during this Workers’ Memorial Day. And who knows, one day the person who wakes up, goes to work, and never comes home could be someone you love. Wouldn’t you want their death to mean something? Check the vote count for overturning OSHA’s rule to see if your congressperson or Senator agrees.
Alexander Acosta will not be the secretary of labor that working people need, and for that reason, senators should oppose his confirmation. As Senator Elizabeth Warren said, the test is not whether Acosta is better than Andrew Puzder, a truly abysmal, insulting choice to lead the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The test must be whether he will be a strong advocate for working Americans, someone who will use the power of his department to improve their lives. The evidence from Acosta’s confirmation hearings and his past service in the government shows that he will not. The best we might hope for is that he will not politicize the agency and will be a caretaker until an administration that believes in the Labor Department’s mission is elected. That is not enough.
It isn’t even clear that Acosta will be a good caretaker of the agency whose mission is to foster and promote the welfare of the nation’s job seekers, wage earners, and retirees. At Acosta’s confirmation hearing, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) asked whether Acosta would defend the DOL against the draconian 21 percent budget cut called for in President Trump’s preliminary budget. Acosta refused to say he would, despite professing concern about reducing the already tiny number of OSHA compliance officers in New Hampshire. Even Scott Pruitt, who spent years in state government attacking and suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before his appointment as EPA administrator, cared enough about his mission to publicly oppose the EPA budget sent to Congress by Trump’s Office of Management and Budget. DOL’s Wage and Hour Division has fewer than 1000 inspectors for 7.3 million workplaces, and wage theft is a nationwide epidemic costing workers tens of billions of dollars a year. Yet Acosta would not commit to work to preserve the meager resources devoted to protecting workers from abuse.
Today, President Trump is set to unveil a proposal that serves as his opening bid for the upcoming debate over tax “reform.” Unsurprisingly, the president is proposing straightforward tax cuts for the rich, which will need to be temporary because they will increase the federal budget deficit. It’s being reported that the centerpiece of the proposal is a cut to the rate faced by both corporations and “pass-throughs” to 15 percent, accompanied by the claim that the tax cuts will pay for themselves (“pass-throughs” are businesses that pay no direct taxes but whose owners pay individual taxes on the dividends and other income they receive from the business). There are three important things to note about these proposed changes.
First, they would clearly be a windfall to already-rich households. The incidence of corporate tax cuts falls disproportionately on owners of businesses and other capital, and this type of income is incredibly concentrated at the top, with the top 1 percent alone claiming 53 percent of it in 2013.
Second, these tax cuts will not trickle down. There is simply no payoff to low- and middle-income families from cutting the corporate tax rate. We’ll touch on this more in an upcoming paper, but briefly, corporate tax cuts are terribly inefficient fiscal stimulus relative to nearly any other tax cut or spending increase. And the textbook channel through which they boost long-run growth—boosting savings—will not materialize. The U.S. and global economies are glutted with savings, so boosting incentives to save helps nothing.