EPI News

More bad news: shrinking payrolls in February

The latest jobs report showed payrolls dropped by 63,000 last month, the largest loss in five years and yet another sign of recession. Employment in durable goods and construction dropped sharply, according to the analysis by Jared Bernstein.  EPI’s index of housing and related employment, including real estate and credit providers, is down 540,000 since its peak in April 2006. Bernstein and Nancy Cleeland wrote in the Huffington Post that this recession was the direct result of bad policy and could have been avoided.

The new redlining
An EPI report by Gregory Squires, a professor of sociology and public policy at George Washington University, contends that sub-prime loans are creating a new kind of redlining in poor urban neighborhoods. Squires writes: “A two-tiered system of financial services has emerged that reflects and reinforces these patterns of inequality. One tier serves primarily middle- and upper-income, disproportionately white suburban markets, and the other targets low-income and predominantly minority communities concentrated in central cities with higher-priced, often predatory products.”

Funding prisons at the expense of schools
EPI analyst Liana Fox took a look at state spending on prisons and universities and found a disturbing trend: Since 1987, spending for incarceration has greatly outpaced spending for higher education. Several states (Connecticut, Vermont, Michigan, and Oregon) actually spend more on incarceration than they do on higher education. An EPI Snapshot shows the difference on a national and state-by-state level.

Congress and infrastructure
On Wednesday, EPI President Lawrence Mishel was among eight invited experts who spoke at a forum on infrastructure organized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Mishel made the point that the U.S. economy has been broken for some time–evidenced by rising unemployment–and needs both short- and long-term solutions that involve infrastructure spending. He called attention to three opportunities to not only create jobs but also bring more equity to the economy: Repair and maintain dilapidated schools, which are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods; bring broadband access to underserved rural areas; and fund work that improves energy efficiency, which could create jobs in disadvantaged areas.

Take Back America
EPI will be well-represented at the annual Take Back America conference, sponsored by the Institute for America’s Future and held this year at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington next Monday through Wednesday (March 17-19). As conference organizers put it, the conference is a gathering of “all the tribes of the progressive movement–grassroots and netroots activists, elected officials, business owners, policy experts, and more.” We will staff a booth with materials on EPI research, and staff and contributors will take part in several panel discussions. Among them: EPI research associate Jacob Hacker on Health Care for America on Monday; senior economist Jared Bernstein on the domestic costs of war and anti-terrorism measures on Tuesday and the Bush legacy on Wednesday; and EPI President Lawrence Mishel on The Economics of Shared Prosperity, also on Wednesday. Check out the agenda here.

The New EPI Board
As part of an initiative to broaden EPI’s reach, we have added 12 new directors to our board, bringing the total to 31. We are excited about the depth of knowledge and geographic diversity these new members bring to the EPI mission. We are introducing them, in alphabetical order, through three installments of EPI News, of which this is the second.

Alexis HermanAlexis Herman
Ms. Herman served as Secretary of Labor during President Bill Clinton’s second term, becoming the first African American to hold the position. Earlier she was director of the White House Public Liason Office. She began her career in 1969 as a social worker for Catholic Charities, developing employment training opportunities for young people, and from there was hired by the Department of Labor. She is now a popular speaker and a member of numerous boards, including chairing the Toyota Advisory Board on Diversity.

Robert JohnsonRobert Johnson
A former managing director of Soros Fund Management and chief economist of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee under Chairman William Proxmire, Dr. Johnson spent a year working on the Ned Lamont for U.S. Senate campaign. He now serves on the boards of the Democracy Alliance, the Institute for America’s Future, and the Brennan Center for Justice. In the private sector, he was president of Bottled MaJic Music, a recording label and music publishing business.

Donna R. LenhoffDonna R. Lenhoff, esq.
As Legislative and Public Policy Director of the National Employment Lawyers Association since 2006, Ms. Lenhoff often appears before Congress and administrative agencies.  She is nationally known for having developed and led the coalition that lobbied for the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, and was chosen by Working Mother Magazine in 1997 as one of the “25 Most Influential Working Mothers.”