“Rewriting the Rules”: A Sane Framework for Economic Reform

If you’ve been listening to Hillary Clinton’s speeches lately, you’ve heard her say that we need to “rewrite the rules” of our economic system. Her point is that our financial laws now favor the already wealthy and don’t much help the rest of us. Wealth inequality is growing, with most of the nation’s recent economic gains going to the wealthiest 20% of Americans. The wealthiest 1% of Americans are reaping the rewards of our improving economy at an even more disproportionate rate, while those of us in the 99% find our incomes lagging by comparison.

It is no coincidence that Clinton is using the phrase “rewrite the rules.” She is echoing a profoundly important set of analyses and policies laid out in a recent document called “Rewriting the Rules: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity (PDF),” published by the Roosevelt Institute.

The Roosevelt Institute is a policy organization “inspired by the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor.” “Rewriting the Rules” is an economic strategy report written by the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and other economists. (Stiglitz is credited with coining the phrase “The 1%.”) Based on careful economic analysis, the document explains why the classic Republican trickle-down, unregulated approach to economics that has been in play since the Reagan years hasn’t worked for the vast majority of Americans. The report then lays out a new set of rules to strengthen the national economy and lessen economic inequality. Among the policies suggested by “Rewriting the Rules” are these:

  • modestly raise taxes on the super-wealthy
  • tax capital gains and dividends just like worker income
  • enact a financial-transaction tax on speculative stock and bond sales
  • invest the resulting increased revenues in education, technology, and the infrastructure
  • make Medicare available to all Americans (universal healthcare)
  • change Federal Reserve policy to favor full employment over monetary control
  • strengthen union bargaining power
  • promote pay equity for women
  • subsidize child care
  • end “too big to fail” rules that protect financial institutions from their failed risk-taking activities
  • raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour

If those proposals sound familiar, that’s because many of them can be found in the Democratic Party platform and in the economic plans of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. And these proposals just a small part of this thorough, thoughtful document.

I know that most of you don’t have time to read the entire 112 pages of “Rewriting the Rules,” but I recommend that everyone read at least the executive summary at the beginning, which is only three pages long.

Just to whet your interest, here’s a nice little set of facts from page 70 of “Rewriting the Rules”: If the income tax rate of the top 1% of Americans were raised just 5%—that’s just $50,000 of every $1 million of a wealthy individual’s income—the United States would have an additional $1.0-1.5 trillion in additional revenue over 10 years. That’s enough to make all public college education free and to fund universal pre-kindergarten education. Would a millionaire be willing to live on “only” $950,000 a year instead of $1 million in order to revolutionize American education? Ask your Republican friends that question.

“Rewriting the Rules” will arm you with strong arguments in your discussions with your Republican and independent friends and will explain your support for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party’s economic policies this year.