A True New Deal: Building an Inclusive Economy in the COVID-19 Era

New Roosevelt report calls for progressive policiescentered on racial and gender equalityto provide immediate economic relief and long-term structural change

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis continues to expose and exacerbate the fragility of a US economy marked by deep racial and economic inequality. Over the past 40 years, flawed economic arguments have driven policymaking that primarily benefits the wealthy, and demagogues have embraced strategic racism as a means to diminish worker power and constrain the role of government. The result is an economic system in which wealth and power are concentrated within the largest corporations, racial divisions are deeply entrenched, and inequality is the status quo. As in the New Deal era under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, America needs a new set of policies to mitigate the pandemic and alleviate the suffering it has caused. And this time, it must be representative of America’s race, class, and gender diversity. 

A True New Deal: Building an Inclusive Economy in the COVID-19 Era, a new report released today by the Roosevelt Institute, offers a policy framework the government can use to speed recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic while redistributing power, and addressing systemic racism. Comprising nine essential—though not comprehensive—policy proposals, the solutions target both the immediate challenges of COVID-19 and the broken systems that have amplified them. 

“In an emergency such as this, some policymakers will argue that we must deal with the most pressing problems at hand and save the rest for later,” said Julie Margetta Morgan, Vice President of Research at the Roosevelt Institute. “But the policies proposed here show that this is a false choice. We can address the pandemic while also dismantling systemic racism, strengthening democracy, and creating better jobs.”

The nine essential policies are:

  • Canceling student, housing, and medical debts—and implementing structural change to address the accumulation of debt;
  • Creating a federal jobs guarantee;
  • Federalizing and expanding unemployment insurance;
  • Building a modern Reconstruction Finance Corporation; 
  • Guaranteeing universal childcare; 
  • Mandating sectoral bargaining; 
  • Ensuring corporate accountability through federal chartering; 
  • Reinvigorating antitrust law for real trust-busting; and 
  • Rebalancing political power through institutional reform. 

“During the New Deal era, if government institutions were unable to meet the public’s needs, FDR’s administration updated them to meet the moment rather than curb the scale of their ambition. In this same vein, government investment is our primary tool for mitigating the extensive damage this crisis has caused—and will continue to cause. In the spirit of FDR, the Roosevelt Institute is calling for new policies and new institutions that lift up all Americans,” said Felicia Wong, President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute. 

In his address at the Democratic National Convention in 1932, FDR declared, “We must lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature. They are made by human beings.” Through the New Deal, he was able to pull the country out of crisis, rewrite the rules of the economy, and foster broader prosperity. We must do the same today—for all.


About the Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute is a New York-based think tank that, in partnership with its campus network and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, is working to redefine the American economy. Focusing on corporate and public power, labor and wages, and the economics of race and gender inequality, the Roosevelt Institute unifies experts, invests in young leaders, and advances progressive policies that bring the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor into the 21st century.

To keep up to date with the Roosevelt Institute, please visit us on Twitter or follow our work at #RewriteTheRules.