Shaping Markets, Empowering Workers

March 15, 2024

Industrial policy is back—how can we make it better than ever?

The Roosevelt Rundown features our top stories of the week.

A Sea Change in Labor and Industry

“Government can be invigorating again, and we can, perhaps even across the partisan divide, aspire to the public good.”

In a new essay for Democracy Journal, Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong writes about the nascent sea change that has brought industrial policy and organized labor back to the mainstream.

The hallmark of the Biden administration’s approach to industrial policy has been public funding for clean energy and semiconductor manufacturing, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create domestic jobs. “The other side of the coin of our paradigm shift is more squarely about working-class power,” Wong writes. Although labor has yet to gain as much power and influence as capital, unions have won important recent victories, the National Labor Relations Board has strengthened worker protections, and the American Rescue Plan has helped workers enjoy a strong labor market recovery. More bold policy reforms can cement this worker power for the long term.

Those are the two halves of successful industrial strategy: “First, the government must govern—meaning that it must structure, shape, craft—the economy. And second, the middle, meaning voters and working people, must have power, both individually and as collective agents.”

Read more in “Industrial Policy’s Triumphant Return.


Building a Robust State

On Tuesday, Roosevelt’s Todd N. Tucker testified before the House Financial Services Committee about the full scope of the Defense Production Act—and how it has always been concerned with the health of the economy, not just the military. He expanded on this idea in Democracy Journal: “[T]here is every reason to believe that economic statecraft can play a role in restoring faith in democracy,” Tucker writes. “But for this message to spread internationally requires a willingness on the part of the US government to use foreign policy tools and leverage as aggressively for workers as we do for, say, wars.”

For the Roosevelt blog this week, Suzanne Kahn wrote that “the progressive vision for equitable governance requires a robust and capable state.” Over decades, neoliberalism weakened the state’s ability to effectively govern and respond to crises. This year, starting with the Industrial Policy 2025 essay collection, the Roosevelt Institute is exploring what’s left to be done in undoing this harm. “It may take more than four years to reverse a half-century of work,” Kahn writes, “but we do not have 50 years to spare.”


What We’re Talking About


What We’re Reading

Middle Out to Mainstream – feat. Roosevelt’s Felicia Wong and Todd N. Tucker – Pitchfork Economics [podcast]

One Year after Silicon Valley Bank’s Collapse, Not Much Has Changed – by Emily DiVito – Roosevelt Institute

Remember the Silicon Valley Bank Disaster? – by Roosevelt Fellow Graham Steele – Washington Monthly

Technology and Organized Labor – coauthored by Roosevelt’s Suzanne Kahn – Project Syndicate