How Do We Build the Government We Need?

June 6, 2024

A progressive economy requires a state that can deliver.

The Roosevelt Rundown features our top stories of the week.

Building, Dismantling, and Reimagining the State

Building a more dynamic and inclusive economy requires ambitious public investments and targeted industrial policy. But delivering on such goals requires more than just laws—it demands durable and effective state capacity. In a new report, Roosevelt Board Member and Senior Fellow K. Sabeel Rahman explains why that’s central to robust, equitable, and democratic progressive governance. 

As Rahman writes, sufficient funding, data and expertise, the right personnel, and organizational culture and processes—in tandem with a supportive political environment—are what enable government to develop and implement policy actions that can solve complex problems. 

But progressive state capacity isn’t just about having a bigger government. It’s about better governance, creating capacities that don’t exist and dismantling those that don’t serve our goals for equity. This could look like investing more in public health, social welfare, and renewable energy production, and less in mass incarceration and surveillance. 

“Building state capacity is critical to delivering on public needs—and thereby securing the long-term legitimacy and durability of democracy itself,” writes Rahman. “As a democracy, we ultimately deserve a state with the capacity to empower, protect, and respond—rather than to exclude, dominate, and extract.”

Read more in Building the Government We Need: A Framework for Democratic State Capacity


The Exploitative Business of Bank Fees

Today, nearly 15 million households in the US—which are disproportionately low-income, single-mother-led, and Black or brown—either don’t have a bank account at all or rely on costly nonbank alternatives. A primary reason is the financial burden of accessing and maintaining accounts with attached fees. 

In a new brief, Roosevelt’s Emily DiVito traces the rise of extractive fee schemes—from overdraft fees to insufficient funds fees—and explains why no-cost public banking alternatives could give marginalized people the full financial system access they need to thrive.

“Our current banking sector is dominated by for-profit firms and lacks a competitive force from cooperatively organized institutions,” writes DiVito. “The only way to ensure that all prospective customers have universal access to affordable basic banking products is through government guarantee. One way to achieve that end is for the government to offer those products directly to consumers.”

Read more in “The Business of Bank Fees: How Public Alternatives Can Ensure Equitable Economic Participation.”


New Webinar: Black Perspectives on Tax Reform

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is expiring next year, opening up an opportunity for policymakers to create a tax code that fosters a multiracial, democratic economy. On Wednesday, June 26 at 11:00 am ET, join the Roosevelt Institute for a discussion of the TCJA’s harmful impacts on Black Americans and how tax policy reform could reduce inequality and uplift Black taxpayers. 

The conversation will feature Beverly Moran, Roosevelt senior fellow; Portia Allen-Kyle, Color of Change chief advisor; and Jessica Fulton, vice president of policy at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; and will be moderated by Roosevelt’s Elizabeth Pancotti. 


What We’re Talking About

What We’re Reading

The Age of RecoupmentThe American Prospect

A New Economics of Industrial Policy –  coauthored by Roosevelt Fellow Nathan Lane – IMF

Get Ready for a Summer of Heat Waves—and Higher Air Conditioning Bills – feat. Roosevelt Fellow Diana Hernandez – CNN