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Banking for the Public Good: Public Bank NYC

May 26, 2022

This case study is part of Demos' new Economic Democracy project, which asks how poor and working-class people, especially in Black and brown communities, can exercise greater control over the economic institutions that shape their lives. This framework has 3 goals:Break up and regulate new corporate power, including Amazon, Google, and Facebook.Expand the meaning of public goods and ensure that services are equitably and publicly administered.Strengthen "co-governance" strategies so that people and public agencies can collectively make decisions about the economy.With the accelerating frequency of climate disasters, it is especially important to build the power of those most impacted by disasters— often Black, brown, and Indigenous communities—to ensure they have equitable access to the resources needed to recover and move forward.This case study spotlights how the New Economy Project (NEP) launched the Public Bank NYC (PBNYC) campaign to build a public bank in New York City that is specifically configured to serve Black and brown communities. By shifting the focus of finance from private profits to the public welfare, public banks can begin to repair harms caused by longstanding discriminatory practices that have extracted wealth from Black and brown people and neighborhoods, like predatory lending, overdraft fees, and redlining.

The Open Road: How To Build a Sustainable Open Infrastructure System

April 29, 2022

The open infrastructure ecosystem spans open source software and standards, and is a shifting constellation of individuals, organisations and private and public bodies. Working with Omidyar Networks, this report sets out how governments, civil society and philanthropic organisations can build sustainability in the open infrastructure ecosystem.Over the past decades, open source and open standards have emerged as the de facto way digital technologies are created. From individual developers building a profile and skills to interoperability between multi-billion dollar companies, open source software and open standards are universal technological forces.Despite this economic and industrial reliance on open infrastructure, the ecosystem as a whole faces a sustainability crisis. There is a major gap in funding, a gap felt most acutely at the foundations and by open source communities outside the digital limelight. For some developers, upskilling, economic security and a love for coding covers the costs of participation, but for many potential participants the barriers remain high. This includes non-code participants in an ecosystem where legal, management, governance and communications skills are in short supply. Where funding is available there remain gaps in tooling, governance and skills for OS communities to manage the money they receive and the responsibilities that come with it.But money isn't everything. We need to defend the open infrastructure ecosystem from state and corporate capture, inadvertent or otherwise. We need to support its maintenance. We need to incentivise participation from a diverse group of participants. And we need to talk about why this all matters to a non-technical audience, be they corporate budget holders or government decision makers. These priorities should inform philanthropic decision-making.

Economic Democracy Case Studies

February 8, 2022

The Economic Democracy Project at Demos envisions liberation for Black and brown people. This requires us to address inequities in economic, political, and institutional power. The concept of economic democracy recognizes that everyone deserves a stake in the system and that the economy should exist to serve the people—the demos. In a moment in which a corporate ruling class exploits racial and class divisions to dodge accountability and accumulate power, preserving our democracy requires creating opportunities for the public to lead and shape economic outcomes.The Economic Democracy Project aims to highlight and develop strategies that Black and brown communities can use to build economic and political power. It has 3 priorities:Break up and regulate new corporate power, including Amazon, Google, and Facebook.Expand the meaning of public goods and ensure that services are equitably and publicly administered.Strengthen "co-governance" strategies so that people and public agencies can collectively make decisions about the economy.The case studies outlined here spotlight 4 community campaigns working across the U.S. to reclaim power over economic resources.

Water as a Public Good: Pittsburgh's Our Water Campaign

February 8, 2022

This case study is part of Demos's new Economic Democracy project, which asks how poor and working-class people, especially in Black and brown communities, can exercise greater control over the economic institutions that shape their lives. This framework has 3 goals:Break up and regulate new corporate power, including Amazon, Google, and Facebook.Expand the meaning of public goods and ensure that services are equitably and publicly administered.Strengthen "co-governance" strategies so that people and public agencies can collectively make decisions about the economy.This case study showcases all 3 of these priorities. It explores how a local coalition in Pittsburgh, PA, organized both within and outside the government to prevent the privatization of the area's water supply. To better understand this work, we interviewed community organizers of the "Our Water" campaign and employees of the mayor's office and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, the agency that oversees the city's water system. We also reviewed news coverage and reports that followed the community as it organized to fight privatization and to participate in decisions about their basic needs.

Behind the Curtain: The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy

September 29, 2021

This report examines the ways corporations and the ultrarich are lobbying in response the the Biden Administration's Build Back Better plan. Specifically, they focus on who is spending big to block key measures in the plan related to taxes, drug pricing, healthcare, housing, the environment, and immigration. The authors explain wht that Build Back Better agenda proposes, and what current polls reveal about popular opinion.

Supreme Court Battle Against Ohio's Illegal Voter Purges Draws Support in Eighteen Amicus Briefs

September 25, 2017

A diverse set of stakeholders filed 18 amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to strike down Ohio's Supplemental Process -- an illegal voter purge practice that removes eligible voters from the rolls for failure to vote, in violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).

The Asset Value of Whiteness: Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap

February 6, 2017

The racial wealth gap matters because of the central role wealth plays in enabling families to both handle current financial challenges and make investments in their future. Families that have accumulated some wealth are better equipped to manage unanticipated expenses like an emergency medical bill, or disruptions in household income such as a layoff, without falling into debt or poverty. Over the longer term, wealth can expand the prospects of the next generation, helping to pay for college, provide a down payment for a first home, or capitalize a new business. As long as a substantial racial wealth gap persists, white households will continue to enjoy greater advantages than their black and Latino neighbors in meeting the financial challenges of everyday life and will be able to make greater investments in their children, passing economic advantages on. We can only create a more equitable future by confronting the racial wealth gap and the public policies that continue to fuel and exacerbate it. This report analyzes data on white, black, and Latino households. The terms black and white are used to refer to the representative respondents of a household who identified as non-Latino black or white in the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF).2 Latinos include everyone who identified as Hispanic or Latino and may be of any race.Throughout this report, we use the term "racial wealth gap" to refer to the absolute differences in wealth (assets minus debt) between the median black and white households as well as between the median Latino and white households. All dollar figures are in 2013 dollars. 

Sanctuary, Safety and Community: Tools For Welcoming and Protecting Immigrants Through Local Democracy

January 13, 2017

Concerned about increasing threats to immigrant communities by several racially-fraught immigration policy positions advanced by the incoming federal administration, Demos and LatinoJustice PRLDEF are issuing this preliminary report on the ability of local communities to decide, based on their own form of local government, how they may enact policies to protect immigrant rights. This report is by no means comprehensive; it is intended to provide advocates with basic information about available options to effectively address the very real safety and security threats to immigrant communities. Our research demonstrates how local democratic institutions may enact countermeasures that welcome and include immigrants as equal members of society. We believe that this moment of crisis provides an opportunity for local governments and schools to dedicate themselves to building a "beloved community" that assumes responsibility for protecting its most vulnerable members and, in doing so, expands the well-being and security of all. Since the November 2016 election of a presidential candidate who ran on a platform of racialized xenophobia, a troubling wave of hate speech and hate crimes has been unleashed; the largest number has occurred in schools. Immigrant communities are not only living in fear of the termination of recent policies such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but also in real fear of draconian federal government policies that include racial profiling, raids and mass deportations. President-elect Donald Trump made campaign promises to "build a wall" to keep out "Mexicans", whom he universally labeled as "criminals"; to deny refuge for Syrians seeking asylum from civil war, including Syrian children; to institute an unconstitutional national registry for Muslims and temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from entering the country; to retract President Obama's executive order deferrals of deportation for young people; and to deport 2-3 million undocumented immigrants. For communities of color, the rhetoric has already resulted in the creation of a hostile environment, saturated with high levels of hate speech and hate crimes, even in schools and directed against places of worship. In the month following the election of Donald J. Trump to the nation's highest office, over 1,000 bias-related incidents were documented, and nearly 37 percent of them included perpetrators expressing support for Mr. Trump while engaging in such deplorable acts against humanity.

Whose Voice, Whose Choice? The Distorting Influence of the Political Donor Class In Our Big-money Elections

December 8, 2016

Over the last three decades, the Supreme Court has curtailed meaningful limits on political campaign spending and contributions. Te alarming, but predictable, result is the rise of a small group of wealthy elites who make large political contributions with the goal of infuencing election outcomes and policymaking. We are lef with a government that is less responsive to the needs and concerns of ordinary Americans, and more responsive to the needs and concerns of economic elites. To understand what big money in politics means, it is important to understand the "who" and the "what" of political donations: who is spending big money on elections, and what do they want? In the following analysis, we uncover the demographics (the "who") and policy preferences (the "what") of the donor class that dominates U.S. campaign funding, in order to shed light on why money in politics is distorting our democracy in favor of economic elites, and particularly white male elites. Drawing on unique data sets and original data analyses, for the frst time we are able to see who is -- and is not -- represented among big political donors and how their policy concerns difer. The data reveal that the donor class is in fact profoundly unrepresentative of the American population as a whole, and particularly of low-income people and people of color. Our analysis encompasses federal elections in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Policy Matters

June 21, 2016

As the United States rapidly becomes both a more diverse and unequal nation, policymakers face the urgent challenge of confronting growing wealth gaps by race and ethnicity. To create a more equitable and secure future, we must shift away from public policies that fuel and exacerbate racial disparities in wealth. But which policies can truly begin to reduce our country's expanding racial divergences?Until now there has been no systematic analysis of the types of public policies that offer the most potential for reducing the racial wealth gap. This paper pioneers a new tool, the Racial Wealth AuditTM, and uses it to evaluate the impact of housing, education, and labor markets on the wealth gap between white, Black, and Latino households and assesses how far policies that equalize outcomes in these areas could go toward reducing the gap. Drawing on data from the nationally representative Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) collected in 2011, the analysis tests how current racial disparities in wealth would be projected to change if key contributing factors to the racial wealth gap were equalized. 

Less Debt, More Equity: Lowering Student Debt While Closing the Black-White Wealth Gap

November 27, 2015

The dramatic increase in wealth inequality over the past several decades now forms the backdrop for many of today's most pressing public policy debates. Currently, the top 1 percent of U.S. households controls 42 percent of the nation's wealth, and nearly half of the wealth accumulated over the past 30 years has gone to the top 0.1 percent. Simultaneously, the wealth held by the bottom 90 percent of U.S. households continues to shrink, just as people of color are a growing percentage of the U.S. population. These trends have converged to produce a wealth divide that is apparent not just by class, but by race as well. The average white family owns $13 for every $1 owned by a typical Black family, and $10 for every $1 owned by the typical Latino family.This analysis uses the Racial Wealth Audit, a framework developed by the Institute on Assets and Social Policy (IASP) to assess the impact of public policy on the wealth gap between white and Black households. We use the framework to model the impact of various student debt relief policies to identify the approaches most likely to reduce inequities in wealth by race, as opposed to exacerbating existing inequities. We focus specifically on the Black-white wealth gap both because of the historic roots of inequality described above, and because student debt (in the form of borrowing rates and levels) seems to be contributing to wealth disparities between Black and white young adults, in particular.

Why the Voting Gap Matters

October 23, 2014

Over the last half-century, affluent Americans have turned out to vote at significantly higher rates than lower-income Americans.