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EconomicPolicyInstitute February 24, 2012

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series “The Colbert Report,” will welcome EPI vice president Ross Eisenbrey to discuss the proliferation of unpaid interns in the workforce. In what is sure to be a memorable and entertaining exchange, Eisenbrey will explore the law and economics of unpaid internships before a national audience.

Over the past decade, the illegal use of unpaid interns has exploded with little protest. EPI has been a crucial voice highlighting the inadequate regulation of student internships and has detailed why it is wrong, particularly with respect to for-profit employers, not to pay interns for their work. Unpaid internships don’t fairly reward hard work, they block economic mobility, and they leave young workers exposed to exploitation. EPI’s research and advocacy have garnered attention from government enforcement agencies, universities, and multiple major media outlets, including the New York Times, NPR, and Time.

Tune into Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” on Tuesday at 11:30pm/10:30c.

For African Americans, 50 years of high unemployment

In 2011, the African American unemployment rate averaged 15.8 percent—twice the white average of 7.9 percent. This week’s Economic Snapshot shows that while whites have experienced periods of high unemployment during the 1970s, early 1980s, and in the past few years, their highest rates are in the range of the lowest unemployment rates for African Americans in the last 50 years. Thus, for African Americans, the last half-century has been marked by extremely high unemployment occasionally interrupted by periods of merely high unemployment. At no point can it be said that blacks have experienced a low unemployment rate.

Employer-sponsored health insurance coverage declines for tenth year in a row

For the tenth year in a row, the share of Americans under age 65 covered by employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) has decreased. A decade of declines in employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, a new Economic Policy Institute report, finds that the share of Americans under age 65 covered by ESI fell from 59.4 percent in 2009 to 58.6 percent in 2010, for an overall decline of 10.6 percentage points from 2000–10. However, public health insurance coverage, as well as key components of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that took effect in 2010, shielded many Americans—primarily children and young adults—from becoming uninsured.

“As the labor market continued to deteriorate, fewer American families were able to obtain health insurance through the workplace, which caused many to fall through the cracks,” said Elise Gould, director of health policy research at EPI and author of the report. “A robust labor market and strong safety net are critical in ensuring the economic security and overall well-being of families across the country.”

EPI in the news

In the past week, EPI’s experts have been cited by more than 300 television, radio, and print media outlets. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Speaking to the New York Times’ Annie Lowrey, EPI labor economist Heidi Shierholz applauded some states’ implementation of work-sharing programs as an alternative to layoffs, noting that these programs support the recovery and help keep struggling families afloat.  “Work sharing is an incredibly smart thing to do,” Shierholz told Lowrey. “But it’s a tragedy that we didn’t do that on a large scale over the past four years.”
  • EPI president Lawrence Mishel’s research continues to sear conservative economic ideology. This week, Salon’s Andrew Leonard cited Mishel to disprove the conservative claim that business owners’ fear of regulation is hindering job creation. Leonard wrote:

“Yes, business owners also complained about regulations and taxes, but they always complain about regulations and taxes. On the issue of complaints by small business owners, Larry Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, produced a compelling chart proving that by far the biggest difference between Obama’s tenure and that of the previous three decades’ worth of presidents was a sharp rise in concern about low sales… Indeed, as EPI’s Larry Mishel, author of a strong attack on the regulatory uncertainty thesis, told me, if you took the argument to its logical conclusion, you would have to concede that ‘democracy is bad for economic growth.’”

  • The New York Times seconded EPI in praising pieces of Obama’s budget plan, specifically its attempts to curb rising inequality:

“The budget that President Obama unveiled this week included some hot-button tax measures aimed at some of these inequities: capping deductions and raising taxes on people earning more than $1 million (the so-called Buffett Rule), scrapping the alternative minimum taxand raising the tax on dividend income and carried interest. The liberal Economic Policy Institute noted, ‘No budget is perfect,’ but applauded the president’s stab at tax reform. ‘The need for the Buffett Rule,’ it said, ‘is largely driven by the preferential tax treatment of investment income over work income.’”

From the EPI Blog
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New Trade Agreements will Take Center Stage in 2015. So Will Bad Arguments Made on their Behalf.
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Recovery Is Nowhere Near Accomplished, and the Fed Shouldn’t Tighten Policy Until It Is
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