The Economic Policy Institute has been central to a revived effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform that is workable, fair and beneficial to the overall economy. The plan grew from a paper by former Labor Secretary Ray Marshall, published two years ago as part of EPI’s Agenda for Shared Prosperity. That initial concept has been expanded and refined through conversations with interested and allied groups, and its principles have been endorsed by both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win. Among the innovative concepts is the establishment of an independent commission to monitor industry trends and labor needs for future immigration. Given the new political climate in Washington, there are hopes that with a common sense plan and a united front, including labor and immigrant advocates, real reform can be implemented this year.
EPI is participating in a new initiative to ensure a secure retirement for all Americans. Called Retirement USA, the group was publicly launched in mid-March at the National Press Club. Participating groups, which also include the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Pension Rights Center, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued a one-page list of principles essential to the design of any new retirement system. EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey outlined why a coordinated effort is needed to create a new system that is universal, secure, and adequate for a dignified retirement. “Given that 401(k) plans have failed to provide most workers with an adequate and secure retirement, we need a comprehensive solution: a retirement system for the 21st century that combines the best features of both traditional pensions and 401(k) plans in order to minimize-not simply shift-costs and risks,” he said.
Tracking health care reform
EPI economist Elise Gould, who was recently named Director of Health Policy Research, continues to monitor and evaluate proposals in the fast-changing health care reform debate. Her latest research takes a look at one idea gaining favor for covering some initial costs of reform — taxing high-value employer-provided health benefits, which are now excluded from taxation. Published in Tax Notes, the paper found that enacting such a tax now would likely affect employees who may have costly policies simply because they are in high-risk pools. In a subsequent Policy Memo, Gould argued that any taxation of benefits should come after other fundamental health care reform is already underway, so that options are available.
Bailout analysis project
EPI has provided commentary and analysis on the financial sector bailout since before the first dollar was injected into the markets, but will now step up its involvement with the creation of the Bailout Analysis Project. Funded by the Ford Foundation and Open Society Institute as part of a Bailout Watch coalition coordinated by OMBWatch, the initiative will promote transparency and long-term effectiveness. EPI’s role will be to provide economic analysis of bailout activities, particularly from the point of view of low- and middle-income workers. The effort will be directed by Nancy Cleeland, a veteran journalist whose first task will be to assemble academic and financial advisors with a range of financial and economic expertise. Cleeland, who has been EPI’s Director of External Affairs, is succeeded on an interim basis by Outreach Coordinator Christian Dorsey.