New Report Underscores Efforts to Erode Public Power

June 3, 2019

Share this article

(This article first appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

A new report explores the decades-long efforts by corporate interests to weaken public institutions and to degrade worker leverage, all in an effort to further concentrate wealth and political power in the hands of the corporate elite.

The report, New Rules for the 21st Century: Corporate Power, Public Power, and the Future of the American Economy, was issued by the Roosevelt Institute. It will likely strike familiar chords with postal workers and their allies in A Grand Alliance, as well as the millions of people across the country who rely on public institutions every single day.

The report, authored by Nell Abernathy, Darrick Hamilton, and Julie Margetta Morgan, draws a clear through line from policy changes as far back as tax reforms in the 1950s, through the failure to hold those who caused the 2008 financial crisis accountable, to the recent Supreme Court decision in Janus vs. AFSCME weakening public sector unions, as the markers of a consistent and concerted campaign that leaves working people behind.

What does that campaign look like? Economic elites landed a “one-two punch” to shape the social, economic and political order in their favor. The report details, “First, government was used to build regulatory, tax, and procurement structures that multiplied wealth and power for a small subset of Americans. Second, public sector programs that served the rest of the country were intentionally and systematically eroded.”

As a result of this successful onslaught against working people, wages have stagnated, especially for workers of color. Government spending goes disproportionately to programs that benefit the rich.

Fortunately, the report does more than just describe a doomsday scenario that leaves average people poorer while the elites grow ever richer and more powerful. It lays out a compelling course of action for workers and their allies. The report calls for workers to develop a “bold, inclusive and transformative” one-two punch of their own.

The first punch is to “curb the power of corporations by instituting rules aimed at curbing the concentration of wealth in the economy and steering economic growth toward productive and equitable means.”

The second punch is to “deploy public power to serve public interests, keeping key principles at the forefront of design” like addressing racial and gender inequality, strengthening unions and taking steps to unleash fair and free democratic processes, unfettered by the corrupting influence of big money in politics.

The research shows that unionization has historically been a vital counterweight to corporate power, and that a revitalized labor movement is key to reversing the trend of increasing inequality. “Fundamentally, worker organizing is about maintaining a balance of power within the economy and our democracy,” the report concludes.

The Roosevelt Institute calls on expanding labor protections for all workers, including the historically excluded workers in agricultural and domestic labor. It also calls for reforms that would make unionization easier and quicker and broaden collective bargaining to enterprise or sectoral levels, rather than the patchwork of shop-level agreements that characterize the current industrial relations framework.

Postal workers, other public sector workers and their allies should read the report. Reimagining a revitalized public power is the first step in defending what we share together and in building a movement that is prepared to wrestle back labor power from the same corporate raiders who are behind attacks on our democracy, our unions and institutions like our public Postal Service.

A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service is a broad coalition of national, state and local organizations including the NAACP, Vote Vets, Jobs with Justice, National Council of Churches and Rainbow PUSH. These groups have come together to take a stand against the unprecedented assaults on the Postal Service including efforts to dismantle and privatize it. To join A Grand Alliance, visit

Stay in touch with your union

Subscribe to receive important information from your union.