New Schoolers Are Pushing the Biden Administration Towards Progressive Change
Since Joseph R. Biden was elected to be the 46th President of the United States in early November, various New School Community members have been working closely with the new administration on progressive ideas, policies, and agendas. From immigration reform to issues surrounding the economy, New School faculty and alumni are leading the way in using their research and innovative thinking to spark change.
“Given The New School’s commitment to be a part of the society and make it better, it is no surprise that New School faculty, students, and alums are directly part of setting the agenda for this new administration,” says Teresa Ghilarducci, Director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA) and Professor of Economics at NSSR. “At every turn, we find a New School student, alum, or faculty member involved in trying to shape policy, whether that’s at the federal level, the global level, or the state or city level. That’s who we are.”
Ghilarducci started working at The New School at the height of the 2009 Recession. She said working at the university in the middle of a financial crisis gave her and her team the unique opportunity to document everything happening around them. When the pandemic hit last March, they had ten years of research and knowledge built up, and were ready to respond to the current moment.
Last fall, SCEPA put together a 10-point policy agenda that addresses older workers’ short-term needs and provides comprehensive reform to prevent the upcoming retirement crisis. SCEPA has already shared the agenda, titled Protecting Older Workers & Strengthening Retirement Security, with the Biden Administration and is looking forward to continuing their work when congress returns to session later this month.
“The first five points are dealing with the current crisis, these are the short term things that congress and the president can do in the first four months, and the [next five points] are some long term solutions to this ongoing problem,” Ghilarducci explained. “I expect the Biden administration and the new congress to respond to our agenda as soon as congress comes back into session and has regular hearing about what they should do about the long and short term economic problem, the labor market, and beyond.”
SCEPA isn’t the only group making headway on the economics front. On December 1, 2020, Heather Boushey, MA Economics ’96 and PhD Economics ’98, was named to Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers. Boushey co-founded and is the former CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a think tank focused on economic inequality, and is one of the nation’s most influential voices on economic policy.
“I’ve dedicated my career to figuring out how we can grow and sustain the middle class and uproot the gender barriers and racial barriers that leave too many Americans outside the dream looking in,” Boushey stated in a speech after being named to the council.
Until joining the Biden administration, Boushey also served as a senior fellow for SCEPA. In February 2020, she returned to The New School for a talk about her new book Unbound: How Inequality Constricts our Economy and What We Can Do About It.
“Having expert economists who understand that economic decisions are also political decisions is important for a president to function; therefore it’s not a surprise that a New School grad is right there at the shoulder of a president,” Ghilarducci added.
Darrick Hamilton, Founding Director of the Institute on Race and Political Economy and Henry Cohen Professor of Economics and Urban Policy, has been in the ear of the new administration as well. After working as a Surrogate Economic Advisor on Bernie Sanders’ 2020 Presidential Campaign, Sanders selected Hamilton to serve as an advisor for the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force.
“We pushed [Biden] a lot with regards to at least expressing the values of a progressive movement, you know the document, if you look at it, there’s a lot in there. There’s a recognition, for instance, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture defrauded black farmers of billions of dollars, that’s pretty big, so that’s progress,” Hamilton recently told Democracy Now! “This notion that the government is constrained in its budget like a household, that’s a farce, that’s a myth, we have monetary power that enables us to invest in our most treasured resource, which is its people.”
Hamilton is considered one of the nation’s foremost scholars, economists, and public intellectuals, and has been involved in crafting policy proposals, such as Baby Bonds and a Federal Job Guarantee. He brought that experience into his work with the Biden-Sanders Joint Task Force, and has pushed the Biden Administration on issues surrounding health care, criminal justice reform, climate change, education, and the economy. Hamilton also collaborated on the research for the task force with Stephanie Kelton, PhD Economics ’01, who is considered one of the nation’s leading economists and academics, and whose latest book, The Deficit Myth, was a New York Times best-seller.
Similar to the work and ideas SCEPA and Hamilton are pushing, the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility partnered with the Center for Migration Studies in creating a plan to work with the Biden administration and help build a better, more equitable immigration system.
“Talking to some other experts in the field, we decided we would launch a study working with a group of immigration experts — academics, policy makers, lawyers — to chart a course forward for the Biden administration,” explained Alex Aleinikoff, Director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility and a University Professor. “Some of the changes can be made immediately, like getting rid of the so-called muslim ban, other policies like changes in asylum applications at the border will take a little bit more time.”
The plan, titled Improving the U.S. Immigration System in the First Year of the Biden Administration, provides critical guidance on repairing a broken immigration system and protecting immigrants. From reversing the so-called “Muslim-ban,” to rebuilding refugee admissions (slashed from 100,000 to 15,000 over the past for years, Aleinikoff said), to reinstating DACA to ensuring rights for international students, the report breaks down numerous areas of the immigrant system in dire need of change.
As First Lady, Michelle Obama wore a variety of outfits designed by Parsons alumni, ranging from Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler to cardigans designed by Jenna Lyons for J.Crew. Dr. Jill Biden has already proved that she’ll do the same, as she wore an outfit by Jonathan Cohen when she visited the Covid-19 memorial. The label was co-founded by Jonathan Cohen, BFA Fashion Design ’09 and Sarah Leff, BBA Strategic Design & Management ’09.
Aleinikoff, Boushey, Ghilarducci, and Hamilton are just a few of many at The New School whose work focuses on progressive, equitable change, and at a time when the world finds itself in one unprecedented moment after the next, this work continues to be crucial in making an impact for good.
“The New School should be looked to as a place for bold and innovative suggestions for dealing with the current major problems of the day given its emphasis on critical thinking, design work, and public policy,” Aleinikoff said. “It really provides a unique perspective on major challenges facing the government, the country, and the world.”