Does the American economy work for its people?
Kathy Cramer, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, would argue it doesn’t. She is one of the leaders of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission on Reimagining Our Economy, which today [Nov. 9, 2023] released a report with 15 recommendations for “how to make an economy that works for the people who make it work.” It includes recommendations to increase economic security, bolster economic opportunity and improve Americans’ political voice.
Below, Cramer shares more about the commission’s work over the last two years to reimagine the way the economy runs and come up with tangible ways to rebuild it as a people-first model.
Q: What was the vision behind the commission’s work?
A: The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an honorary society and a research organization that’s been in the United States for a great long time — John Adams was one of the founders. The academy identifies big problems in the country and in the world and pulls together teams of people from a variety of sectors to think hard, gather information and make policy recommendations about how we can achieve a better life.
The backstory on this commission is that there’s a prior commission on democracy, and their report was called “Our Common Purpose.” It’s probably not going to be a surprise to anyone, but they identified the economy as having a huge role in the health of our democracy. And so, they said, let’s create a separate commission focused on the economy. This commission, called Reimagining Our Economy, was tasked with figuring out what are the major problems in the economy that get in the way of most people — if not all people in the country — thriving. We’ve spent two years learning, gathering facts, listening to people around the country and gradually arriving at a set of 15 recommendations.
It’s a bipartisan commission of not just academics, not just economists, but also artists, authors, people in labor and people in faith communities, among other sectors. It’s an awesome cast of characters to work with.
Q: How did you get involved?
A: They invited me to be a part of the scoping process. I would imagine it’s because I work on public opinion and democracy, and I had been studying ruptures in public sentiment right here in Wisconsin — namely the rural versus urban divide. After the scoping process, they asked me to be one of three co-chairs. I am a Badger through and through. The Wisconsin Idea is central to who I am as a professional and as a person. I am a professor because I want to put knowledge to work to improve the common good. So, I leapt at the chance to do this work.
Q: How did the commission strive to keep the project cross-partisan?
A: If you’re going to propose solutions that are viable, they have to resonate with a broad range of people. So how did we do that? . . . .