Tamara Draut

Tamara Draut is Vice President of Policy & Research at Demos and the author of Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead.

Recent Articles

The Millennial Squeeze

It's not Social Security deficits that are destroying the life chances of the young but a prolonged slump confounded by bad policies. 

AP Images/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Images/Jacquelyn Martin Generational fairness has been a big theme of the austerity crusaders, whose most strident advocates tend to be financiers and business titans of substantial net worth. Yet their calls to radically reduce social investment out of a sense of generational equity diminishes the prospects of young people. The true generational injustice has little to do with the projected public debt and everything to do with the real crisis going on right now. Today’s young adults—especially 20- and 30-somethings with young children—face shrinking opportunity and growing insecurity. The fate of today’s infants and toddlers is inextricably connected to that of their millennial--generation parents. Two-thirds of children under the age of 5 are raised by parents younger than 34. The true generational injustice is a threadbare to nonexistent social contract that has made it harder than ever before for the young to either work or educate their way into the middle class—and stay...

Subprime Students: How Wall Street Profits from the College Loan Mess

Five years after Wall Street crashed the economy by irresponsibly securitizing and peddling mortgage debt, the financial industry is coming under growing scrutiny for its shady involvement in student loan debt. For a host of reasons, including a major decline in public dollars for higher education, going to college today means borrowing—and all that borrowing has resulted in a growing and heavy hand for Wall Street in the lending, packaging, buying, servicing, and collection of student loans. Now, with $1 trillion of student loans currently outstanding, it’s becoming increasingly clear that many of the same problems found in the subprime mortgage market—rapacious and predatory lending practices, sloppy and inefficient customer service and aggressive debt collection practices—are also cropping up in the student loan industrial complex. This similarity is especially striking in the market for private student loans—which currently make up $150 billion of the $1 trillion of existing...

The Investment Deficit

An economic recovery will bring down our fiscal deficit -- but the more important deficit is the shortfall in our commitment to the future.

Over the last 50 years, our nation's productivity tripled. The Dow Jones industrial average ballooned over the same period, growing from an average of 1,000 in 1970 to between 10,000 and 14,000 over the last decade. There are more billionaires and millionaires alive today than there were during the last 100 years combined. We can process, send, and retrieve information at a speed unthinkable even two decades ago. The typical middle-class family can point to more than one car in the garage and multiple television sets in the house. We have more stuff, and more people have this stuff than ever before. Yet most Americans are losing ground in the areas that really count: Median income has declined, particularly for a new generation of workers; job quality too has suffered, with new workers less likely to have health care or retirement benefits; poverty remains stubbornly set above 10 percent; high-quality child care is unaffordable for most low- and middle-income families; air quality is...

Financial Product Safety

The case for a new agency to put the needs of consumers first

As our nation's economic crisis spreads and trillions of dollars are disbursed to keep the banks afloat, it's easy to forget that the catastrophe began with the peddling of a toxic retail-credit product: adjustable-rate sub-prime mortgages. Fueled more by demand from Wall Street than by demand from homebuyers or homeowners, a vast army of unregulated mortgage brokers barreled through down-on-their-luck neighborhoods offering salvation via cash-out refinancing in the form of exploding adjustable-rate mortgages. Contrary to popular perception, the majority of these mortgages weren't taken out by speculative investors or even by middle-class families fulfilling their aspirations for ever-more home on an ever-shrinking income. In many cases, the mortgages were sold to existing homeowners, who were duped into trading their affordable fixed-rate mortgage for an ultimately unaffordable adjustable one. According to The Wall Street Journal , more than half of all sub-prime loans went to people...

Borrowing Ill Health

Hospitals are getting more aggressive about sending debt collectors after under-insured consumers.

As health-care costs continue to climb, the trend to more "cost sharing" continues, and the ranks of the uninsured keep swelling, more and more Americans are finding that paying for medical care means going into debt. The latest study by the Commonwealth Fund found that one out of five Americans have medical debt -- a population that includes many individuals with health insurance. In fact, nearly two-thirds of people who reported being in debt or having problems with medical bills had health insurance at the time the bill was incurred. Medical debt doesn't discriminate by race or class either, though like other economic forces, it disproportionately impacts lower-income individuals and individuals of color. The rising cost of health care has created a move toward insurance plans that no longer actually insure patients from catastrophic or unexpected costs. As premiums have continued to rise, employers are increasingly offering their employees insurance that is cheaper in cost and...