Amy Traub

Amy Traub is Senior Policy Analyst at Demos. She is the author of "The Plastic Safety Net: Findings from the 2012 National Survey on Credit Card Debt of Low- And Middle-Income Households," and "Discrediting America: The Urgent Need To Reform The Nation's Credit Reporting Industry," among other reports and research. 

Recent Articles

What Drives Credit Card Debt?

Americans cumulatively have $854 billion in revolving loan (mostly credit card) debt, according to the Federal Reserve. The amount has actually declined since the Great Recession, as credit card issuers tightened their lending standards, borrowers became more cautious, and strong and effective consumer protection laws went into effect, producing substantial savings for households. Still, $854 billion is no small matter, and its source is worth considering. Why do some people stagger under a mountain of credit card debt, paying high interest rates on their outstanding balances and never seeming to come out ahead, while others rarely if ever carry debt for long, despite pulling out their plastic on a regular basis? That’s the question I set out to answer in a new study , which compares two groups of low- and middle-income households with working age adults. The households are statistically indistinguishable in terms of income, racial and ethnic background, age, marital status and rate...

Food Stamps Don’t Keep Wal-Mart’s Prices Low, They Keep Its Profits High

“ The same company that brings in the most food stamp dollars in revenue —an estimated $13 billion last year—also likely has the most employees using food stamps.” The name of the mammoth food stamp-reliant company is no secret: Wal-Mart. As journalist Krissy Clark notes in Marketplace’s valuable new series “ The Secret Life of the Food Stamp ,” Wal-Mart benefits from food stamps in multiple ways, as taxpayers both underwrite the company’s food sales and also subsidize its payroll costs. There is no doubt that food stamps (and a host of other public subsidies from Medicaid to home heating assistance to the Earned Income Tax Credit and beyond) reduce Wal-Mart’s employment costs substantially. A study released last year by staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that a single 300-employee Wal-Mart Supercenter may cost taxpayers anywhere from $904,542 to nearly $1.75 million per year. Consider that the working people who turn to food stamps to supplement...

Responsible Contractors Only

For hundreds of thousands of low-paid employees of federal contractors, the executive order President Obama announced in his State of the Union address will make a important difference in their incomes and lives. While the president cannot unilaterally raise the minimum wage for all working Americans (only Congress can take that action—and they should) he is exercising the executive power he has to mandate that federal contractors pay employees doing the public’s business at least $10.10 an hour as new contracts are negotiated and old ones come up for renewal. As Demos has consistently argued, the executive order is a major victory for low-wage workers , especially the contract and concession employees organizing with Good Jobs Nation who repeatedly went on strike for higher pay. Now as the executive order is finalized, it will be important to see that the new minimum wage for contract workers is not just proclaimed on paper but enforced. Enforcement is a particularly serious concern...

President Obama Takes Action to Raise the Pay of Low-Wage Federal Contract Workers

Sometimes in America, when low-paid workers stand up and speak out, even the President of the United States takes notice. This is one of those moments. This morning, the White House announced that President Obama will sign a “Good Jobs” Executive Order requiring government contractors to raise the minimum wage for their lowest-paid workers to $10.10 for all new and renegotiated contracts. The president will include this announcement in his State of the Union Address tonight. Tonight President Obama will use his executive authority to give a boost to hundreds of thousands of hard-working Americans. The nation as a whole benefits from an economy where all workers earn a decent living. While it’s unfortunate that the order cannot apply to existing workers until their contracts are renegotiated, the president’s action adds momentum to the fight for a federal minimum wage increase that would benefit all Americans. In signing this order, the president has taken action. Now it is up to...

Why Obama Must Announce a Good Jobs Executive Order in the State of the Union

I fear that John Boehner is not going to raise the minimum wage. It doesn’t matter that 76 percent of Americans support a wage hike , or that studies indicate that the minimum wage reduces poverty and that raising it would boost our economy and create jobs . And I’m worried that if, in his State of the Union Address next week, President Obama again calls on Congress to raise the minimum wage, even in the most powerful and evocative terms, that won’t move Boehner to act either. But there is a glimmer of hope: when it comes to at least one group of low-paid workers—the more than 500,000 low-wage employees of federal contractors—President Obama doesn’t have to wait for Congress in order to take action and improve jobs. The President can act himself, through an executive order similar to the one President Johnson signed in 1965 to ban employment discrimination by contractors. According to the Washington Post , the President is considering announcing a “Good Jobs” executive order in his...

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