Catherine Ruetschlin

Catherine Ruetschlin is a senior policy analyst at Demos

Recent Articles

How Walmart and Home Depot Are Buying Huge Political Influence

Walmart and Home Depot are ranked among the top 100 political donors overall for the period since 1989, putting their fingerprints on tax and labor law.

"Walmart Home Office sign" by Walmart Corporate - Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
This report was originally published by Demos . The notion that all citizens have a voice in our country’s governance is at the center of the American ideal of democracy. Yet the role of corporate and private money in our political system means that the voices of the majority are often drowned out by those with the most money. Campaign and committee donations help wealthy interests determine who runs for office and who wins elections. This effect, combined with millions of dollars in lobbying, allows the biggest spenders to shape the country’s political agenda and gives them disproportionate influence over the policymaking process. As a result, the minority population of affluent Americans see their priorities reflected in our legislative objectives, even when the majority of the country disagrees with their preferences. 1 This problematic political spending entrenches economic inequality and political power in a system where legitimacy hinges on equality and self-...

Yes, McDonald's Can Do Better

When I was 18, I spent a year and change flipping burgers in one of those restaurants where customers eat from a tray balanced across their car windows. It was one of the three jobs I held at the time, affording a simple budget and enough left over to save up to go to college after a couple of years. I put in hard hours for my employer and it eventually worked out just fine for me. It also makes for a nice story, but one that is embarrassingly dated. The fast food industry in which I worked is not the fast food industry of America today—just ask the thousands of workers on the streets , standing up for same opportunity to get by and get ahead that built the American Dream. For today’s fast food work force, erratic scheduling makes holding down more than one job impossible—you can’t commit to a second employer if you’re on call for the first. At the same time, low wages barely cover basic household needs, leaving millions of workers in poverty despite...

Ten Reasons Fast Food Workers Deserve A Raise

There is a growing, industry-wide movement to push the fast food economy to work for all involved. Today, workers have called for a national strike that is expected to cross company lines and reach dozens of cities. The fast food labor force has never been protected by collective bargaining power or labor scarcity, making their demands for higher wages and the right to organize a unique historical event. It is also a bold stance from workers made vulnerable by a frail economy, asking for benefits that reach well beyond their own household budgets to the economy as a whole. Right now, fast food companies keep employees at poverty-level wages while reaping billions of dollars in profits for their shareholders every year. Across the economy this practice drives increasing inequality, slow growth, and declining living standards. It is holding back our economic recovery and contributing to our high poverty rates and rates of working poor. Americans deserve better. The fast food workers...

Young People and Debt: The New Normal

Flickr/401(k) 2013
With a weak job market and uncertain prospects, young people have to make careful choices about how to invest in their futures. They’ve put off marriage and having kids. They’re moving back home with mom and dad. But the one expense with which they are not compromising is the high and rising cost of college. According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, covered in the Wall Street Journal, young adults have changed their priorities in response to economic instability, but student debt is more common than ever. Pew looked at Federal Reserve data on the debt and assets of American households and found that while young people are avoiding big purchases that require long-term financial commitments—like buying homes and cars—they are increasingly investing in education, with 53 percent more people under 35 carrying student debt in 2010 than did in 2001. It makes sense. Unemployment rates have remained frustratingly high even as US businesses have recovered...

Walmart’s Missed Cue at Retail’s Big Show

Inside of New York’s Javits Convention Center this morning, Walmart US President and CEO Bill Simon took the stage before a crowd of industry leaders to talk about how retail can play a central role in revitalizing the American economy. It’s a topic he’s touched on before , stating that “American renewal is all about jobs,” before annotating his position with a political agenda that includes lower corporate tax rates and new trade agreements to free up the movement of capital overseas. But while Simon made his case for better living through corporate cost cuts to the attendees inside the convention, outside the Javits Center it really was all about jobs. Workers from across the service industry gathered to agitate and spread the word on how companies like Walmart fail workers, families, and the entire economy by keeping their employees below the poverty line with low wages and part-time hours. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) four-day Annual...