Democracy and the Next American Economy: Where Prosperity Meets Justice
This research and public engagement project explores actionable ideas for reinvigorating American democracy and prosperity sharing in the 21st century.
By Henry A. J. Ramos
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Format: Trade Paperback
Progressive intellectual Henry A. J. Ramos believes the United States is at a crossroads, facing the most challenging moment since the civil rights movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In fact, absent major new interventions and investments, he sees this moment as a pivotal turning point in the American journey in which political polarization, income and wealth disparity and public violence—much of which is race related—threaten the very essence and integrity of our democracy and economy.
Ramos examines the policies that have contributed to America’s decline, including those that have led to the concentration of great wealth in the hands of a few while condemning many to systemic poverty and inequality. Current economic and social trends, he stresses, are unsustainable and call for organized, concerted action by people of conscience and those affected.
Ultimately, Ramos provides a roadmap for the future so the United States can continue to provide opportunities for its people and serve again as a leader in the international community. He offers case studies of organizations that have successfully created and administered programs that further equity in society, restore democratic practices, implement better urban and city planning and protect the environment.
Demonstrating both the critical importance and real possibility of leveraging prosperity and justice for all Americans, this compelling work is a must-read for anyone interested in democracy, economic restoration and environmental sustainability.
HENRY A. J. RAMOS is Principal of Mauer Kunst Consulting, a private research and advising firm working with social investors and public interest nonprofit groups. He is past Executive Director of Equal Voice Action, a national membership organization of poor and low-income families seeking enhanced political and economic empowerment, and past President and CEO of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, one of the nation’s leading applied research centers on issues of economic mobility and justice.
Prior to the Insight Center, Ramos served on the program staffs of the Ford Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the Levi Strauss Foundation. From 2007-2010, he served as director and lead consultant of the Diversity in Philanthropy Project, an initiative of leading U.S. private foundations to increase philanthropic effectiveness through the greater inclusion of multicultural talent in foundation appointments, investments and contracting.
Ramos has served on many leading nonprofit and public boards over the years including those of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy and the Women’s Foundation of California. He has also served as an appointed member of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. Ramos, a California native, received a bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of California at Berkeley, a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University and a Juris Doctorate from UC Berkeley Law School.
https://beta.prx.org/stories/305133Democracy and the Next American Economy: Where Prosperity Meets Justice is a research and public engagement project that seeks to surface new actionable ideas for reinvigorating American democracy and prosperity sharing in the 21st century.
Project Overview and Origins
WATCH VIDEO: New Democracy Imperatives
Author Henry A. J. Ramos discusses the pressing need for reinvigorating American democracy and prosperity sharing in the 21st century.
WATCH VIDEO: About Henry A. J. Ramos and His Vision for a Revitalized America
Author Henry A. J. Ramos shares his personal story and motivations behind his efforts to outline a vision for a truly inclusive and equitable American democracy and economy.
WATCH VIDEO: A Call for Action on our Economy and Democracy
Drawing on discussions with leading progressive voices and changemakers, author Henry A. J. Ramos amplifies the call for bold and substantive reforms to seed equity, justice, and shared prosperity in the U.S.
Virtual Discussion Series
As part of the research for this book, during Fall 2018, Henry A. J. Ramos hosted a series of four live, virtual discussions with leading progressive voices and changemakers.
WATCH VIDEO: Revitalizing American Democracy: Pathways to Restored Integrity & Real Inclusion, featuring:
- Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder in Residence at PolicyLink;
- Susan Henderson, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund;
- and Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the Program for Environmental & Regional Equity at the University of Southern California.
WATCH VIDEO: Activating Change: New Models for Inspired Civic Engagement, featuring:
- Cristina Jimenez, Executive Director and Co-Founder of United We Dream;
- Calvin Williams, Cultural Strategist at Movement Strategy Center;
- and Surina Khan, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California.
WATCH VIDEO: Moving Towards Shared Prosperity: Unrigging the American Economy, featuring:
- Zachary Norris, Executive Director of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights;
- Felicia Wong, President and CEO of Roosevelt Institute;
- and Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA.
WATCH VIDEO: New Visions for Opportunity: Forging a Sustainable Social Economy, featuring:
- Deborah Frieze, Founder and President of the Boston Impact Initiative Fund;
- Dr. Darrick Hamilton, Professor of Economics and Urban Policy at The New School for Social Research;
- and Carla Javits, President and CEO of the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund.
These free and unique discussions invited fresh perspectives on democracy and economic security with leading social justice advocates, grassroots organizers and thought leaders, and new economy champions.
Too many of us are left out
Growing inequality, political rancor and institutional failures have sowed distrust among Americans in how we see and engage in democracy and economic opportunity.
What is felt and lived by so many of us is increasingly acknowledged in our public discourse: neither U.S. civic processes nor economic opportunity are as just or accessible as they must be to fulfill the rights and needs of the average American – and our ideals as a nation.
It doesn’t have to be this way
To foster true equity, we need new ideas, a more inclusive set of voices and inspired action.
- We need fresh, progressive thinking to support enhanced democratic vitality and engagement.
- We need an expanded prosperity that is more sustainable and more widely-shared by American workers and families.
- We need a robust new social contract to galvanize cross-community support and meet the diverse, dynamic needs of the American people in the 21st century.
How can we realize a new vision?
This project seeks to engage and elevate public discourse on how we can create a more cohesive and durable set of policy alternatives to lead the country in a new direction – toward equity, inclusiveness and expanded prosperity.
Led by longtime public policy researcher and nonprofit leader Henry A. J. Ramos, the project draws on interviews, writings and public exchanges featuring a diverse cross-section of social investment innovators to outline a progressive new vision for next-generation civic participation, family economic security, justice and shared prosperity in the United States.
Democracy and the Next American Economy: Where Prosperity Meets Justice is a research and public engagement project of Arte Público Press at the University of Houston.
Democracy and the Next American Economy: Where Prosperity Meets Justice draws on the guidance and expertise of a diverse range of thought leaders, advocates and changemakers in the social justice and social investment fields. The author wishes to thank the following individuals for their personal counsel and support in informing this project:
- Eric Abrams, Chief Inclusion Officer, Stanford University Graduate School of Education, Palo Alto, CA
- Orson Aguilar, Executive Director, The Greenlining Institute, Oakland, CA
- Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO, Nonprofit Finance Fund, New York, NY
- Angela Glover Blackwell, President & Founder, PolicyLink, Oakland, CA
- Chrissie Castro, Social Justice Activist & Weaver, Native Voice Network, Los Angeles, CA
- Diana Dorn Jones, Executive Director, United South Broadway Corporation, Albuquerque, NM
- Darrick Hamilton, Professor of Economics, The Milano School of International Affairs, New School University, New York, NY
- Zachary Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Oakland, CA
- Surina Khan, CEO, The Women’s Foundation of California, Oakland, CA
- Stewart Kwoh, CEO, Asian American Justice Center, Los Angeles, CA
- Homero Leon, Jr., Partner, Lucas & Leon Attorneys at Law, Atlanta, GA
- Geraldine P. Mannion, Director, Democracy Programs, Carnegie Corporation, New York, NY
- Adrienne Mansanares, Chief Experience Officer, Planned Parenthood, Denver, CO
- Robert L. McKay, Jr., Principal, McKay Family Investments, San Diego, CA
- Scott Nielsen, Director, Advocacy Programs, Arabella & Associates, Chicago, IL
- Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director, Working Partnerships USA, San José, CA
- Zachary Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center, Oakland, CA
- Sheryl Oring, Distinguished Humanities Scholar, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC
- Felix W. Ortiz III, Founder, Chairman & CEO, Viridis Corporation, New York, NY
- Star Paschal, Board Vice Chair, Equal Voice Action, Auburn, AL
- Manuel Pastor, Director, Program for Environmental & Regional Equity, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
- Mike Roberts, President, First Nation’s Institute, Longmont, CO
- Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union, New York, NY
- Felicia J. Wong, President & CEO, the Roosevelt Institute, New York, NY
- Georgette Wong, Founder & Principal, Correlation Consulting, East Sound, WA
- Richard Woo, Executive Director, The Russell Family Foundation, Gig Harbor, WA