Event Summaries

September 26 Aryn Baker Event 


Journalist Aryn Baker delivered a talk on Tuesday, Sept. 26 about how climate change, and rising heat levels in particular, are affecting labor conditions around the world. Baker is Time Magazine’s senior international climate and environment correspondent. She focuses on the human impacts of climate change, ranging from climate migration to food security.


Baker’s talk, which was sponsored by the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, in partnership with the Pulitzer Center, focused on how extreme heat is creating dangerous conditions for outdoor workers and increasing productivity losses for employers.


“This was the hottest summer in history,” Baker said, speaking at the Clark-Fox Forum. “What’s worth keeping in mind is that this was likely the coolest summer of the rest of our lives.”


These conditions are affecting people around the world in increasingly harmful ways, and workers who spend their days on farms or driving delivery trucks are already facing a disproportionate amount of danger.


“How do we protect the workers who have no choice but to go out into the street to pick up our garbage, pave our roads, harvest our food, and repair our air conditioners when they break?,” Baker said. “These jobs make our lives better, more convenient. They do the jobs that smooth out our days. So it makes sense that if they can do their job safely, our lives are better too.”


While people’s bodies can self-regulate to some extent, humans weren’t built to withstand extremely high levels of heat and humidity for extended periods of time. Without conditions for our bodies to cool down, people are at risk of heat stroke, kidney failure, and other health issues.


The answer: “Water, rest, and shade,” Baker said. “It’s not rocket science, and it’s not even expensive.”


Baker said that the advocacy group Public Citizen estimates that the USA currently faces 600-2000 heat related deaths a year and 170,000 heat related injuries. “That’s an estimated $100 billion annual toll on our economy in lost productivity, increased worker’s comp, lawsuits, and health care costs.”


Throughout her talk, Baker argued for the government to more closely regulate conditions for outdoor workers to prevent these human and financial costs.


More from Baker:









September 6 Public Policy Event 


The Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy hosted a public policy luncheon with three Washington University professors on Wednesday, September 6.


Gregory Magarian, Professor of Law, and Andrea Katz, Associate Professor of Law, discussed the legal and social implications of recent Supreme Court decisions. Steven Fazzari, Professor of Economics and Sociology, discussed economic disruption, inflation, and monetary policy in the past two decades.


Gregory Magarian spoke first and focused his talk on racial discrimination and racial policies in light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to ban affirmative action in higher education. He noted that after affirmative action was banned in California state universities in 2018, admission and matriculation of African American and Latino students to the most competitive state universities fell by 40%.


He also discussed the 303 Creative LLC vs. Elenis case. Magarian highlighted that SCOTUS’s majority argued the plaintiff, Lorie Smith, was constitutionally protected against making websites for same sex couples on free speech grounds, not freedom of religion.


“The Supreme Court, forget left or right, has a stronger ideologically cohesive majority and a more extreme ideological cohesive majority than it has had in living memory,” Magarian said. “And for that reason it kind of makes sense that the majority is ambitious, is frisky, and is eager to work its will on the law. And when you have a majority with that mindset, it makes sense that they would cut corners on standing, not least because they can, because there’s six of them.”


After Magarian, Andrew Katz spoke about the power and limitations of the executive branch in relation to Biden vs. Nebraska, in which SCOTUS ruled against the Biden’s administration plan to forgive around $430 million of student debt by relying on the legal precedent of the HEROES Act.


“Where an administrative agency takes a regulatory action that is significant in scope and departs from prior administrative policy, the court is going to cast a suspicious eye toward it and really inquire as to whether this program can be said to be a faithful interpretation of a statute delegating authority,” Katz said.


“This is a court that’s anxious about its own reputation, very much, and I think Biden vs. Nebraska shows that quite transparently,” she said.


Steven Fazzari, the former Director of the Weidenbaum Center, spoke last with a talk titled “Economic Update: Inflation, Monetary Policy, and Jobs: A ‘Soft Landing?’”

Fazzari outlined that the US recovered surprisingly fast from the pandemic, which provides a strong case that the government’s pandemic relief helped the economy bounce back.


He also explained how inflation has been fluctuating recently and how the pandemic and the Great Recession impacted interest rates and inflation.


“If you read the tea leaves right now, I would say it’s not really clear where the Federal policy is headed, but other things being equal, they’re not likely to raise a whole lot more,” Fazzari said.


More work from the three speakers can be found below:


Magarian: The New Religious Institutionalism Meets the Old Establishment Clause


Katz: The President in His Labyrinth: Checks and Balances in the New Pan-American Presidentialism


Fazzari: After the Great Recession: The Struggle for Economic Recovery and Growth