10 things we learned at Brookings in February

The door of number 10 Downing Street is seen in central London, Britain May 7, 2015. Picture taken with a fisheye lens. Britain goes to the polls today in a knife-edge national election to elect a new parliament and prime minsiter. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth - LR2EB570P3HYC

Here are 10 interesting things we learned from Brookings scholars in February 2019.

1. Technology-driven job training is vital to the workforce of the future

workforce training
In order to keep up with the America’s infrastructure demands, workers need better and more modernized training programs, say Joseph Kane and Adie Tomer. There are at least 9.5 million workers who are impacted by a wave of new technology in their careers, and they must be technologically literate in order to be successful.

2. America needs to have a deeper conversation about race and racism

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, accompanied by his wife Pamela Northam announces he will not resign during a news conference Richmond, Virginia, U.S. February 2, 2019. REUTERS/ Jay Paul - RC1D96C8E7D0
After photos emerged of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in blackface in his 1984 medical school yearbook page, Camille Busette, director of the Race, Prosperity, and Inclusion Initiative, wrote that this is indicative of a larger conversation about racism that the U.S. is not having. Rather than discussing just the incident of the governor, there should be a larger conversation about perpetuated myths surrounding the Civil War and systemic oppression today.

3. Where our Valentine’s Day chocolate comes from

A worker displays a heart-shaped praline for Valentine's Day at a Wittamer chocolate boutique in Brussels February 14, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (BELGIUM - Tags: FOOD SOCIETY) - GM1E82E1MJI01
The Valentine’s Day chocolate business is a billion-dollar industry, but where is all that chocolate coming from? Molly Curtiss and Jenny Perlman Robinson explain that 40 percent of the cocoa beans used to make that chocolate comes from Côte d’Ivoire, where a quarter of the population is dependent on the cocoa industry. This labor includes children, and working impedes their ability to obtain quality educations.

4. Denver teachers join thousands of other educators nationwide protesting for increased pay and better treatment

Teachers, students and members of the community hold a rally in Civic Center Park as Denver public school teachers strike for a second day in Denver, Colorado, U.S., February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Ciaglo - RC1DE9397C20
Bridging the political and demographic divides among them, teachers want better for themselves and their students. Andre Perry writes about teachers nationwide demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, and better teacher benefits. These educators have seen from afar the successes made by colleagues elsewhere in the country, and this is spurring them to the protest line.

5. Deepfake videos, though still relatively unknown, pose great policy, technology, and legal issues

A technician watches the hologram on multiple screens of politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, of the French far-left Parti de Gauche, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, speak to supporters who are gathered in Le Port on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, April 18, 2017 as Melenchon holds a campaign rally in Dijon, France. REUTERS/Laurent Capmas - LR1ED4I1GR5Q4
John Villasenor writes about deepfakes—constructed videos that make a person look like they said or did something that they did not. While the technology is still developing, these videos could have intense political, technological, and legal ramifications. Public awareness on this issue is vital in order to spot these videos, but unfortunately countermeasures to this innovation are few.

6. A shift in how Americans view national emergencies

The vehicle barrier on the U.S.- Mexico border weaves around Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran desert
As President Trump attempts to use a national emergency to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and prevent undocumented immigration into the U.S., Elaine Kamarck discusses how this declaration could have a lasting impact on how national emergencies are utilized by future presidents. National emergencies could potentially be declared on gun control, climate change, or Medicare for All, for example.

7. Stacey Abrams’ thoughts on voter suppression and civic engagement

Brookings hosts political leader Stacey Abrams in a conversation about race and political power in the United States with Jelani Cobb, Columbia University's Lipman professor of journalism Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 in Washington. (Sharon Farmer/sfphotoworks)
On February 15, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb joined Brookings for a moderated discussion on the 2018 midterm elections, systemic voter disenfranchisement, and methods of breaking down those systems. Abrams talked about her organization, Fair Fight Action, and how it has become a way for her to channel her anger toward positive, tangible change for the future.

Watch the full recording of their discussion.

8. Technological advancements may be ominous, but we have been here before

Protesters raise their smartphones with screens lit
Visiting Fellow Tom Wheeler’s new book, From Gutenberg to Google, focuses on the technological changes spanning from the printing press to the telegraph to Google. The book highlights the fear that was associated with the introduction of these new technologies, and uses this context to assuage modern-day concerns about innovation, automation, and artificial intelligence. Purchase the book to learn more.

9. The federal budget deficit is getting worse, and will be more difficult to address later

dollar bills
William Gale argues that Americans cannot continue to push off the federal budget deficit as unimportant. Though our economy is currently at full employment, deficits are still at 4.2 percent of the GDP. If there is not a move to address the federal budget deficit now, then the problem will be much more difficult to fix when our economy is in a worse position. The sooner Americans start, the least disruptive the policy fix can be.

10. Brexit is a month away and the endgame still remains murky

Anti-Brexit protesters stand next to an illuminated sign outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, December 10, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC18D2DB4050
The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union at the end of March, yet there is still no agreed-upon plan for how its exit will occur. Amanda Sloat analyzes Prime Minister Theresa May’s options, the struggles within the Labour Party, and scenarios for the UK’s future. No matter what happens, it is clear it will be a bumpy month for Britain.

Julia O’Hanlon contributed to this post.