- Anti-Vietnam War activist in the 1960s-'70s
- Leader of the movement to thwart President Bush's proposal to partially privatize Social Security
- Co-founder of Health Care for America Now!
A 1968 graduate of the University of Virginia, Roger Hickey began his long career in political activism in the 1960s as an organizer for the Virginia Civil Rights Committee and the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC). The latter developed ideological and strategic ties to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), though eventually SDS dismissed SSOC as too timid and insufficiently radical.
In 1972, Hickey began to work for Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam (CLCV), a pacifist organization that participated in anti-war and anti-draft activities. The FBI compiled an extensive dossier on CLCV, whose members included such prominent figures as Daniel Berrigan, Philip Berrigan, and William Sloane Coffin.
In 1972 as well, Hickey helped create the San Francisco-based Public Media Center (PMC), a nonprofit advertising and public-relations firm that sought to promote the agendas of left-wing labor, environmental, and “public interest” organizations. He served as PMC’s media director from 1972-76.
From February 1977 until May 1985, Hickey was the media director of the National Center for Economic Alternatives (NCEA), a progressive nonprofit institute that sought to educate and counsel policymakers regarding the fiscal problems facing America and the global political-economy. Favoring an ever-greater measure of government regulation and wealth redistribution, NCEA advocated the “democratic ownership” of property and of society’s means-of-production. During Hickey’s tenure at NCEA, the historian and anti-capitalist economist Gar Alperovitz conducted research at the Center exploring the plausibility of joint community-worker ownership of a large steel mill in Youngstown, Ohio. Additional research at the Center examined strategies for having the government guarantee the provision of “basic necessities” such as food, housing, healthcare, and energy for everyone.
In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Hickey was a director of Consumers Opposed to Inflation in the Necessities (COIN), yet another organization that favored high levels of government regulation and wealth redistribution. During the economic “malaise” of President Jimmy Carter‘s administration, COIN’s anti-inflation program called for immediate caps on oil prices, limits on healthcare costs, government subsidies for the food bills of low-to-moderate-income households, and lower mortgage rates.
In 1986 Hickey helped create the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which maintains that government should play an active role in ensuring the economic well-being of all Americans. Among Hickey’s EPI co-founders were Robert Reich and Jeff Faux, author of such books as The Servant Economy (2012) and The Global Class War (2006). Hickey served for 10 years as EPI’s communications director.
In 1996 Hickey and Robert Borosage co-founded the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) — a self-described “strategy center for the progressive movement” — where both remain employed as co-directors. To view a list of additional key figures who also played a role in launching CAF, click here.
In 1996 as well, Hickey and Borosage established CAF’s sister organization, a think tank known as the Institute for America’s Future, where both continue to serve as co-directors.
In 1998 Hickey was the principal organizer of the New Century Alliance for Social Security (NCASS), a now-defunct umbrella of leftist groups that collaborated to “to protect Social Security from schemes that ‘privatize’ America’s retirement system by reducing guaranteed benefits to fund private investment accounts.” Signers of the NCASS Statement of Principles included Julian Bond, Heather Booth, Kenneth Cook, Marian Wright Edelman, Peter Edelman, Mike Farrell, Heidi Hartmann, Patricia Ireland, Jesse Jackson, Steven Kest, Norman Lear, Kweisi Mfume, Robert Reich, Susan Shaer, Eleanor Smeal, Andrew Stern, and John Sweeney.
In the mid-2000s, Hickey was a leader of Americans United to Protect Social Security — later renamed Americans United for Change — which successfully thwarted President George W. Bush’s proposal to partially privatize the Social Security program.
In 2001 Hickey condemned the Bush administration’s proposed tax cuts as reckless, ill-conceived measures that would cause immense harm to the country at a time when “millions of children are raised in poverty, lack health care, live in unsafe housing, and attend overcrowded schools that are falling apart.” “The Bush economic proposals are a sham,” Hickey wrote in January 2003. “They make the tax system more unfair, they starve the public sector of resources for needed public investment, and they will not revive growth, spur corporate investment, or create jobs.”
After the death of former President Ronald Reagan in June 2004, Hickey remarked: “The tone [of American politics] has gotten more venomous, largely because of the people who came after Reagan and carried the Reagan banner. I give him full credit for unleashing the vast right-wing conspiracy.”
In 2009 Hickey helped create Health Care for America Now! (HCAN), a national alliance of more than 1,000 organizations stating that “[o]ur government’s responsibility is to guarantee quality affordable health care for everyone in America and it must play a central role in regulating, financing, and providing health coverage …” Hickey subsequently served a stint on HCAN’s steering committee.
In 2016, Hickey backed the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, asserting that: “People don’t want a recycling [via Hillary Clinton] of Bill Clinton’s presidency. They want somebody who’s willing to stand up to the billionaires and corporate power.” Supporting Sanders’ proposal for the creation of a single-payer, government-run, taxpayer-funded healthcare plan, Hickey said: “If you had a universal health care plan people wouldn’t have to pay premiums. They would gain far more than they would shell out in taxes. Social Security wouldn’t have existed if FDR had said, ‘I’m not going to raise anyone’s taxes.'”