Alexander Hertel-Fernandez

Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Areas of Expertise:
  • Economic Security
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Economy & Public Budgets
  • Public Budgets & Taxes

Connect with Alexander

About Alexander

Hertel-Fernandez’s research currently focuses on the Democratic Party and the politics of federal tax policy; the sustainability of social insurance programs, with an emphasis on unemployment insurance and Social Security; and mobilization of business interests in state politics. Hertel-Fernandez is a member of the Roosevelt Institute Pipeline’s Boston Chapter, and is a former Board Member of the National New Deal Preservation Association.


"Dismantling Policy through Fiscal Constriction: Examining the Erosion in State Unemployment Insurance Finances" Social Service Review 87, no. 3 (2013).
Examines the long-run decline in UI finances and concludes that changes in UI taxes are associated with the largest declines in state finances. Examines why more states have not pursued reforms to strengthen UI finances and finds that opponents of more generous UI benefits have generally succeeded in preventing such measures, thus constricting UI finances and gradually retrenching benefits.
"Who Passes Business’s ‘Model Bills’? Policy Capacity and Corporate Influence in U.S. State Politics" Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 3 (2014).
Argues that ALEC provides private policy capacity to state legislators who would otherwise lack such support, and relatedly, that low state policy capacity may favor certain organized interests over others - namely the business interests affiliated with ALEC.
"Small Business Pressures and Democratic Party Ambivalence in U.S. Tax Politics" (with Theda Skocpol). Studies in American Political Development (forthcoming).
Compares debates over the inception and renewal of the Bush tax cuts and argues how small business organizations and constituencies have divided Democrats on tax issues. Identifies the mechanisms that have propelled tax resistance in contemporary U.S. politics, and contributes to theoretical understandings of the ways in which political parties are influenced by policy feedbacks and by coalitions of policy-driven organized economic interests.
"Business Associations, Conservative Networks, and the Ongoing Republican War over Medicaid Expansion" (with Theda Skocpol and Daniel Lynch). Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law (forthcoming).
Argues that GOP-leaning or dominated states have been most likely to embrace the expansion when organized business support outweighs counterpressures from conservative networks.
"Funding the State Policy Battleground: The Role of Foundations and Firms," Duke University Symposium on Philanthropy, Politics, and Democracy, December 31, 2014.
Investigates interactions between funders, policy advocates, and political entrepreneurs on the left and the right to explore how the two major parties coordinate policy action at the state level.
A Young Person’s Guide to Social Security (with Anna Turner and Kathryn Edwards) (Economic Policy Institute, 2011).
Presents a comprehensive guide to Social Security, written by young authors for young people.

In the News

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on Philip Wegmann. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, "Sen. Joe Donnelley Makes a Pro-Labor Pitch to Disappearing Union Voters," Washington Examiner, June 4, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on the mobilization of employees discussed in Ganesh Sitaraman. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, "In Corporate America, Too Many Bosses Tell Employees Who to Vote For," The Guardian, May 7, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on "right-to-work" campaigns in Grigor Atanesian, "'Right-to-Work' Draws Dark Money into Missouri" The Columbia Missourian, March 26, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on companies mobilizing workers in Valerie Bolden-Barrett, "More Companies are Urging Workers to Rally for Policies, Candidates" HR Dive, March 27, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted in Josh Eidelson and Hassan Kanu, "The Newest Weapons against Unions are Employees" Bloomberg Politics, April 2, 2018.
"How Companies Manipulate Their Workers into Becoming a Powerful Lobbying Force," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Fast Company, April 3, 2018.
"U.S. Companies are Pressuring Their Workers on How to Lobby and Vote," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Washington Post, March 21, 2018.
"Right-to-Work Laws Have Devastated Unions — and Democrats," Vanessa Williamson (with Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and James Feigenbaum), New York Times, March 8, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted in Noam Scheiber and Kenneth P. Vogel, "Behind a Key Anti-Labor Case, a Web of Conservative Donors" New York Times, February 25, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on how labor laws could hurt Democrats on Election Day, "The Supreme Court is Hearing a Labor Case Likely to Significantly Hit Unions, Democrats" The Week, February 26, 2018.
Vanessa Williamson quoted in Andrew Hanna and Caitlin Emma, "Supreme Court Could Cripple Public Unions in Run-Up to 2018 Midterms" Politico, February 25, 2018.
"Trump’s Attempt to ‘Drain the Swamp’ Will Make Matters Worse in Washington," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Lee Drutman), Los Angeles Times, November 27, 2016.
"Behind "Make America Great," the Koch Agenda Returns with a Vengeance," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol and Caroline Tervo), Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on coercive kinds of political contact at work in Andrew Ross Sorkin, "Whom to Vote For? Employees Tend to Follow Their Leader" New York Times, September 5, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on the Koch network in the states in Lee Drutman, "The Kochs are Retreating from National Elections. Here's What We Should Learn." Vox, May 16, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on Republican party committees discussed in Amanda Taub. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol), "After Trump: How Authoritarian Voters Will Change American Politics," Vox, April 28, 2016.
Vanessa Williamson quoted on the Koch's outsized influence on the Republican party in Jeff Stein, "How Conservative Megadonors Built a Shadow GOP That Weakened the Official Party" Vox, April 14, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on political messaging in the workplace in Ned Resnikoff, "How Citizens United Made It Easier for Bosses to Control Their Workers’ Votes" International Business Times, March 17, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on political recruiting discussed in Natalya Savka. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, "The 30 Top Thinkers under 30: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez," Pacific Standard, March 17, 2016.
"Five Myths about the Koch Brothers - and Why It Matters to Set Them Straight," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol), Bill Moyers, March 10, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on the Koch network in Jane Mayer, "Is This the End of Big-Money Politics?" The New Yorker, March 3, 2016.
Interview on the Republican agenda beyond election 2016Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol and Henry Farrell), The Washington Post, February 29, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on inconsistencies with pledge signers for stopping climate taxes in Sean McElwee, "Moneyed Interests are Blocking U.S. Action on Climate Change" Al Jazeera America, February 8, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on the Koch network in Jane Mayer, "New Koch" The New Yorker, January 25, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on documents the failure of the left to keep pace with the right in building local organizations discussed in Thomas B. Edsall. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol and Frank R. Baumgartner), "The Republican Party’s 50-State Solution," New York Times, January 13, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on the Koch network discussed in Sean McElwee. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, "The Scary Lessons of Matt Bevin: What We Can Learn about American Politics from the Right Wing’s Destructive Anti-Medicaid Crusade," Salon, November 7, 2015.
"How the Right Trounced Liberals in the States," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol), Democracy Journal, Fall 2015.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on bosses coercively mobilizing employees into politics in Corey Robin, "Your Boss Wants to Control Your Vote: The Real Reason to Fear Corporate Power" Salon, June 7, 2015.
Guest to discuss bosses recruiting employees into politics on MSNBC Nerding Out, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, May 14, 2015.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on bosses recruiting employees into politics discussed in Andrew Prokop. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, "Millions of Americans are Experiencing Intimidating Political Contact at Work," Vox, May 6, 2015.
"How ALEC Helped Undermine Public Unions," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Washington Post, December 17, 2014.
"How Sweden Fights Inequality: Not by Taxing the Rich," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Cathie Jo Martin), Vox, October 8, 2014.
"ObamaCare's Surprising New Ally: The Chamber of Commerce," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Talking Points Memo, May 7, 2014.
"Which Companies Pay to Play with ALEC?," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Bangor Daily News, February 18, 2014.
"The Real Unemployment Insurance Fix No One is Talking About," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Alix Gould-Werth), Talking Points Memo, February 6, 2014.
"ALEC Has Tremendous Influence in State Legislatures. Here's Why," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Washington Post, December 9, 2013.
"A New Deal for Young Adults: Social Security for Students," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Campaign for America’s Future Blog, May 14, 2010.