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December 19, 2022
So much for a quiet Sunday. Yesterday alone, Argentina won the World Cup crown, menorahs lit up for the first night of eight, and Elon Musk lost a Twitter poll asking if he should remain in charge of his shambolic company. (We’ll soon see if he actually takes the results seriously.)
Days like yesterday have been a dime a dozen in 2022, a year of non-stop upheaval and many electrifying political, social, and economic victories. Our co-editor Sarah Anderson has just put together a handy round-up of this year’s top 10 inequality victories. Take a look below. A nice boost to helping us all exit 2022 on a high note!
This’ll be our last issue until 2023, but, in the meantime, you can catch up on previous issues chock-full of must reads and evergreen analyses. You can also let us know what you’d like to see more of in the new year simply by responding to this email.
Happy holidays from the Inequality.org team to you all!
December 12, 2022
Congress is running up against the clock. Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives have just a few, dwindling days to move their legislative priorities before Republicans regain control of the House in the new year and gridlock becomes all but inevitable.
Immigration, voting rights, and funding for the National Labor Relations Board (more on that below) make up just part of the daunting to-do list Congress faces before the holidays. Last week’s re-election of Senator Raphael Warnock does offer promise for the future, but overall prospects for legislative progress in the years ahead feel like a dream of yore.
“Any Republican that’s out there trying to work with [Democrats] is wrong,” as Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the potential incoming Speaker of the House, told Fox News recently.
But things don’t have to be this way. Americans on both sides of the aisle do share common ground: on reining in the 1 percent running roughshod over the rest of us. Banding together to press officials — at both state and federal levels — to privilege constituents over corporate lobbyists can cut through gridlock and deliver real results for us all.
December 5, 2022
We see two ways to understandwhat happened to railway workers last week. The first: The White House successfully averted a nationwide strike. The second: The just demands of railroad workers largely went ignored in the name of keeping the economy, so to speak, “on track.” We’re on board with the latter.
But we also realize that a large-scale strike of U.S. railroad workers would have had a consequential impact. Railroad workers do essential work. That’s exactly the point these workers have been trying to make. Like other essential workers, they pay a heavy price for the labor they do.
In California, for example, railway workers have turned out to be twice as likely to die from Covid as workers in all other other industries. But that’s where greed comes in. As The Lever’s David Sirota notes, providing all railway workers seven paid sick days a year would cost the rail industry $321 million. For comparison, railroad baron Warren Buffett just nonchalantly funneled $750 million into his own foundation.
The plight of our railroad workers should serve as a reminder to us all that as we rebuild from a global pandemic, the goal shouldn’t just be a return to “normal,” but rather something new and even revolutionary.
November 28, 2022
We first began tracking billionaire pandemic wealth gains late in 2020. At the time, we had no idea we would still need to be doing that tracking two years later. But that’s exactly how things have turned out, and we’ve just published our most recent pandemic-profiteering update.
As of Monday, November 21, our nation boasts 728 billionaires. They hold a combined wealth of $4.48 trillion, an increase of $1.5 trillion over billionaire wealth in mid-March 2020, an appraisal based on the Forbes billionaire database. Combined U.S. billionaire wealth prior to the pandemic stood at just under $3 trillion.
What to do with all this excess? Many top billionaires are encouraging their fellow one-percenters to give generously to various philanthropic ventures. Are we now going to be seeing a charitable golden age? Don’t hold your breath. At this point, a skeptical posture makes the most sense.
The truth is, billionaire pledges often take years or decades to reach their nonprofit destinations — if ever, as we argue in CNN today. That’s why we need more public scrutiny of billionaire philanthropy — and much clearer rules to make sure donations actually support real, working charities. More on all that in today’s issue.
November 21, 2022
Late last week and then into the weekend, we all watched with horror and amazement as Elon Musk laid waste to careers and lives at Twitter, bringing the service to the brink of collapse.
Over 1,000 Twitter employees have so far rejected Musk’s ultimatum to commit to an “extremely hardcore” work environment, instead opting to take three months serverance. Their absence leaves the company with a bare-bones staff, and many of those remaining rely on their jobs for their visas. Their futures now rest on the whims of the world’s richest man in the middle of an ego trip.
The ongoing chaos at Twitter HQ should serve as a cautionary tale on what happens when we let wealth and power consolidate without limit. But Musk’s grand fortune and corporate domineering are facing what may prove to be an even greater threat on still another front. Read on this week to learn what that may be.
November 14, 2022
We here at Inequality.org are still unpacking the results from last Tuesday. We may not know the official balance in Congress for weeks, but one outcome has already become clear: Wherever clearly defined inequality-fighting candidates and policies appeared on the ballot, they won.
Corporate power, as David Dayen observes in the American Prospect, “had a bad election night.” Candidates who linked inflation to corporate greed, rallied against price-gouging, and lambasted trade deal giveaways consistently triumphed, often against tough odds.
Anti-inequality policies fared even better when they appeared on ballots untethered from partisan horse races. We have plenty of details below on some stunning ballot initiative victories that will raise wages, tax the rich, and build worker and tenant power across the nation.
“Ballot measures like these,” notes our co-editor Sarah Anderson, “can send a healthy wake-up call to political leaders who aren’t listening to their constituents.”
If the final midterm results turn out as now predicted, we’ll most likely see some serious gridlock in Congress over the coming months. But you can count on Inequality.org to outline opportunities to still get things done — across the aisle and out of the box.
November 7, 2022
By this time tomorrow, millions of average Americans will be casting votes they hope will decide the future of our nation. A tiny number of other Americans have already voted — with their fortunes.
As of last month, notes a new analysis from Americans For Tax Fairness, 465 U.S. billionaires had pumped $881 million into the 2022 federal midterms. And that total doesn’t even include untraceable “dark money” contributions or donations made during the campaign’s final days. By this election cycle’s end, OpenSecrets reports, billionaire campaign dollars could top $16.7 billion.
The wealthy and powerful, we always need to remember, don’t spend exorbitant amounts on political donations because they share a passionate personal commitment to the democratic political process. They spend lavishly because they expect a real return on their investment — at the expense of the rest of us.
The latest Americans For Tax Fairness campaign-cash figures serve as still another vivid reminder of why we so need to tax both the income and the wealth of the rich at significantly higher levels. In the meantime, our best offense remains, as the saying goes, a good defense. And our best defense against the wealthy and powerful remains our vote. Cast yours wisely!
October 31, 2022
Each week, we here at Inequality.org strive to deliver the humor, hope, and – especially today – horror of our deeply unequal world.
Take for example the Mars family. This candy-baron clan owes its fortunes to Halloween treats like M&Ms and Snickers and currently ranks as America’s third-wealthiest family, worth a collective $94 billion. Only the Waltons and Koch families hoard larger piles of cash. Between 1983 and 2020, our Silver Spoon Oligarchs report found last year, the Mars family wealth jumped 3,517 percent, after adjusting for inflation!
And yet, despite this fortune, candy prices have jumped 13 percent this year, an increase that used to take nine years to reach. Some candies like Starburst and Skittles, both manufactured by Mars, have seen price hikes of anywhere from 35 to 42 percent. A true Halloween horror.
But we’re also feeling some hope today, after Lula da Silva’s victory in last night’s Brazilian presidential election, a giant step forward for Brazil’s working people and wondrous Amazon forest. And let’s also note a final piece of news for this week’s trifecta of horror, humor, and hope: Late-night TV host Stephen Colbert is now sharing our billionaire wealth research in his newest comic segment, Rich, Please!
October 24, 2022
Here in the U.S, we can get so caught up in our own deepening inequalities that we sometimes forget how global a phenomenon greed and inequality have become.
The International Trade Union Confederation represents 200 million workers in labor unions around the world. Ahead of its World Congress in Australia next month, ITUC is asking people to vote for the worst boss in the world. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos currently leads the balloting — no surprise! — with over 54 percent of the vote.
But the list of contenders for the world’s worst boss go far beyond Bezos. Take, for example, the chief exec currently in second place, Peter Hebblethwaite, the billionaire CEO of P&O Ferries. Under Hebblethwaite, this UK shipping giant fired over 800 workers via a video message about cutting costs — without consulting either workers or their unions.
If we want to address wealth inequality, we have to start by unmasking the rich. Exercises like the ITUC’s worst-boss competition, by calling out greedy wealth hoarders to build global solidarity, help us do just that.
October 17, 2022
All of us on the Inequality.org team are still buzzing about the opportunity we had last week to meet Chris Smalls, the president of Amazon Labor Union, at the 46th annual Institute for Policy Studies Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards.
The fledgling Amazon Labor Union is currently facing the herculean task of taking on one of the largest corporations in the world — and the source of one of the world’s most massive private fortunes.
Amazon is, predictably enough, throwing the entire anti-labor book at the union Chris Smalls leads. The company last year spent over $4.3 million on anti-union consultants alone. Those consultants pocketed $3,200 daily for their efforts at the same time workers in Amazon warehouses were averaging just $16 an hour.
Despite the Amazon anti-union blitz, the ALU has successfully organized a warehouse of 8,300 workers on Staten Island, and now over 2,000 warehouse workers in Albany will be voting this week to create what could become Amazon’s second unionized U.S. warehouse.
“No matter what struggle you’re in, what industry you’re in, what movement you’re in, this is all our struggle and our fight together,” Smalls noted last week at the Letelier-Moffitt awards ceremony.
We all have a stake in the collective struggles now going on at Amazon and countless other workplaces throughout the world. We have more on those struggles in this week’s issue.
October 10, 2022
Just $5,700. The average individual Native American wealth in the United States, according to our friends at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. By comparison, the median individual wealth within the entire American population stands at around $65,000.
On this Indigenous Peoples Day, we find ourselves meditating on the interconnected struggles that drive and deepen inequality among indigenous communities, both here and abroad. And what impacts indigenous communities impacts us all, from continuing starvation wages to the plundering of our environment to line the pockets of top execs.
Sônia Guajajara, an indigenous activist with the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil and a 2020 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awardee, puts the matter well: “Indigenous peoples have known for a long time that everything in this life is interconnected. When nature is destroyed in one place, the consequences can be felt on the other side of the world.”
October 3, 2022
U.S. billionaire wealth has skyrocketed spectacularly over the past three years, as our Inequality.org team has been diligently documenting. Since the start of the Covid crisis, known billionaire wealth has soared by more than 50 percent, to nearly $5 trillion.
Our nation’s feasting billionaires all need friendly places to stash their cash, and a host of U.S. states have been lining up to fill that bill — with opaque finance laws that ease tax avoidance and help entrench the fortunes of wealthy elites.
And which states have become the rich people-friendliest? Our new Institute for Policy Studies report, Billionaire Enabler States, identifies those states and explores the three key ingredients — low tax rates, secrecy, and trust longevity — that make these jurisdictions particularly attractive to billionaires looking to avoid paying their fair tax share.
The intricacies of tax loopholes can, of course, get wonky and dry. But we think this new study really does help all of us better understand the shady system that keeps the wealthy ever wealthier even as wages for everyday Americans continue to stagnate. For more on our latest look at the taxes the rich don’t pay — and how we can change that — read on!
September 26, 2022
With the midterm elections just around the corner, millions of Americans will quite literally be voting for their lives this fall.
“We are once again in a moment of extreme division, with rising assaults on democracy and levels of racism, sexism, and inequality that are tearing our country apart,” write Institute for Policy Studies executive director Tope Folarin and Rev. Dr. William Barber II of the Poor People’s Campaign in a just-published op-ed in Newsweek.
“For everyone to thrive,” the pair add, “we must do much more to tackle the interlocking injustices that long pre-date the Covid-19 crisis."
The past two years have seen some modest strides towards addressing inequality, from canceling up to $20,000 in student debt to expanding healthcare subsidies. But the pandemic-era social and economic policies that pulled millions out of poverty in 2021 have since expired while the fortunes of our wealthy and well-connected grow ever grander.
All this sets the stage for November’s second Tuesday. Real chances for change do lie ahead. Can we show enough political will to seize them?
September 19, 2022
As if we needed more proof we’re living in another Gilded Age, railroad barons reared their ugly heads last week, forcing employees to the brink of a nationwide strike. Top corporate execs were opting once again to minimize their workforce to maximize shareholder value, in this case by demanding workers be available around-the-clock.
Jamelle Bouie put it simply in the New York Times: “The largest freight railroad carriers in the country were willing to cripple the transportation infrastructure of the United States rather than allow their workers to take the occasional day off to see a doctor or attend to their families.”
At least one American CEO has a more expansive, humane definition of what shareholding should mean. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has announced that he’s reconstituting the lucrative outdoor outfitter’s ownership structure to fund a trust that fights climate change.
“Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors,” Chouinard is pledging to “use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.”
We have more online on this historic move, a “logical extension” to Chouinard’s “lifelong commitment to defending the Earth.” Also on Inequality.org this week, a look at how another global billionaire celebrity, King Charles III, could put his fortune to much better use.
Our railways may have avoided a strike for the time being, thanks to eleventh-hour help from the Biden administration, but billionaire greed continues to thwart workers’ basic livelihoods. A tale as old as time — and we stand more than ready for a new one!
September 12, 2022
The water in Jackson, Mississippi has been inaccessible – and often undrinkable – for months. Why are Jackson’s 150,000 residents, the vast majority Black, suffering this system collapse? White flight “drained the city of resources,” Benji Jones points out in Vox, and state lawmakers have chronically neglected the city’s water infrastructure.
Funding from last year’s federal infrastructure rescue plan arrived too little, too late. The $42 million that did eventually arrive, notes Jackson mayor Chokwe Lumumba, can’t undo “30 years of deferred maintenance.” So last week Jackson’s water ran brown when it ran at all.
Making sure Jackson has clean water “could cost $2 billion,” Bernie Sanders’ staff director Warren Gunnels tweeted in response, adding that “we currently spend over $2 billion a day on the Pentagon.”
In the wake of 9/11, the costs of our chronic disinvestment in domestic infrastructure have been piling up. Our National Priorities Project colleagues estimate that the $21 trillion spent on militarism could have instead funded a host of needed programs ranging from decarbonizing our electric grid to reconstructing our nation’s water infrastructure.
Check out the Project’s eye-opening State of Insecurity report for more on the mortal costs of choosing war over basic human needs.
September 5, 2022
Happy Labor Day! We hope you’re enjoying some rest and time with loved ones. And if you’re looking for a little edification on your day off, our team has pulled together a stellar list of inequality-related recommendations for Labor Day reading, viewing, and listening.
Labor Day this year feels particularly special. We’re marking the resurgence of a movement. A new Gallup poll reports that labor unions have become the most popular they’ve been with the American people since 1965. Union organizing drives are sweeping the nation, extending workplace protections and the power of collective bargaining to baristas, warehouse workers, and so many more working people.
Helping all this along has been President Biden, for all his flaws the labor-friendliest president in a generation. As SEIU vice president April Verrett has just observed: “When was the last time you saw the president open up the doors to the White House to welcome in workers?”
So we do indeed have cause for celebration this Labor Day. Yet we have so much more to push for as the leaves start to fall. Of particular note: labor’s marquee legislative priority — the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act for short — is still languishing in Congress.
Thinking of all the work ahead brings us to a rather somber note. One of the finest and fiercest pro-worker writers of our time, Barbara Ehrenreich, has just passed away. Barbara, a long-time supporter of the Institute for Policy Studies and our work here at Inequality.org, leaves behind a lasting legacy. We can honor her memory, as her son Ben notes, “by loving one another — and by fighting like hell.”
And we will. More on Barbara’s memory and the fight ahead below.
August 29, 2022
Ten years ago, activists with the Occupy Student Debt Campaign organized a protest on the day student debt passed $1 trillion. Among their top demands: the cancellation of student debt. At the time, the media largely dismissed that proposal. Most experts, claimed one NPR report, see “little chance the government would ever forgive student loans.”
Fast forward to last week when President Biden announces that borrowers making less than $125,000 will have $10,000 of their student loan debt forgiven, $20,000 for borrowers with Pell Grants. Biden did campaign on a call for a bolder plan, but the cancellation of any amount of student loan debt should be cause for celebration — and a reminder just how powerful grassroots organizing can be.
Among those likely to benefit from this debt jubilee will be our nation’s educators. Average teachers now annually earn $61,730 and owe $58,700 in student loan debt. Our prolonged disinvestment in educators, coupled with Covid, has produced a mass exodus of overworked and underpaid teachers from our classrooms right as a new school year begins.
In response, teachers nationwide are harnessing their collective bargaining power to make their demands heard. More on their advocacy in today’s special back-to-school edition of our Inequality.org newsletter.
August 22, 2022
We are now witnessing, Sen. Bernie Sanders declared at a rally alongside national union leaders over the weekend, the “rebirth of the American trade union movement.” Growing that movement, he added, will bring working people economic power, dignity, and “something more.”
That “something more” — the power of collective action to reshape a nation — could hardly be more crucial now, particularly with historic midterm elections on the horizon and a chance to really build upon the just-enacted Inflation Reduction Act.
With our ever growing inequality, it’s no wonder we’re witnessing a resurgence of the labor movement, a resurgence of the will to build “something more.” So many of us are sensing these days that we have before us an opportunity — and moral obligation — to build a world that works for us all, to rein in corruption and greed. Let’s do it!
August 15, 2022
If you had told us just a few weeks ago, right before our annual summer break, that by the time we resumed publishing Congress would have passed a historic deal that taxes the wealthy to invest in health care and fighting climate change, we would have scoffed.
But that’s exactly what has happened, to our pleasant surprise. The new Inflation Reduction Act features a 1 percent excise tax on stock buybacks, a 15 percent corporate minimum tax, and much-needed funding to beef up an IRS crackdown on wealthy tax cheats. For the IRA’s climate impact, check this Newsweek analysis from our own Bob Lord and Basav Sen.
We have more on this new legislation in this week’s issue. Our core takeaway: The Inflation Reduction Act makes for a great start at generating significant revenue from those who really should be paying more. But we can and should, as a nation, think bigger and bolder. As always, stay tuned to Inequality.org each week for the latest on how we can — how we will — make this bigger and bolder our law of the land.
July 25, 2022
In 2021, during a painstaking year of unspeakable loss and economic turmoil, average S&P 500 CEOs saw their pay increase by more than $700,000. So reports the latest bombshell PayWatch corporate executive compensation analysis from our friends at the AFL-CIO.
We released our own Institute for Policy Studies take on CEO pay, the 28th annual Executive Excess report, just last month. Reports on CEO pay excess this year feel particularly salient, as average families fall further and further behind economically. Some 75 percent of middle-income families now say their wages are falling behind inflation.
With the midterm elections fast approaching and the economy a top issue, let’s all keep in mind that our economy generates more than enough wealth for all of us to thrive. But that wealth is mostly landing at the top end of our economic ladder. Things don’t have to be that way.
July 18, 2022
Over recent years, Americans across the political spectrum have grown increasingly frustrated with the ever-growing wealth of our nation’s billionaire class. Our billionaires have seen their combined wealth rise over $1.7 trillion during the pandemic, a gain over 58 percent.
This frustration Americans are feeling comes through loud and clear in our latest exclusive poll with Ipsos. Concerns about how philanthropy is operating these days — about everything from the “warehousing” of charity dollars to tax subsidies for wealthy donors — transcend our partisan divide. A whopping 81 percent of Americans disapprove of how taxpayers are subsidizing the wealthy’s slow-moving charitable vehicles.
The good news? We have ideas aplenty for addressing what ails our philanthropic universe. More on those ideas below.
July 11, 2022
Amazon Prime members this week, says Amazon, will be treated to what the company describes as “two days of epic deals” on July 12 and 13. But just who, we wonder, is really going to get the epic deals “Prime Day” promises?
Surely not the Amazon warehouse and fulfillment center employees tasked with completing 10 hours of unrelenting physical labor with just two 30-minute breaks. Amazon workers have described Prime Day as a workday as busy as any December holiday rush, only with punishing heat.
Jeff Bezos, on the other hand, won’t have to sweat any to profit from Prime Day. Bezos, while no longer Amazon’s CEO, still holds an 11 percent share of the company. Making billions while sitting in boardrooms and megayachts while your workers make $16 per hour slaving away in warehouses — now that rates as the real epic deal!
Economist Richard Wolff is urging us this Prime Day to declare our independence from Amazon. Notes the veteran analyst: “Immense corporations like Amazon need a change.” The grand fortune of Jeff Bezos, he adds, simply “stands in too large a contrast with the difficult economic conditions imposed on his company’s employees.”
We agree! For more on our outrageously rich, stay tuned for new findings coming next week from our Charity Reform Initiative on how our nation’s wealthiest are thoroughly distorting American philanthropy.
June 27, 2022
Friday’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — after nearly 50 years of precedent — still hangs heavy over the nation this Monday.
As our Economic Policy Institute friends note, the first states now banning abortion just happen to be states with the lowest minimum wages and the most tight-fisted policies on Medicaid and other core family-support programs. Analysts often frame abortion as a social “culture-war” issue. But abortion rights actually go hand-in-hand with economic progress. Any loss of abortion rights means the loss of economic security and mobility for millions, as we lay out on our Inequality.org fact page.
The news today can feel bleak, but we do have some inspirational moments of light to share in this week’s issue, most notably a stunning political victory over inequality in Colombia and continuing good news on the burgeoning labor movement taking hold all across the United States.
June 20, 2022
Happy Juneteenth! Many of us helped celebrate our newest federal holiday this past weekend at the Poor People’s Campaign Moral Assembly in Washington, D.C. Around 100,000 people overall converged on the capital to demand an end to systemic racism, poverty and inequality, the war economy, and ecological devastation.
Rev. William Barber, the Poor People’s Campaign co-chair, invited our Institute for Policy Studies colleague Sarah Anderson and Economic Policy Institute president Heidi Shierholz on stage to thank our organizations for research support over the past several years.
“The worst thing you can do in a movement is be loud and wrong,” Barber told the assembly. “These people have committed resources so that when we ride, we ride deep. When we talk, we talk sure. When we speak, we speak clear. We promised them that if they keep researching and writing, we’d build you an army. And that army is here.”
We’re proud to be part of the inspiring Poor People’s Campaign movement — and see our research on our nation’s maldistribution wealth turn up on placards at events like Saturday’s assembly.
We have more below on Saturday’s rally and our latest billionaire wealth report, a close look at the ultra rich of Massachusetts, where a tax-the-rich measure will be on the ballot this November.
June 13, 2022
Our team has been in the middle of a media frenzy this past week, doing interviews with dozens of outlets ranging from the New York Times and Fortune to CNN and ABC News. Why all the media interest? The release of our latest annual Executive Excess report on corporate CEO pay.
Our 28th Executive Excess edition has clearly struck a nerve. With profits way up in 2021, corporations had an opportunity last year to make a big leap towards greater pay equity. They could have given their workers a fair reward for their heroic efforts during the pandemic. Instead, Corporate America continued to fixate on pumping up CEO pay.
One of our most shocking findings: Two-thirds of U.S. low-wage firms that cut worker pay last year spent tens of billions inflating CEO pay via stock buybacks. At Lowe’s, the millions blown on this stock manipulation maneuver would have been enough to give every one of their 325,000 workers a $40,000 raise! Instead, median pay at Lowe’s last year fell 7.6 percent to $22,697 while the CEO pocketed $18 million.
The good news in all this: President Biden has the power to crack down on runaway CEO pay, without waiting for Congress to act. Read more about what he — and you — can do below. Thanks!
June 6, 2022
Across the pond, UK workers last week enjoyed four days off to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, an extravaganza that marked 70 years of Elizabeth II’s reign. But after years of pandemic and deepening wealth inequality, a good chunk of the British public found this year’s celebrations — and their hefty pricetag — a bit too ironic to stomach.
British commentator Marina Purkiss captured that irony neatly in a retort to celebrity journalist Piers Morgan: “Government ministers are telling people they need to tighten their belts, to choose between heating and eating, and you’re saying it’s not at all tone deaf to force cash-strapped local governments to spend a fortune on these frivolities?”
A valid question to ask at a time when British child poverty now ranks among the highest in Western Europe while CEO pay levels in the UK have returned to their much more than ample pre-pandemic levels.
In the United States, of course, we have our own inequality issues to work through, with CEO pay high up on our list, and no one has been working longer to expose our CEO pay outrages than Inequality.org’s Sarah Anderson. She’s been the lead on the Institute for Policy Studies Executive Excess annual report that's been published ever since Bill Clinton sat in the White House. Sarah will be briefing the media tomorrow on the latest Executive Excess. The focus: CEO-worker pay gaps at the U.S. firms that report the lowest worker wages. We’ll have lots more on that next week!
May 30, 2022
“As a nation we must ask: When in God’s name will we stand up to the gun lobby?” asked President Biden hours after a gunman murdered 19 elementary school students and two teachers last week.
A valid question in a nation where a mega-billion-dollar gun industry has left the United States a society with more guns than people. The next few weeks will be crucial in deciding how we want to move forward as a nation. Will our elected leaders divorce themselves from the cash of the gun lobby? Or will we continue along on business as usual?
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, we have millionaires protesting our stunningly unequal global status quo at the annual Davos World Economic Forum. This week’s issue has that story, plus a debunking of the myth of the millionaire tax exodus and plenty more.
And if you’re looking for a Memorial Day weekend read that can serve as an appetizer to our upcoming annual Executive Excess CEO pay report, check out our Sarah Anderson in the Washington Post.
May 23, 2022
“This pandemic has caused almost incomprehensible loss in our country,” argue Institute for Policy Studies executive director Tope Folarin and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber Il, co-chair for the Poor People’s Campaign, in the latest issue of Newsweek. “One thing we must never lose is our determination to treat its pre-existing conditions.”
Those pre-existing conditions — greed, excess, and the political choices that perpetuate these two menaces — have left over 140 million of us living below the poverty line. This outcome has been a policy decision.
To address this policy decision, we need a multiracial, moral movement to make the voices of real people heard over the rustling of dollar bills. This coming June 18, to elevate these voices, the Poor People’s Campaign and thousands of supporters will rally on the National Mall for a Moral March on Washington and to the Polls. You’re invited. Hope to see you there!
May 16. 2022
This past week’s most sobering news: Less than two and a half years into the global pandemic, over one million U.S. lives have been lost to Covid-19, a staggering number roughly equal to how many Americans died in the Civil War and World War II combined.
More grim news: Frontline workers exempt from stay-at-home orders — Americans working in food service and health care, transportation and agriculture — turned out to be nearly twice as likely to die from Covid.
Meanwhile, our CEOs and other top corporate execs have spent the pandemic years becoming ever more comfortable. According to new Wall Street Journal analysis, the median CEO pay package at top US corporations reached $14.7 million in 2021, a sixth straight annual record. Here at the Institute for Policy Studies, we’re now finishing up our own annual report on CEO pay. So please keep your eyes peeled for that.
We close out this week’s intro with a request to help rein in global oligarchy: U.S. banks currently must follow rules designed to ferret out dirty money. Wealth hoarding enablers like investment advisors, art dealers, and accountants, on the other hand, can legally help kleptocrats launder dirty money. The ENABLERS Act now before Congress can plug this loophole. Please urge your member of Congress to support this bill, then forward this to two of your friends. Thanks!
May 9, 2022
The Mother’s Day we celebrated yesterday always shines a spotlight on the many, many injustices mothers and caregivers face in the United States. We remain, for example, the only industrialized country without a federal paid family and medical leave law on the books. And with the Supreme Court poised to kill Roe v. Wade, our cost of childcare is soaring, amid corporate greed grabs that are escalating core costs of living.
All of this can all feel unmanageable at times, but we do have solutions for the compounding crises that make care work so undervalued. For more info on ideas and resources, check out our Inequality.org fact pages on gender economic inequality and inequality and the care economy.
Meanwhile, in this issue, we take a look at climate change’s impact on the care economy and feature a take-down on last week’s “Gilded Glamour” Met Gala. Also this week: new data that reveal some fascinating insights on how CEO-worker pay gaps vary so widely from one nation to another.
May 2, 2022
Today's spot in the calendar might not mean much to a lot of us. But this month’s first Monday means everything for the elite deep pockets invited to tonight’s annual Met Gala extravaganza at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Dozens of celebrities, philanthropists, and other powerbrokers will be descending upon the Met for tonight’s event. Tickets go for $35,000 each, with tables running up to $300,000. This year’s Met Gala theme: “Gilded Glamour,” a nod to that era of American history when wealth dynasties like the Astors, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts reigned supreme.
But we don’t need a Met gala to remind us about Gilded Age splendor. We’re living right now through another Gilded Age. Our richest 0.01 percent — around 18,000 U.S. families — have actually surpassed the historic wealth levels reached in the first Gilded Age.
Let’s end this week’s intro the only appropriate way we can: with a call to action! The World Economic Forum — another big-time rendezvous for the ridiculously rich — is coming up in Davos later this month, and our friends over at Fight Inequality are asking people to mobilize in support of taxing the wealthy. Why not take a moment to learn more about how you can organize a protest in your community? Thanks!
April 25, 2022
Depending on when you read this, the richest person in the world — Tesla CEO Elon Musk — may already own the popular and influential global social media platform Twitter. Musk has put together a $46.5 billion financing package to buy out Twitter. No single individual has ever advanced a larger corporate-takeover financing package.
So what does this all mean? Exactly how a potential Musk ownership will impact our everyday experience on an app with over 217 million daily users remains, of course, to be seen. But we can recognize one certainty: We need to keep a close eye on the new ways Musk and the rest of our wealthiest wield their fortunes for social and political influence.
“When billionaires talk about freedom, watch your wallets,” Robert Reichrecently warned. “Behind Elon Musk’s blather about free markets, free speech, and free choice is his goal to be free from accountability.”
April 18, 2022
On this day, Tax Day, households across the United States are scrambling to file — or extend — their taxes. Members of our billionaire class, on the other hand, are doing a great deal more smiling than scrambling.
Over one recent five-year period, a bombshell ProPublica investigation last week revealed, the 25 richest Americans paid a true tax rate of roughly 3.4 percent. That’s right, you most likely paid a bigger share of your income in taxes than America’s wealthiest.
Most Americans want to change that. According to a just-released survey from Data for Progress, two-thirds of likely voters, including 53 percent of Republicans, think billionaires should be paying more in taxes. What’s preventing those higher taxes? Our society still lacks the political will to take on our super-rich.
But crises, as oligarchy expert Jeffrey Winters details in today’s issue, can provide “real opportunities to restructure institutions and give setbacks to oligarchs and elites.” Let’s see our current moment of crisis, with global inequality at an all-time high, as just such an opportunity — to mobilize against a system that rewards wealth over work.
April 11, 2022
Off their names alone, you’d think the Patriotic Millionaires and the Poor People’s Campaign would share little in common, with each catering separately to our nation’s richest and poorest. But last Monday both groups gathered in Washington, D.C., and both boldly confronted inequality’s ravages.
Reverend William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign came to D.C. to unveil landmark new research. A Poor People’s Pandemic Report, their new paper, tracks the intersections of poverty, race, and Covid-19 via an interactive county-level map — and shows clearly that poverty has not been “tangential to the pandemic, but deeply embedded in its geography.”
A few blocks away, at the Patriotic Millionaires Oligarchs vs. All of Us conference, experts, movement leaders, and proud class traitors gathered to examine the unjust systems created by and for America’s richest. Extreme concentrations of wealth don’t just protect immoral systems and policies, argued keynoter Abigail Disney. These giant fortunes degrade wealthy people themselves, fostering greed, selfishness, and isolation.
All in all, a Monday for the books! Here at Inequality.org and the Institute for Policy Studies, we stand as proud partners of both organizations. Together, we’re fighting inequality and injustice from both extremes.
April 4, 2022
On Staten Island last week, workers at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse made history: By a solid 2,654-to-2,131 margin, these workers voted to form America’s first-ever labor union at an Amazon facility.
This victory represents no small feat. Amazon understands the threat of worker power to its high-speed, high-danger, high-turnover “business as usual.” The company fired on all cylinders to suppress the Staten Island union drive, spending millions at JFK8 proliferating anti-union propaganda and attempting to discredit union leader Chris Smalls, a former worker who the company fired after he walked out to protest unsafe working conditions at the warehouse early on in the pandemic.
But Amazon’s anti-union blitz proved no match for the rank-and-file union organizers’ considerate and thoughtful worker-to-worker approach.
“We’d like to thank Jeff Bezos for going to space,” Smalls quipped after the vote totals went public. “Because while he was up there, we were signing people up.”
Bezos and company vs. the fledgling new Amazon Labor Union offers up a classic example of the “oligarchy vs. all of us” clashes that Inequality.org has been covering for well over a decade. Two of our co-editors are talking today in greater depth on that oligarchy — and the ongoing struggle against it — at a major Patriotic Millionaires conference in Washington, D.C.
Catch the livestream of “Oligarchs vs. All of Us” here, from 2:30-5:30 Eastern, or watch it later at this link.
March 28, 2022
It’s Budget Day! The Biden administration has just released its annual plan for federal spending. That might not sound particularly exciting, but this year’s plan most definitely rates as a big deal. The new Biden budget includes historic proposals to tackle extreme economic inequality.
What exactly has us excited? We’ve been closely tracking the huge spike in billionaire wealth over the past two years. President Biden has noticed that spike too. We’re excited to see his new budget call for a minimum income tax on our richest 0.01 percent, a move that would squash the scandal of billionaires paying next to nothing in taxes for years on end.
We’re also excited to see Biden pushing back on stock buybacks. This legal form of stock manipulation artificially inflates the value of a company’s shares — and the value of corporate executive stock-based pay. Biden’s plan would prevent CEOs from engineering buybacks that pump up their personal fortunes. More detail to come in upcoming issues!
March 21, 2022
We’ve now gone months without any real movement on President Biden’s agenda for a more equal America. We have had, to be sure, some recent Capitol Hill successes, most notably on the Postal Service Reform Act we so avidly champion. But the overall absence of transformative change at the federal level, despite growing progressive power, can feel defeating.
So let today’s issue serve as a reminder, for all of us, that we do indeed have many avenues for effectuating egalitarian-minded policy change.
We can be challenging corporate influence on state-elected officials. Or bypassing a gridlocked Congress through executive orders. Or working on common-sense reforms to our nation’s philanthropic system. We have options aplenty. And now spring has finally sprung — made even brighter by permanent daylight savings thanks to much-needed Senate action. 🌼
March 14, 2022
“Can anyone explain,” mused the always engaging Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price earlier this month, “why a billionaire who takes advantage of the system to exploit other people is called an 'oligarch' in Russia and a 'job creator' in America?”
A valid question to pose, given how our own economic arrangements so often encourage the same oligarchic behaviors we regularly denounce!
This week Chuck is down at the huge SXSW gathering in Austin, Texas, sharing new analysis that explores our domestic oligarchic connections.
Working with the Anti-Corruption Data Collective, we’ve just published new research on how Russian oligarchs are funneling funds to U.S. charities. These oligarchs, including several kleptocrats suspected of interfering in the politics of other nations, have donated hundreds of millions. Some even serve on U.S. charity boards.
Investigations like this highlight the urgent need for changing how our charitable institutions oversee their donations — and how our government oversees our charitable institutions. For more info on how we could accomplish all this, check out our Charitable Giving Reform Initiative.
March 7, 2022
Increasing taxes on the wealthy — a policy dedicated readers know we stalwartly support — only benefits society when we have mechanisms in place to keep tax-dodgers in check. The IRS has historically been that mechanism. But years of Republican budget cuts have left the agency chronically underfunded. Now the Biden adminmistration is planning a massive hiring spree to increase the IRS workforce by 14 percent.
Will this increase be enough to offset what we like to call the “wealth-defense industry,” that swarm of financial advisors, law firms, and lobbyists dedicated to protecting grand private fortunes? Not likely. Because of the relatively modest pay for civil servants, as we told the Washington Post last week, the IRS will likely continue to be "completely outgunned” by our nation’s enormously well-compensated professional wealth-hiders.
These wealth-hiders have become particularly adept at manipulating philanthropy. In this week’s issue, we’re highlighting our new research on philanthropy and global oligarchic power. Check out our new charts — and help us end the philanthropic perversion the wealth-defense industry has inflicted upon us!
February 28, 2022
Tomorrow evening, President Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address. He faces a nation with a great deal on its mind, everything from the ongoing conflict in Ukraiane to the rising cost of consumer goods and an impending Supreme Court battle royale.
For our part, we’re hoping the president’s address will commit his administration to using every tool in its executive action toolbox to reduce inequality. The president could, for instance, cancel student debt. He could steer federal contracts to companies that share rewards with workers. He could employ the power of the public purse, as our co-editor Sarah Anderson explains, to reduce economic, gender, and racial inequality.
And just how unequal have we become as a nation? Take a look online at our comprehensive and regularly updated Inequality.org fact pages and draw your own conclusions!
February 21. 2022
With the inflation rate rising at levels unseen since 1982, corporate execs are saying out loud — to shareholders — something you’ll never hear them say in any widely viewed public forum.
“We want to make sure that we’re not leaving any pricing on the table,” Garth Hankinson, the chief financial officer at Constellation Brands, the company behind popular beers like Modelo and Corona, noted on a recent fourth-quarter earnings call. “We want to take as much as we can...we'll take as much pricing as we think the consumer can absorb.”
Constellation Brands hardly stands alone. Overall U.S. corporate profits are soaring as CEOs the nation over raise prices — far over their costs —to exploit the inflation “moment” that factors like supply-chain disruptions and pent-up consumer demand have created. We have much more than inflation here. We have soaring corporate greed.
The sooner our elected officials tune out the inflation-panic echo chamber — and start moving to rein in monopolies and their grasping corporate chiefs — the sooner we can start building an economy that works for everyone, not just the awesomely affluent at the top.
February 14, 2022
Watching last night’s Super Bowl, we couldn’t help be hit with an overwhelming sense of “haven’t I seen this before?”
Almost every ad break last night featured a commercial for some cryptocurrency venture. Companies like Coinbase, Crypto.com, and FTX Trading pumped tens of millions of dollars into coveted 30-second ad spots hoping to lure in more customers.
This crypto frenzy bears much more than a passing resemblance to the infamous “Dot-Com” SuperBowl of 2000. Back then, trendy and hot tech companies bought up 20 percent of the big game’s advertising real estate. In just a few years, many of those same companies had either gone belly-up or been swallowed up by other firms.
Here at Inequality.org, we’re still getting up to speed on all things crypto, but our own Sam Pizzigati has a great intro piece below on how crypto hardly rates as the savior for democracy some billionaires tout it to be. Also this week, Valentine’s Day the ultra-rich way and a great deal more!
February 7, 2022
With U.S. union density at an all-time low, any good news these days on the labor front will always be welcome. Luckily, we don’t have to look too far this week for inspiration.
In Mexico, over 6,000 workers at a massive General Motors plant have just voted overwhelmingly to form an independent union. This gives workers real collective power to advocate for higher wages and improved health and safety standards. This vote also sets us on a path for greater equality on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati, in a dispatch from Mexico, has more below.
Also in this issue: a new report from our partners at Americans for Tax Fairness on how the already ultra-rich utilize family trusts to avoid taxation and keep their wealth dynasties intact for generations to come.
January 31, 2022
One of the billionaires we’re highlighting this week, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, recently received a flashy write-up in the New York Times. In it, Benioff extolled the virtues of his fellow CEOs. During the pandemic, he proclaimed, chief execs proved “in many, many cases all over the world” to be the “heroes.”
“They’re the ones,” Benioff enthused, “who stepped forward with their financial resources, their corporate resources, their employees, their factories, and pivoted rapidly — not for profit, but to save the world.”
We, of course, know that claim to be patently untrue. We find nothing heroic about big-time CEOs and their fellow ultra-wealthy personally reaping over $2.1 trillion over the course of a global pandemic.
The real heroes throughout this pandemic? Those on the frontlines who lack the privilege to work from the safety of their homes. Each day they show up to work — at sites that range from hospitals and schools to warehouses and restaurants — to keep us afloat. We owe it to them to fight for a country that works for everyone. More on that fight in today’s issue.
January 24, 2022
We write a lot about billionaires and their wealth here at Inequality.org. But what about the rest of our global ultra-high net worth class? Over 183,000 people worldwide now hold fortunes worth over $50 million. Their combined wealth: $36.4 trillion.
Those trillions lie at the heart of our latest bombshell report, a study conducted with our partners at Oxfam, Patriotic Millionaires, and the Fight Inequality Alliance. Even a relatively modest tax on the world’s richest, our new research finds, would raise $2.52 trillion a year. That revenue would be enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the whole world, and deliver universal health care and social protection for all the citizens of low- and lower middle-income countries.
All this may seem like pure utopian thinking. We don’t, after all, currently have a central global tax authority that could enforce a worldwide tax on wealth. But nations have reached global tax accords before, and they have steps they can take to curb wealth hoarding and tax dodging. Our job? We need to beat the drum for those steps and start building a global economy that works for us all, not just the wealthiest among us.
January 17, 2022
“The past is strewn with the ruins of the empires of tyranny, and each is a monument not merely to our blunders but to our capacity to overcome them,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted in 1968, shortly before his death. “That’s why I remain an optimist, though I am also a realist, about the barriers before us.”
With global inequality reaching unimaginable heights, the barriers we face today can certainly seem immovable. But if Dr. King could remain hopeful, as Dedrick Asante-Muhammad reflects below, so can we.
In this special MLK Day edition of our Inequality.org newsletter, we have more on Dr. King’s legacy as well as some new charts showing how student debt forgiveness can help close the racial wealth gap.
Stay tuned to Inequality.org in the weeks to come. We have a compelling new report on our global wealth divide in the pipeline. In the meantime, if you liked this issue, please consider forwarding it to someone you know and encourage them to subscribe. We always welcome new readers!
January 10, 2022
“I’m shocked and horrified,” lamented Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire CEO of the Blackstone group, shortly after the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol one year ago last week.
Schwarzman and other CEOs proceeded to issue a rush of statements labeling the attack “a dark day for our democracy.” But those blasts have always rung chillingly hollow, given how many billionaires have funneled money to the insurrectionists’ most avid enablers. Here at Inequality.org, we called out these billionaires in one of the most read pieces we published in 2021: Expose the Insurrection Financiers.
In today’s issue, our first in 2022, we share insights from two watchdog groups on how we can start holding the insurrectionists and their billionaire enablers truly accountable, while also ensuring our democracy remains strong enough to prevent a second insurrection.