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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.
December 20, 2021
A lot has changed over the last few days. Yesterday Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) shocked the White House by revealing that he will not support President Biden’s Build Back Better Act. One of Manchin’s main sticking points? The enhanced Child Tax Credit, an effort that would benefit millions of working families in the state he was elected to represent.
The most fitting reaction to Manchin’s stance may have come from Kristen Olsen, a mother and West Virginia activist in the Poor People’s Campaign: “A multi-millionaire politician funded by corporate coal interests has the power to push my four-year-old boy and me off the economic cliff at the end of this month.”
But Manchin has sometimes reversed his positions in the past, and backers of Build Back Better will be redoubling their efforts in January.
On a more inspiring note, a lefitist millennial – Gabriel Boric – has just emerged victorious in the Chilean presidential election against his opponent, an admirer of the Pinochet dictatorship. Boric has vowed to work to end Chile’s neoliberal economic model and raise taxes on the wealthy to fight inequality, protect the environment, and uplift families.
We’ll be off the next two weeks, but hope you’ll end your year with us by reading and sharing our round-up of 2021 in ten inequality charts. Wishing a happy and healthy holiday to you and yours. See you in 2022!
December 13, 2021
What if I told you that levels of global inequality now rival the peak rates they hit during the Western colonial heyday in the early 20th century?
This happens to be our current sad reality, not some fictional Orwellian nightmare. Economist Thomas Piketty’s World Inequality Lab spells out the details in its just-released 2022 World Inequality Report. We have lots more on this blockbuster analysis in this week’s issue.
But we also spotlight this week some far less dour developments. We have for you the inspiring story of how farmers in India have stood up to corporate agribusiness — and an iron-fisted government — and won. This remarkable triumph will be a strong contender for our upcoming year-end list of the “Top 10 Inequality Victories of 2021.” Have a triumph to suggest? Please drop us an email. We could all use more inspiration!
December 6, 2021
You may notice a common theme in this week's issue: greed.
Greedy CEOs and corporations that take advantage of a global pandemic to hike up prices on everyday Americans. Greedy nations that hoard Covid-19 vaccine patents while poorer nations suffer. Greedy bosses who refuse to reward hard work with a living wage.
All these phenomena signal where we are as a society. And so do the basic stats, as we detail in this issue. Since 2019, the wealth of America's top 1 percent has jumped a stunning seven times faster than the net worth of our poorest 50 percent.
So how do we rein in the greed that's so deepening our inequality? We can't pull off that reining in overnight — or with any one piece of legislation. But the Build Back Better bill currently working its way through Congress does amount to a down payment on a bold, transformative economic justice agenda. Let's just not forget that the bill amounts to only that: a down payment. We have work ahead. Plenty of it.
November 29, 2021
Global stock markets tumbled over the holiday weekend as South Africa reported the emergence of a new “Omicron” Covid variant. South Africa had pleaded with Western governments earlier this year to waive vaccine patents. Instead, South Africa ended up having to pay over double the price for doses that European Union nations paid. One result of that price gouging: South Africa now has a vaccination rate less than 30 percent.
What we have here, pure and simple: corporate greed. We warned almost exactly a year ago that letting Big Pharma call the coronavirus shots was creating a scenario that would deny our world’s poorest countries access to a future free from Covid’s carnage. And now that prediction has come to pass, leaving the entire world less safe.
Things don’t have to turn out this way. Over a half-century ago, we pointed out last November, our country conquered polio, and no one became fabulously rich in the process. We could have done the same with Covid. But the contrast with the current crisis could hardly be more striking. Moderna has already minted five billionaires off its vaccine.
So Big Pharma greed hasn’t just left us less safe. Our United States has become more unequal, as the Axios-Morning Consult Inequality Index report has just detailed. Lots more in this week’s issue on our unequal world and the corporate greed behind it.
November 22, 2021
Turn on any cable news show and you’re likely to hear pundits and pols express concerns over the rising rate of inflation. One now-deleted viral tweet from MarketWatch even suggested that $5 gallons of gas, $90 bottles of wine, and $200 concert tickets are becoming the norm.
This sort of inflation hysteria is doing no one any good — except our corporate execs. Yes, some costs have indeed risen as the economy reopens and demand surges, creating all sorts of supply bottlenecks. Big corporations are now exploiting this moment. They’re squeezing consumers, raising prices to ensure fatter profit margins.
“A lot of large firms,” one analysis in the business press noted last week, ”have spent their recent quarterly calls bragging to investors about their ability to hike prices with relative impunity.”
This corporate greed is shrinking budgets for both American families and small businesses. But some serious relief from that greed may be coming soon from the Build Back Better Act, if the U.S. Senate follows the House lead and backs this legislation’s historic investments in American workers and progressive tax provisions. More on all of that in this week’s issue.
November 15, 2021
The United Nations Climate Change Conference — COP26 in the headlines — has come to an end. At the conference’s conclusion, leaders agreed to the first-ever climate deal to explicitly plan to reduce coal.
But reducing greenhouse gas emissions makes up just one part of the agenda for building a truly sustainable planet. We need to end fossil fuel greed as well. And that’s going to require, as we’ve noted before, directly challenging our global concentration of income and wealth, a core driver of climate change. The top 1 percent are now generating 15 percent of global emissions, nearly twice as much as the world’s poorest 50 percent.
In today’s issue, we have more on inequality and our environment, including a new report from the climate team here at the Institute for Policy Studies that lays out how one state, Nebraska, could transition away from the dirty fossil fuel industry and into the future of renewables.
Meanwhile, the fight continues over President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better, legislation that contains key provisions that will help reduce both inequality and environmental devastation. The battling over Build Back Better now appears likely to go on into December. As always, Inequality.org will be there to bring you analysis on all the latest twists.
November 8, 2021
We were hoping to report this afternoon that the House version of the Build Back Better Act had finally passed, that we stood a giant step closer to enacting one of the all-time largest public investments in working people and families. But that success will have to wait a bit longer.
In case you haven’t been able to keep up with the ever-changing political developments — and we don’t blame you — lawmakers have once again postponed a vote on the Build Back Better package. Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal says the vote will now happen next week. We hope so!
All the frustrating delays have had some strategic benefits. The extra time has helped secure the inclusion of several policies sure to help reduce inequality. In this week’s issue, we spotlight two of these late-breaking additions: a drug-pricing deal aimed at curbing Big Pharma’s price-gouging and a move to wedge a paid-leave plan back into the House bill. Our colleague Sarah Anderson has more below on that.
November 1, 2021
In a single day last week, we note below, the richest individual in the known universe — U.S. mega-billionaire Elon Musk — added to his enormous personal fortune a sum that the typical American worker would have to labor about 800,000 years to match.
The Build Back Better plan now taking final shape in Congress is unlikely to include a tax on the wealth of Elon Musk or any other billionaire. But the compromise budget plan that’s emerged, by our overall take, does represent an important first step towards building a fair tax system that could fund the transformative social programs the United States so desperately needs.
Rest assured, we’ll have another shot at a serious tax on billionaire wealth. Billionaires are as unpopular as ever and taxing billionaires has never been more popular, with research like our project tracking pandemic profiteers helping shift the narrative on “deservability” and built ever greater support for a tax system that prioritizes work over wealth.
In effect, the budget plan Congress figures to finalize in the week ahead amounts to a down payment on a bold, transformative agenda. We all have more work ahead. More of our analysis, meanwhile, in this week’s issue.
October 25, 2021
We’ve suddenly come to a historic — and potentially very brief! — political moment. Progressives now have a real shot at winning a path-breaking tax on the nation’s super-wealthy.
Just over the past week, a billionaire tax proposal has suddenly moved from the edge to the very center of the negotiating table for President Biden’s sweeping Build Back Better agenda.
How did we get here? To a certain extent, billionaires have brought this on themselves. As we’ve been tracking and exposing throughout the pandemic, America’s ultra-wealthy have seen massive growth in their fortunes. And instead of helping people in need, they’ve blown much of their vast riches on frivolities like space races.
But, as our just-published Inequality.org analysis explains, social movements also deserve a great deal of credit. They’ve been ratcheting up the pressure on lawmakers to tax the ultra-wealthy to pay for investments in a more equitable and sustainable economy.
The window for pushing a billionaire tax over the finish line couldn’t be more narrow, as Democrats seek to finalize a deal in the coming days (or even hours!). Please check out the site set up by our allies at Americans for Tax Fairness to learn what you can do to help. Thanks!
October 18, 2021
We have a new update on billionaire wealth, some shocking new numbers on billionaire pandemic-time fortunes. You may want to sit down for this.
The United States has reached a grim milestone: Our billionaires have now grown $2 trillion richer since the global Covid pandemic first hit. U.S. billionaires have watched their wealth soar over 70 percent, notes a just-released new analysis from our Inequality.org team and Americans for Tax Fairness, at the same time Covid was taking over 700,000 American lives and costing millions of other Americans their livelihoods.
This growth in billionaire wealth could, all by itself, pay for 60 percent of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. But most of these new billionaire trillions, under our existing tax system, will go totally untaxed and disappear entirely off the tax radar once our billionaires pass it on to their billionaire babies. But that could change.
What could make that change? We’re excited about a proposal gaining traction on Capitol Hill that would require billionaires to pay annual taxes on their increased wealth, just like workers pay taxes on their paycheck income each year. Our ultra-rich have run wild during the pandemic. It’s only right that they pay their fair share of the recovery.
October 11, 2021
A sense of bittersweet vindication washed over me as I read the disappointingly low September jobs report on Friday, just new 194,000 jobs created last month. Economists had expected nearly 500,000.
The federal government ended expanded unemployment insurance last month in the hope that move would nudge — force — more people back to work. But as I wrote in early September, unemployment insurance isn’t holding back the U.S. economy. Inequality is.
All of this should make the passage of President Joe Biden’s full Build Back Better agenda all the more urgent. Many of the policies that agenda outlines — an expanded Child Tax Credit, paid leave, universal pre-K, and well-funded care programs — would do so much to help build a just economy that advances equity in the pandemic recovery and beyond.
The revenue needed to fund these programs exists. Last week’s Pandora Papers leak makes that fact absolutely clear. Also absolutely clear: We need the political will to close tax loopholes, shut down tax havens, and increase taxes on the wealthy and the corporations they run.
October 4, 2021
Over the last two months, I’ve been keeping a secret.
A secret about the preparations for the just-released “Pandora Papers,” the blockbuster revelations on how billionaires the world over are aggressively avoiding taxes and hiding their wealth. I’ve been working closely with journalists from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Sweden, and the UK affiliated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, providing background on the U.S. hidden wealth system that draws from research for my recent book, The Wealth Hoarders.
In one particularly explosive revelation, the Pandora Papers show how states like South Dakota and Delaware have morphed their laws to attract billions, sometimes illicitly obtained, from around the world.
My take? All of us here in the United States should be absolutely embarrassed that we've become a magnet for kleptocratic fortunes. Our elected officials need to shut down the hidden wealth system. Now. Stay tuned with Inequality.org as more details emerge.
September 27, 2021
Will we — the world’s wealthiest nation — continue to allow millions of children to live in poverty while the ultra-rich few grow and protect their fortunes for generations to come? Or will we wield this country’s wealth for good and ensure everyone the tools to reach their full potential?
We’re seeing these key questions all at play right now as Congress hammers out a budget deal that could move us forward — on a more equitable track — by raising taxes on the wealthy and the corporations they run to pay for vital investments in human and environmental needs.
Need an example of what’s at stake? One tax reform on the table that we’re highlighting this week would close a loophole that lets private equity execs pay taxes at a lower overall tax rate than many teachers. Looking for more insights? The New York Times has just featured our research on how the “step-up” tax loophole protects wealth dynasties.
We know we may sound sometimes like a broken record when we talk about the importance of making all our voices heard. But right now we really are facing a transformative moment. Let your lawmakers know!
September 20, 2021
“Billionaires have seen their wealth go up by $1.8 trillion,” President Joe Biden remarked in a briefing last week, citing the latest data from our Inequality team. “Simply not fair.”
Now if only we could get all of Congress to read this newsletter as well!
Biden’s remarks tee up what figures to be a few hectic weeks ahead as Congress debates a historic $3.5 trillion package that would take us a long way down the road to greater equality. The Senate now has pending, as we noted last week, a number of tax proposals that tackle wealth inequality at the top end to help build a more equitable economy for us all. For our part, we’ll continue to document the extreme levels of wealth hoarding that necessitate big, bold adjustments to our tax code.
In more uplifting news, Nabisco workers have just voted to ratify a new contract and end their strike. You can now go back to eating your Oreos without fear of crossing the picket line.
September 13, 2021
For us and the other tax nerds on our team, it doesn’t get much more exciting than this. Yesterday we got our mitts on House Democrats’ proposals to pay for President Biden’s Build Back Better Plans. That leak came on top of last week’s leak of a Senate Finance Committee revenue options list.
So what do we think? As you know, we’re passionate about taxes for two reasons: the need to raise sufficient revenue to fight poverty and climate change and the need to break up the concentrated wealth that threatens our democracy. On both these counts, the House proposal moves the ball forward but doesn’t meet the scale of the moment. The House tax reforms would raise an estimated $2.2 trillion, just barely more than the revenue lost to the 2017 Republican tax cuts. Under this initial House plan, the rich would pay a higher rate on ordinary income, but billionaires like Jeff Bezos who make most of their money off investments wouldn’t owe the IRS much more.
The revenue options Senate Democrats are discussing would go further to close loopholes that benefit the ultra-rich. Senate Democrats are also considering four taxes to curb CEO pay, as Sarah Anderson details below.
In the coming weeks, let’s all keep pushing for the transformational budget deal the nation needs. And don’t forget to check Inequality.org and our social media feeds for regular updates on this rapidly evolving debate.
September 6, 2021
Can you believe today marks our second pandemic Labor Day? What a demoralizing milestone, particularly for the essential workers who continue to risk their lives for meager wages while corporate CEO paychecks grow ever fatter.
Want to know what’s lifted our spirits? The conversations we’ve had over the past few weeks with nine inspiring Black labor leaders. As detailed below, Black workers are facing particularly severe challenges under Covid, and yet these leaders are finding hope in the growing support for union rights and promising federal budget proposals that would make a real difference in the lives of workers of color.
Another spirit lift: Our co-editor Chuck Collins, in today’s edition of The Hill, has some insights well worth a read on pending “tax the rich” reforms that could pay for those budget proposals. And Sarah Anderson and Brian Wakamo have just published 10 charts that sum up the state of U.S. workers this Labor Day.
August 23, 2021
The unraveling of America’s longest-ever overseas war has, predictably enough, brought on a flurry of navel-gazing as well as some more thoughtful reflections about lessons learned.
Here at Inequality.org, we’ve been reflecting on the war profiteers who have been enriching themselves over the last 20 bloody years. We don’t know yet exactly how much corporate execs have pocketed off the death and destruction in Afghanistan, but a new Inequality.org analysis from our Sarah Anderson and Brian Wakamo finds the CEOs at just three major war contractors — Fluor, Raytheon, and Boeing — have collected $236 million the last four years alone.
Tragedies like the Afghan conflict, numbers like these suggest, will continue to be inevitable until we squeeze the personal profit out of war.
Enjoy your final days of summer. We’ll be taking a little break this week. Watch for us in your email inbox Monday after next.
August 16, 2021
Our common future, some 17 months into a global pandemic, remains deeply uncertain. But one certainty most definitely remains. Our billionaires are only getting wealthier while millions of the rest of us have either lost jobs or been putting our lives on the line performing essential work for non-essential wages.
We’ve just completed our latest pandemic-time wealth analysis with our friends at Oxfam, the Fight Inequality Alliance, and Patriotic Millionaires. Global billionaire wealth, our research shows, has now increased by 69 percent since the pandemic began. In fact, billionaire wealth has increased by more over the past 17 months than over the past 15 years.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has pushed over 200 million people globally into poverty, and 11 people are now dying from hunger and malnutrition every minute, a rate outpacing Covid-19 fatalities.
We clearly need, as Senator Bernie Sanders noted recently, to take our eyes off of “billionaires flying off into space” and begin to address the crises facing working families here on Earth. We can make a start in that direction by making sure that those who’ve benefited the most from the pandemic pay for the recovery from it. More on that in today’s issue.
August 9, 2021
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just released a report warning that the impacts of climate change have now become “widespread and pervasive.” Only immediate steps to transition to a net-zero economy, the panel stresses, can avoid irreversible damage to the planet.
A feeling of despair can come easy when we read news like this. But we need to resist that despair, and here at Inequality.org we’re going to continue to do our best to hold the rich and the corporations they run accountable for the environmental damage they’re visiting upon our Earth. We’re also going to continue uplifting those bold solutions to climate change that will create a more equitable, sustainable world for everyone.
“Addressing climate change effectively and justly,” as Inequality.org contributor Basav Sen, the Climate Policy Project director at the Institute for Policy Studies, puts it, “requires us to transform the unjust social and economic systems that gave us climate change in the first place.”
More on how we can transform these unjust systems in this week’s issue.
August 2, 2021
With most — not all — members of Congress sleeping soundly in the comfort of their own homes this weekend, the federal eviction moratorium expired Sunday night, putting millions of people at risk of becoming unhoused at the exact moment the country faces a surge in Covid cases.
Talk about inequality personified.
In a show of solidarity with those at risk of losing their homes, dozens of advocates — led by Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), who years ago lived unhoused herself — slept on the steps of the Capitol all weekend to urge Congress to reconvene and reinstate the moratorium. The protest made for a moving and powerful sight.
This brave act of political courage, bolstered by the power of ordinary Americans, reminds us once again what we need to be doing, all across the United States, to tackle inequality head-on.
July 26, 2021
If you read the Miami Herald, Seattle Times, or any number of local newspapers, you may have come across an op-ed I wrote about the need for a strong investment in our nation’s care economy. The piece draws heavily from my personal experience of watching my single mom struggle to make ends meet while working as a home health aide.
The care economy will add an expected 1.6 million jobs related to adult care by 2024. Workers in these jobs do vital work but make only about $16,200 a year. The investments in the care economy President Biden is proposing would raise wages for millions of these workers and ensurse that all our loved ones can receive care at home — and avoid dangerous private nursing homes owned by private equity profiteers.
According to our Institute for Policy Studies research, raising the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent would fund President Biden’s proposed investments for the care economy, free community college, and universal pre-K. Now it’s on us to pressure those in power to act bigger and bolder so we can all live in a more equitable world.
July 19, 2021
What would you do if your total wealth increased by $138 billion during a global pandemic? If you’re Tesla founder Elon Musk, you buy a ticket to space on fellow billionaire Richard Branson’s spaceship!
According to new research from our Inequality team and the Americans for Tax Fairness team, the $138 billion windfall Musk has reaped during the global pandemic could cover the ten-year costs of tuition for 5.5 million community college students and feed 29 million low-income public school kids over summer breaks — and still leave Musk $4 billion richer than before Covid struck.
In fact, the total wealth of U.S. billionaires during the pandemic has soared by $1.8 trillion, an increase of over 60 percent. Those gains could almost entirely pay for President Biden’s American Families Plan, a gameplan for providing vital investments in education, health care, and much much more for tens of millions of Americans.
We need an agenda that taxes the wealthy to fund vital public investments and reverse extreme economic inequality. That sort of agenda worked to end the original Gilded Age. We can repeat that success.
July 5, 2021
If we had seen this report on billionaires behaving badly in some source other than the Washington Post, we would have likely found it difficult to swallow: A Tennessee billionaire businessman, Willis Johnson, is paying to station South Dakota National Guard troops at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Can we now expect a future full of billionaire mercenaries? Potentially. We are, after all, living in a political system where the ultra-rich need not content themselves with democratic processes like voting. Our system lets the rich deploy their enormous wealth to influence and even make policy. Our system encourages and rewards reckless behavior.
How much money will Willis Johnson be donating from his personal foundation to make policy at the border? Johnson — a prominent National Rifle Association backer who pumped $550,000 into the Trump campaign — has told reporters simply: “I want to protect America and that’s it.”
We want to protect America, too, and we think we have a much better approach than Johnson. Let’s require the ultra-rich to pay up, at tax time, so we can create a more equitable society that works for all of us!
Enjoy your Fourth of July holiday! We’ll be taking a little holiday break this week. Watch for us in your email inbox Monday after next.
June 28, 2021
Do you follow Senator Bernie Sanders on social media? If so, you may have just seen our colleague Sarah Anderson featured in one of his latest videos on taxing the rich.
Sarah explores in this video the controversy around tax data recently leaked to ProPublica. A number of U.S. billionaires, the data show, have paid zero federal income taxes over recent years, a revelation that has the nation’s elite in a tizzy — but not because of what the data reveal about our rigged tax system.
Instead, as Sarah reminds us, pols like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are fulminating against those who leaked the data because they fear that this new evidence about our tax code’s core unfairness is only going to increase pressure on them to raise taxes on the wealthy. And Mitch has reason to worry: Taxing the rich remains supremely popular.
Congress, meanwhile, is continuing to debate how best to fund the nation’s pandemic recovery. The answer is staring us all in the face: Tax the ultra-rich. They’ve benefited the most during this crisis. They can fund the recovery we need to be strong enough to confront the crises ahead.
June 21, 2021
You don’t have to be an economist to understand that wealth hoarding has become one of the biggest factors contributing to inequality.
In a healthy, democratic society, wealth disperses over decades as people have children, pay their taxes, and give to charity. But in a society with a weak tax bite on the richest among us, wealth accelerates over generations, leaving wealth and power ever more consolidated.
A new report from our Inequality team confirms this reality. Fifty dynastic U.S. billionaire families today hold as much wealth as the entire bottom half of our nation’s families. These silver spoon oligarchs, over the last 40 years, have seen their wealth grow at ten times the ordinary family rate.
We clearly need to get these wealth dynasties in check and build a more equitable society for us all. In this week’s issue, more on how we can start to even out the imbalance that so envelops us.
June 14, 2021
Blink and you may have missed it, but ProPublica has published a trove of billionaire tax returns confirming what we’ve all expected to be true for decades: The nation’s ultra-rich are not paying anything remotely near their fair tax share.
Many of the names in ProPublica’s new bombshell report may be familiar to Inequality.org readers. We’ve exposed a good number of them as pandemic profiteers. Elon Musk, for example, paid no federal income tax in 2018. His wealth has increased 559 percent during the pandemic. Another: Jeff Bezos — a "double-centi-billionaire” with a net worth of nearly $197 billion — legally paid $0 in taxes for two years.
So what can we do? Plenty. We have on the table popular, equitable solutions to this crisis of inequality and wealth hoarding. It’s on all of us to pressure our lawmakers to keep members of the billionaire class from using their clout to rig the economy in their favor.
June 7, 2021
Congress and the White House are now nearing the end of negotiations over the Biden administration’s proposal to invest trillions in vital infrastructure goods that range from clean energy and elder care to broadband and public transit. The White House wants to pay for this landmark investment through relatively modest tax increases on corporations and wealthy individuals making over $400,000.
Naturally, the nation’s ultra-rich — and those who work to keep their wealth hidden — are panicking. One wealth manager in Silicon Valley has described “mini freakouts in every client meeting we have.”
Our affluents have reason to panic. Their pandemic gravy train now stands endangered. Billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by 55 percent since the pandemic hit, all at the same time that working Americans have struggled mightily to make ends meet. The decision on Capitol Hill ought to be an easy one: Those who have profited the most from the pandemic should foot the bill for a recovery that will benefit everyone.
May 31, 2021
This Memorial Day weekend has offered up some dramatic contrasts to Memorial Day 2020. Normalcy is nearing. Over half the American people have now received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine
But so many of the same issues we faced last May 2020 still remain with us today: low wages, massive concentrations of wealth, a shocking lack of access to childcare and other vital basic social programs. The pandemic aggravates all these problems as the Covid virus marches across the globe.
The Biden administration — with its first federal budget proposal — has an opportunity to put its money where its mouth is and begin to not just address, but remedy, these problems. And we, as people dedicated to building a more equitable world for all, have an opportunity to hold those in power to account.
May 24, 2021
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “family office”? Do you envision a spare bedroom turned into a pandemic-time workspace? Our really rich certainly don’t. They have something entirely different in mind when they talk family offices. Have no clue to what that something different may be? That’s exactly how the ultra-rich like it.
“Ultra-high-net-worth” families — those worth at least $250 million — set up family offices to bring wealth management services “in house.” These offices function primarily to accumulate wealth and preserve the inherited wealth dynasties that do so much to drive our inequality.
Our Inequality team has a new briefing paper out on these enormous pools of unregulated capital. Our paper makes the case for increased scrutiny and oversight of family offices. Demystifying the wealthy and their schemes: just one way we’re helping build a more equitable society that works for everyone. Lots more below on related building efforts!
May 17, 2021
Local media has been overflowing with anecdotes about business execs lamenting that they can’t find workers for the job slots reopening as the economy rebounds. The business claim: “No one wants to work anymore.”
The actual situation: Few folks can afford to work for peanuts, particularly after a pandemic that’s crushed low-wage workers while CEOs have been shamelessly cashing in. Our Inequality.org researchers revealed last week that over half our nation’s 100 largest low-wage employers rigged their own pay rules in 2020 to guarantee windfalls to their CEOs. These execs averaged $15.3 million. Their frontline workers averaged $28,187.
The CEO-worker pay gap remains a prime driver behind our widening inequality. Wealth hoarding remains another, as our concise, handy new video explainer makes outrageously clear. Please take a look and share if you find the info useful. Thanks!
May 10, 2021
Millions of frontline workers in the United States, for over a year now, have been putting their lives at risk. Major U.S. corporations, meanwhile, have ignored that sacrifice and actually inflated the already staggering gap between CEO and worker pay.
This disgraceful corporate conduct will get the national spotlight this week as our Institute for Policy Studies inequality team releases its 27th annual Executive Excess report. The focus: the low-wage employers that rigged pay rules to hand windfalls to CEOs while their workers lost jobs and income.
The report’s lead author, Sarah Anderson, will join a webinar tomorrow, hosted by our partners at Patriotic Millionaires. Abigail Disney, the heiress who's become a sharp critic of CEO pay, and Dan Price, the CEO known for slashing his own compensation, will also participate. To join the conversation, please register online. Thanks!
May 3, 2021
“My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked. It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle-out.”
Who would have thought — at any time over recent decades — that we would ever get to hear a president of the United States utter words like these in a joint address to the U.S. Congress? But we did last week.
President Biden’s speech represented a clear triumph for those of us who want to build a more equitable society — and have the nation’s richest foot the bill! And the first 100 days of the Biden administration, overall, have certainly proven to be promising on the inequality front.
So how should we react to all this unexpected good fortune? By thinking bigger and bolder. Mass pressure from grassroots movements, not any single person in the White House, will bring about the transformative change we so enormously need.
April 26, 2021
We’ve just gone through a year of tremendous loss for working-class Americans — and tremendous gain for ultra-rich ones. So the Academy Award for best motion picture that went last night to Nomadland should come as no surprise. At its core, after all, Nomadland tells the story of inequality in our time.
As the film’s main character, Fern, points out to a property agent in one key scene: “It’s strange that you encourage people to invest their whole life savings, go into debt, just to buy a house they can’t afford.”
We published an Inequality.org piece earlier this year about Nomadland and the human impact of economic upheaval and the gender pay gap. If you grew up agitated that women earn 59 cents on the dollar for the same work as men, you might want to give the piece a look, watch the film, then read the book the film riffs off.
Changing our current economic order will take all of us opening our hearts and minds to the invisible stories of people struggling amid that economic order’s injustices. Nomadland helps that opening along.
April 19, 2021
Since the onset of Covid-19, our Inequality.org team has been diligently documenting just how much our billionaire class has added to its collective fortune. But this enormous billionaire greed grab — $1.6 trillion over the last 13 months — reflects just one product of an economic system that enables inequality to not only exist, but to thrive.
Another equally abominable product: our growing CEO-worker pay gap.
Earlier this month, our Inequality.org co-editor and fair pay expert Sarah Anderson joined veteran egalitarian analyst Jim Lardner on his Feet to the Fire podcast to discuss how this gap deepens income and racial inequality and what we can do to address it. Give a listen and stay tuned for Sarah’s upcoming annual report on executive excess later this spring.
Now more than ever, we need to shine a bright spotlight on how the pandemic is crushing working families while corporate boards continue to so zealously pump up CEO pay.
April 12, 2021
Want to hear something outlandish? The overall wealth of global billionaires has increased by an unimaginable $4 trillion over the last year of the Covid-19 pandemic. So finds our just-completed latest analysis of billionaire fortunes, conducted with our partners at Patriotic Millionaires.
Grand stashes of private wealth will always be problematic. At a time of pandemic, these stashes become unconscionable, as the “ultra-millionaire tax” Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed for the United States makes crystal clear. This levy, had it been in effect globally last year, would have raised $345 billion in wealth taxes, more than twice the estimated cost of delivering Covid-19 vaccines to every person on the planet.
We don’t, of course, have an institutional body that could now levy such a global wealth tax, but we can dream, can’t we?
A good bit of the blame for our current billionaire nightmare rests on the worldwide wealth defense industry, and one of us has just published a book about these sordid wealth defenders. Interested in learning more? Join Chuck tonight, April 12, for a virtual discussion on The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions.
April 5, 2021
For decades now, a secret army of tax attorneys, accountants, and wealth managers has been developing into a shadowy “Wealth Defense Industry.” These agents of inequality are making millions hiding trillions for our richest 0.01 percent.
Here at Inequality.org, we’ve recently spotlighted legislative antidotes to all this tax avoidance and evasion, solutions like a wealth tax on the ultra-rich and the recently unveiled STEP Act that would deal a blow to billionaire greed grabs while also slowing democracy-disrupting concentrations of political power.
Now we have a new resource to offer for battling back against concentrated wealth, a just-published book by one of our Inequality.org co-editors, The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions. Interested in learning more? Author Chuck Collins has a clever little video intro to the book online we think you’ll enjoy. Please also consider joining Chuck for an April 12 virtual discussion on the book.
And if you haven’t already, please take a moment to participate in our brief subscriber survey. Let us know what we can do to deliver you a weekly resource that helps us all build a more equal world. Thanks!
March 29, 2021
Today’s the day. Six thousand mostly Black warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama are now ending the mail vote balloting on whether to form a union. We won’t know the results for at least a few days, but we can’t overstate the importance of just the existence of this moment.
"This is the ultimate David and Goliath story,” noted Institute for Policy Studies Black Worker Initiative Director Marc Bayard in the Financial Times. "It’s one of the largest companies in the world, and those workers are located in one of the historically most conservative and historically racist states in the US. That’s the spark that Amazon is most worried about.”
So keep your fingers crossed for the Amazon workers.
Our entire team here at Inequality.org also has a request this week. We’ve created a subscriber survey to learn more about what you like about this weekly newsletter and how we can improve it. Please take a few minutes to fill it out so we can deliver a resource that helps us all build a more equal world. We'd really appreciate it!
March 22, 2021
We vividly remember — as many of you might as well — the horrifying headlines from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The massive outbreaks at Tyson Foods poultry plants. The Carnival cruise line employees abandoned offshore without pay and basic necessities.
That sort of corporate villainy continues to enable one of our society’s deepest divides: the vast chasm between the rewards that go to corporate execs and the paychecks of average American workers. Last week, Inequality.org co-editor Sarah Anderson vividly described that chasm’s horror in testimony before the U.S. Senate Budget Committee.
Many of America’s top corporate execs, Sarah detailed, have bent the rules to protect their own massive paychecks. They have created what may be the single most dramatic driver of our country’s economic divide. But we can rewrite those rules. Sarah explained just how.
You’ll find more about antidotes to inequality this week at a virtual conference on power and money our friends at Patriotic Millionaires will be hosting Wednesday, March 24. Our Inequality.org colleagues will be there and hope you will too!
March 15, 2021
One full year after the first U.S. official Covid-19 lockdowns, millions of people are finally and slowly recovering from the pandemic economy. But the nation’s ultra-rich have no need for a recovery. They’ve been doing quite fine all along — at average Americans’ expense.
A new analysis from our Inequality.org team and Americans for Tax Fairness has found that America’s wealthiest 657 billionaires now stand $1.3 trillion richer than they did last March.
The personal fortunes of three men alone — Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg — could foot the entire quarter-trillion-dollar cost of supplemental unemployment benefits in the latest Covid relief package and provide jobless Americans $300 a week for the next six months.
Speaking of Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO has been called to testify before the Senate Budget Committee Wednesday. Whether or not he shows up, our very own Sarah Anderson will be there, testifying on behalf of Inequality.org and exposing how staggering inequalities within Amazon are creating systemic problems that should deeply concern us all.
March 8, 2021
Millions of people will soon be reaching their painful first anniversary of the pandemic shutdown. But relief may now be on the way before this week ends, in the form of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Once signed into law, this relief package will provide $1,400 checks to approximately 160 million households and cut child poverty by four million through policies like an expanded child tax credit.
Rebuilding the country after a global pandemic, of couse, is going to take much more than a single rescue plan. The pandemic has merely exacerbated the deep inequities that have plagued us for decades.
The private healthcare sector, for example, has been serving as a cash cow for millionaires and billionaires looking to get rich off the suffering of others. A new analysis from our Inequality.org team finds that since March 2020 alone the wealth of just one for-profit healthcare family — the Frists, the founding family of the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) — has doubled to $15.6 billion, an increase of 108 percent!
Now may be the perfect moment to un-rig the system that’s allowed pandemic profiteers like the Frists to not only exist, but thrive.
March 1, 2021
The United States has recently reached the grimmest of milestones: over 500,000 dead since Covid-19 hit big-time last winter. That total amounts to about one death per every 670 living Americans. And that 670 eerily approximates the exact number of U.S. billionaires: 664.
These 664 billionaires have reaped a tremendous windfall during this global pandemic. The combined fortunes of these incredibly privileged few have increased, our latest Inequality.org billionaire wealth update details, by an astounding 44 percent since last March. Meanwhile, millions of the frontline workers risking their lives to provide essential services during this time of national crisis are earning less than a living wage.
How can this be? Are billionaires taking greater risks or sacrificing more than our essential workers? Do our already fantastically wealthy billionaires somehow deserve many billions more at a time when frontline employees are struggling through a pandemic to provide for themselves and their families? Of course not.
As we publish this week, Senator Elizabeth Warren is releasing her new wealth tax legislation, the Ultra-Millionaire Tax. We’ve done an analysis of this proposal with our Americans for Tax Fairness colleagues. If this levy had been in place in 2020, our analysis shows, America’s billionaires would have last year faced an additional $114 billion in tax!
We need bold action like this new initiative to flip the switch on the system that’s allowed pervasive, destructive inequality to run unchecked for decades. More below this week on what other steps could be.
February 22, 2021
Maybe the ultimate sign of our unequal times: A desperate new mom recently found herself in need of baby supplies. She ended up shoplifting from her local Publix supermarket. Publix insisted on pressing charges against her.
Meanwhile, the heiress to the Publix $9-billion founding family fortune turns out to have been the largest contributor to the January 6 “Save America Rally.” That effort set her back $300,000. For the heiress, chump change.
Decent societies don’t function like this. Decent societies don’t allow moms to go without necessary supplies. Decent societies don’t allow wealth to concentrate at unconscionable levels. More in this issue on struggles to create the decency we all so need.
And online at Inequality.org this week for Black History Month, a set of new charts that show just how much the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated longstanding racial inequalities as the rich continue to profit off the ongoing pain.
February 15, 2021
These are tense times for our divided country.
Americans are watching the Covid relief negotiations in anguish. Will Congress come through with a deal that will prevent millions from falling deeper into poverty and financial distress? Or will lawmakers give in to those who seem to care more about “fiscal restraint” than saving lives?
Meanwhile, the impeachment trial has laid bare the depth of the threat to our democracy that January 6 represented. Our former president may now never face charges for what happened that day, but we can still hold accountable those who bankrolled the riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Here at Inequality.org we’ve worked to expose the billionaires who enabled the Trump presidency through campaign donations. The financiers of the insurrection, unfortunately, still remain largely anonymous. More on the reforms needed to end their anonymity in this week's issue.
February 8, 2021
Did you watch last night’s Super Bowl? Did you thrill to the on-the-field heroics? Did you wonder how much the winning Tampa Bay players took home? Their victory bonus: checks for $150,000. But none of the biggest winners from Super Bowl LV actually wear shoulder pads. The biggest winners own the teams, as we detailed last week in our latest report, Pandemic Super Bowl 2021: Billionaires Win, We Lose.
Just one example: The Hunt family that owns the Kansas City Chiefs has seen its fortune jump $482 million since the pandemic shut down normal life. The Hunts, let’s not forget, don’t just owe a chunk of their fortune to their players. They owe their fans, too. Their franchise has pocketed $250 million in taxpayer subsidies for stadium renovations alone.
What can we do to create a nation where billionaires don’t do all the big winning? We can, for starters, tax grand private fortunes. Last week we testified in support of legislation now before lawmakers in Washington State that would do just that. More in this week’s issue on that legislation and the real source of Washington State’s biggest billionaire fortune.
February 1, 2021
Gabe Plotkin started last week as one of one of the world’s top hedge fund kings. His hedging had been returning 30 percent annual returns ever since 2014, as journalist Judd Legum notes, enough to corral a $32-million mansion in Miami and a major chunk of a pro hoops franchise. By week’s end, this same master-of-the-universe Plotkin stood vanquished — by an online army of suburban-basement day-traders. Only a $2.75-billion bailout from two of his fellow hedge fund billionaires kept him standing.
Plotkin’s comeuppance in the still-unfolding GameStop saga certainly brings, on one level, some satisfaction to many of us who worry about the wealth of our wealthiest. But that satisfaction fades quick. America’s ultra rich, as we show in our latest billionaire update, are continuing to concentrate wealth at a record pace. The GameStop insurrection barely dents that concentration. More on that core reality in this week’s issue.
Also in this week’s issue (just keep scrolling all the way down): our first monthly sustainer tracker. We’re asking those of you with some spare cash to join a very special 1 percent — the 1 percent of Inequality.org’s near-35,000 weekly readers willing and able to help grow our newsletter and research efforts. Thanks so much for your consideration!
January 25, 2020
President Joe Biden, the conventional wisdom goes, is entering office facing more challenges than any president since Franklin Roosevelt. FDR, of course, went on to meet those challenges — and then some. His years in office set the foundation for a fundamentally more equal America.
Could the Biden years do the same? That depends on us.
FDR didn’t remake the world over the course of his first 100 days in 1933. The triumphs we now remember as the legacy of the New Deal — everything from Social Security and labor rights to higher taxes on the rich — didn’t come until the “second 100 days” in 1935, until after mass movements had grabbed headlines with actions as bold as general strikes and demanded a nation that shared the wealth.
That mass pressure, not one person in the White House, created the New Deal. With a new era of grassroots mobilizing, the Biden years could leave us with an even better deal. We’ll do our best to track — and advance — that story here at Inequality.org.
January 18, 2021
The poverty all around us, Martin Luther King noted back in 1964, may not be anything new. But something fundamental, he told the nation, had changed about poverty. We now “have the resources to get rid of it." Continued King: “Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustice, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed.”
With the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden on the near horizon, an eager nation awaits another change, one we hope will usher in the equitable society Dr. King so boldly envisioned.
Here at Inequality.org, meanwhile, we’re now ushering in our own era of change and growth. We’ve just welcomed Rebekah Entralgo as our new managing editor. Before joining us, Rebekah led communications strategy at a national immigrant rights organization. She’s also covered labor and tax policy as a reporter for ThinkProgress and researched presidential conflicts of interest for the NPR Business Desk.
We look forward to working with Rebekah to expand Inequality.org’s reach and continue to provide the latest and sharpest analyses of our great divides — and what we can do to overcome them.
January 11, 2021
What just happened? Corporate America has an answer: We have just witnessed, corporate leaders intoned after last week’s assault on the Capitol, “a dark day for our democracy” we could not have possibly imagined. Exclaimed Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire CEO of the Blackstone group, in one typical comment: “I’m shocked and horrified.”
The titans of our economy have no right to feel shocked. They enabled Donald Trump, as we detail in a new Inequality.org analysis. They bankrolled his campaigns, with Schwarzman alone kicking in over $40 million overall in the 2020 cycle. They cheered as Trump cut their taxes, swept away regs that pinched their profits, and packed the courts with judges eager to wink at their transgressions.
Trump rained record riches on the already rich and blamed the pain from the resulting inequity on the nation’s “others,” tapping into generations of racism, red scares, and nativist hate. That toxic mix wrought last week’s shame. And that shame has left all of us here at Inequality.org even more committed to working for a more equal America. Our democracy will never be secure until we have it.
January 4, 2021
Most all of us, I suspect, couldn’t wait for 2020 to end. But celebrating this particular new year now upon us hasn’t been easy. Covid-19 deaths are still setting daily records. Billionaire wealth, as I related to the Financial Times a few days ago, is still surging. And as I stated in my interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air, our richest are continuing to profit exorbitantly off the services the pandemic has made essential, everything from drug research to videoconferencing.
But we do certainly have some cause for cheer. The White House’s first billionaire president is finally exiting, and the top lawmaker in Congress is channeling Franklin Roosevelt. House speaker Nancy Pelosi has just announced a new Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth. She’s modeling this new panel, Pelosi told reporters last week, on the Temporary National Economic Committee FDR created in 1938 “to study and combat the concentration of wealth in America.”
In the quarter-century after 1938, we did combat wealth inequality. We created a substantially more equal America. We can do that again — and maybe this time around learn enough from our past to keep wealth equality growing for more than a single generation.
December 14, 2020
Back in 2004, the Brazilian photographer Tuca Vieira shot what may well be the world’s most famous photo of inequality, a now iconic aerial image of a São Paulo shantytown butted right next to one of the city’s poshest neighborhoods. Late last month, Vieira and the noted South African-based photographer Johnny Miller went back aloft to reshoot the same shot.
We’ve just published Miller’s reflections on that experience online. We think his observations will hit home with all our readers — because stark inequality has gone worldwide, with the latest evidence coming from our Inequality.org update on U.S. billionaire earnings. Our richest have now gained over $1 trillion since the pandemic first hit hard, enough to send a $3,000 stimulus check to every one of America’s 330 million people.
Our U.S. Senate majority leader, meanwhile, remains dead-set against sending out the emergency relief Americans need. Whatever happened to holiday spirit? And speaking of holidays, we’ll be taking our annual year-end break the next two weeks. Please stay safe and join us in January for what we hope will be the year of egalitarian renewal we all so long for!
December 7, 2020
We’re sitting in a “1 percent bubble,” the manager of a luxury retailer in Florida’s awesomely affluent Palm Beach observed last week, “and the bubble is getting bigger.”
How far can our bubble of grand private fortune inflate without bursting? Quite far, apparently. Last week, the combined wealth of America’s ten richest billionaires topped — for the first time ever — $1 trillion. The value of homes in America’s 100 richest zip codes is now increasing at quadruple last year’s rates.
Numbers like these, the latest polls show, have super majorities of Americans supporting higher taxes on our highest incomes. Over two-thirds of Americans overall — and nearly half of all Republicans — currently back raising tax rates on income over $400,000.
The economic policy advisers president-elect Biden announced last week all support these higher rates. But policy advisers, we show in this week’s issue, can’t cut grand fortunes down to democratic size. Only mass movements can.
November 30, 2020
We’ve seldom seen, in the United States, a range of emotions as stark and raw as we’ve seen this past holiday week. Euphoria on Wall Street, anguish in overwhelmed and hurting hospitals the nation over.
Only a small sliver of U.S. households, we point out below in this week’s issue, shared in that euphoria. But many millions of families and health care workers shared in that anguish. Our deeply unequal nation has become deeply dysfunctional.
So what do we do about all this? We work, for starters, to help everyone understand just how ferociously unequal we have become, and we’re making progress on that score. This past week, for instance, the New York Times highlighted our work tracking the enormous gains our billionaires have registered since the pandemic first hit.
We need to remember, above all, that democracies can die in oligarchic death spirals. We still have time to keep ours alive.
November 23, 2020
I vividly remember — and I suspect you might do as well — the reporting last spring on the horrific spread of Covid-19 through the nation’s meatpacking plants. Workers were dying while the White House, instead of ordering corporate giants to keep their workers safe, cut a deal with those same giants that “ordered” them to keep their plants open.
The predictable result: a bonanza for top execs like billionaire John Tyson at Tyson Foods. Tyson’s personal net worth has so far jumped over $600,000 since the pandemic first hit, dollars that could have gone to giving Tyson workers sick time pay to help them isolate and quarantine.
The worst part of all this? The deadly greed we’ve seen in meatpacking has in no way been unique. Our Institute for Policy Studies inequality team documents that reality in a new report we’ve prepared with the advocacy groups Bargaining for the Common Good and United for Respect. We have more on our new research in this week’s issue. Please take a look — at what has gone so lethally wrong and how we can fix it.
November 16, 2020
The near-final stats on 2020 campaign spending are starting to appear, and they make for encouraging — at times — reading. On the encouraging side: Small donations to federal level campaigns made up a greater share of overall contributions in 2020 than in 2016. Just over 20 percent of 2020 campaign cash came via donations less than $200.
But that means that large donations still make up the overwhelming bulk of campaign cash, and now we have to live with the consequences. The deep pockets who made those large donations are already expecting a healthy return on their political investments. They’re pushing the new Biden administration to go slow. Our role? We have to juice the engine.
“Acquiescing to an unpopular and timid agenda that further entrenches the wealthy and the well-connected,” as Senator Elizabeth Warren puts the matter, “will lead us to more division, more anger, more inequality.”
In this week’s issue, more on the games our rich are playing and how we can, to borrow a phrase, push back better.
November 9, 2020
“Investors” — that sober-sounding euphemism for Wall Street speculators — seem quite pleased over the results of last Tuesday’s Election Day. They see a weak, “divided” government ahead, and that prospect sent private equity kingpin fortunes soaring last week.
So how should the rest of us move forward from last week’s roller-coaster of emotions? We might begin by recognizing the encouraging victories last week that point us toward a more equal future. We have details on those bold victories below. We need more of them.
Says who? Says Senator Chuck Schumer, who still might end up the Senate majority leader. Noted Schumer last week: “If we don’t do bold change, we could end up with someone worse than Donald Trump in four years.”
Now that rates as a truly sobering thought. Let’s avoid that future. Let’s get to work organizing. And how bold dare we think? This brief new video from the BBC draws from an interview on billionaires I just did. May these thoughts help spark your best thinking!
November 2, 2020
I’ve spent a good chunk of this fall working on reports that have been tracking the enormous windfalls that our billionaires have been scoring. The numbers have been dramatic: Our billionaire fortunes have soared by nearly $1 trillion since this past March.
But sometimes mere numbers can’t do a story justice. We’ve just learned, for instance, that South Florida is now experiencing a boat- slip shortage because our awesomely affluent are buying so many new boats. The solution our deep pockets have fixed upon? They’ve buying up waterfront homes they don’t particularly need or want so they can have a place to park their flashy new vessels.
Florida, let’s remember, has become Donald Trump’s new home state. Come January 20, maybe he’ll have some time to work on a more elegant boat-slip solution for his fellow wealthy. And maybe we’ll have a new government in Washington much more interested in finding homes for people than slips for yachts.
October 26, 2020
Elections, the modern proverb goes, have consequences. And America’s wealthiest have certainly enjoyed those consequences over the past three years, ever since the late 2017 passage of the Trump administration’s enormous tax cut — for the rich and the corporations they run.
Our Inequality.org team has just published an analysis that traces that tax cut’s impact on the economy as a whole. Billionaires have made out like boisterous bandits. Their net worth has shot up to nearly $4 trillion. America’s workers? Since the Trump tax act, they’ve seen manufacturing jobs in the United States decrease, in no small part because that act, as my colleague Sarah Anderson writes, “gave big companies an even bigger incentive to offshore U.S. jobs to lower-wage countries.”
We’ve also just published, working jointly with Americans for Tax Fairness, our latest update on how billionaires have fared since the pandemic shutdowns kicked in last March. More on that update below and still more coming this week via Zoom as the good folks at Patriotic Millionaires continue their Tax the Rich, Save America virtual roadshow. Click on! You’ll learn and maybe even laugh a little, too.
October 19, 2020
Our Inequality.org reporting on the soaring wealth of America’s billionaires — during our pandemic — is starting to make a real impact on the 2020 election campaign discourse. Just yesterday the New York Daily News gave front-page coverage to our work showing that U.S. billionaires have seen their wealth jump over $930 billion since mid-March alone.
And our reporting also seems to be inspiring journalists to dig into just how billionaires have been collecting all those billions. This past week, for instance, we learned that White House officialdom last February shared with Wall Streeters insider info about the actual severity of the pandemic, info that enabled hedge funds to “short everything” and make some spectacular speculative killings.
Also this past week, I had the honor of helping to launch the Patriotic Millionaires Tax the Rich, Save America Roadshow, a series of zoom calls that features some of our top congressional advocates for a much more equal America. You can see one of the first roadshow stops wirh Rep. Pramila Jayapal on C-Span and register for any of the upcoming calls online. Take a look and let’s all get ready for the struggles to create a strikingly egalitarian 2021!
October 12. 2020
We’ve just published online our latest billionaire update. The figures remain stunning. The sum total of U.S. billionaire private fortune has just hit $3.8 trillion, up over $850 billion since mid-March. Check out my chat with Audie Cornish on NPR's “All Things Considered” discussing billionaire wealth during the pandemic.
The most outsized billionaire fortune of all, most Americans know by now, belongs to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. More and more Americans, fortunately, are also coming to understand that the Bezos billions rest on the exploited and endangered labor of workers like the East African immigrants who make up nearly a third of the workforce at Amazon’s Shakopee warehouse in Minnesota.
Two years ago, protests by these Shakopee employees gained the first concessions to U.S. workers in Amazon’s history. Later this week, our Institute for Policy Studies will be honoring the Awood Center — the moving force behind East African worker organizing in Minnesota — at the 44th annual (but first virtual) Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards Gala.
Also on hand October 15 for the virtual gala will be Naomi Klein, the environmental activist and writer who’s become such an inspiration to so many of us. We have more online about the evening. Please join us!
October 5, 2020
Quite a week we’ve had. First came the uproar over Donald Trump’s taxes, then the tumult of the Trump-Biden debate, followed by the biggest bombshell of all: the president’s positive Covid test. His infection, pundits quickly opined, shows the pandemic plays no favorites. The coronavirus has become, this conventional wisdom holds, “the great equalizer.”
Nonsense. The pandemic hasn’t “equalized” anything. The pandemic has left us more unequal, as we detail in a set of 13 charts now getting wide play nationally. U.S. billionaire wealth soared $821 billion in the six months after Covid-19 burst out big-time. And at the other end of the spectrum? New Washington Post data paint a grisly picture: Since March, “the less workers earned at their job, the more likely they were to lose it.”
Amid all this past week’s blockbusters, hardly anyone paid much attention to the release of a report that, in normal times, makes major news: the latest edition of the Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances. One analyst’s take on the new Fed numbers: Millionaires and billionaires last year held 79 percent of U.S. wealth, up from 60 percent in 1989. By 2050, at this pace, our richest will hold nearly 99 percent of our nation’s wealth. If we let that happen, we won’t have much of a nation.
September 28, 2020
The failure to bring Breonna Taylor’s killers to justice has sparked another round of nationwide protests against racist police violence and brutality. This continuing inability to bring justice remains a national disgrace — and reveals how starkly unequal the United States continues to be.
Deeply unequal societies, we’ve learned over recent years, do worse than more equal societies by every social metric that really matters. Now we can add one more metric to that list: performance during pandemics.
At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, some pundits speculated that the pandemic might become the “great equalizer.” The coronavirus has instead, as our Sarah Anderson and Brian Wakamo note, “exacerbated longstanding class, racial, and gender divides.” To illustrate just that, we’ve added to our Inequality.org website a new collection of 13 data visualizations that explore how Covid-19 and inequality interrelate.
President Trump, meanwhile, is pronouncing that Covid-19 affects “virtually nobody.” Comments like that — and yesterday’s blockbuster New York Times report on Trump’s tax returns — figure to make Tuesday’s first 2020 presidential debate as much “must-cringe” as “must-see.” We’ll have more on those Trump taxes next week. In this week’s issue, more on tomorrow’s debate and our town hall October 5 on charity reform.
September 21, 2020
Here at Inequality.org we’ve been rather critical of billionaires over the years, and lately we’ve been documenting the horrors of an economy generating ever greater billionaire fortunes during a deadly pandemic.
This week, a change of pace. We take great pleasure in celebrating the life’s work of Chuck Feeney, a reluctant billionaire who’s become the model for responsible wealth and “giving while living.” Last week Feeney shut down his Atlantic Philanthropies after four decades of philanthropy. He has now given all his grand fortune away. As Forbes put it: “The Billionaire Who Wanted to Die Broke…Is Now Officially Broke.”
Feeney gave away $8 billion to address inequality and human suffering. His support for Vietnam’s public health system helps explain that nation’s exceptional coronavirus success. He has been an inspiration to our movement for the passage of an “emergency charity stimulus.” Today over 2,500 people are attending our first town hall on this topic. You can still join us for the second.
This week, we also remember Bill Gates Sr., just passed at 94. I had the honor of working with Bill to preserve the estate tax. We did lectures, talk shows, and a book together. Bill believed we should tax great wealth to protect democracy and discourage wealth’s concentration. I’ll never forget one talk he gave that convinced a business audience to believe the same.
September 14, 2020
Over the past half-century, the economics departments of America’s colleges and universities have been overflowing with apologists for the corporate greed grabs that have left the United States so catastrophically unequal. This past weekend marked the 50th anniversary of an event that helps explain this cheerleading for corporate excess.
Back in 1970, the prestigious New York Times Magazine published an essay by the equally prestigious University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman under an enormously provocative — for the time — headline: “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” No single piece of prose has done more, over the years since, to enshrine share prices as the only economic marker that matters.
In our own times, Friedman’s worldview has begun unraveling. Even top business execs are now at least paying lip service to the notion that we need an economy that works for all stakeholders — workers, consumers, communities — and not just shareholders. Here at Inequality.org, we’re working for that economy and doing our best to help you do the same!
September 7, 2020
My colleague Marc Bayard, the director of the Black Worker Initiative here at the Institute for Policy Studies, has some insights just published in The Nation worth a read this Labor Day.
“Bias,” he writes, “limits our collective growth.”
And this year’s Labor Day, Bayard adds, sees that bias under assault as seldom before. “Acts of radical defiance” — by activist essential workers and professional basketball players alike — are showing that “systemic racism cannot be separated from the growing and perverse economic inequalities” that have devastated Black America and concentrated the nation’s wealth and power. We can take hope from their struggles.
Lots more good reading for Labor Day in this week’s issue!
August 31, 2020
A nation in mass upheaval: Another name, Jacob Blake, we need to say. The vigilante murder of two protestors against police violence. Sports teams on wildcat strikes for racial justice, winning concessions from owners, as isolated “bubble” environments become hotbeds for activism. All this as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on toward 200,000 U.S. dead.
This same pandemic has exposed, among so much else, the flaws in our elder care system, with for-profit nursing homes particularly ill-equipped to handle the crisis. This week we feature a nursing home activist who’s mobilizing fellow caregivers to demand greater accountability and public investment for a care system that will help all of us age in dignity.
This week we’re also launching a Care Economy Facts online hub, a place where you can find all the latest data on the intersection between the care crisis and economic, race, and gender disparities. Read on for more from our Inequality.org team.
August 24, 2020
Who would have thought, at the start of this summer, that Americans the nation over would be spending an August weekend protesting about . . . the U.S. Postal Service? But this past weekend we saw just that: demonstrations in support of the Post Office, the nation’s oldest public service, in communities big and small.
Americans don’t want postal services cut. They don’t want the mail manipulated for political purposes. And they certainly don’t want the Postal Service privatized to create still more billionaire fortunes. On Saturday, lawmakers in the House of Representatives passed legislation to put the brakes on the White House assault on our mail, but the Post Office battle, as my colleague Sarah Anderson stresses, is only beginning.
We have more in this week’s issue on the broader inequality battlefront, with coverage on everything from the latest Big Pharma corona greed grab to growing CEO pay gaps and new strategies for reining in the scourge of hidden wealth and tax avoidance. Read on!
August 17, 2020
“A rising tide,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow crowed last Wednesday, “does lift all boats!”
All boats at least that matter to the White House, the cozy yachts of the top 1 percenters who so enjoy hanging out at the President’s country clubs. The tide is rolling in nicely for these deep pockets. For the first time in history, our new Institute for Policy Studies research shows, the top twelve U.S. billionaires have combined wealth in excess of $1 trillion.
Our rising tide seems to be drowning most of everybody else. Jobless Americans have lost their $600 unemployment supplement. Protections against eviction expired on July 31, and Congress has abandoned efforts to reach a deal with the White House on economic relief. The President seems more engaged in whether college football kicks off this September.
We have more this week on the struggles to put real relief back on the political table. And we also take a look at the inequality backstory to this fall’s football wars. Read on! No shoulder pads required.
August 10, 2020
We’ve just released our latest Inequality.org update on how well America’s billionaires have been doing since the pandemic first blasted our daily lives. The total wealth of our billionaires has now soared $685 billion since the middle of March, to a combined $3.65 trillion.
American lawmakers — from Sacramento to Washington, D.C. — have noticed. They’re starting to propose tax rates on the super rich that would have seemed politically unimaginable before the coronavirus began changing our world.
We have the details on those new proposals — and a good bit more — in this week’s issue.
August 3, 2020
Last month, just before our summer break, we noted we were looking forward to seeing how much our political imaginations could stretch in our two-week pause. And then we saw the unimaginable: Donald Trump citing our work in one of his tweets! The billionaire president shared a new Business Insider video that showcases our Billionaire Bonanza research.
For the record, our research includes our president — and his entire administration — among the biggest contributors to our atrociously unequal status quo. They’ve given us still another example of an ultra-elite using policy and politics to enrich themselves. But we do want to thank Business Insider for putting together such a compelling summary of our work — regardless of who shares it.
July 13, 2020
Time seems to have accelerated in 2020. With each week, we’ve watched death tolls climb as billionaire wealth skyrockets. In these times of crisis, we can see more clearly just how our society works: Our government and economy, as currently constituted, place wealth above life.
But we’re also watching movements deliver far more ennobling messages. Their bold demands are showing we can address our unequal social relations. Campaigns for rent cancellation and eviction moratoriums are questioning landlord-tenant basics. Striking workers are demanding wages that reflect how essential their work has always been. The call to defund the police is challenging us to rethink what makes communities safe.
July 6, 2020
People across the United States had a broad range of options for marking the Fourth of July. Some celebrated, some protested. Many also worked throughout this past weekend, putting their lives in pandemic danger while their elected officials shrug their shoulders at the rising corona caseload.
Still others among us spent the Fourth of July worrying about how to pay rent and medical bills in a country that doesn’t treat either housing or healthcare as basic human rights.
The United States has a long way to go to recognize the interdependence needed to create equitable political and economic systems. More this week on the Indigenous activists who’ve won back-to-back victories for equity and a bold new proposal that puts a squeeze on Wall Street to create jobs that pay at least $15 an hour in our nation’s hardest-hit communities.
June 29, 2020
Earlier this year, we brought you the story of Philadelphia’s Hahnemann University Hospital. Private equity exec Joel Freedman bought the hospital in 2018, then shut it down with a plan to turn the site into luxury condos. When Covid-19 hit, Freedman offered to rent the hospital to the city at a price so exorbitant the mayor accused him of “trying to make a buck” off a pandemic.
This past weekend, Black Lives Matter care workers briefly took over Hahnemann, offering free healthcare services to the neighborhood. Cops in riot gear ended the occupation, still another example of a police force more eager to protect private property than human life.
The protesters had occupied the hospital under the banner of “care not cops,” a slogan that gets at the heart of what an equitable world should look like. More this week on some concrete demands that could bring us closer to that world, as well as one tool to stimulate the economy and avoid humanitarian catastrophe in the time of Covid-19.
June 22, 2020
Over the last several weeks, Black Lives Matter protesters have gathered in the streets to demand an end to police violence. The backdrop to those protests: the stark racial disparities of Covid-19. And behind that backdrop lies the racial wealth divide, the centuries of racial oppression so visible in the bank accounts and general welfare of Black and white Americans.
Our latest report, White Supremacy is the Pre-existing Condition, shows how dramatic this racial wealth divide has become — and how the pandemic has only supercharged it. In the 12 weeks since sheltering in place began, U.S. billionaire wealth has increased by over $637 billion, the equivalent of 13 percent of all the wealth held by the nation’s 41 million Black people.
June 15, 2020
Almost every week so far this year seems to reveal new depths to the staggeringly unequal foundation the United States rests upon. But with almost every week we’re also seeing the immense power we have when we organize our outrage against injustice.
One heartening example from just this morning: After decades of tireless work from activists around the country, the Supreme Court has finally ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
June 8, 2020
People across the United States are rising up. The Black Lives Matter mobilizations have become the broadest wave of protests the country has ever seen. And these actions have unfolded against a dramatic backdrop: The pandemic has fueled skyrocketing inequality as billionaires see their billions multiply while average Americans by the millions lose their jobs and by the tens of thousands — over 100,000 in all — lose their lives.
Out of all these protests has emerged a clear call to defund the police, and organizers in Minneapolis have scored the first big victory on this funding front.
June 1, 2020
Over the last several days, protesters across the United States have demanded justice for the horrific police killings of George Floyd and countless other African Americans. These uprisings for racial justice have seen more police violence against protesters and sparked a new national dialogue on a question that needs raising: What counts as looting?
May 25, 2020
This Memorial Day weekend has offered up some dramatic contrasts. U.S. news outlets have alternated photos of packed beaches with bleak updates on the pandemic’s progression to nearly 100,000 Covid-19 deaths.
Another grim contrast: The number of Americans applying for unemployment over recent months now tops 38.5 million. Over the same span, American billionaires have added a collective $434 billion to their personal portfolios. Their net worths, as we note in our latest Billionaire Bonanza update, have increased an average 15 percent.
This pandemic didn’t have to widen our already cavernous economic gaps. Political choices have put us in this situation, and different political choices can get us out. We have more this week on pandemic profiteers and the community leaders pushing the wealthy to put people and the planet over profits, both in this crisis and the next.
May 18, 2020
The latest news on billionaire Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man: A study is predicting that the Amazon chief may well become by 2026 the world’s first trillionaire, should current trends continue.
Few pandemic profiteers have been making bank off the misery of their own employees more relentlessly than Bezos, as we’re now tracking in our regular Inequality.org pandemic profiteering updates. Bezos has actually been cutting hazard pay for Amazon warehouse workers, choosing instead to hand out “thank you” t-shirts.
But let’s remember we have plenty of tools — a wealth tax, for one — to prevent profiteers like Jeff Bezos from ever reaching trillionaire status. Check our Billionaire Bonanza 2020 report for details. Meanwhile, more this week on our tantrum-throwing wealthy and the workers pushing back on the austerity that grows grand private fortune.
May 11, 2020
Every pandemic week that passes seems to only highlight more and more how insulated — and wealthier — our wealthy elites have become. A sizable number of pandemic profiteers, as our recent Billionaire Bonanza report detailed, are making vast sums off the misery of the rest of us.
Meanwhile, with millions of people struggling to cope amid ballooning unemployment, the community-based nonprofits that could be providing real relief are struggling, too. We’ve identified one solution: Congress could require cash-flush foundations to step up their annual payouts. Wealthy donors have already taken tax deductions on these dollars.
We have more this week on why we should always be skeptical when corporate elites say they care — and some suggestions as well for holding these elites much more accountable.
May 4, 2020
The chaos of the last several weeks have put a few things into stark relief. Two of the most obvious: who actually does the work essential for our world to function and how little value the wealthy put on this work.
In industries like meatpacking, the corporations our wealthy run are forcing a mostly immigrant and minority workforce to choose between their livelihoods and their lives. But workers are showing the world where the power lies. More than 160 wildcat strikes across the United States, the labor outlet Payday Report details, have flared since the beginning of March.
On the May 1 International Workers’ Day, meanwhile, employees of companies like Amazon, Target, and Instacart went on strike to demand better protections from companies that have watched their revenues soar while workers sicken. We have more this week on the coronavirus squeeze on workers and more as well on another kind of strike — a rent strike — that’s gaining steam.
April 27, 2020
Most of our world is continuing to suffer from both a horrific pandemic and a devastating economic crash. But the richest among us? In the United States, they’re watching their wealth surge. We are all most definitely not sitting in the same boat.
Over the course of just a few March and April weeks, 22 million U.S. workers lost their jobs. Over the same weeks, U.S. billionaires increased their cumulative wealth by $282 billion, nearly a 10 percent increase. These numbers come from our just-released latest edition of Billionaire Bonanza. The report’s focus: the pandemic parasites turning the pain of coronavirus into profit.
Decades of compounding inequality have left our rich perfectly primed to take advantage of this troubled moment. Now we need to prime ourselves for the struggle to forge a more equal future. In ths week’s issue, more on steps we can take to get that future going.
April 20, 2020
It took just two weeks for the government to run out of funds for its $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, meant to help small businesses struggling with the coronavirus shutdown. Where did that money go? Over the last several days, stories have trickled out about the supposedly small businesses – chains like Ruth’s Chris steakhouse and burger giant Shake Shack – sweeping up the funding, leaving those who actually need it out to dry.
But the public outcry was swift and fierce. There may not be nearly enough strings attached to Congressional bailouts, but never underestimate the power of the public. After a thorough roasting, Shake Shack announced it would return its $10 million in funds.
Sometimes shame works. Much more this week on the shameful pandemic profiteers of all varieties, as well as the people who should be getting federal help instead.
April 13, 2020
Forbes released its annual billionaire list last week. We’ll have more on the new Forbes numbers in coming weeks, but here’s a quick stat that illustrates our continuing concentration of wealth, even amid pandemic: Since last year at this time, the ranks of U.S. billionaires have increased from 607 to 614, their collective wealth from $3.111 to $3.229 trillion.
We have here in the United States today, in short, a tremendous amount of unevenly distributed wealth. This uneven distribution has left us with precious few resources for the public investments, in everything from hospitals to medial research, we need to keep us safe.
How did we end up with a society so top heavy? A new paper from my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Bob Lord offers one key to what has happened. Between 1980 and 2018, his research shows, the tax obligations of America’s billionaires, measured as a percentage of their wealth, have fallen 79 percent.
April 6, 2020
Fifty-two years ago this week, the day before he was assassinated, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out in support of sanitation workers striking in Memphis. Said Dr. King, in one of the most famous speeches in U.S. history: “The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest.”
Just last month, sanitation workers in Pittsburgh showed how little has changed. Public officials at every level of government continue to be less than fair and honest in their dealings with the workers Americans now more than ever see as truly “essential,” the people whose undervalued labor keeps our society runnng at our most vulnerable moments.
In Pittsburgh, undervalued sanitation workers walked off the job, demanding better coronavirus protective gear and hazard pay. They offer just one example of the growing wave of organizing now sweeping across the nation.
March 30, 2020
Progressive groups are already gearing up for the next legislative battle, demanding a people’s bailout that prioritizes health for all and economic relief for communities over corporations. More this week on what the new corona relief package gets wrong and the groups fighting for a coronavirus response rooted in solidarity.
March 23, 2020
As the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues, please remember that the United States remains the richest country on Earth. We have an abundance of resources. We can provide paid sick leave and universal healthcare and take care of everyone in times of crisis.
But just where we direct our abundance of resources will always be a political choice. We can’t afford to forget that, especially not when we have some elected leaders, the very people responsible for leading the way forward, choosing instead to personally profit.
Fortunately, we have plenty of historical examples and bold new ideas to help guide us and ensure we bail out people, not the rich and corporations they run. More on those ideas in this week’s issue. We hope you're taking care and staying safe!
March 16, 2020
People worldwide understand the importance of protecting the common good during a pandemic. In the United States, an additional concern is on our minds as the struggle against coronavirus intensifies: How do we fix the broken systems this public health emergency is exposing?
Our U.S. officialdom couldn't, of course, care less. Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency last week surrounded by a power-suited parade of CEOs. The president is pushing a new “disaster capitalism,” defaulting to xenophobia while pretending he has the crisis under control.
What should we be doing instead? Everything from direct relief like eviction moratoriums and cash assistance to paid leave for everyone and massive investments in our safety net and public health systems. We feature some of these ideas in this week’s issue, and we’ll have more in the weeks to come. In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy!
March 9, 2020
In these uncertain times, who can be blamed for turning toward numbers for answers? But sometimes numbers just raise more questions.
What should we make, for instance, of a recent poll that found likely Democratic voters in Texas prefering socialism over capitalism by large margins? One thing we know for sure: People in the United States, and around the world, know our global economy isn’t working for them.
As my colleague Sam Pizzigati writes this week, by framing issues like climate change, racism, and immigration outside the realm of wealth and income inequality, some polls may even be obscuring just how much Americans don’t approve of our economic status quo. We have more this week on the fight against inequality — on multiple fronts!
March 2, 2020
With Super Tuesday fast approaching, the coronavirus has us thinking yet again of how high the stakes for the 2020 U.S. election have soared — for people the world over, not just in the United States. We have Americans today worried about spreading the virus who are facing hospital charges in the thousands of dollars just for trying to do their civic duty and get tested. Americans desperately need a more equitable health care system, and the rest of the world needs to have us get one.
The United States certainly has the resources to provide health care equity. We’ve watched the fortunes of the ultra rich explode, I noted for CNN last week, all while an entire “wealth defense industry” protects them from taxes — and corrodes our democracy.
But we’re still hopeful, thanks to movements pushing big ideas for challenging oligarchy to the political forefront. To help spread that hope, this week’s issue is launching a new section dedicated to spotlighting bold new solutions to our grand divides. Your comments welcome!
February 24, 2020
Does the world belong to us or the billionaires? Author Anand Giridharadas has just posed that question in the New York Times. The 2020 presidential election, Giridharadas opines, has essentially become a referendum on billionaires!
Giridharadas goes on to list the questions that few voters this year will be able to avoid. Among them: Should we have billionaires at all? Does wealth make you more immune or more prone to corruption? Can we enhance the well-being of the millions “locked in the basement of opportunity” without confronting our billionaire problem?
My colleague Sam Pizzigati has shared a few data points relevant to these questions on social media. And we’ve got much more on billionaires in this week’s issue for those of you still contemplating your answers.
February 17, 2020
A budget, we’re often reminded, says a lot about priorities. Three years deep into the Trump administration, we’ve become well aware what the president’s priorities are — cut whatever’s left of a social safety net, citing “costs,” all while expanding tax cuts for the wealthy and pouring more funding into cruel and costly deportation and military programs.
Trump’s latest budget, released last week, tells us what we already know. But growing social movements are pushing back on austerity plans that funnel wealth upwards. We’ve got more this week on one of them.
Also this week: a look at the wealthy snapping back, in fear, at movements for change and a profile of Silicon Valley, a place where concentrated wealth is crushing the dreams of all but the already affluent.
February 10, 2020
Could we have had a busier week than last week? For one, we saw the U.S. Democratic Party kick off the battle for the 2020 presidential nomination with the Iowa caucuses, a distinctly inequitable exercise, as my colleague Sarah Anderson wrote before the contest.
We were still watching the results from Iowa unfold when President Trump last Wednesday delivered a State of the Union that papered over the rising inequality on his watch. Trump’s address boasted that his presidency had built a “prosperous and inclusive society” — one of many unfounded claims that peppered a speech filled with racist rhetoric.
February 3, 2020
We’ve published thousands of words, charts, and graphics about wealth inequality over the years, so we can spot a vivid depiction of our staggering economic divide when we see one. We’ve just seen one: this new CBS News video that features a reporter asking mall-goers to divvy up — literally — America’s economic pie.
Participants in this exercise quickly became surprised and disturbed at just how unequal the U.S. distribution of wealth actually turns out to be. And, as CBS notes, those feelings are playing into voting choices around the presidential elections
January 27, 2020
In Davos this past week, at the annual Alpine gathering of the world’s rich and powerful, our global elites demonstrated that even they understand how deeply inequality is tearing our societies apart.
The influential execs at Davos 2020 made “stakeholder capitalism” their central theme, a sign they recognize that catering to shareholders alone will only accelerate the breakdown in the world order they dominate. But will “stakeholder capitalism” be enough to fix a rigged economic system? Hardly. The Davos elites, as I write in the Guardian, need to ask themselves whether they’d rather see a fair tax system or pitchforks?
January 20, 2020
In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. described poverty as a “lonely island” in a “vast ocean of material prosperity.” We have more such islands today. In Oakland, California, for instance, over 4,000 people are living homeless lives while nearly 16,000 housing units sit vacant.
Last week, we saw the three evils Dr. King fought — systemic racism, poverty, and militarism — in brutal action. Police used AR-15s and armored vehicles to evict homeless mothers from a vacant Oakland home owned by the property-flipping Wedgewood Homes. But the eviction isn’t stopping the Moms 4 Housing movement. As activist Dominique Walker told the media last week: “We want speculators out of our community.”
January 13, 2020
What makes for a “healthy economy”? Wall Streeters and our current White House measure economic health by the Dow Jones stock average. Last week, for the first time ever, that average hit 29,000. But outside the offices and watering holes of America’s privileged, few were cheering. Dow Jones numbers, most of us understand, tell us precious little about how our economy is impacting the lives most Americans lead.
What sort of indicators do offer real insight into how our economy works? Try this finding from a new study just published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health: Higher minimum wages, investigators have found, appear to lower the suicide rate.
The minimum wage in the United States nationally hasn’t budged up a nickel since 2009. But the fight for a $15 minimum has raised the minimum wage in a number of states and localities. The new suicide rate stats show that providing all workers with a real living wage couldn’t be a more urgent task. A more equitable economy saves lives.
January 6, 2020
If only a new decade really meant a fresh start...
With the 2020s just a few days old, the Trump administration has already reminded us what we stand to lose if we don’t make massive, rapid changes to our political and economic systems. The drone-strike assassinations of Iranian and Iraqi officials have put people across the Middle East — and the world — in greater danger.
These same assassinations, my colleague Sarah Anderson details in a new Inequality.org analysis, are triggering windfalls for top U.S. military contractors and their CEOs. The longer we allow these execs to make big money off our war economy, the more likely wars will be. In the new decade ahead, we need to do better.
December 16, 2019
The year now ending has certainly had its horrors. But we’ve made progress, too, in the struggle against inequality. CEOs, for instance, are still stuffing their pockets at worker and public expense. But we now have before Congress landmark “pay ratio” legislation that levies tax penalties at companies that wildly overcompensate their top execs.
Also before Congress: a new millionaires surtax bill, an idea showcased at the Taxing the (Very) Rich conference we helped host this past June. Meanwhile, we have reason for good cheer at the local level as well. In Boston just last week, the City Council moved toward enacting a luxury real estate transfer tax.
December 9, 2019
The five richest families in the United Kingdom own more wealth than the bottom 13 million people, our friends at the Equality Trust reported last week. The extreme inequality these numbers illustrate will likely be a motivating factor for UK voters in this coming week’s general election. These voters have a clear choice: accept the years of austerity that have deepened UK inequality or set a course for a more equitable future.
December 2, 2019
Calls for systemic change, in this last month of 2019, are getting harder and harder to ignore. We are witnessing an incredible year of protest, with uprisings taking place in dozens of countries.
These protests all have local triggers. But they also all reflect the same reality: a global economic order that channels wealth to the top, with little or even no concern for the inequality and injustice that results. We’ve got more this week on the movements growing out of this moment of tumult, more on the demand for a polity and an economy that takes care of us all.
November 25, 2019
Have the rich finally lost their political immunity? We’ve been watching with great interest this year as 2020 White House hopefuls have called time and again for policies that could pain our nation’s deepest pockets. Might be a good idea, we thought, to pin the field down on specifics. So we joined with The Nation magazine and sent all this year’s presidential candidates a detailed questionnaire on inequality.
November 18, 2019
The latest point of evidence that Washington’s consensus on matters wealth-related is cracking: Landmark new legislation just introduced in Congress offers a chance to take on Corporate America’s incredibly extreme divides in compensation.
The wide gulf between what companies pay their CEOs and what they pay their median worker has skyrocketed in recent years. The average CEO took home about 20 times what average workers did in 1970, compared to a ratio of 287 last year. And many corporations have gaps much larger than that.
Taking on inequality means tackling those gaps. The Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act, introduced this week by Representatives Barbara Lee and Rashida Tlaib and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, does just that.
November 11, 2019
Over the last several months, we’ve covered a variety of new tax initiatives that could help reduce American inequality. Last week, we were part of the launch for another new proposal, a millionaires surtax.
With this tax – which targets only ultra-rich Americans – we could bring in hundreds of billions over the next decade to invest in healthcare, education, and the environment. On top of that, this levy would put a decent dent into our staggering economic divides.
November 4, 2019
If you’re in the United States, you probably don’t have to look far to see how inequality destroys our public services – and leads to violence. We’ve seen examples from coast to coast this week.
New York City made the choice to spend its resources criminalizing poor transit users for fare evasion instead of shoring up a rapidly deteriorating subway system. And we’ve watched as private utility companies in California plan power outages to stave off wildfires, after choosing shareholder profits instead of infrastructure maintenance.
October 28, 2019
The Washington Post reported last week on a private phone call between writer Anand Giridharadas and JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, an unlikely conversation between two people with quite different takes on capitalism. How might Dimon feel in private about the new Business Roundtable position that corporations should work to create value for all their stakeholders, not just shareholders?
“I think he really thinks he’s changed capitalism…it was beyond his understanding that voluntary virtue does nothing on its own,” Giridharadas said about the CEO and Roundtable chair. Fortunately, we’re seeing plenty of movements demanding more than voluntary virtue
October 21, 2019
Across the world, skyscrapers and mansions are rising in globalized super-cities, a form of “wealth storage” for elites looking to diversify their asset holdings. Our new Institute for Policy Studies report, Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom, examines one of these super-cities. The more expensive a luxury condo in Seattle, our study finds, the more likely the listed owner will be an opaque corporate entity that masks the identity of the real owner. Average Seattle residents, meanwhile, are suffering through an intense affordable housing crisis while the ultra rich use their city’s luxury real estate to hide their wealth.
October 14, 2019
How is one city in California expecting residents with medical needs to cope with the power shutoffs the utility giant PG&E is now inflicting on the state? The advice from Berkeley city officialdom: “Please use your own resources to relocate to an unaffected area now.” This advice might work for the wealthy, like the PG&E shareholders who’ve reaped ample financial rewards or the flacks raking in millions distracting attention from PG&E’s role on deadly wildfires. But that advice certainly isn’t going to work for Californians without resources.
October 7, 2019
Did you see my colleague Sarah Anderson on CNBC last week? Over a decade has passed since the recklessness fueled by runaway CEO pay helped crash the U.S. economy, she reminded viewers, but the same characters who justified that recklessness — and even benefited from it — are still appearing on our TV screens.
Corporations don’t seem willing to take the CEO pay problem seriously on their own. We need public policies — like hiking taxes on companies with wide CEO-worker pay gaps — that treat inequality as the danger to our social well-being it most definitely is.
September 30, 2019
The Census Bureau announced last week that income inequality in the United States has hit a 50-year record high. That didn’t surprise us. Our latest annual Institute for Policy Studies Executive Excess report, released this morning, shows that at the 50 publicly traded U.S. firms with the widest pay gaps in 2018, typical employees would have to work at least 1,000 years to earn what their CEO made in just one!
September 23, 2019
No more business as usual! Students around the world, from Nairobi to New York, delivered that message Friday with a global strike that has kicked off a week of climate action. The mobilizations are demanding an end to the systems that put profits over people and planet.
September 16, 2019
What do workers at the biggest automaker in the United States do when their CEO takes home about $22 million in compensation while laying off thousands of employees? They strike! Nearly 50,000 General Motors workers have just walked out to demand their fair share of GM's billions in annual profits.
September 9, 2019
Some state motor vehicle bureaus have found a wild new way to raise revenue, Vice revealed last week. They’re selling the information you might give up to the government to get a driver’s license — everything from your birthdate to your address — to third parties, including bail bond companies and private investigators.
We have a better idea for states looking to enhance the public purse: raise taxes on the wealthy! Higher tax levies on the wealthy don’t require any invasions of privacy and have an extra added benefit. They reduce the inequality that’s poisoning our future.
August 12, 2019
Last year, Koch Foods settled a $3.75-million lawsuit over discrimination and sexual harassment against predominately Latinx poultry plant workers. Last week, workers at Koch Foods became the targets of one of the biggest immigration raids in years. The raid separated hundreds of workers from their families, leaving entire communities in fear.
Immigration activists, Payday Report’s Mike Elk detailed last week, see the Koch Foods raid as part of a broader pattern: A workplace gets investigated for abusing workers, then the workers get targeted by ICE. If workers can’t speak up without fear of retaliation — and especially if that retaliation includes family separation and deportation — then none of us can ever truly have justice on the job.
August 5, 2019
We’ve had more mass shootings in the United States in 2019 than days so far this year. Here at Inequality.org, we’re mourning the victims of this weekend’s back-to-back deadly shootings in El Paso and Dayton today.
Amid the mourning for the dozens of people killed this weekend, we’re also taking care not to forget those who are making big bucks off the ongoing violence — from the weapons manufacturers to the media platforms that rake in cash spewing hate.
These players all have blood on their hands. They ought to remind us of the deadly dangers we face when we let some among us privilege profits over people’s lives.
July 29, 2019
Puerto Rico taught us a beautiful lesson about accountability last week. On Wednesday, Governor Ricardo Rosselló stepped down, after the island’s residents gathered en masse to protest his corruption and hateful rhetoric.
But Puerto Ricans aren’t stopping with Rosselló’s resignation. They’re already calling for the ouster of Rosselló’s successor, an insider complicit in the previous administration’s corruption. And they’re not stopping there either. The only real answer, Puerto Ricans are showing us, will be a political and economic system that works for everyone, not just the rich and well-connected, and activists are building a movement to bring that system to life.
July 22, 2019
The most moving moment from last week’s racist and nativist ugliness? That may have come when Rep. Ilhan Omar landed in Minnesota to chants of “welcome home, Ilhan.” Omar used her time in her home state to conduct a town hall on Medicare for All. She received a standing ovation.
Omar’s constituents know that their representative is working in Washington to do the crucial social justice work they elected her to do. She’s fighting for a just, more equal society. And the same goes for Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, & Ayanna Pressley.
We have more this week on the four congresswomen and their focus on an inequality-busting agenda, even as a president taunts them with one vile attack after another.
July 15, 2019
The U.S. House of Representatives may well vote this week on the Raise the Wage Act, legislation that would give American workers the first federal minimum wage boost in more than a decade. A new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office says the bill would increase pay for 27 million people and reduce both poverty and inequality. The pitiful part of all this? That Congress has taken this long to act on raising the minimum wage. The encouraging part? The movement that’s forced lawmakers into action has been nothing short of monumental.
July 8, 2019
Six months ago, many of us may have hesitated to say the words. But thanks to a political season of bold ideas — and growing public anger at four decades of extreme inequalities of wealth and power — all of us can now utter the phrase in polite company: Time to tax the very rich! Last month our Institute for Policy Studies co-produced with the Economic Policy Institute a conference that broke new ground with a say-it-straight title: Taxing the (Very) Rich: Finding a Cure for Excessive Wealth Disorder. Those of you who weren’t able to join us in person last month can now watch the day’s incredible panels and presentations, including keynotes from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen.
July 1, 2019
How much has the political conversation on inequality changed since the 2016 election? Let’s take a look at one measure: what candidates stress in the presidential primary debates.
In last week’s Democratic Party debates, we heard one signature stat from our Institute for Policy Studies Billionaire Bonanza report repeated more than once. Just three billionaires own more wealth than half the people in the United States combined, as Senator Bernie Sanders reminded us in both his opening and closing remarks.
June 24, 2019
The Poor People’s Campaign came to Washington last week and made the case to lawmakers and presidential candidates alike that our wealth gap in the United States reflects conscious policy decisions. Now, this week, activists, analysts, and legislators will be gathering in D.C. to explore the conscious choices we can make to narrow that extreme wealth gap — by taxing our top 0.1 percent, the deep pockets who wield such disproportionate power over all our political and economic systems.
June 17, 2019
We often highlight, here at Inequality.org, the grossest unjust contrasts in our U.S. economy: the luxury condos near encampments of homeless people, the CEO pay that skyrockets while the minimum wage stagnates. What would our economic order look like without those injustices? How can we go about building that economy? A new report from the Poor People’s Campaign and the Institute for Policy Studies brings us closer to an answer.
June 10, 2019
Yet another sign that our inequality conversation is scaring the corporate elites who hold disproportionate power over us: Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told the company’s annual shareholders meeting last week that the time has come for Congress to raise the minimum wage! What could possibly be driving this new-found affection for a higher minimum from a CEO who took in $23 million last year? How about a tip of the hat to activist Walmart workers and their years of organizing for a real living wage!
June 3, 2019
Remember the claims Republican leaders in Congress made back at the end of 2017 as they were rushing their huge tax-cut bill to passage? Those leaders sure hope you don’t. They promised, back then, that cutting tax rates on rich people — and the corporations they run — would leave everyone better off, millionaires and minimum-wage workers alike. Oops. Things haven’t quite worked out that way. In fact, as the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported last week, things haven’t worked out that way at all.
May 20, 2019
For those of us here at Inequality.org, one devilishly difficult question animates much of the work we do: How can we rein in the power that the richest of the rich have over every aspect of our society? We’ll be joining up with some of our epoch’s best thinkers on inequality to address that question, at the first-ever “Taxing the (Very) Rich” conference our Institute for Policy Studies is co-hosting with the Economic Policy Institute.
May 13, 2019
Could Jeff Bezos be any less grounded? The Amazon founder — and world’s richest individual — opined last week that building the infrastructure that would allow humanity to leave Earth en masse rates as the most important thing he could be doing. Of course, Bezos could make plenty of amazing things happen right here on our home planet — like allowing Amazon workers to unionize, refusing to play ball with the Trump deportation machine, or ending his company’s corporate tax dodging.
May 6, 2019
Soaring GDP growth! A booming stock market! Lower unemployment! Headlines like these have some Americans believing the U.S. economy couldn’t be better. Yet, as my colleague Sarah Anderson told NPR’s 1A last week, all the good news the headlines trumpet has a backstory. Our nation’s economic gains are still going primarily to people at the top — and boosting the inequality behind so many of the ills that plague us.
April 29, 2019
Here’s a stat for celebrating this year’s May 1 International Workers’ Day: 485,000 U.S. workers went on strike in 2018, more than any year since the 1980s. In a real sense, these workers were striking against inequality. We saw striking teachers last year demanding higher taxes on the rich to underwrite adequate funding for public schools. We saw AT&T employees insisting the company share its tax cut windfall. American workers know their labor creates ample wealth. They want that wealth spread around.
April 22, 2019
French president Emmanuel Macron seems to be hoping that the inferno at the famed Notre Dame cathedral will help him quell the “yellow vest” protests that have been a thorn in his side ever since December. Macron is calling for a national display of unity, and some of his billionaire compatriots are heeding the call. They’ve pledged hundreds of millions toward restoring Notre Dame to its original splendor. Can you imagine a similar response for unified action to combat inequality?
April 15, 2019
Some of our American readers may have filed their taxes weeks ago. Others may still be scrambling to beat the April 15 tax filing deadline. But regardless of your tax status, today is a great day to deeply consider how and what we collectively choose to fund with our tax dollars.
April 8, 2019
Ask Starbucks CEO-turned-White House hopeful Howard Schultz how to solve economic inequality and he’ll give you a vague, nonsensical answer. We only need to balance the federal budget, assures Schultz, and elect someone who can bring Democrats and Republicans together. In a recent MSNBC interview, his hosts balked, wondering how the “leadership” Schultz promises could ever address our maldistribution of global wealth. Fortunately, we here at Inequality.org are covering ideas that could address the crisis of wealth distribution that Howard Schultz can’t seem to grasp. We have more on those proposals in this week’s issue.
April 1, 2019
Gender discrimination is woven into the very fabric of our U.S. economic system. We have more in this week’s issue on a new report from my colleague Sarah Anderson that explores how Wall Street helps promulgate some of this same discrimination.
March 25, 2019
Who cares what Jamie Dimon thinks about the Green New Deal? CNN apparently does. The network asked the JPMorgan Chase CEO what he thinks about the plan to attack both climate change and inequality. Dimon — shocker — turns out not to be a fan. We should go about the massive task of saving the planet more “wisely,” says Dimon, “because you could hurt the economy, which hurts everybody.” Dimon should know a thing or two about that.
March 18, 2019
The biggest scandal in college admissions? That will come if we simply punish the most rotten of college admission’s players without addressing the inequality underpinning our system as a whole.
March 11, 2019
Two years ago, a coalition of community groups launched a campaign called Corporate Backers of Hate, an attempt to name and shame the companies that profit off the many dehumanizing policies of the Trump administration. Last week, the campaign won a giant victory when JPMorgan Chase became the first major bank to stop financing private prison and immigrant detention companies.
This win comes thanks to tenacious immigrants-rights activists who’ve been confronting JPMorgan and its CEO, Jamie Dimon, at every opportunity to expose how banks are exploiting communities of color.
March 4, 2019
“Sorry not sorry.” That’s how Rep. Pramila Jayapal responded when reporters pointed out that her newly introduced Medicare for All bill has the share prices of our health insurance giants tumbling — and their CEOs scrambling. These health industry execs have come together under the innocuously titled “Partnership for America’s Health Care Future” in a desperate attempt to derail single-payer health care. Those execs have good reason to worry. Their gravy train has hit a rough patch.
February 25, 2019
Most Americans, the polls tell us, now realize that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted in 2017 — the Trump administration’s signature legislative “achievement” — has been a gift to the nation’s wealthiest that keeps on giving. Just last week, a top federal banking agency released still another data point that highlights how generous this giving continues to be.
February 18, 2019
Amazon doubled its profits in 2018, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported last week, and paid nothing in federal income taxes, not a dime on the $11.2 billion the company raked in, the second year in a row the online behemoth has paid zilch at tax time. But recent news out of New York suggests Jeff Bezos and company might have to kick their anti-tax habit sooner rather than later.
February 11, 2019
The inequality debate has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last several weeks. One sign of how far we’ve come: Former Starbucks CEO (and current White House hopeful) Howard Schultz is trying to rebrand billionaires as “people of means,” a not-so-subtle attempt to gloss over how dramatic our economic divides have become — and a sign our richest are worrying about shifting public attitudes about grand fortune.
February 4, 2019
Kenneth Griffin has been on a buying streak. The hedge fund billionaire spent $238 million on a Manhattan apartment — the highest price ever paid for a U.S. home — last month. That’s in addition to the nearly $60 million he dropped on four floors of a condo in his Chicago hometown of last year, as well as his properties in London and Miami. Imagine if some of those millions had gone for housing Griffin’s fellow Chicagoans shivering through the record chills of last week’s polar vortex. Those Arctic temperatures stretched the city’s ability to provide for its sizable homeless population. Fortunately, we may be nearing a political moment for changing all this, for ending the deep inequality that enriches people like Griffin while leaving others without a place to sleep.
January 28. 2019
This year’s annual World Economic Forum in Davos turned out to showcase a bit less of a global who’s who than the affair has in the past. A handful of heads of government — including the UK’s Theresa May and France’s Emmanuel Macron — had to skip the elite Alpine gathering to deal with inequality-fueled calamities at home. All these absences shifted plenty of media attention onto attending global corporate chiefs like Michael Dell, whose wealth has soared by $12 billion over the last five years. The Dell CEO smugly laughed off a reporter’s question about a recently proposed 70 percent top marginal tax rate on America’s wealthiest. He’d much rather focus on “skills shortages” than the worldwide inequality that has both right-wing autocracy and our planet’s temperatures rapidly rising.
January 21, 2019
In the decades since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's death, vast sums of American wealth have continued to concentrate in far too few hands. That economic inequality has exploded our racial wealth gap, as we describe in our new report, Dreams Deferred: How Enriching the 1% Widens the Racial Wealth Divide. Black families have seen their median wealth drop to $3,557 since 1983. Typical Latino families now hold net worths of just $6,591. Meanwhile, the nation’s top 0.1 percent has grabbed one of every six dollars in new wealth created over the past 33 years.
January 14, 2019
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. federal workers received $0 paystubs on Friday as the government shutdown entered its third week. Furloughed federal workers are holding yard sales — and turning to payday lenders — to make ends meet. Donald Trump, meanwhile, continues manufacturing a border crisis and demonizing immigrants.
January 7, 2019
We may only be a few days into 2019, but chief execs at the top 100 firms in the UK have already “celebrated” Fat Cat Day last week. As of January 4, notes a new Centre on Labour and Social Studies report, Britain’s top 100 execs have pocketed more compensation on average than typical British workers will take home for the entire year.
December 17, 2018
Inequality — and its consequences — dominated the headlines in 2018. From the blowback of last year’s tax cuts to Brexit, from the protests in France to new warnings of climate catastrophe, the year showed over and over what we can expect if we don’t deal with our economic divides. But the work of activists and organizers helped us move forward.
December 10, 2018
Our newly elected members of Congress haven’t yet started their new jobs, but they’re already stirring up a storm. This past week Representatives-elect Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lambasted their biased congressional orientation, where panels were dominated by CEOs and war hawks.
December 3, 2018
The massive corporate tax cuts Congress passed last year handed American companies a mighty windfall – a $500 million windfall in the case of General Motors. And where did General Motors spend its windfall? Certainly not on its workers. GM announced last week that it would end thousands of jobs in North America. The real rationale for the job losses? Corporate greed. We’ve got more on the blatant self-interest of GM’s execs in this week’s newsletter.
November 26, 2018
Like people around the world, we’ve had our eyes on the Central American migrants fleeing violence and inequality as they attempt to enter the United States. And we’ve been horrified by the response of the U.S. government to their caravan, from the ramped-up military presence to the gassing of families protesting at the border. What makes this treatment all the more heinous: Washington’s complicity in creating the conditions the migrants are fleeing, including the unfettered free trade agreements and privatization of public services that have led to so much displacement.
November 19, 2018
Households across the United States will give some heart-felt thanks this Thursday. Should our list of what we ought to be thankful for include the philanthropy of our ultra wealthy, like Michael Bloomberg's $1.8 billion gift to Johns Hopkins University?
November 12, 2018
We’ve written up online our biggest takeaways from the midterm voting, as well as what we expect to unfold in the coming weeks and months. One thing that strikes us as absolutely clear: To make any real progress on inequality, we’ll need sweeping policy changes along the lines of the big, bold ideas we’re profiling in this week’s issue.
November 5, 2018
The 2018 election will be the most expensive midterm to date, with candidates, political parties, and outside groups spending more than $5 billion to plug their preferred politicians. Over $100 million of that sum comes from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who knows that tipping the political scales in his favor can return him many times those millions. Adelson and his fellow billionaires have been rigging the rules to favor wealth for some time now. And the consequences could hardly be more dire.
October 29, 2018
We’ve had a whirlwind two years since the 2016 U.S. elections, and the Trump administration continues to forge forward with disastrous policies that protect and enrich our elites while hurting the most vulnerable among us. But Americans have been pushing back at every opportunity, from our workplaces to our borders. Next week, on November 6, that pushback shifts to the ballot box, and inequality will figure mightily in the decisions voters make.
October 22, 2018
Imagine lining up all the riches in the world and distributing them evenly to adults across the globe. Every adult on Earth would then end up with $63,100, according to the just-released 2018 Global Wealth Report from the Swiss bank Credit Suisse. That stat, the report notes, puts global adult average wealth at a record high. But, of course, our world’s riches aren’t distributed evenly.
October 15, 2018
UN reports don’t often make global headlines, but one certainly did last week. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a bombshell: We’ve got 12 years to avoid environmental catastrophe. Inequality runs as a consistent theme throughout this new landmark UN study. The more dramatically temperatures rise, a whole section makes clear, the more we can expect our economic divides to widen.
October 8, 2018
Did you catch my colleague Sarah Anderson on NPR’s 1A last week? Sarah was talking about Amazon’s move to hike the company’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. That number — no accident — represents a symbolic nod to the Fight for $15 movement, and Amazon’s wage boost should remind us that collective power can alter economic reality for workers by the hundreds of thousands.
October 1, 2018
Eyes across America fixed on the Supreme Court nomination hearing of Brett Kavanaugh last week, an event that perfectly distilled our power dynamics at work. A man who sees this power as his birthright threw a tantrum at a job interview when confronted with the harm he has done. More this week on how elitism allows men like Kavanaugh to ignore the rules. We also look at the activists battling the power structures that value the Kavanaughs of the world much more than the people they hurt.
September 24, 2018
This week, my colleagues down in Washington witnessed the latest step down a deeply disturbing anti-democratic road. The District of Columbia’s city council held a 16-hour hearing over whether to repeal a minimum wage increase for tipped workers that D.C. voters had overwhelmingly approved in balloting this past June. Why ignore the will of the voters? As Dia King, a hotel valet who testified on Monday told the Washington Post, Chocolate City has now turned into Money City, and the city’s powerful restaurant industry has blitzed the District with a well-funded misinformation campaign.
September 17, 2018
Every once in a while, we come across a headline that really captures the drama of American inequality. One that caught our eye this week: “Amazon executive admits patent to cage workers was ‘bad idea.’” That bad idea was brought to light earlier this month in a project by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler, a pair of AI researchers mapping the systems behind Amazon’s Echo speaker system. Crawford and Joler write that “dystopian futures are built upon the unevenly distributed dystopian regimes of the past and present, scattered through an array of production chains for modern technical devices.”
September 10, 2018
What’s easier than checking out a library book in Boston? Creating a shell company to buy luxury real estate — anonymously — and avoid oversight in the process. That’s what my colleague Emma De Goede found out when she came to Boston this summer. To get a library card, Emma had to prove who she was and where she lived. In America today, by contrast, you can create a shell company without doing either.
September 3, 2018
Here at the Institute for Policy Studies, we’ve been worrying about the wild divide between how companies treat their CEOs and their workers for well over two decades now. My colleagues Sarah Anderson and Sam Pizzigati have just released our 25th annual Executive Excess report.
The study’s key finding: Two-thirds of the U.S. corporations that rake in the most federal tax dollars, either via contracts or subsidies, pay their CEOs more than 100 times what they pay their median workers
August 27, 2018
If you only read the headlines, you’d be forgiven for thinking the U.S. economy has reached some kind of encouraging peak. Pundits are celebrating a bull-market run that last week set a record for Wall Street’s longest upward trend ever. Should the rest of us be celebrating, too? Not hardly.
August 20, 2018
This summer, we’ve seen more and more headlines documenting a trend that should come as no surprise to our readers: Corporations are failing to share the wealth with the workers who create it. Indeed, even with the enormous corporate tax savings from last year’s Trump tax cut, wages for U.S. workers are, as Bloomberg reports, “dramatically deteriorating.”
July 30, 2018
We’ve all heard loads of euphemisms for wealth hoarding. In our new report, Warehousing Wealth, my colleagues Helen Flannery, Josh Hoxie, and I take a deep dive into donor-advised funds, yet another loophole the rich have carved out to sidestep taxes, this time in the name of charity.
July 23, 2018
Jeff Bezos has just become, after adjusting for inflation, the richest man in modern history. How did Bezos bring in such extreme wealth? His employees across Europe know all too well.
July 16, 2018
TruTV launched a game show this past week with an interesting premise. Contestants on Paid Off can compete for money to pay off their student loans. Throwing cash at a few lucky contestants, the show’s producers seem to feel, constitutes a meaningful response to “out of control” student loan debt. That TruTV should feel this way — and fail to understand the structural factors driving student debt — shouldn’t surprise us.
July 9, 2018
We asked a while back whether greed would deep-six Scott Pruitt’s anti-science tenure as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief. Now we know. Pruitt has finally stepped down after several scandal-filled months, leaving behind a long trail of receipts for misspent public funds. Where could those dollars have gone instead? How about to schools in Detroit, where students just lost a class-action lawsuit over shockingly poor school conditions?
July 2, 2018
Plutocracy scored a major win last week. The U.S. Supreme Court dealt organized labor a long-expected blow with Janus v. AFSCME, a decision that climaxes a generation-long attack on the worker right to effective union representation. But our plutocrats shouldn’t be getting too excited. People around the world are rising up against the corporate interests that have rigged the global economy with cases like Janus.
June 25, 2018
Like people around the world, we’ve been aghast over the last few weeks at the ruthlessly cruel Trump administration moves to separate immigrant kids from their families. But not everyone shares our shock. As David Dayen reports for In These Times, private prison companies and defense contractors are already raking in the cash. Their share prices soared after Donald Trump signed an executive order that would end the separation policy by indefinitely detaining and caging families together.
June 18, 2018
“What’s up, bootlickers?” That’s how one angry Seattle citizen greeted city council members after they repealed a corporate tax they had passed only a few weeks earlier to raise funds to help the homeless. Who lurked behind this remarkable about-face? That would be Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who threw a fit over the original tax.
June 11, 2018
People around the world will turn their gaze to Russia – itself one of the world’s most unequal major economies – for the start of the World Cup. But the tournament doesn’t just showcase the beautiful game. The spectacle perfectly encapsulates some of our most glaring global inequities, beginning with the wildly varying valuations of the competing national teams.
June 4, 2018
Researchers at the Kansas City Federal Reserve have found that 14.3 percent of American workers haven’t received a single penny in wage hikes over the past year. For top corporate execs, of course, it’s a completely different story. Their pay, details a new Equilar analysis for the New York Times, jumped 14 percent in 2017. So what do we do about numbers like these? Maybe we ought to start thinking about setting a maximum wage.
May 28, 2018
American top execs are now pulling down pay packages that tower over the compensation of their peers in every other nation. And American workers? They no longer rank as the world’s highest-paid. They don't even rank, new research shows, in the global top ten. We have all the new numbers in this week’s issue.
May 21, 2018
Social change can take a really long time. Consider the fight to halt the ever-widening gap between executive pay and worker pay in the United States. The legislation requiring corporations just to disclose the gap between their CEO and median worker pay passed in 2010. Now, eight years later, thanks to a brilliant new report from the staff of Rep. Keith Ellison, we are one step closer to knowing which corporations share the wealth with their employees — and which do not.
May 14, 2018
Recent months have been rather dismal — at the national level — for U.S. inequality activists. But we’re seeing a much different story in the states, with plenty of initiatives keeping us hopeful.
May 7, 2018
According to Jeff Bezos, billionaires have a hard time finding ways to spend their money. In an interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner, the Amazon head and richest person in the world called space travel the only way he could imagine using his vast financial resources. But billionaires don’t need to go to space to spend their money. They have plenty of options right here on Earth. A good place for Bezos to start: actually paying Amazon’s corporate taxes.
April 30, 2018
What have legislators and bank executives learned since the 2008 economic collapse? Seems not much. Earlier this year, the Senate passed a financial deregulation bill that supporters claim will help small banks. Their idea of “small”? Banks with assets between $50 to $250 billion!
April 23, 2018
People around the globe marked Earth Day as coordinators centered their efforts on ending plastic pollution. A sensible next step? That might be confronting the big-time polluters who now head up some of America’s most important federal agencies.
April 16, 2018
Tax Day represents more than a deadline. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on the choices we make as a society on everything from who pays what at tax time to where our tax dollars end up going. These choices reveal our deepest priorities.
April 9, 2018
Fifty years ago, on the eve of his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood in Memphis, where sanitation workers were striking for better working conditions, and urged us all to build a new movement for economic justice. After Dr. King’s death, organizers continued working to forge the transformative, multi-issue Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. King had envisioned. Fifty years later, racism, inequality, and militarism remain entrenched in our politics.
April 2, 2018
The latest Wall Street bonuses really ought to disturb us, and not just because they’ll widen our economic divide. These hefty rewards offer more proof that Wall Street has failed to rein in the reckless behaviors that led us to economic collapse just a decade ago.
March 26, 2018
This week, we have more on the new numbers that point to growing inequality in the United States. We also look at a victory over the “other NRA” — the National Restaurant Association — that reminds us we can make change even in the most difficult of political moments.
March 19, 2018
Over the last week we’ve been mourning the loss of one of the greatest minds of our time. The world knew Stephen Hawking primarily for his research on the cosmos, but his brilliance extended to our daily existence here on Earth as well. Hawking challenged war and oppression, advocated for universal health care, and fought inequality at every opportunity.
March 12, 2018
Back in 2010, right after the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, corporate lobbyists went all out to kill a provision in that legislation that requires publicly traded U.S. companies to disclose the ratio between what they pay their CEO and median worker. But we beat them back, and this past month we began to see the first ratio disclosures.
March 5, 2018
The past several months, for those of us fighting to bridge our stark economic divides in the United States, have seen one dismal moment after another. The Republican tax plan passed late last year caters to the nation’s wealthiest. And the Janus case now before the Supreme Court threatens to devastate public sector unions and the workers they represent. But down at the local level activists are now fighting back, pushing for a more equitable economy.
February 26, 2018
The best stat that tracks the vast — and still growing — economic divide in the United States? That may well be the CEO-worker pay ratio, the number you get when you take how much corporate CEOs take home and compare that to the wages of their typical employees. Now we can finally make that comparison firm by firm. This year, for the first time ever, publicly traded companies have to release their CEO-worker pay ratios.
February 19, 2018
President Trump released his latest budget last week, and, to no one’s surprise, his budget plan calls for massive cuts to social services. This same budget, again no surprise, funnels billions more to the Pentagon.
February 12, 2018
This Valentine’s Day, we’re highlighting a campaign that’s won our hearts. In California, as I noted last week in The Nation, activists are organizing for a statewide vote on a plan that breaks up concentrated wealth by restoring the estate tax and uses the resulting revenue to fund tuition-free college. We have more this week on their effort. Want to share the love? Check out the College For All campaign and learn how to get involved.
February 5, 2018
In this week’s issue, we’re asking what’s needed to make transit accessible for all. We profile a group that’s won victory after victory for Portland’s transit riders and explore the perils of letting plutocrats have the last word in planning how we do our daily commutes.
January 29, 2018
The world’s elite came together high in the Swiss Alps last week for the annual Davos World Economic Forum. During the gathering's star-studded panels and soirées, the rich and powerful attendees paid nonstop lip service to solving our planet’s most pressing problems. But, as I wrote in Quartz, wealthy people should be going someplace else when they want to make change. They should be going back home, to their communities.
January 22, 2018
Thousands of members of the global elite are descending upon Davos, Switzerland this week for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The summit will have the world’s richest and most powerful rubbing shoulders with politicians and regulators, all under the theme of “creating a shared future in a fractured world.” Will the Davos panels count the divide between the mega rich and the rest of the world as one of those fractures?
January 15. 2018
More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a protest movement from Selma to Montgomery, demanding voting rights for black people in a region known for its deadly racist violence. Now, in a county that falls just along the march trail, a storm of racism, inequality, and ecological devastation continues its hold over the state.
January 8. 2018
We at the Institute of Policy Studies ended 2017 on a mournful note. Our co-founder, Marcus Raskin, passed away in late December. Marc was many things — a brilliant thinker, an accomplished musician, and a dear mentor — and his loss is deeply felt at IPS.
December 18, 2017
All year, we’ve been tracking the rants of America’s mega-rich, and last week we put it to a vote: who was the most petulant plutocrat of 2017? Thanks to you, we have an answer: Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education.
December 11, 2017
Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican from South Dakota, has been a key player in the orchestrated effort to repeal the federal estate tax. Noem has claimed repeatedly that estate taxes deeply undermined her “average” farm family. But it turns out that Noem may be stretching the truth — beyond recognition — on her family’s estate tax encounter.
December 4, 2017
Congress cleared another hurdle in their effort to pass a disastrous set of tax cuts for the wealthy. The GOP giveaway isn't just a political or an economic catastrophe. It also speaks to the moral questions Americans must ask of their government. What — and who — do they prioritize? People, or profits?
November 27, 2017
GOP leaders are trampling over almost all the legislative niceties in a mad rush to pass a tax plan that privileges the already privileged. The key vote on this tax disaster — and disgrace — could come this week. Can we stop this greed grab? In this week’s issue, we go back to 1932 for a little stop-the-rich inspiration.
November 20, 2017
In this week’s issue, we highlight one group that’s keeping the pressure on corporate lobbyists as the tax debate moves into the Senate. We also look at the just-released — and staggering — new stats in the Swiss bank Credit Suisse’s latest annual Global Wealth Report. The new numbers have a great deal to tell us about inequality in America, none of it good.
November 13, 2017
Just three people – Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett – now own more wealth than America’s entire poorest 50 percent. The nation’s rich overall, our newly released Institute for Policy Studies Billionaire Bonanza report details, are watching their wealth multiply at speeds nearly beyond belief. Meanwhile, one in five Americans belong to “Underwater Nation.” They have either zero or negative wealth. If any of the GOP tax plans circulating on Capitol Hill ever pass, we can only expect to see our current chasm widen. Lots more on that and the new Billionaire Bonanza in this issue.
November 6, 2017
A trove of just-released leaked documents is shining some light on the shadowy world of tax avoidance. U.S. lawmakers are considering whether to hand the ultra-wealthy another set of tax cuts, but the Paradise Papers are just another example of what we all know: when it comes to paying taxes, the rich play by their own set of rules.
October 30, 2017
This week, we take a look at the campaign restaurant workers have launched against a powerful industry lobby to end the two-tiered tipped wage system. And we have more on the grassroots activists working with cities to demand local investment from the wealthy institutions in their neighborhoods. Both fights offer ideas on the path to more equity in our communities.
October 23, 2017
Weeks after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico remains horribly devastated, the vast majority of the island still without power and struggling to rebuild. Among the obstacles Puerto Ricans face: billionaire “vulture funds” profiteering off their pain. Activists with New York Communities for Change are fighting back. In this week’s issue, we have their story.
October 16, 2017
Growing inequality, this week’s issue reminds us, has become a deep-seated global concern, and overcoming that inequality is clearly going to take nothing less than a global effort. So where do we start? We start with building up understanding and anti-inequality expertise. And that’s just what an exciting new project — the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity — is now working to achieve.
October 9, 2017
In this week’s issue, we interview the new president of the Economic Policy Institute — a key resource in the struggle against inequality — and wonder about the psychological underpinnings that hold inequality in place.
October 2, 2017
Like many of you, we’ve been glued to the scant coverage of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the completely insufficient emergency response. We’re hopeful the island gets the help they so desperately need and the news outlets don’t lose track of this incredibly important story.
One story the media has spared no expense to cover is the rollout of Trump’s tax plan. Check out co-editors Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, Josh Hoxie, and Inequality.org contributor Bob Lord in this viral video produced by Bernie Sanders explaining exactly who’ll benefit from the plan (now over a million views!). And don’t miss Chuck sitting down with Bernie for a Facebook Live interview on Tuesday October 3rd at 11:30!
September 25, 2017
With his hate-filled rhetoric, President Trump has managed to mobilize a new force against racial injustice: professional football players and team owners. As we all know, the racist justice system that has been the focus of the “take a knee” actions is intertwined with the problem of racial economic inequality. To learn more about this economic divide, check out the recent report we released with Prosperity Now, “The Road to Zero Wealth.”
This week, we’re excited to feature a commentary by the monopoly-busters who recently lost their jobs after criticizing Google’s excessive power. We also analyze the health care debate, the coming fight over tax cuts for the wealthy, and an absurd new way for billionaires to waste their money: luxury submarines.
September 18, 2017
The corporate interests getting rich on America’s current health care mess are already working to scare support off the Universal Medicare for All legislation Senator Bernie Sanders has just introduced with 15 co-sponsors. But Sanders is fighting back with a detailed analysis of tax-the-rich options for financing universal health care that draws upon our previously published Billionaire Bonanza report.
September 11, 2017
We cover a great deal of ground in this week’s Inequality.org issue, everything from the CEO-worker pay ratio disclosure victory just won in the UK to the absurdity of the runaway paychecks now going to American college football coaches.
September 4, 2017
The latest annual edition of our Institute for Policy Studies Executive Excess series reveals that profitable, tax-dodging corporations do not create jobs with the tax savings they reap. They lavish even higher pay on their top execs instead. The details and lots more in this week's issue.
August 28, 2017
In this week’s issue, we sit down with Matt Bruenig, founder of the just-launched People’s Policy Project, a new initiative that’s pushing back against the plutocratic stranglehold on America’s ongoing public policy discourse.
August 21, 2017 issue
The New York Times has featured a new analysis of the week since the racist riots in Charlottesville that salutes “a surprising group of Americans” for taking “the risk to speak truth to power.” And what “surprising group” did the Times have in mind? America’s corporate CEOs! We take a quite different perspective that takes into account the inequalities that drive horrors like the Charlottesville riots
July 31, 2017 issue
Pundits are giving credit for last week’s stunning defeat of the kill-Obamacare push to the three Republican senators who opposed the final repeal bill gasp. But the real heroes happen to be the countless activists nationwide who refused to be steamrolled and even put their bodies on the line. Unfortunately, the plutocrats aren’t stopping to lick their wounds. Next up on the Trump White House agenda: a tax cut for the wealthy that can only be described as a monumental cash grab by the ultra rich.
July 24, 2017 issue
Many of us have at times felt powerless in the face of the Trump era’s relentless inequality-increasing agenda. Not the folks behind Momentum, the grassroots UK initiative that last month shocked the political-insider world. Thanks in great part to the imagination — and dedication — of Momentum’s bottom-up efforts, the Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn far exceeded political expectations in the UK parliamentary elections. We have more on Momentum, from two stalwarts of the new group.
July 17, 2017 issue
Donald Trump Jr. has been dominating the news cycle this past week. But Junior is turning out to be not the only Trump kid with sins on display. And Russia’s oligarchs are getting nearly as much out of our current White House as America’s home-grown variety of magnate. This collusion with Corporate America is enriching our rich and endangering programs and regs that speak to the needs of ordinary Americans. This week we highlight a sampling of this troubling activity.
July 10, 2017 issue
Who’s doing more globally than the folks at Oxfam to highlight how unequal our world has become? No one comes to our mind. But the folks at Oxfam aren’t resting on their laurels. They’re doing some cutting-edge thinking on what we have to say and do to start making a significant dent on our world’s incredibly concentrated income and wealth.
July 3, 2017 issue
Most all the early leaders of the American nation shared a commitment, as Connecticut minister Benjamin Trumbull put it, “not to suffer a few persons to amass all the riches and wealth” of their young nation. Nothing would do more to ensure the success of the new American republic, Noah Webster would proclaim after the Revolution, than achieving “a general and tolerably equal distribution of landed property.” On this Fourth of July, we would do well to heed that counsel.
June 26, 2017 issue
The new Senate health care bill looks every bit like earlier versions out of the House of Representatives: massive tax cuts for the wealthy made possible by massive increases in the ranks of the uninsured. How can so many of our elected leaders have lost all semblance of compassion and empathy? We sat down with a seasoned activist who can help us keep pushing forward in the face of a cruel and painful era. We have his advice — and more — in this week’s issue.