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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, 2021
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.