Major social changes typically unfold slowly at first, then rapidly. Consider how Social Security, a fringe idea early in the 1930s, burst onto America’s political center stage and, in just a few short years, became the law of the land. Massive social pressure made that happen.

Massive social pressure is now building to complete the “social security” left undone in the 1930s. Last week saw the launch of a national campaign to guarantee every American health care as a matter of right.

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.

Our latest report? That looks at how the racial wealth divide is hollowing out America’s middle class. Don’t miss the great write-up on our new study in the Guardian and our op-ed in USA Today.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
Running Down the Reality of Our Racial Divide
If you want to understand how the racial wealth divide impacts the U.S. economy and society, you’re going to want to get familiar with the work of Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, a senior fellow at Prosperity Now who’s been tracking that divide for years. Asante-Muhammad helps publish the Race and Wealth podcast and has just co-authored The Road to Zero Wealth: How the Racial Wealth Divide Is Hollowing Out America’s Middle Class. But this activist researcher doesn’t rely on the written — or even the spoken — word to get his egalitarian message across. Asante-Muhammad took to a running track a few years back and sweated his way to a delightfully revealing demolition of “equal” opportunity in 21st-century America. Check out — and share — the video of that take-down.
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A Billionaire’s Floating Fantasy Sinks in the Hudson
Media mogul Barry Diller is picking up his marbles and going home. The frustrated billionaire last week announced he was yanking the millions he had pledged to build a floating performance center in the Hudson River right off Manhattan’s West Side. Diller originally announced his park plan in 2014, but quickly found himself neck-deep in lawsuits over the project’s environmental impact. “A tiny group of people,” he charged, were using “the legal system to essentially drive us crazy.” But other observers like Inside Philanthropy editor David Callahan saw Diller’s park push as “part of a larger story about rising inequality and shrinking democracy.” Deciding what parks to build and where, notes Callahan, used to be “a function of democratic processes.” But today’s citizen more and more feels “like a spectator to largely privatized decision making” as a “hollowed-out public sector” lets private wealth set the agenda.
This week on, Chuck Collins and Dedrick Asante-Muhammad introduce findings from their new report, The Road to Zero Wealth. The growing racial wealth divide, the authors show, is endangering the American middle class. Canadian researcher Scott Sinclair also updates the Donald Trump-led push to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canadian negotiators have reportedly informed their U.S. counterparts that American “right-to-work” laws would have to go if they’re going to move forward on a deal. Now that would be progress!

Elsewhere on the web, John Cassidy reports that a new college-level economics curriculum may be ending the days when “serious” economists could ignore the deleterious impact of rising income and wealth inequality.

Academic researchers Leslie McCall and Jennifer Richeson aren’t ignoring anything. They’re explaining how learning about rising inequality makes Americans less likely to believe wealth reflects individual effort and more likely to see wealth as a product of luck. Social scientists have no monopoly on ideas for reducing inequality. Diana Budds surveys the latest books outlining how designers are addressing inequality.

With the tax debate in Washington heating up, Bloomberg’s Ben Steverman explores the plight of American workers paying double the tax rate wealthy investors pay. Also in Bloomberg: Patriotic Millionaires chair Morris Pearle and retired CEO Michael Kink implore Donald Trump to keep his campaign promise and close the carried interest loophole.

And finally, in an underreported story from the American Midwest, Robert Kraig outlines how the proposed Foxconn manufacturing expansion in Wisconsin brokered by Governor Scott Walker and President Trump may go down as the worst “deal” in history.
For the Middle Class, a Lost Century Continues
The ace statistical sleuther, Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley, has just co-authored new research on tax havens that gives us the clearest picture yet of how much income and wealth is concentrating in the pockets of our global richest. That new research, combined with new Census Bureau income data released last week, reveals a United States pulling ever further apart. America’s top 0.01 percent now holds 11.2 percent of the nation’s household wealth. That share has jumped up from 6.9 percent in 2000 — and quadruples the 2.6 percent share of America’s wealth the top 0.01 percent held throughout the 1970s.

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