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.

We’d also like to highlight this week a pair of newly viral videos on the debate over the Trump tax cuts. co-editor Josh Hoxie already has a million viewers on his explanation why Billionaires Do Not Need Tax Cuts, and our contributor Bob Lord is nearing two million views on his Trump Tells Truckers He'll Repeal the Estate Tax.

These two productions rate as just two of the many inequality-themed videos we’ve done so far this year with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Take a look — and please share!

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
Not One Cent More for Billionaire Vulture Funds!
Hurricane Maria, notes Maria Beri of New York Communities for Change, has dramatically exposed what’s been happening in Puerto Rico for decades. Austerity measures imposed by hedge fund billionaires and corrupt politicians have destroyed the island’s infrastructure and left Puerto Ricans at high risk for climate disaster. Beri hails from a small town in Puerto Rico called Naranjito. Her family there is still waiting for basic supplies. This week activists from New York, Florida, and Texas rode buses to Washington, D.C. to demand that Congress end giveaways to speculating billionaires. Beri has more on their struggle.
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Oh, What a Tangled Web Poor Wilbur Is Weaving
Billionaire Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, enjoys being rich. He also enjoys having others know just how rich he happens to be. That’s why Ross admitted to researchers preparing the 2017 Forbes 400 list that he had transferred, shortly before he joined the Trump cabinet, over $2 billion of his personal assets to a hidden trust set up for his family. That transfer knocked Ross off the Forbes list of America’s 400 richest, and the 79-year-old told the magazine he didn’t want “people to suddenly think that I’ve lost a lot of money.” But that admission exposed Ross to instant ethics scrutiny. The Senate had a right to know, one ethicist pointed out, that Ross had avoided potential conflicts of interest by handing conflict-producing assets to his kids. Commerce Department flacks are now denying any asset transfer between the 2016 election and Ross’s confirmation. Forbes is sticking to its original story.
This week on, veteran tax attorney Bob Lord looks at an underreported piece of the Trump tax cut plan that would eliminate the state and local tax deduction, a move that would devastate public services in communities across the United States.

Also this week, Peter Bakvis of the International Trade Union Confederation outlines the absurdity of Trump administration efforts to shift World Bank resources to the “Ivanka Fund” instead of focusing on the critical work of reducing global inequality.

Elsewhere on the web, the Trump tax cuts remain the talk of the town. Chye-Ching Huang at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reminds us what happened when Kansas tried massive tax cuts for the rich. Spoiler alert: That didn’t go well.

Michael Linden at the Roosevelt Institute is offering up smart and viable alternatives to giving massive tax cuts to the rich, and Rachel West and Harry Stein at the Center for American Progress have crunched the numbers on one such cheeky alternative. For the same cost of repealing the estate tax, they’ve discovered, everyone in the United States could have a pony!

The billionaire Koch brothers, adds Annie Linskey at the Boston Globe, don’t seem to be in the pony mood. They’re threatening to shut down their campaign cash cascade if Congress doesn’t deliver them a multi-billion dollar personal windfall.  

In less tax-centric inequality news, Jane Mayer, author of bestseller Dark Money, describes the outsized billionaire influence on Mike Pence, America’s next President if Donald Trump doesn’t finish his first term. Peter Whoriskey at the Washington Post examines the increasing inequality among older Americans. The United States now tops the developed world in seniors living in poverty.

Just ten years ago, Andrew Cherny reminds us in the New York Times, even hard-right Republicans supported a national “baby bond” program designed to level the economic playing field. Today a modest step toward that goal initiated during the Obama years lies in shambles, as a White House “stacked with millionaires” tells Americans “sitting on the sidelines of asset building” that they’re “on their own.”
Let’s Ditch the Trump Tax ‘Reform’ and Start Over
Over three-quarters of working Americans, according to new Social Security data, took home less than $60,000 in 2016. Some Americans, on the other hand, took home a great deal more. Social Security counts 133,119 Americans who pocketed over $1 million in paychecks last year. Which of these two groups, the millionaires or the under-$60,000 crowd, paid a greater share of its income in Social Security tax? The millionaires could certainly afford to pay the bigger share. But they didn’t — and the Trump tax plan, co-editor Sam Pizzigati shows, only makes that unfairness worse.
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