This Halloween, like every year, we're haunted by the failure of our political system to address the inequality around us. But last week brought a fresh source of horror. The U.S. House of Representatives pushed through the blueprint for a new budget, bringing us a step closer to Trump's potential tax cuts. That means more treats to line the pockets of billionaires, like the heirs to the Mars candy fortune. We have more on that in this week's issue.

We also 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 more local investment from the wealthy institutions in their neighborhoods. Both fights offer ideas on the path to more equity in our communities.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
Jane Fonda Takes on the Subminimum Wage
As a member of four labor unions, Jane Fonda knows quite a bit about what good organizing can bring to workers' lives, and, in a recent speech at Georgetown University, the famed 79-year-old actor stressed the importance of face-to-face organizing to campaigns like the current One Fair Wage drive to end the subminimum wage that now afflicts tipped employees. Fonda is now touring with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a worker advocacy group, on this landmark campaign effort. But their organizing now faces a new obstacle: The U.S. Department of Labor is planning to overturn a longstanding regulation that keeps tips in the hands of the restaurant workers who earn them. co-editor Sarah Anderson has more this week on the fight for One Fair Wage and Fonda’s role in it.
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Making America Safe for Billionaire Broadcasters
Ajit Pai, the “free market” lawyer who now chairs the federal agency that oversees U.S. broadcasting, went before Congress last week to rail against what he sees as a glaring injustice on the media landscape. The “problem”? Current Federal Communications Commission regulations prevent corporate media giants — like the billionaire Smith family’s Sinclair Broadcast Group — from owning daily newspapers and major broadcast stations in the same media market. Pai wants the Commission to kill this rule at its next meeting. Ending the rule, he claims, would “help pull the government once and for all out of the newsroom.” Pai’s FCC, ironically, has just axed a rule that requires media chains like Sinclair to maintain newsrooms at all the local stations they own. Public interest groups are blasting away at Pai’s moves. Notes Free Press president Craig Aaron: “We need to strengthen local voices and increase viewpoint diversity, not surrender our airwaves to an ever-smaller group of giant conglomerates.”
This week on, Bob Lord looks at the Mars family, the uber-wealthy clan behind a bunch of the candy we let our kids gobble down every Halloween. The family, one of the biggest funders behind the estate tax repeal drive, stands to gain billions if the estate tax disappears. Antonio Moore also has a new short animated video out depicting America’s staggering black-white racial wealth divide.

U.S. Senate Republicans have just dealt a harsh blow to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, repealing regulations that protect consumers from “rip off clauses.” Phil Mattera explains that businesses will now essentially be operating without effective controls, even as corporate misconduct runs rampant.

Elsewhere on the web, Boston, home to two of our co-editors, happens to be the most unequal city in the United States, as Al Jazeera reports. Inequality is ravaging other cities as well. Alex Jacobs at Truthout examines the crisis in New York, where luxury apartments and homelessness have reached their highest levels since the Great Depression.

Societies can only remain deeply divided for so long, as Ned Resnikoff explores in The Nation. We can derive lessons as far back as the ancient Roman republic. Also in The Nation, economist Joseph Stiglitz blows the whistle on runaway corporate consolidation.

Steve Dubb argues in Nonprofit Quarterly that we shouldn’t be waiting for the wealthy and their foundations to address these problems. In a democracy, it’s up to all citizens. And on that tax bill you’ve been hearing about: Matt Yglesias at Vox helps us understand why this tax fight is all about inequality.

One group not waiting around to take action: the Colorado chapter of Indivisible. Activists there dressed as characters from The Handmaid's Tale to protest Vice President Mike Pence’s local appearance to tout the Trump tax cuts.
A Strategy for Blunting Corporate CEO Blackmail
Screenwriters love creating hostage-taking situations. Meet our demands, their bad guys ominously mutter, or you’ll never see your kid again. In real life, the blackmailers who do the most damage don’t mutter. They lobby — on behalf of giant corporations. And the folks they lobby — our lawmakers — almost always counsel us to give in and hand corporations whatever tax breaks and subsidies their CEOs should happen to demand. We have no choice, these lawmakers will claim. If we don’t give corporations what they want, their execs will take their enterprises somewhere more corporate-friendly. How can we break this endless blackmail cycle? Grassroots activists in and around the Democracy Collaborative, co-editor Sam Pizzigati notes, have an attractive option for us. They’re talking “anchors.”
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