Donald Trump certainly relished his State of the Union opportunity last week to boast about the abominable tax overhaul he helped shove through Congress at year’s end, a tax move that transfers America’s wealth — by the trillions — to our top 1 percent.  

Now Trump, as he announced in his State of the Union, is coming for America’s infrastructure as well, with plans to privatize what ought to be public responsibilities. But progressive activists are pushing for real solutions to fix our aging infrastructure, and, toward that end, activist groups have come together to mark today as Transit Equity Day. The goal: to promote truly public and sustainable transportation as a civil right and a key link in the fight against climate change.

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.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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A Movement Wins Millions for Portland Residents
In Portland, Oregon, residents have been facing environmental injustice, everything from rapid gentrification to a transit crisis, for some time now. Regulators, meawhile, often seem less interested in cleaning air quality than making polluters happy. But one small grassroots group is working to directly confront these injustices. OPAL has spent the last ten years challenging federal, state and local policy and winning millions of dollars for low-income people and people of color. In January, the group saw its biggest win yet: a fare reduction program that will save $10 million for city bus riders. Shawn Fleek, OPAL’s development and communications coordinator, shares the methods behind the group’s success.
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Wall Streeter: I’m Happy. They Must Be Happy, Too.
Nothing may exasperate John Studzinski — the vice chairman of the private equity powerhouse known as the Blackstone Group — more than how “obsessed” the media has become with the gap between the world’s super rich and everybody else. As Studzinski complained last month to CNBC: “Obviously the media is going to wine and dine on that for a long time and that isn’t going to go away.” Stats about inequality, Studzinski went on, make for “very good headlines.” But the real question, he added, ought to be: “Is the average worker happier?” Studzinski did his kvetching two days after Oxfam revealed that the 82 percent of the new wealth created globally last year went to the planet’s richest 1 percent.
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How Plutocracies ‘Solve’ Traffic Congestion
Early this past December, Virginia state officials opened up their latest “dynamically priced” toll superhighway, a 10-mile stretch of interstate that runs from Northern Virginia into Washington, D.C. Ten days later, commuter Chris Kane looked up at the signage that continually updates the road’s current rush-hour fare. The sign read $44. Fares that high, goes the conventional public policy wisdom, can change commuter behavior and move cars off our crowded roads. Changing our top-heavy distribution of income and wealth, co-editor Sam Pizzigati explains, might help a good bit more.
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This week on

Porter McConnell and Luísa Galvão, Wall Street Made Bank on Trump in 2017. A new report documents record-high Wall Street political spending, a tax cut bonanza, and a deregulatory free-for-all.

Thomas Kochan, Here’s How Workers Would Spend the Corporate Tax Cut – If They Had a Voice. Don’t workers have a legitimate claim and stake in what’s done with the profits they help produce?

Chuck Collins, A California Trend Worth Catching: College for All. America’s left coast is showing how to break up concentrated wealth while funding higher education.

Josh Hoxie, President Trump, One Year Later. After 12 months that have felt like an eternity, Donald Trump remains as greedy and volatile as ever.

Negin Owliaei, St. Paul Teachers Vote to Authorize Strike Ahead of the Super Bowl. As football’s biggest game heads to the Twin Cities, educators push for more community investment from host committee companies.

Chuck Collins, Tackling Inequality in the United States. A discussion on class and inequality with Ethics Matter at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

Elsewhere on the web:

Sarah Anderson, Trump's Policies Will Devastate the People He Used as Props for His Speech, Fortune. The costs of the GOP tax plan will likely wipe out the benefits for middle class workers and small business owners like those the president highlighted in his State of the Union address.

Ben Penn, Labor Dept. Ditches Data Showing Bosses Could Skim Waiters’ Tips, Bloomberg Law. The department hid the unfavorable numbers behind a proposal to transfer tips from servers to their employers.

Zoe Williams, The hypocrisy of the Davos set is finally being exposed, Guardian. The emperor’s of our economy claim to be addressing inequality, but stay silent on fair wages.

Brittany Bronson, Steve Wynn and the Economic Inequality Behind #MeToo, New York Times. In Las Vegas, writes a casino worker, low-income workers are made to feel indebted to the rich.

George Tyler, American Democracy Sold to the Highest Bidder, Social Europe. A former high-ranking U.S. Treasury official offers a Washington insider’s look at plutocracy.
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