Throwing cash at a few lucky contestants wonít solve our economic crises.
TruTV launched a game show this past week with an interesting premise. Contestants on Paid Off can compete for money to pay off their student loans. Throwing cash at a few lucky contestants, the show’s producers seem to feel, constitutes a meaningful response to “out of control” student loan debt.

That TruTV should feel this way ó and fail to understand the structural factors driving student debt ó shouldn’t surprise us. After all, TruTV is owned by Warner Media. And just weeks ago AT&T cut a merger deal with Warner, the latest and largest in a string of corporate consolidations that let corporate execs line their pockets as debts mount and incomes stagnate for average Americans.

That stagnation extends to the incomes of AT&T employees. Workers at the telecom giant went on strike last month across the Midwest, protesting layoffs that came as the company reaped a windfall from the GOP tax plan enacted late last year. Those workers are still pressuring AT&T for a fair contract. Will TruTV have a game show for them, too?

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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A D.C. Labor Battle Turns Into a Civil Rights Fight
Restaurant workers and their advocates fought long and hard to get Initiative 77 onto the ballot last month in Washington, D.C., and voters rewarded their efforts. The proposition requires restaurants to pay their tipped workers the full minimum wage, as opposed to the current paltry $3.89 base pay for tipped workers. Voters blessed that move by a double-digit margin. But if the D.C. City Council gets its way, that victory will be short-lived. Council members have introduced a bill to overturn the proposition, and the restaurant industry is backing them with a pricy campaign. Community groups are now fighting back to ensure the council respects the fair-wage vote outcome. We have more on their struggle.
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How Rich Lawmakers Celebrate an Act of Kindness
What happens when a lawmaker worth $75 million chairs the congressional panel in charge of writing tax policy? We get a tax bill that’s extremely kind to people worth $75 million. And what do lawmakers worth $75 million do on the day this kindness takes a giant step into law? They celebrate — by buying a yacht! Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, the eighth-wealthiest member of Congress, did just that after the House last fall passed the GOP tax cut bill that he had shaped as the chair of the House Tax Policy Subcommittee. The bill, as enacted, will save Buchanan as much as $2.1 million a year in taxes. The yacht he purchased to celebrate his bill’s victory, an Ocean Alexander model, cost somewhere north of $3.25 million. Flacks for Buchanan are calling attacks on his yachting celebration just another “partisan smear.” Says Max Goodman, a Buchanan aide: “Vern has owned boats for more than 20 years, and it’s no secret to his constituents that he has lived the American Dream.”
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A Sweet New Century for Americaís Privileged
The United States ended the 20th century on a roll ó for the rich. Between 1973 and 2000, the nationís top 1 percent tripled their incomes. The top tenth of that 1 percent did even better. Their incomes more than quintupled in those years, rising an amazing 414.6 percent. And what about Americans of less exalted means, those stuck in the nationís bottom 90 percent? Between 1973 and 2000, their incomes rose all of 2.6 percent. Something, in other words, went horribly wrong over the last quarter of the 20th century. And what has happened so far in century 21? Our decision makers in Washington, a new report details, have done their best to make things even worse. co-editor Sam Pizzigati, author of the just-published The Case for a Maximum Wage, has more.
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This week on 

Bob Lord, How To Level The Playing Field For Workers — Even With Unions Hurting. A federal jobs and income guarantee could protect workers the way unions once did.

Sharon Block, The Kavanaugh Nomination and Labor. The Supreme Court nominee’s record demonstrates consistent support for the interests of employers and a lack of concern for workers.

Bob Lord, Five Powerful Families. We’ve reached the point where a handful of wealthy clans essentially have the power to suffocate our democracy.

Elsewhere on the web 

Is Inequality in America Irreversible? Techonomics. Chuck Collins discusses some of the transformative solutions that could correct our wealth gap.

Antonio García Martínez, How Silicon Valley Fuels an Informal Caste System, Wired. The on-demand economy gives fewer opportunities for people to interact outside their class, creating an impermeable inequality.

Douglas Rushkoff, Survival of the Richest, Medium. The wealthy are plotting to leave us behind.

Martha Ross, Kylie Jenner may soon be a billionaire, but don’t call her ‘self-made,’ Mercury News. Still another case of deep pockets born on third base who think they’ve hit a triple.

Eric Levitz, New Study Confirms That American Workers Are Getting Ripped Off, New York. American policy makers have chosen to design an economic system that leaves workers disempowered, for the sake of directing a higher share of economic growth to bosses and shareholders.

Stephen Mihm, The Children of the Rich Will Always Be With Us, ThinkAdvisor. The wealthy can stop worrying: Their heirs won’t burn through their inheritances for many generations.

Frederic Filloux, With Greed and Cynicism, Big Tech Is Fueling Inequalities in America, Medium. If you compare Amazon’s stock price over the recent years against the cost of housing and the rise of homelessness in Seattle, where the company is headquartered, you find an identical progression.
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The Case for a Maximum Wage!
Modern societies set limits on everything from how fast motorists can drive to how many ducks hunters can shoot. But we donít limit incomes. Should we? Would limiting income address the inequality that ails us more effectively than more conventional approaches? Could a cap on income ó a maximum wage ó ever become politically practical?

All these questions deeply matter. That some people are making far too much has become not just a problem. This inequality has become the problem, a social cancer thatís coarsening our cultures, distorting our democracies, and even limiting how long we live.

This cancer we can conquer. Egalitarians worldwide, Sam Pizzigati details in The Case for a Maximum Wage, are exploring promising new approaches to capping income. These grassroots struggles point us toward a grander goal: a world with income ceilings set as a multiple of income floors. A world without the super rich. A better world for us all. readers who order before July 31 can get 50 percent off the cover price. Just use promo code PIZMW.