A decade from now, Boston’s skyline and population demographics will be fundamentally altered by decisions being made today.
What’s easier than checking out a library book in Boston? Creating a shell company to buy luxury real estate — anonymously — and avoid oversight in the process. That’s what my colleague Emma De Goede found out when she came to Boston this summer. To get a library card, Emma had to prove who she was and where she lived. In America today, by contrast, you can create a shell company without doing either.

Boston’s skyline is now filling up with luxury condos far out of the financial reach of typical city residents. Shell companies, chartered in secrecy-friendly Delaware, are buying these condos in bulk, masking the identities of the real buyers and keeping tax officials in the dark.

In our new report, Emma and I look at how these shady dealings are exacerbating an already acute affordable housing crisis. We’re officially releasing the report tonight, but Inequality.org subscribers can get a sneak peek. Just scroll down to read more about widening inequality in one of our nation’s most unequal metro areas.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
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Teresa Romero First Woman to Head UFW
The United Farm Workers has just changed the tenor of labor activism for some of America’s most vulnerable workers. The union has selected its first female president. Teresa Romero, who will take over the organization later this year, appears to be the first female immigrant to ever lead an American national labor union. Her appointment couldn’t be more timely, as the UFW looks to influence the national conversation on immigrant justice. Negin Owliaei has more.
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A Fierce Defender of Truth and Classic Opulence
Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös sees himself as the custodian of a hallowed brand — and woe be to anyone who dares dispute Rolls supremacy in the universe of ultra luxury. This past March, Müller-Ötvös lit into an Aston Martin exec who had the temerity of suggesting that the traditional Rolls design amounted to an outmoded “ancient Greece.” An “enraged” Müller-Ötvös, Auto News reported, fumed that Aston Martin had “zero clue” about the ultra rich and then accused other carmakers of stealing Rolls-Royce intellectual property. Last summer, Müller-Ötvös rushed to defend the $650,000 price-tag on one Rolls model after a reporter told him that his son wondered why anyone who could afford to “fly to the moon” would choose to buy a Rolls instead. Rolls patrons, the 58-year-old CEO harrumphed back, hold at least $30 million in personal wealth: “They don’t have to choose. They can fly to the moon as well.”
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Exploring Our New Gilded Statistical Golden Age
We know a great deal more about how unequal we’ve become than our progressive forebears knew over a century ago in America’s original Gilded Age. But can data fuel a fight for a more equal world? Inequality.org co-editor Sam Pizzigati, author of the just-published The Case for a Maximum Wage, examines who’s busy collecting today’s most eye-opening numbers.
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This week on Inequality.org 

Manuel Perez-Rocha, North American Fair Trade Activists Denounce Trump’s NAFTA Bullying. Leaders from Canada, Mexico, and the United States demand a trade deal that lifts up people and communities in all three countries.

Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs, A Clean Slate for Labor Reform. Sustain a strong labor movement and you can count on a more equal society. Kill labor and you kill equality.

Elsewhere on the web 

Sarita Gupta, Stephen Lerner, and Joseph A. McCartin, It’s Not the 'Future of Work,' It’s the Future of Workers That’s in Doubt. A call for a new union strategy from three prominent worker advocates.

Mira Adler-Gillies, A ‘plague of affluence’ is killing New York City, ABC News. How New York City is becoming a monocultural gated community accessible only to the super rich.

Rhymer Rigby, ‘Assortative mating’ is alive and well and living near you, Financial Times. As levels of inequality rise, we have more of the rich marrying other rich and compounding inequality as they do.

Chris Fleisher, More than a paycheck, American Economic Association. New research on the importance of nonmonetary incentives is undercutting the line that CEOs will only “perform” if paid fortunes.

Polly Toynbee, Labour’s sole focus should be closing Britain’s wealth gap, Guardian. Political empathy between income groups gets harder with wider distances between living standards and life experiences.

Drew Hansen, Democracy at Work the Only Way To Stop Billionaires Like Bezos, Forbes. On the many benefits of worker representation on company boards.
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The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Boston is experiencing a luxury real estate boom, with thousands of new luxury residential and rental units in different stages of development. While this boom does have benefits, providing good jobs in the building trades and increasing property tax revenue for the city, these luxury towers are not helping address Boston’s acute affordable housing crisis.

The Boston area already has one of the country's largest gaps between the wealthiest 1 percent and everyone else. The 12 luxury buildings we studied had average condo prices of more than $3 million. Clearly these are not designed for the ordinary Boston family, which has a median income of just $58,500.

This report takes a preliminary look at the perils of Boston’s luxury boom, including the key role these properties play in the global hidden wealth infrastructure, a shadowy system that’s hiding wealth and masking ownership, all for the purpose of helping the holders of private fortunes avoid taxes and oversight of illicit activities. We examine how Boston could better protect the public interest and, in the process, capture more of the current luxury real estate wealth flow to support affordable housing for Boston residents.