Patents for caging workers are the newest indicator of our dystopian inequality.
Every once in a while, we come across a headline that really captures the drama of American inequality. One that caught our eye this week: “Amazon executive admits patent to cage workers was ‘bad idea.’” That bad idea was brought to light earlier this month in a project by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler, a pair of AI researchers mapping the systems behind Amazon’s Echo speaker system.

Crawford and Joler write that “dystopian futures are built upon the unevenly distributed dystopian regimes of the past and present, scattered through an array of production chains for modern technical devices.” Those at the top “live in extraordinary wealth and comfort.” But their fortunes come mostly from “the dark tunnels of mines, radioactive waste lakes, discarded shipping containers, and corporate factory dormitories.”

We have more this week on our dystopian inequality, including what newly released Census data have to say about the real state of the U.S. economy. We’re also looking at the bank workers organizing to prevent the dystopian future Crawford and Joler so chillingly foresee.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Bank Workers Rein in Global Finance From Below
It’s been ten years since the excesses of the financial sector caused a global meltdown so massive that some pundits predicted the end of our economy as we know it. Now, a decade on, we’ve seen some paltry moves to rein in the extravagance of Wall Street. But one often-forgotten group of people working in banking have the information — and the motivation — to tame the beasts of finance. co-editor Negin Owliaei takes a look at the bank workers organizing to protect their jobs and their communities from the corrupt practices of global banking.
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A Heartfelt Paean to the Morality of Price Gouging
Nirmal Mulye, the CEO of drugmaker Nostrum, has a ready explanation for why his company has upped the price of an essential antibiotic from $475 to $2,392 for a single bottle. In fact, Mulye has two explanations. The pharma exec early last week told the Financial Times that he has “a moral requirement to make money when you can.” Then, in a follow-up social-media message, Mulye blamed his price hiking on the FDA, the federal agency that regulates the pharmaceutical industry. The FDA commissioner promptly replied that he saw “no moral imperative to price gouge and take advantage of patients.” Mulye clearly disagrees. He has even defended Martin Shkreli, the infamous drug exec who raised the price of a cancer drug from $13.50 to $750 a tablet in 2015. Shkreli, says Mulye, “had to reward his shareholders.”
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Does the United States Have a ‘Strong’ Economy?
Long-time Republican Party political strategists are having fits. If only we could get average Americans to focus in on the economy instead of The Donald, they’re telling all comers, the GOP would do just fine in the upcoming November midterm elections. Those Republican strategists should be careful what they wish for. Getting average Americans to focus in on the economy ought to be the last thing in the world they want voters to do. That economy is doing average Americans no favors. co-editor Sam Pizzigati, author of the just-published The Case for a Maximum Wage, has more on two new data dumps that make that reality even plainer.
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This week on 

Chuck Collins, Luxury Real Estate Boom Adds to Risk of Climate Disruption. Cities shouldn’t be building new fossil fuel pipelines to power skyscrapers for the super-rich.

Dennis M. Kelleher and Stephen W. Hall, Kavanaugh: Good for Corporations, Bad for Your Wallet. The Supreme Court nominee has a record on business and financial cases clearly hostile to the economic interests of working Americans.

Chuck Collins, The Wealth Hiding in Your Neighborhood. From country farmland to big city skyscrapers, absentee billionaires may be hiding wealth in your town — and driving up your cost of living.

Elsewhere on the web 

Sarah Anderson, If CEOs Earn 1,000 Times More Than Us, They Don't Need Taxpayer Dollars, BuzzFeed. Companies practicing racial or gender inequality cannot receive government dollars. Let’s do the same for economic inequality.

Tim Logan, Boston’s new luxury towers appear to house few local residents, Boston Globe. Entire buildings, a new Institute for Policy Studies report shows, are being constructed for global elites looking to park some cash.

Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, The Inequality Industry, Nation. Since 2008, wonks, politicians, poets, and bankers have all started talking about inequality. But are they interested in making us more equal?

Joe Gose, Tax Breaks for Luxury Towers Spur Redevelopment, and Backlash, New York Times. Why are America’s cities subsidizing high-end apartments when schools are underfunded and sidewalks are crumbling? 

Jim O'Neill, The Global Economy Ten Years After, Project Syndicate. A former Goldman Sachs exec calls CEO pay levels unjustifiable.

Francine McKenna, A decade after the crisis, the SEC still hasn’t passed executive compensation rules, MarketWatch. How Wall Street has slammed the brakes on reforms that threatened to separate senior execs from their money.
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