Let’s rededicate ourselves to the struggle for a new economy that no longer enriches the few while widening our cavernous racial wealth divide.

As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, we also know that we have a colossal ways to go before we realize his dream of racial and economic justice. In the decades since his death, vast sums of American wealth have continued to concentrate in far too few hands.

That economic inequality has exploded our racial wealth gap, as we describe in our new report, Dreams Deferred: How Enriching the 1% Widens the Racial Wealth Divide. Black families have seen their median wealth drop to $3,557 since 1983. Typical Latino families now hold net worths of just $6,591. Meanwhile, the nation’s top 0.1 percent has grabbed one of every six dollars in new wealth created over the past 33 years.

Let’s keep in mind, on today’s holiday, the goals that Dr. King and his contemporaries set out in their 1967 Freedom Budget: fair taxes and wages, full employment, and real investment in public services. Let’s rededicate ourselves to the struggle for a new economy that no longer enriches the few while widening our cavernous racial wealth divide.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
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Global Solidarity to End the Age of Greed
The world’s corporate and political elite will be getting all cozy this week at the annual Davos World Economic Forum high up in the Alps. Gatherings of a far different sort will be taking place at the same time in over 30 nations around the world. From Delhi to Dandora, activists will be putting forward solutions to the extreme inequality so on display in the mountain resort of Davos. One such gathering took place this past weekend in Kensington and Chelsea, London’s wealthiest and most unequal borough. Dr. Wanda Wyporska, the executive director of the UK’s Equality Trust, has more on the inaugural Speaking to Power Festival, where activists and survivors of the tragic Grenfell fire stood in solidarity with people around the world to demand a fairer future.
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Hollowing Out Newspapers for Fun and Profit
Twenty years ago, as an early “vulture capitalist,” hedge fund kingpin Randall Duncan Smith regularly refused to give interviews. Today, 20 years later, he’s still exploiting “distressed” companies — and still refusing to talk about his “vulture” investment ways. Smith’s Alden Global Capital currently specializes in “purchasing and then destroying newspapers.” He bleeds “already-suffering papers dry,” notes the University of Pennsylvania’s Victor Pickard, then picks over “their bones for profit.” Smith’s latest takeover target, revealed last week: the newspaper chain that owns USA Today. How rich has vulturing left Smith? Nobody knows for sure. Smith regularly manipulates his assets, one acquaintance has pointed out, “so he doesn’t make the lists of the world’s richest people.” What would reporters ask Smith if he agreed to talk? The Nation’s Julie Reynolds has a question all ready: “How many Palm Beach mansions does a Wall Street tycoon need?” Smith has bought 16.
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The Deep-Pocket Push to Deep-Six Public Schools
Teachers in Los Angeles, America’s second-largest school district, are striking, the latest high-profile walkout in a new surge of teacher strikes that began last year. L.A. teachers are striking for the same dignity teachers sought in the mid-20th century. But the L.A. struggle, many observers believe, amounts to much more than a battle over how school officials treat teachers. Teachers in L.A. are striking, in a most fundamental way, against how unequal America has become. They’re striking against our billionaire class. Inequality.org co-editor Sam Pizzigati, author of The Case for a Maximum Wage, has more.
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This week on Inequality.org 

Erin McHenry-Sorber, 3 Reasons to Pay Attention to the LA Teacher Strike. Teachers walk out in the second-largest U.S. school district for the first time in 30 years.

Jessicah Pierre, MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice Is Far From Reality. Ninety years after King was born, the racial wealth divide is actually growing — and that drags down the entire economy.

Chuck Collins, The Government Shutdown Expands the Ranks of ‘Underwater Nation’. Unemployment rates may be low, but federal employees are lining up at food banks. They aren’t alone.

Elsewhere on the web 

Sarah Anderson and Sam Pizzigati, Tax The Gap! The Nation. Why Portland’s new strategy for curbing executive pay frightens corporate America.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Chuck Collins, The Racial Wealth Gap Is Killing the Middle Class, Common Dreams. Ninety years out from Dr. King's birth, the typical white family had 41 times more wealth than the typical Black family.

Sam Pizzigati, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Tax Plan Can Get The Rich To Actually Want To Make All Americans Richer. Here’s How, Newsweek. The stiff U.S. tax rates on the mid-20th-century wealthy could not be sustained. This time let's get tax-the-rich right.

Eillie Anzilotti, The racial wealth gap is worse than it was 35 years ago, Fast Company. As white families continue to build wealth, black families are losing money.

David Campbell, The downside of doing good with a market mindset, The Conversation. Beware of billionaires with “good intentions.”

Joe Tompkins, You pay more in state, local taxes because the rich pay less, Meadville Tribune. We used to tax rich people to pay for things. Now we borrow from them and pay them interest for the service.

Barry Meier, Sacklers Directed Efforts to Mislead Public About OxyContin, New Documents Indicate, New York Times. The death toll from opioids, thanks to the machinations that created huge personal fortunes, now totals over 200,000 since 1996.

The Inner Level: Inequality and Our Well-Being
British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, two of the world’s most famous social scientists, are touring the United States to mark the U.S. publication of their new book, The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-Being. Wilkinson and Pickett, currently emeritus professor and professor of social epidemiology at the University of York, have been speaking widely in Britain about The Inner Level. Their first book together, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, made a major splash after its 2009 publication, getting translated into nearly two dozen languages and eventually selling over 150,000 copies. This new book figures to spark just as much interest and debate. Join us in Boston on Wednesday or in Washington, D.C. on Friday to engage with Wilkinson and Pickett on the deep well of data and analysis compellingly linking high rates of anxiety and depression to inequality.
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