The basic reality: “Upskilling” won’t make a dent on inequality. We need bold action — like taxes on wealth — to even begin tackling our grand divides.
This year’s annual World Economic Forum in Davos turned out to showcase a bit less of a global who’s who than the affair has in the past. A handful of heads of government — including the UK’s Theresa May and France’s Emmanuel Macron — had to skip the elite Alpine gathering to deal with inequality-fueled calamities at home.

Donald Trump didn’t show either, and all these absences shifted plenty of media attention onto attending global corporate chiefs like Michael Dell, whose wealth has soared by $12 billion over the last five years. The Dell CEO smugly laughed off a reporter’s question about a recently proposed 70 percent top marginal tax rate on America’s wealthiest. He’d much rather focus on “skills shortages” than the worldwide inequality that has both right-wing autocracy and our planet’s temperatures rapidly rising.

How massive have our worldwide divides become? Take a look at our newly updated Global Inequality fact sheet for the details. The basic reality: “Upskilling” won’t make a dent on inequality. We need bold action — like taxes on wealth — to even begin tackling our grand divides. We have more below on the goings-on at Davos. And we’ll have more next week on Elizabeth Warren’s new wealth tax proposal.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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The Teen Climate Activist Speaking Truth to Davos
Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg skips school to stage strikes and sit-ins, challenging the politicians in her native Sweden to take action on climate change. She’s part of a growing movement. Some 35,000 students in Brussels went on strike last week to demand leaders address the climate crisis, all while Thunberg went to Davos to address global elites. Her message to corporate and cultural honchos at an exclusive conference lunch last Thursday: "Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money.” Added the young activist: "I think many of you here today belong to that group of people." We have more on her landmark Davos appearance.
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A Billionaire Banker Turns Economic Doomsayer
Ken Moelis, the investment banker whose personal fortune last year hit the billion-dollar mark, feels certain he knows exactly what makes modern economies tick. Explains the Ayn Rand acolyte: “You have to incentivize people.” And Americans will have no incentive, Moelis pronounced at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, if the 70 percent top marginal federal income tax rate that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed earlier this month ever becomes law. Such a tax, says Moelis, “would be disastrous for the economy.” How so? People in “two-workforce families,” the billionaire banker suggests, would no longer have any reason to labor. For the record, the Ocasio-Cortez 70 percent tax would kick in on annual income over $10 million.
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Revisiting Beauty and the Beast (of Inequality)
We take a break from the ugly politics of our unequal age to contemplate the beauty in our midst. Even here, unfortunately, we can’t escape the ugliness inequality engenders. co-editor Sam Pizzigati, author of The Case for a Maximum Wage, has more.
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This week on 

Chuck Collins, Senator Warren’s Wealth Tax: The Moment of Conception. An inside look at a great moment in intellectual cross-fertilization.

Sharan Burrow, Why Indian Workers Say the Modi Government Must Go. As the world’s largest democracy prepares for a general election this year, workers are uniting against a government captured by corporate greed.

Phil Mattera, Who’s Paid the Biggest Worker Abuse Fines? The Answer May Surprise You. Big banks not only mistreat customers. They've also faced heavy fines for mistreating their employees.

Elsewhere on the web 

Oxfam, Public good or private wealth? This 2019 edition of Oxfam’s annual wealth report emphasizes that universal public services, combined with new taxes on the rich, could appreciably narrow the gap between rich and poor.

Steve Wamhoff, The U.S. Needs a Federal Wealth Tax, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. An annual federal tax of only 1 percent on net worth exceeding the threshold for belonging to the wealthiest 0.1 percent could raise $1.3 trillion over a decade’s time.

Eric Levitz, The Right’s Case Against Soaking the Rich Is Dirt Poor, New York. The incredibly flimsy rationales cheerleaders for grand private fortune are advancing to justify not taxing the rich.  

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Chuck Collins, How the 1% profit off of racial economic inequality, Guardian. The racial wealth divide is bringing down median wealth while wealth at the very top soars.

Sam Pizzigati, The Moderate’s Case for a Maximum Wage, Inside Sources. Serious moderates value moderation in all things. Especially income.

Amanda Marcotte, As usual, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right: There should be no billionaires, Salon. The moral and economic case for a billionaire-free world.

Polly Toynbee, How the right tricked people into supporting rampant inequality, Guardian. The more people believe that hard work can make anyone rich, a new study shows, the less they feel bothered by structural inequalities that perpetuate privilege.

Didier Jacobs, Taxing wealth is key to fighting inequality, Views & Voices. Oxfam America’s senior policy advisor explains how the conventional wisdom about taxes and the rich is changing.
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