The modest wage gains U.S. worker are now seeing simply cannot cover the rising and often hidden costs our plutocracy imposes on us.
Soaring GDP growth! A booming stock market! Lower unemployment!

Headlines like these have some Americans believing the U.S. economy couldn’t be better. Yet, as my colleague Sarah Anderson told NPR’s 1A last week, all the good news the headlines trumpet has a backstory. Our nation’s economic gains are still going primarily to people at the top — and boosting the inequality behind so many of the ills that plague us.

The modest wage gains U.S. worker are now seeing simply cannot cover the rising and often hidden costs our plutocracy imposes on us, everything from the inflated prices on our for-profit healthcare system’s prescription drugs to shocking rent hikes in cities our tech billionaires so dominate.

So we have a long way to go before we have anything close to a truly healthy economy. More on that score in this week’s issue.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Nurses Tell Big Pharma: Our Patients Over Profits!
Day in and day out, American nurses see the damaging fallout of a for-profit healthcare system. That’s why nurses have long been at the forefront of the fight for healthcare justice. Last week, that fight took them to the headquarters of PhRMA, the trade group that represents pharmaceutical industry companies. Members of National Nurses United used bandaids to plaster PhRMA’s walls with GoFundMe pages of patients who’ve turned to crowdfunding to cover their healthcare expenses. NNU activists later spoke with about their spotlight on Big Pharma and their vision for healthcare justice.
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Bank CEO: Why Not Just Let Bygones Be Bygones?
Investment banks help governments sell bonds. This lucrative work doesn't rate as rocket science, but does carry some real responsibility — like making sure bond sellers don’t rip off investors. Malaysia’s prime minister did just that a few years back, embezzling $2.7 billion of the $6.5 billion the U.S. banking giant Goldman Sachs helped raise for a Malaysian development fund. Last November, a Goldman exec pled guilty to participating in the scam, and the bank still faces civil and criminal penalties for its oversight failures. Goldman made $600 million on the Malaysian development bonds, a haul way above industry norms. Could the bank use a culture change? Goldman chief David Solomon doesn’t think so. The CEO said last week he’d like to get past the scandal “as soon as we can.” The scandal, in the meantime, isn’t distracting Solomon — who made $23 million last year — from more important business, like stopping new taxes on the rich. He told a reporter last week that he doesn’t feel subjecting America’s wealthy to “a wealth tax, per se, is a good idea.”
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Do You Really Care about the Threads You Wear?
If you like looking good, you ought to fear what rising levels of inequality are doing to America’s apparel future. Who’s saying so? Insiders in America’s apparel industry. They’re buzzing about a new research report from a national consulting firm that spent “the better part of a year” looking at how the last decade has impacted retail in America. The central problem the researchers feel the nation now faces? A “vastly disproportionate share in income growth,” the report concludes, “has gone to high-income households.” What does that mean for the clothes on your back? co-editor Sam Pizzigati, author of The Case for a Maximum Wage, has more.
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This week on 

Sarah Anderson, The Reality Behind the ‘Surging’ U.S. Economy. A tiny uptick in wages won't do much to help Americans squeezed by debt and facing rising prices for medicine, child care, housing, and other essentials.

Max Moran, Wall Street Money Buys Silence on Big Bank Abuses. The financial industry used $2 billion in political spending during the last election cycle to preserve its ability to rip off consumers.

Negin Owliaei, Let’s Celebrate Striking Workers. A stat for International Workers’ Day that’s giving us hope.

Elsewhere on the web 

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Chuck Collins, How to shrink the wealth gap for minorities and everyone else while we study reparations, USA Today. America’s top 1 percent takes benefits more from tax incentives for buying homes and attending college than the entire bottom 80 percent.

Morris Pearl and Karen Seal Stewart, Inequality isn't just morally wrong — it's unsustainable, The Hill. Wealthy Americans, notes Patriotic Millionaires, can either get on the tax-the-rich bus or be run over by it.

Emily Stewart, We are (still) the 99 percent, Vox. An analysis of the long-term success of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement.

Robert Verkaik, Private schools claim to help the taxpayer. But they serve only the rich, Guardian. Finland went to a national public school system, and Finnish kids today dominate the global education outcome tables.

Peter Cary and Allan Holmes, The secret saga of Trump’s tax cuts, Center for Public Integrity. A behind-the-scenes, blow-by-blow look at how our modern American plutocracy actually operates.

Heather Boushey, The economy isn't getting better for most Americans. But there is a fix, Guardian. We need economic measures that show how the benefits from growth are flowing to the high-income set.

Amanda Jackson, Chase told customers to stop splurging on coffee and cabs. You can imagine how that went, CNN. Why don’t average Americans have more money in their bank accounts? JPMorgan Chase tries blaming average Americans.

Dimitri Papadimitriou, Michalis Nikiforos, and Gennaro Zezza, Can Redistribution Help Build a More Stable Economy? Levy Economics Institute. A new study examines how pending tax-the-rich proposals would, if enacted, significantly juice the U.S. economy.

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Finding the Cure for Excessive Wealth Disorder
The Institute for Policy Studies,, and the Economic Policy Institute invite you to attend a day-long conference on Taxing the (Very) Rich. Join policy experts, activists, and elected officials who will be making the case for taxing the very rich — and debating how best to accomplish that taxation!

Any serious policy agenda geared towards combating inequality and raising living standards for the vast majority, the conference will help show, must look to ultra-high earners in the top 0.1 percent, the elites who wield disproportionate economic and political power.

Free with Eventbrite Ticket.