In last week’s Democratic Party debates, we heard one signature stat from our Institute for Policy Studies Billionaire Bonanza report repeated more than once.
How much has the political conversation on inequality changed since the 2016 election? Let’s take a look at one measure: what candidates stress in the presidential primary debates.

In last week’s Democratic Party debates, we heard one signature stat from our Institute for Policy Studies Billionaire Bonanza report repeated more than once. Just three billionaires own more wealth than half the people in the United States combined, as Senator Bernie Sanders reminded us in both his opening and closing remarks.

But Sanders would not be alone in his concentration on concentrated wealth. Other candidates throughout the two debate nights echoed his concern. We have more on the debates in this week’s issue, as well as more on last week’s Taxing the (Very) Rich conference — for any candidates eager for some hot new policy ideas! 

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Time to Fund Head Start, Not Internment Camps
Kenia Alcocer came to the United States as a small child. Her mother was escaping poverty and wanted to give her family a better life. Amid the poverty and systemic racism the family found in the United States, that would be difficult. Undocumented families like hers work multiple jobs and face chronic wage theft and maltreatment, under the constant threat of detention, deportation, and family separation. Last month, Alcocer traveled to Washington, D.C. from her home in Los Angeles to tell House Budget Committee lawmakers what they could be doing to help all families lead better lives.
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A Cheerleader for Capitalism Growing a Bit Testy
Hedge fund investor Leon Cooperman is getting angry again. He seems to do that early on in every presidential election cycle. Back in 2015 Cooperman objected to the attacks on hedge fund tax breaks he was hearing in the Democratic primary race. Blasted back Cooperman in a CNN interview: “I don’t need anybody crapping all over what I do for a living.” Late last month, in a CNBC interview, the 76-year-old attacked the calls for taxing America’s rich he’s hearing from candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Pronounced Cooperman: “All in all, I’m not in favor of raising taxes. Taxes are high enough. I think it’s counterproductive to look to the wealthy people across the board.” Adds the former Goldman Sachs exec: “We have the best economy in the world. Capitalism works.” Our economic order certainly works for Cooperman. His current net worth: $3 billion.
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A 2020 Query: Can Our Billionaires Be ‘Deserving'?
The New York Times has asked the Democratic Party’s White House hopefuls what may be the most important question since America’s richest began crushing the egalitarian ethos of the mid-20th century: “Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars?” Why does that question matter? Are candidates giving that question a thoughtful answer — or playing into our contemporary plutocratic playbook? co-editor Sam Pizzigati, author of The Case for a Maximum Wage, has more.
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This week on 

Porter McConnell and Luisa Galvao, Stock Buybacks Are Deadly. It’s Time to End Them. Over the last 15 years, 94 percent of corporate profits have gone to shareholders in the form of buybacks and dividends.

Chuck Collins, Taxing the Rich Starts With Knowing Who They Are. Not all the rich are created equal, and it will take different policy approaches to redistribute some of their wealth.

Sarah Anderson and Negin Owliaei, 10 Inequality Takeaways from the Democratic Debates. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates went head to head for the first time last week, with America’s extreme economic divide right at the center of their dialogue.

Chuck Collins, Bernie’s Right: Three Billionaires Really Do Have More Wealth Than Half of America. We should also be worrying about the expanding fortunes of multi-generational wealth dynasties.

Elsewhere on the Web

Peter Dockrill, We’re Headed For a Class-Based ‘Climate Apartheid,’ Warns Chilling New UN Report, Science Alert. “We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer.”

Jamiles Lartey, ‘It’s totally unfair’: Chicago, where the rich live 30 years longer than the poor, Guardian. In an unequal society, your zip code has as much to do with your health as your genetic code.

Julie Turkewitz, Who Gets to Own the West? New York Times. The amount of land owned by the 100 largest U.S. landowners has jumped 50 percent since 2007.

Gary Olson, Meritocracy is the classic American foundation myth, Morning Call. How “I made it on my own” serves to justify policies that foster economic inequality.

Alice Ross and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, Group of ultra-rich Americans calls for wealth tax, Financial Times. The bottom line: “America has a moral, ethical, and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more.”

Allana Akhtar, Wealthy Americans don't have enough time in the day to spend their money, and it's stressing them out, Business Insider. The latest research findings.
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