Our government and economy place wealth above life. But we’re watching movements deliver far more ennobling messages. Their bold demands are showing we can address our unequal social relations.
Time seems to have accelerated in 2020. With each week, we’ve watched death tolls climb as billionaire wealth skyrockets. In these times of crisis, we can see more clearly just how our society works: Our government and economy, as currently constituted, place wealth above life.

But we’re also watching movements deliver far more ennobling messages. Their bold demands are showing we can address our unequal social relations. Campaigns for rent cancellation and eviction moratoriums are questioning landlord-tenant basics. Striking workers are demanding wages that reflect how essential their work has always been. The call to defund the police is challenging us to rethink what makes communities safe.

We’ll be taking our annual summer pause on our newsletter publishing schedule the next two weeks, but we’re already looking forward to seeing how far our political imaginations have stretched by the time we return. More this week below on what we’ll be watching when we return, everything from reopening schools to the election we’ve been waiting for.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
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Teachers Demand Safety for Their Communities
Over the last few years, we’ve watched as teachers grow a movement for educational justice. The stakes of this movement have always been high, but with fall approaching these stakes have become even more life-or-death. President Trump and his essentially villainous Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos demand schools open in the fall, without any care for the health and safety of educators, students, or the communities in which they reside. Teachers are pushing back, refusing to follow unsafe plans and threatening strikes. We have more on what they’re up against.
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Donald’s First Flame-Out Returns to the Limelight
Back in 2017, we all thought we had seen the last of Andy Puzder, the former CEO of the fast-food giant that owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Donald Trump had nominated Puzder to be his first secretary of labor, and that choice had lit up a firestorm over Puzder’s affection for wage theft and animosity to a higher minimum wage. AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka called the 66-year-old exec “a man whose business record is defined by fighting against working people.” Puzder’s defense? He didn’t have the stomach to put one on. Instead, he withdrew his candidacy the day before his confirmation hearing. But Puzder has now jumped back into the fray. Earlier this month he took to the Washington Post op-ed pages to blast the corona crisis $600 weekly unemployment benefit supplement. A “government check,” Puzder piously pronounced, makes for “a poor substitute for the dignity of a job.” A job that pays $7.25 an hour, readers responded, doesn’t create much dignity. What $7.25-an-hour jobs did create for Puzder: $10 million in annual CEO take-home pay.
Closing City Budget Gaps With Corporate Taxes
The Seattle city council has just approved a payroll tax targeting Amazon and other large corporations with highly paid high-ranking employees. This new Seattle tax offers just one example of the types of progressive taxes that cities facing Covid-related budget crises should be pursuing — instead of bowing to pressure to make painful spending cuts to basic programs. Inequality.org co-editors Sarah Anderson and Chuck Collins analyze other options for raising local revenue from corporations and wealthy property owners, everything from levies on excessive CEO pay and luxury real estate to higher local tax rates on local corporate income.
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Can the Joe-Bernie Policy Crew Rattle the Rich?
Progressive activists are crossing their fingers about the prospects for a Biden presidency, ever on the lookout for signs that a Biden administration might actually challenge — on some level — the nation’s continuing concentration of wealth and power. This search for hopeful signs now has activists pouring over the just-released reports from the “unity” task forces that Biden and his chief primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, set up in May to haggle out consensus policies in six key issue areas. What’s the task force on the economy recommending? Inequality.org co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more.
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This week on Inequality.org 

Heidi Peltier, The ‘Camo Economy’ Hides Military Costs and Exacerbates Inequality. Pentagon contractors like Lockheed Martin exploit their political connections to maintain a system that generates huge corporate profits and executive pay at taxpayer expense.

Elsewhere on the Web

Martin Wolf, Democracy will fail if we don’t think as citizens, Financial Times. Plutocracies flourish where middle classes fade.

Jenice Robinson, Adequately Funding the IRS Would Be One Small Step Toward Racial Equity in the Tax Code, JustTaxes. Congress has hamstrung the IRS in ways that favor corporations and wealthy, white households.

Polly Toynbee, To save the arts and all else we hold dear, a wealth tax now seems the only answer, Guardian. A one-time 10-percent tax on all UK wealth would yield £1 trillion, “enough to pay for all the things we regard as essential for civilization.”

Bob Hennelly, As Covid-19 deaths hit record numbers, Trump oversees a historic wealth transfer to the super-rich, Salon. Our oligarchs are exploiting a collapse that's hitting communities of color the hardest.

Jean Twenge, Money buys even more happiness than it used to, The Conversation. People living in nations with high income inequality tend to be less happy. Growing class divisions, new research shows, only make matters worse.

Thomas Wiedmann, Manfred Lenzen, Lorenz Keyßer, and Julia Steinberger, Scientists’ warning on affluence, Nature Communications. Super-affluent consumers drive consumption norms — and those consumption norms are killing the planet.

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, The origins of the Republican Party’s plutocratic populism, Washington Post. Republicans confront a dilemma strikingly similar to what European conservatives faced when wage workers won voting rights: How do you get votes from those on losing side of extreme inequality when your agenda backstops the winning side?

Jonathan Aldred, This pandemic has exposed the uselessness of orthodox economics, Guardian. The rich can always afford to pay more than the poor. So more money gets spent on R&D for anti-wrinkle creams than treating malaria.

Phillip Longman and Udit Thakur, Elite Hospitals Have an Epidemic of Greed, Washington Monthly. How top execs at “charitable” hospital systems put making money ahead of service to the public.

David Sirota, Eugene Scalia Is A Comic-Book Villain Targeting Your Savings, TMI. Trump’s labor secretary is making federal rule changes that funnel worker retirement dollars to Wall Street billionaires.
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