Billionaire wealth continues to skyrocket, and lawmakers around the country are starting to notice.
We’ve just released our latest update on how well America’s billionaires have been doing since the pandemic first blasted our daily lives. The total wealth of our billionaires has now soared $685 billion since the middle of March, to a combined $3.65 trillion.

American lawmakers — from Sacramento to Washington, D.C. — have noticed. They’re starting to propose tax rates on the super rich that would have seemed politically unimaginable before the coronavirus began changing our world.

We have the details on those new proposals — and a good bit more — in this week’s issue.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Free College Should Be Part of Any Stimulus Deal
After graduating from college last year, Hayat Rahmeto (pictured in the middle above) planned to work two jobs to save money for law school. Then the pandemic hit. She lost one job and the prospects for finding another seemed bleak. Fortunately, with her parents providing rent-free housing, Rahmeto has been able to go back to school at a local community college. But many other young people can’t afford this option. That’s why demands for free public college have become more important during the pandemic recession than ever before. With youth unemployment hovering around 20 percent, we need to eliminate the financial barriers to continuing education, particularly for young people of color.
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On the High Seas, a Nice Home Away from Home
Even billionaires have feelings. Especially for their yachts. Just ask Pier Luigi Laro Piana, the deep-pocketed grandson of the founder of one of Italy’s most coveted luxury clothing lines. Piana’s $38-million sailing yacht — the My Song — burst out onto the international scene in 2017, winning a World Superyacht Award. But then last year, in the midst of a fierce storm, the boat fell off a British cargo vessel carrying it from Antigua to the Italian port of Genoa. Salvage crews would later find the yacht floating, broken beyond repair, off the coast of Spain. The loss left poor Piana devastated: “This boat is like a second home, and it is as if my home has burnt down.” The loss left Piana angry, too. He has sued the cargo firm that lost his boat for its full replacement value. The cargo firm denies responsibility and is charging that the carbon-fiber yacht’s carrying cradle, Piana’s property, simply collapsed. The case is going to trial in the UK. Piana wants the venue shifted to Italy.
A Tax on Booming Billionaire Wealth
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced the Make Billionaires Pay Act (S4490) to recapture over half the extreme wealth gains made by billionaires during the pandemic. This one-time 60 percent tax on billionaire gains between March 18 and the end of this year would raise an estimated $420 billion. Those billions would go to Medicare and pay all out-of-pocket health care expenses of the uninsured and under-insured households over the next year. Says Sanders: “The legislation I am introducing today will tax the obscene wealth gains billionaires have made during this extraordinary crisis to guarantee healthcare as a right to all for an entire year.” Billionaires would still pocket $310 billion, as of August 5, in gains during the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
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Way Out of Kilter: Health Care Risk and Reward
If you happen to provide health care services to actual Covid-19 patients — as a nurse or a doctor, an orderly or a physician’s assistant — this has been the year from hell. If, on the other hand, you swivel your day away in a corporate health care executive suite, these difficult and horrific months of Covid-19 have been among the most rewarding — financially — you’ve ever seen. The lowest-paid CEO among America’s seven biggest health insurers has been grabbing just under $300,000 a week. co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more.
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This week on 

Margot Rathke, The Stimulus Deal Should Include Free College. With youth unemployment and student debt skyrocketing, young people need free higher education.

Elsewhere on the Web

Chuck Collins, In a pandemic, billionaires are richer than ever. Why aren't they giving more? Guardian. Philanthropy has always been a form of power for wealthy donors. But exploding inequality is concentrating that private power in even fewer hands, all subsidized by taxpayers.

Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality, ‘Inequality by the Numbers’ Virtual Workshop 2020. The Stone Center in New York has taken its annual week-long summer workshop on inequality online with 14 videos that feature ace analysts ranging from Nancy Folbre to Branko Milanovic. 

Catarina Saraiva and Laura Davison, Is Fed Responsible for Reducing Inequality? Treasury & Risk. Pressure is building on America’s central bank to more specifically focus on creating a more equal economy.

Ezra Klein, How inequality is changing the Republican Party — and breaking American politics, Vox. A new book untangles the relationship between white identity politics and rising gaps in wealth and income.

Lucian Bebchuk and Roberto Tallarita, ‘Stakeholder’ Capitalism Seems Mostly for Show, Wall Street Journal. Remember when the CEOs of the Business Roundtable last year announced with grand fanfare that U.S. firms will start taking into account needs of workers and communities, not just shareholders? All just fluff, says new Harvard research.

Joel Cunningham, Become a Socialist With This CEO Pay Calculator, Lifehacker. You’ve probably heard, anecdotally, that Jeff Bezos earns your salary in some absurdly short amount of time, but do you know how short?

Jo Faragher, Short-term executive pay cuts won’t solve high pay culture, Personnel Today. High CEO pay continues to undermine the spirit of solidarity many companies are trying to project as they battle Covid-19.

Gillian Tett, Pandemic aid is exacerbating US inequality, Financial Times. The more the pandemic spreads, the more it risks exacerbating inequity in unexpected ways, particularly in the United States.

Zhou Xin, China’s economic future depends on closing its wealth gap, South China Post. China's mightiest have begun to realize their society faces trouble ahead unless they narrow their nation's top-heavy distribution of income and wealth.

Mark Ellwood, How the American West became a 'billionaire wilderness' and home to the most unequal part of the country, Business Insider. The most unequal U.S. county sits in Wyoming!

Donald Shaw, Here Are the Billionaires Funding Trump’s Voter Suppression Lawsuits, Sludge. At least 17 of the donors to the legal fund that are underwriting voter suppression litigation rank among the 400 wealthiest U.S. households as ranked by Forbes.
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We’re Hiring an Managing Editor!
The Inequality team at the Institute for Policy Studies works with partners to reverse the maldistribution of income and wealth that is undermining our democracy, fraying our social fabric, and destroying our planet. We’re looking for a new managing editor for the website and weekly newsletter, ensuring that the content stays fresh and meets high-quality standards for a broad, general audience. This full-time, full-benefit position will operate out of our office in Washington, D.C., pandemic permitting.