This week, we remember two important philanthropists who furthered the fight against inequality.
Here at we’ve been rather critical of billionaires over the years, and lately we’ve been documenting the horrors of an economy generating ever greater billionaire fortunes during a deadly pandemic.

This week, a change of pace. We take great pleasure in celebrating the life’s work of Chuck Feeney, a reluctant billionaire who’s become the model for responsible wealth and “giving while living.” Last week Feeney shut down his Atlantic Philanthropies after four decades of philanthropy. He has now given all his grand fortune away. As Forbes put it: “The Billionaire Who Wanted to Die Broke…Is Now Officially Broke.”

Feeney gave away $8 billion to address inequality and human suffering. His support for Vietnam’s public health system helps explain that nation’s exceptional coronavirus success. He has been an inspiration to our movement for the passage of an “emergency charity stimulus.” Today over 2,500 people are attending our first town hall on this topic. You can still join us for the second.

This week, we also remember Bill Gates Sr., just passed at 94. I had the honor of working with Bill to preserve the estate tax. We did lectures, talk shows, and a book together. Bill believed we should tax great wealth to protect democracy and discourage wealth’s concentration. I’ll never forget one talk he gave that convinced a business audience to believe the same.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Flint Survivor Fights for Clean Water for Everyone
The state of Michigan and other defendants involved in the poisoning of the Flint drinking water supply recently agreed to create a $600 million victim compensation fund. But for many survivors, this payoff comes up way short. Notes Nakiya Wakes, who lost two sets of twins after exposure to Flint’s deadly toxin: “How do you put a price tag on the trauma, pain, and turmoil that greedy politicians inflicted on our whole community for the sake of profit?” Her surviving son struggles with ADHD, and Wakes points out that many other communities have Flint-level lead levels. As a Poor People’s Campaign activist, she’s demanding clean, public water for all — and an end to water shutoffs for people struggling to pay their bills.
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A Billionaire’s Holy War on Tax Fairness in Illinois
Voters in Illinois will be deciding this November whether to replace their current “flat” state income tax — everybody pays at the same 4.95 percent rate — with a graduated tax rate structure that tops off at 7.99 percent on income over $1 million. Leading the charge against this switch to progressive taxation: Chicago hedge fund CEO Ken Griffin, who recently handed the vote-no effort a sweet $20 million. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed, Griffin has  hailed the “no” campaign as “a fight to save Illinois.” Adds the billionaire: “It is time for our elected officials to stop wasting money.” Yes, let’s leave all the wasting to Griffin. Earlier this year, he shelled out $100 million for a 38-year-old painting after dropping $100 million on beachfront acreage in the Hamptons. Last year, Griffin unloaded $99.1 million for an oceanfront house in Florida’s Palm Beach, $122 million for a mansion near London’s Buckingham Palace, and $238 million for a penthouse in Manhattan. Griffin’s current net worth: $15.3 billion.
Trade Policy That Puts Workers, Not Firms, First
President Trump swears up and down that his trade war with China has brought jobs back to hard-hit Midwestern states. He’s lying. Job growth had bottomed out in states like Ohio and Michigan even before the pandemic. The only winners of the Trump trade policy? Big Pharma, Big Finance, and Big Tech. As Institute for Policy Studies exec director John Cavanagh points out in USA Today, Corporate America actually increased investments in China while Trump was busy demonizing that country. A new IPS report, co-published with Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center and the Groundwork Collaborative, is calling for international trade cooperation, not hardline nationalism, and tough penalties for corporations that violate international worker and environmental protections.
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Remembering Ike, Our Unexpected Egalitarian
In normal times, the dedication of a new presidential memorial right in the heart of Washington, D.C. would be fairly big news. Pundits the nation over would find the dedication an irresistible opportunity for pontification about the legacy of the newly honored national leader. But we don’t live in normal times, and last week’s dedication of famed architect Frank Gehry’s tribute to Dwight Eisenhower, America’s 34th president, is receiving about as much attention as last month’s top exposé of Trump administration misbehavior. In other words, not much attention at all. A shame. Dwight Eisenhower didn’t much bring much flash to the White House. But his eight years in office — starting in 1953 — played a pivotal role in modern American history. The Republican Eisenhower could have killed the egalitarian gains of the New Deal. Instead, be built upon them. co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more.
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This week on 

Chuck Collins, FinCen Files Shine on Suspicious Bank Transfers. The reporters behind the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers have more to share. We should pay attention.

Jen Moore and Ellen Moore, When Police Repression is Not Enough: A U.S. Corporation is Suing Guatemala to Crush Local Mining Opposition. In the face of resistance from poor and Indigenous communities, global mining companies are increasingly turning to international arbitration to strong-arm governments into bending to their interests.

Chuck Collins, Remembering Bill Gates Sr.. A moving eulogy for a man who believed a strong estate tax amounts to an “economic opportunity recycling program.”

Roseline Orwa, Covid is Widening Educational Inequalities for Children Around the World. The impacts are particularly severe in Kenya, where the country’s large numbers of Hiv/Aids orphans are struggling through yet another pandemic.

Elsewhere on the Web

Anne Nelson, The rich and the rest: ‘The dark side of meritocracy’ in America today, Times Literary Supplement. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg believed the pendulum always swings back. But sometimes only a calamity can start that swing. 

Nick Hanauer and David Rolf, The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90% — and That's Made the U.S. Less Secure, Time. If we had the same distribution of income as we had in 1975, Americans in the bottom 90 percent today would be taking home $1,144 more every month.

Christopher Ingraham, Businesses with ‘windfall’ pandemic profits are showering them on investors, study finds, Washington Post. From 2010 to 2019, companies listed on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index spent $9.1 trillion on payouts to their wealthiest shareholders, equaling more than 90 percent of their profits over the same period, reports Oxfam.

Michael Sainato, US corporations file for bankruptcy and lay off workers. Why do execs still get bonuses? Guardian. Execs get bankruptcy incentives. Workers get pink slips.

Richard Wolff, The U.S. Is Borrowing Its Way to Fascism, Brave New Europe. Fascism emerges when employers feel that only dictatorial state intervention can solve their system’s accumulated problems. 

Tom Perrett, How Charles Koch Is Buying Credibility With Academic Investments, DeSmog. The right-wing billionaire Koch family donor network is now underwriting at least 40 centers at prominent American colleges and universities, subsidizing everything from climate-change denialism to advocacy for public-land privatization

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