We need to remember, above all, that democracies can die in oligarchic death spirals. We still have time to keep ours alive.
 
INEQUALITY.ORG
THIS WEEK
We’ve seldom seen, in the United States, a range of emotions as stark and raw as we’ve seen this past holiday week. Euphoria on Wall Street, anguish in overwhelmed and hurting hospitals the nation over.

Only a small sliver of U.S. households, we point out below in this week’s issue, shared in that euphoria. But many millions of families and health care workers shared in that anguish. Our deeply unequal nation has become deeply dysfunctional.

So what do we do about all this? We work, for starters, to help everyone understand just how ferociously unequal we have become, and we’re making progress on that score. This past week, for instance, the New York Times highlighted our work tracking the enormous gains our billionaires have registered since the pandemic first hit.

We need to remember, above all, that democracies can die in oligarchic death spirals. We still have time to keep ours alive. 

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
 
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
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FACES ON THE FRONTLINES
Spreading the Wealth and Clean Energy Solutions
Cooperative Energy Futures is working at the cutting edge on two fronts: identifying renewable energy solutions and developing a financial model that shares, rather than concentrates, wealth. The Minnesota co-op’s 900 members make decisions democratically and share profits from projects that benefit low-income and people of color communities. In an interview with Institute for Policy Studies Next Leader Kayla Soren the company’s general manager explains that they aim to give people and communities a choice over where their energy comes from, a goal that will ultimately require breaking up large utility monopolies. The cooperative model, activists at Cooperative Energy Futures believe, can expand into many other economic sectors.
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WORDS OF WISDOM
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PETULANT PLUTOCRAT
OF THE WEEK
From Rainmaker to Rogue: One Banker’s Descent
Poor Roger Ng, once a power-suited global banker on the fast track at Goldman Sachs, a rainmaker in billion-dollar deals, now just a fall guy about to go on trial in America’s “biggest foreign bribery case” ever. The case involves a Malaysian state-owned investment fund that was ostensibly selling bonds to bankroll assorted development projects. But most of the bond-sale proceeds actually went to corrupt Malaysian officials, with Goldman Sachs pocketing $593 million for managing the shady sales, a strikingly huge fee way out of line with standard banking practice. Goldman lawyers have blamed the scandal on “rogue employees” like Ng. But the banking giant isn’t testing that claim in open court. Goldman instead last month reached a settlement with U.S. prosecutors that will bring the fines the bank has paid out since 1998 to over $10 billion. Ng, for his part, isn’t going down quietly. His lead defense: The USA has no right to prosecute him for crimes committed in Malaysia.
 
BOLD SOLUTIONS
Building Back Better Faces a Global Challenge
The Biden administration’s U.S. economic recovery efforts will not succeed if the global economy remains weak and serves only a small rich minority. To beat Covid-19, the United States needs to help nations in the Global South combat the pandemic. And investing in clean energy within the United States won’t be enough unless nations worldwide have enough resources to support a just climate transition. A new Transnational Institute report pulls together ten proposals for covering the costs of meeting these global challenges, ideas that range from a global wealth tax to cutting military spending. All these measures aim to ensure that the elites who’ve reaped by far the greatest share of recent economic gains now pay for the crises we collectively face.
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GREED AT A GLANCE
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TOO MUCH
How Can 401(k)s Dip While Wall Street Hits Highs?
The all-time record highs that Wall Street registered last week have given some Americans — the nation’s already rich — considerable cause for celebration. But tens of millions of Americans are paying precious little attention to the chirpy tale of Wall Street’s ticker. The simple reason: They own no stocks at all. Millions of other Americans who do own stocks don’t see any reason to celebrate either. They’re finding themselves forced, amid pandemic economic collapse, to start selling the stocks that sit in their 401(k)s. Inequality.org co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more on the maldistribution of shareholder equity that helps explain why.
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MUST READS
This week on Inequality.org 

Chuck Collins, US Billionaire Wealth Surges Past $1 Trillion Since Beginning of Pandemic. It’s going to be a Billionaire Thanksgiving. The combined wealth of U.S. billionaires has grown 34 percent since March 2020.

Bob Lord, In Arizona, a Progressive Ballot Victory Exposes the Inequitable Federal Treatment of State and Local Taxes. The Trump 2017 tax act penalizes states that tax income responsibly.

Elsewhere on the Web

Farhad Manjoo, Even in a Pandemic, the Billionaires Are Winning, New York Times. We have an economy now wired “heads you win, tails I lose” to funnel wealth to the top, Inequality.org’s Chuck Collins explains.

Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, Greater equality: our guide through Covid-19 to sustainable wellbeing, Social Europe. Greater equality has turned out to be a powerful asset in reducing vulnerability to Covid-19.

Bernie Sanders, How do we avoid future authoritarians? Winning back the working class is key, Guardian. Trump put more billionaires into his administration than any president in history. Democrats now need to challenge the billionaire class — or face an increasingly Trumpean future.

Brandon Magner, Labor Law and Corporate Concentration, Labor Law Lite. Corporate mergers haven’t just enriched the executive class. They've pulverized the labor movement.

Antoine Bozio, Bertrand Garbinti, Jonathan Goupille-Lebret, Malka Guillot, and Thomas Piketty, Pre-distribution versus redistribution: Evidence from France and the US, VoxEU. Why we should pay more attention to policies affecting pre-tax inequality and not focus exclusively on redistribution.

Walker Bragman and Mark Colangelo, Why Native Americans Have Been Protesting for a Month in the Heart of the Hamptons, Daily Poster. In the backyard of America’s rich and famous, an indigenous group is fighting for sovereignty and survival.

Zoë Beery, The Rich Kids Who Want to Tear Down Capitalism, New York Times. Socialist-minded millennial heirs are trying to live their values by getting rid of their money.

Edward Lane and L. Randall Wray, Is It Time to Eliminate Federal Corporate Income Taxes? Levy Economics Institute. A look at alternatives to the corporate tax that could shift the tax burden from consumers and employees to those who benefit the most from corporate success.

Dominic Rushe and Amanda Holpuch, The US is on ‘inequality autopilot’ – how can Biden's treasury pick help change course? Guardian. Fairly amazing: We now have an incoming Treasury secretary who's talking about the dangers of capitalism running amok.
 
A FINAL FIGURE
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