America’s ultra rich, as we show in our latest billionaire update, are continuing to concentrate wealth at a record pace. The GameStop insurrection barely dents that concentration.
Gabe Plotkin started last week as one of one of the world’s top hedge fund kings. His hedging had been returning 30 percent annual returns ever since 2014, as journalist Judd Legum notes, enough to corral a $32-million mansion in Miami and a major chunk of a pro hoops franchise. By week’s end, this same master-of-the-universe Plotkin stood vanquished — by an online army of suburban-basement day-traders. Only a $2.75-billion bailout from two of his fellow hedge fund billionaires kept him standing.

Plotkin’s comeuppance in the still-unfolding GameStop saga certainly brings, on one level, some satisfaction to many of us who worry about the wealth of our wealthiest. But that satisfaction fades quick. America’s ultra rich, as we show in our latest billionaire update, are continuing to concentrate wealth at a record pace. The GameStop insurrection barely dents that concentration. More on that core reality in this week’s issue.

Also in this week’s issue (just keep scrolling all the way down): our first monthly sustainer tracker. We’re asking those of you with some spare cash to join a very special 1 percent — the 1 percent of’s near-35,000 weekly readers willing and able to help grow our newsletter and research efforts. Thanks so much for your consideration!

Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Poultry Workers Push Biden into Action on Safety
Wealthy poultry industry executives are no longer calling all the shots in Washington. Last spring, with Covid outbreaks ravaging the industry’s workforce, President Trump used his executive authority to force this sector’s mostly low-wage immigrant workers to return to their high-risk jobs. Trump officials even let some poultry plants jack up their line speeds, further endangering worker safety. In the new political landscape, these essential workers are asserting their own power and notching some early victories. co-editor Sarah Anderson has more.
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A Gambling Chief Exec Loses His Biggest Bet Yet
Rodney Baker loves gambling. Except on his life. So the 55-year-old Canadian casino CEO and his 32-year-old actress spouse Ekaterina Baker last month flew up to the Yukon’s biggest city from their Vancouver luxury condo, then hired a private jet to get to the remote community of Beaver Creek, where a mobile clinic was dispensing Covid vaccine to vulnerable locals. The duo, to grab quick shots, claimed to be new hires at an area motel. But observers became suspicious when they asked for a ride to the airport right after their injections. Police then nabbed the pair, and the couple now face $1,800 in fines. Baker has already resigned his CEO slot at Great Canadian Gaming, and that exit will cost him much more than $1,800. He took home $10.6 million in 2019. White River First Nation’s Janet Vander Meer, meanwhile, is calling the incident “another example of ongoing acts of oppression against Indigenous communities by wealthy individuals.” Baker has refused all comment.
Expand the Ban on Private Prisons to ICE Centers
The stock of private prison companies plummeted last week after President Joe Biden signed an executive order that will phase out the use of federal private prisons. Biden has taken an important and necessary first step, but private prison CEOs will continue to rake in millions — since the presidential order will not impact immigration detention centers operated by those same private prison companies. These centers make up a large portion of corporate prison revenue. managing editor Rebekah Entralgo argues that we need to completely eliminate  the profit motive from our detention systems.
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Some Context for the Fun and Games at GameStop
Hedge fund billionaires have been betting for decades on companies to fail — and sometimes nudging them over the edge. Day traders at the online group WallStreetsBets have called that bet on the hedging around a failing 37-year-old video games chain, GameStop. They boldly mobilized en masse to buy up shares of the sputtering company, a move that sent its share price soaring and left short-selling hedge fund billionaires muttering. But the whole episode, on closer inspection, appears to be much less David vs. Goliath and much more “Goliath vs Goliath, with David as a fig leaf.” Even so, the GameStop insurrection may wind up making a valuable contribution to our political and economic debate. co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more.
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This week on 

Chuck Collins, Updates: Billionaire Wealth, U.S. Job Losses and Pandemic Profiteers. Check back for our regular updates on U.S. unemployment and billionaire wealth during the pandemic emergency.

Kayla Soren, A California Cooperative Tackles Inequality by Reimagining the Future of Housing. By working towards creating ‘land without landlords,’ this East Bay cooperative is helping communities build pathways to collective property ownership and community wealth.

Elsewhere on the Web

Ezra Klein, Democrats, Here’s How to Lose in 2022. And Deserve It, New York Times. Democracy has not yet prevailed because we have declared money to be speech and allowed those with wealth to speak much more loudly than those without.

Simon Jenkins, Covid has made inequality even worse. The only answer: squeeze the super-rich, Guardian. Political economists on both the left and the right are realizing that the gap between  rich and poor people is destabilizing democracy.

Sridhar Natarajan, Goldman CEO’s Pay Drops $10 Million on Scandal Punishment, Bloomberg. In the business world average people inhabit, enabling a crime gets you fired. In CEO land, your firm pays the highest bribery fine ever and you still take home $17.5 million.

Shankkar Aiyar, Budget 2021: The Case For Taxing Stock Market Gains Of Billionaires, Bloomberg Quint Opinion. The widening chasm has triggered the revival of debate over wealth tax across the world, from India and Argentina to New York and California.

Anand Giridharadas, Davos, explained, The.Ink. The super rich are now changing the world virtually, one insipid panel discussion at a time.

Alex Kotch, The Real Money Behind the Politicians Who Voted to Overturn the Election, Center for Media and Democracy. The billionaire funders of the groups that helped elect the GOP election deniers.

Robert Kuttner, Nurse Burnout — Connecting the Dots, American Prospect. If the Proud Boys wanted to turn their rage on America’s real fiends, they might start with for-profit medical executives.

Dan Cancian, Jesse Ventura Says There Should Be No Billionaires, Calls for 'Maximum Wage,' Newsweek. The 38th governor of Minnesota sees an income limit as crucial to a billionaire-free future.

David Sirota, Andrew Perez, and Julia Rock, Read My Lips: $2,000 Now, Daily Poster. An analysis that exposes the inegalitarian emptiness of the case against universal benefits.

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