Decent societies don’t allow wealth to concentrate at unconscionable levels. More in this issue on struggles to create the decency we all so need.

Maybe the ultimate sign of our unequal times: A desperate new mom recently found herself in need of baby supplies. She ended up shoplifting from her local Publix supermarket. Publix insisted on pressing charges against her.

Meanwhile, the heiress to the Publix $9-billion founding family fortune turns out to have been the largest contributor to the January 6 “Save America Rally.” That effort set her back $300,000. For the heiress, chump change.

Decent societies don’t function like this. Decent societies don’t allow moms to go without necessary supplies. Decent societies don’t allow wealth to concentrate at unconscionable levels. More in this issue on struggles to create the decency we all so need. 

And online at this week for Black History Month, a set of new charts that show just how much the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated longstanding racial inequalities as the rich continue to profit off the ongoing pain.

Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies team

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In Our Pandemic Times, Caregivers Need Care, Too
Millions of working parents and child care providers are anxiously awaiting a large, public investment into our care economy. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the legislation currently making its way through Congress, would allocate $50 billion in federal relief to ensure that child care providers can stay in business and working mothers can return to the workforce. These additional funds would clearly stabilize our current pandemic-squeezed child care system, but the dollars will only be forthcoming if we take bold action now to ensure comprehensive and universal child care for all. A timely documentary film captures the impossible landscape the United States has created for both working families and child care providers.
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Celebrating Our Press Freedom, Hedge Fund-Style
The nation’s most reviled newspaper empire last week became a good bit bigger when Alden Global Capital, the top hedge fund in legacy media, cut a deal to take over the Chicago Tribune chain. That move has brought a fresh round of hostile attention on Heath Freeman, the financier who runs Alden — and can’t seem to understand why he gets such poor press. Exclaimed Freeman last year: “I would love our team to be remembered as the team that saved the newspaper business.” Not much chance of that. Over the past decade, newspaper jobs overall have dropped by half. But jobs in Alden-owned newsrooms have dropped over 70 percent. Alden, says Nieman Lab analyst Ken Doctor, has figured out that “a lot of money can be made on the way down.” How much money? Freeman isn’t advertising his net worth, but his hedge fund mentor, Randall Smith, three years ago celebrated his 75th birthday on a tiny Caribbean isle, Bloomberg notes, “where billionaires go to escape millionaires.”
Wall Street’s Home State Moves to Tax Trading
With governments scrambling to pay for pandemic costs, many eyes are turning to Wall Street, a largely untaxed industry that has generated enormous windfalls for the wealthy throughout the crisis. Under one pending New York State bill, traders would pay a five-cent tax on every share trade valued at more than $20. The proposal would raise as much as $20 billion a year and has support from 54 Assembly members, as well as from labor unions and even a few fiscal conservatives. Former McKinsey chief economist James S. Henry points out that this tax has actually been on the books since 1905, but the government has rebated it since 1979, costing the state more than $344 billion in the process. In a submission to the New York Assembly, Henry and three international tax justice experts explain how this state-level action would build momentum for similar proposals in the U.S. Congress and in the European Union.
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Blame Inequality for Covid, Not Just Incompetence
Back in April 2017, only a few months after Donald Trump’s inauguration, one of the world’s top medical journals established a special commission to keep tabs on “Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era.”  The panel’s 33 commissioners have just delivered their final report, and media worldwide are headlining that report’s most stunning stat: that some 200,000 fewer Americans would have died from the coronavirus if the United States had treated Covid with the same competence its peer developed nations have demonstrated. But the report also had a deeper point to make: Health in America was hurtling “on a downward trajectory” well before Trump. We need, the commission concludes, “a new politics” that “rests on a vision of shared prosperity.” co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more.
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This week on 

Chuck Collins, Nomadland: The Impact of Gender-Bias in Wages. If you grew up agitated that “women earn 59 cents on the dollar,” for the same work as men, there’s a movie for you.

Sarah Anderson, Scott Klinger, and Brian Wakamo, Black Families Have a Major Stake in the Future of the Postal Service. USPS is a vital source of decent jobs for Black workers. It could also narrow the racial wealth divide by expanding financial services.

Bob Lord, America's Future: Trillionaire Trust Babies?. Billionaire wealth is exploding. They’re passing that wealth to heirs and heiresses virtually tax-free.

Brian Wakamo, Five Painful Charts on Covid and Black America. This Black History Month, hard data reveal how the pandemic has widened racial divides.

Daniel Hemel and Bob Lord, Beyond Lucrative: Jeffrey Epstein’s Billionaire Tax Avoidance Assistance Business. The infamous financier's exploits cast a shadow on one of Wall Street's favorite tax avoidance schemes.

Elsewhere on the Web

Rosanna Landis Weaver, The 100 Most Over Paid CEOs 2021, As You Sow. Join Robert Reich and Rosanna Landis Weaver, Program Manager for CEO Pay at As You Sow, for the February 25 launch of this important annual report.

Michelle Goldberg, The Book That Should Change How Progressives Talk About Race, New York Times. Heather McGhee shows how racism increases economic inequality for everyone.

Jonathan Goodman, COVID-19 is spreading another disease: income inequality, Toronto Globe and Mail. Top execs, says this Canadian CEO, should never collect over seven times the pay of their company's lowest-paid employee.

Harold Meyerson, What Having No Income Tax Gets a State During a Pandemic, American Prospect. The states that tax the wealthiest the least are having the hardest pandemic time maintaining public services.

Anand Giridharadas, Who gets a second chance? The Ink. The answer in America today: the already privileged.

Robert Kuttner, A Tale of Two Developments: Affordable Housing or Subsidized Ultra-Luxury? American Prospect. Grotesque hyper-luxury, with taxpayer subsidy no less, has had its day.

Daniel Moss, My Kids Refused Their Inheritance. Here’s How We’re Giving It All AwayHuffPost. The pandemic and racial justice uprising that took place last year make for a strange time for parenting and a stranger time still to receive an inheritance.

Breda O’Brien, Time to question our tech billionaire overlords, Irish Times. Still another reason: Bill Gates pressured Oxford University to partner with Big Pharma on its Covid vaccine instead of sharing its intellectual property rights freely.

Matthew Gault, Billionaires See VR as a Way to Avoid Radical Social Change, Wired. Tech oligarchs are encouraging the creation of virtual worlds as a cheap way to avoid problems in the real one.

Florian Scheuer and Joel Slemrod, Taxing Our Wealth, Journal of Economic Perspectives. A comprehensive look at how wealth taxes have fared internationally and could fare in the United States.

Stephen McNeice, How a maximum wage could ‘dramatically’ change how society's wealth is shared, NewsTalk. An interview with Luke Hildyard, director of the UK High Pay Centre.

Heather Hansman, Can Billionaires Really Save Us from Climate Disaster? Outside. The top 1 percent of income earners globally account for 15 percent of emissions, more than all the 3.5 billion people in the the world’s bottom earning half. 

Tim Schwab, Bill Gates, Climate Warrior. And Super Emitter, Nation. When will the media realize that with Gates you have to follow the money?

How to get managers’ incentives right, Economist. New data suggest that lavish executive stock incentives drive corporate behaviors that promote short-term profits over long-term enterprise health.

Shekhar Gupta, Economic ideology is the new binary in Indian politics as Modi swerves Right & Rahul Left, The Print. Politics in India may finally be about to challenge the 1 percent of Indians who hold 73 percent of the national wealth.
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