Rest assured, this fight is far from over. Billionaires have never been more unpopular among the general public, and research like our project tracking pandemic profiteers has helped shift the narrative on deservability and a tax system that prioritizes work over wealth. This down payment on a bold, transformative agenda is just that, a down payment. More of our analysis in this week’s issue.
In a single day last week, we note below, the richest individual in the known universe — U.S. mega-billionaire Elon Musk — added to his enormous personal fortune a sum that the typical American worker would have to labor about 800,000 years to match.

The Build Back Better plan now taking final shape in Congress is unlikely to include a tax on the wealth of Elon Musk or any other billionaire. But the compromise budget plan that’s emerged, by our overall take, does represent an important first step towards building a fair tax system that could fund the transformative social programs the United States so desperately needs.

Rest assured, we’ll have another shot at a serious tax on billionaire wealth. Billionaires are as unpopular as ever and taxing billionaires has never been more popular, with research like our project tracking pandemic profiteers helping shift the narrative on “deservability” and built ever greater support for a tax system that prioritizes work over wealth.

In effect, the budget plan Congress figures to finalize in the week ahead amounts to a down payment on a bold, transformative agenda. We all have more work ahead. More of our analysis, meanwhile, in this week’s issue.

Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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The Fight for Fines on Union Busters Nears Victory
As a legislative specialist for the Communications Workers of America, Elena Lopez has been pounding the halls of Congress since 2019 to push the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a sweeping reform aimed at reversing decades of assaults on union rights. The bill passed the House earlier this year, only to be stymied by the 60-vote threshold for Senate approval under regular rules.

But advocates like Lopez have found, in the Build Back Better negotiations, an opening for advancing one powerful piece of the PRO Act: civil penalties on employers who commit unfair labor practices, including firing or retaliating against workers for union activities. Under reconciliation rules, the Build Back Better budget will need only 50 ayes in the Senate. If the budget plan gets those 50, individual executives would face for the first time ever fines of as much as $100,000 per violation.

“Imposing penalties on employers who purposefully break the law means that workers will have a real opportunity to collectively bargain and improve their pay and working conditions,” Lopez told “This would be the first step in evening the playing field.”
Read More on the PRO Act
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Hell Hath No Fury Like a Billionaire Facing Tax Bills
Things must have been slow on the financial engineering front last week. Hedge fund billionaire Leon Cooperman had enough free time time to spend a good chunk of the week venting his outrage over the possibility that lawmakers in Congress might actually pass a billionaire tax. Declared the 78-year-old: “We should not be attacking wealthy people.” The “stupid” and “ridiculous” proposal before Congress, Cooperman went on, would simply turn the “tax structure upside-down.” President Biden, he added to another reporter, “is fanning the flames of resentment.” Cooperman seems to be personally feeling a bit of that resentment as well. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index puts his net worth at just $2.5 billion. He griped last week to Bloomberg that the Index had his true net worth “too low,” but Cooperman, Bloomberg reports, wouldn’t elaborate on what his actual net worth might be.
Best Revenue Raisers in the Build Back Better Deal
Conservative Democrats have blocked some key inequality-fighting tax proposals from the Build Back Better plan. But the compromise will still collect nearly $2 trillion from the wealthy and big corporations to invest in children, seniors, and workers. In their analysis of the White House framework, our Institute for Policy Studies tax experts Chuck Collins and Sarah Anderson run down the best of the plan’s revenue raisers, including a new surtax on the income — including capital gains — of people making more than $10 million a year. They also welcome new taxes aimed at cracking down on corporate tax dodging and CEO pay-inflating stock buybacks, as well as a beefed-up IRS capacity to catch wealthy tax cheats. The fight for a fair tax system, Collins and Anderson note, must continue. But by rejecting the “trickle down” theories that have long been used to justify tax breaks for the rich, this deal paves the way for future victories.
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Why We Need to Keep Our Super Rich ‘Occupied’
The notion of taxing America’s fabulously wealthy, big-time, has gone mainstream. Lawmakers and commentators alike have been earnestly — and highly visibly — thrashing out exactly how best to make our nation’s richest “pay their fair share” for several weeks now. We don’t quite yet know how the current spotlight on taxing America’s wealthiest is going to turn out. But just getting to this point, getting serious tax-the-rich proposals onto America’s political center stage, counts as a significant step into a more just and equal future. And who deserves a good bit of the credit for this significant step? Some just-released research out of Ohio State and Cornell suggests an answer. co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more.
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This week on 

Manuel Pérez-Rocha, Missing from the Climate Talks: Corporate Powers to Sue Governments Over Extractives Policies. Allowing oil, mining, and gas companies to continue to file expensive lawsuits over environmental regulations could undermine whatever agreements might be reached in the COP26 in Glasgow.

Bob Lord, American Tax Policy in the Age of Trillionaires. Have we just about decided that the further accumulation of billionaire fortunes makes for good public policy?

Samantha Garcia, To Tackle Climate Change, Hold Fossil Fuel Conglomerates Accountable. Movements are using this once-in-a-lifetime political moment to mobilize communities against climate change and corporate greed.

Bob Lord, Subway's Sandwich Mogul Meets — and Beats — the IRS. A new U.S. District Court ruling is helping billionaires escape millions in gift taxes.

Elsewhere on the Web

Nicholas Kulish, Ephrat Livni, and Emma Goldberg, Who Are America’s Billionaires, Anyway? New York Times. An exploration into the wealth of America's richest — and their arrogance — that incorporates stats and insights.

Jesse Eisinger, The Billionaires Tax Isn’t New, ProPublica. Taxing billionaires on their wealth may sound novel, but the core ideas behind such a tax already appear in the tax code.

Amara Omeokwe, Biden’s Tax Plan for Highest Earners: What to Know About the Latest Proposal, Wall Street Journal. The proposed new surtaxes on the nation’s richest 0.02 percent would apply to adjusted gross income, raising the top tax rate on ordinary income to 45 percent, plus 3.8 percent in other taxes.

Sarah Kessler, How Should Billionaires Be Taxed? DealBook. The push to tax billionaires has now jumped right into the middle of the nation’s ongoing tax debate.

Brigitte Alepin, Let’s Turn the Taxation of Billionaires Upside-Down, Bloomberg Tax. A University of Quebec tax expert lays out the case for a minimum 50-percent tax rate on billionaires.

Binyamin Appelbaum, Tax Evasion and the Republican Party, New York Times. Donald Trump’s loud and proud declaration that paying very little in taxes “makes me smart” has become party orthodoxy.

Paul Waldman, Pity the billionaire, so sensitive and oppressed, Washington Post. The GOP reaction to the billionaire tax proposed last week requires us to remind ourselves of how much of our debate on taxes revolves around absurd myths that have been disproved again and again.

Kunle Olasanmi, SAN Asks FG To Introduce Wealth Tax For The Rich, Leadership. In Nigeria, a call to tax the rich because the huge Nigerian wealth gap could “lead to a breakdown of law and order at any moment.”

Algernon Austin and Tamara Sokolowsky, Don’t Be Fooled Squid Game Fans, the United States Is More Unequal Than South Korea on Several Measures, Center for Economic and Policy Research. In the United States, the richest 20 percent have an average income 8.4 times the lowest 20 percent. In South Korea, 6.5 times.
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