In this special MLK Day edition of the Inequality newsletter, we have more on Dr. King’s legacy as well as new charts showing how student debt forgiveness can help close the racial wealth gap.
“The past is strewn with the ruins of the empires of tyranny, and each is a monument not merely to our blunders but to our capacity to overcome them,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted in 1968, shortly before his death. “That’s why I remain an optimist, though I am also a realist, about the barriers before us.”

With global inequality reaching unimaginable heights, the barriers we face today can certainly seem immovable. But if Dr. King could remain hopeful, as Dedrick Asante-Muhammad reflects below, so can we.

In this special MLK Day edition of our newsletter, we have more on Dr. King’s legacy as well as some new charts showing how student debt forgiveness can help close the racial wealth gap.

Stay tuned to in the weeks to come. We have a compelling new report on our global wealth divide in the pipeline. In the meantime, if you liked this issue, please consider forwarding it to someone you know and encourage them to subscribe. We always welcome new readers!

Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Martin Luther King Jr. Stayed Hopeful. So Can We.
With so much political instability and stagnation, despair over the state of our union can come easy. But we’ve been here before. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote: “If we look honestly at the realities of our national life, it is clear that we are not marching forward. We are groping and stumbling; we are divided and confused.” Rather than become mired in our present struggles, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s Dedrick Asante Muhammad reminds us, we can look to works like Dr. King’s “Testament of Hope” for lessons on how to embrace and advance the change we so need to see.
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This Farm Boy Goes Hog-Wild for Union-Busters
Some people of means never shy from sharing — in public — their contempt for ordinary people and their irritating habits, like wanting unions in their workplaces. Other people of means — Everet Bluth, for one — work hard at helping their fellow affluents keep their petulance private. The Texas-based Bluth owns and runs IRI Consulting, a go-to national firm for corporate giants eager to keep their workers “union-free.” Google brought in IRI to help realize the company’s “Project Vivian,” an effort one Google exec has described as our “initiative to engage employees more positively and convince them that unions suck.” But a federal judge has just dealt IRI and Google a significant setback, ruling the company can’t keep concealing internal documents that relate to workers Google fired after they became pro-union activists. Bluth has had no comment on the judge’s ruling. His online presence continues to tout his ardent desire “to stay in touch with his farm-boy roots.” 
Cancel Student Debt to Narrow Our Racial Gaps
More than a half century after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the racial wealth gap in the United States remains staggeringly wide. One major factor: the disproportionate burden of student debt on the Black community. In fact, the Roosevelt Institute estimates that canceling up to $50,000 in such debts per person would immediately increase the wealth of Black Americans by 40 percent. Institute for Policy Studies analysts Sarah Anderson and Brian Wakamo have a new analysis out that presents, through a series of charts, the latest data on the mountain of Black student debt. They also have the latest on the growing calls for President Biden to use his executive authority to relieve the student debt burden in ways that would boost the entire economy.
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College Football Coaches Making $25,000 a Day?
The TV cameras at last week’s college football national championship face-off had a good reason for spotlighting a frail old man at the game’s end. That frail old onlooker, Vince Dooley, had decades ago coached the game’s winner, the University of Georgia, to its last national championship. In 1964, Dooley’s first year as Georgia’s coach, he took home the equivalent today of $180,000. Top college coaches here in 2022 can now make up to $10 million a year. Meanwhile, student debt in the United States is rapidly nearing $2 trillion. What can we do to sideline all this lunacy? How about, for starters, linking pay at higher education’s top to a modest multiple of the pay at higher education’s bottom? co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more.
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This week on 

The Facts that Define Our Grand Divides. People in the United States and around the world, researchers have found, significantly underestimate the extent of our contemporary inequality. Just how wide have the gaps between our most affluent and everyone else grown? We highlight here the basic data and statistics that tell our 21st-century inequality story.

Elsewhere on the Web

Eileen Appelbaum, Beware of Private Equity Gobbling Up Life Insurance and Annuity Companies, Center for Economic and Policy Research. Billionaire private equity firm partners are enriching themselves at the expense of  insurance and annuity policyholders.

Thom Hartmann, Bankrupting American society: Why billionaires peddle the cultural lie of ‘rugged individualism,’ Milwaukee Independent. Why are kids asking their parents and friends to help pay off student loans when such loans pretty much do not exist in any other developed democracy — and did not in America before the Reagan era?

Ben Arthur, How the math could work out for publicly funded Universal Basic Income in Arlington, Greater Greater Washington. How one of the most unequal suburbs outside the nation’s capital could end poverty — and, after taxes, leave only real affluents with a decrease in net income.

Jennifer Bird-Pollan, Taxing the Ivory Tower: Evaluating the Excise Tax on University Endowments, Pepperdine Law Review. Many of the objections to massive individual wealth accumulations also apply to massive endowments held by private, exclusive universities.

Andy Kroll, Revealed: The Billionaires Funding the Coup’s Brain Trust, Rolling Stone. Inside the powerful right-wing Claremont Institute.

Paul Constant, ‘Opportunity zones’ meant to boost poor communities did little more than give the rich another tax loophole, Business Insider. The Trump tax cuts could serve as a watershed moment for trickle-down precisely because they prove the fallacy at the heart of the idea that rich people will always be our best job creators.

John Harrington, Countries With the Biggest Income Gaps, 24/7 Wall St. In South Africa, the top 10 percent rake in 67 percent of the nation's income, the bottom half just 5 percent.
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