With the World Economic Forum scheduled in Davos from May 22-26, our friends over at Fight Inequality are asking people to mobilize in support of taxing the wealthy. Learn more about how you can organize a protest in your community in this week's newsletter.

Today's spot in the calendar might not mean much to a lot of us. But this month’s first Monday means everything for the elite deep pockets invited to tonight’s annual Met Gala extravaganza at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Dozens of celebrities, philanthropists, and other powerbrokers will be descending upon the Met for tonight’s event. Tickets go for $35,000 each, with tables running up to $300,000. This year’s Met Gala theme: “Gilded Glamour,” a nod to that era of American history when wealth dynasties like the Astors, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts reigned supreme.

But we don’t need a Met gala to remind us about Gilded Age splendor. We’re living right now through another Gilded Age. Our richest 0.01 percent — around 18,000 U.S. families — have actually surpassed the historic wealth levels reached in the first Gilded Age.

Let’s end this week’s intro the only appropriate way we can: with a call to action! The World Economic Forum — another big-time rendezvous for the ridiculously rich — is coming up in Davos later this month, and our friends over at Fight Inequality are asking people to mobilize in support of taxing the wealthy. Why not take a moment to learn more about how you can organize a protest in your community? Thanks!

Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
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Sanders Campaign Veteran Presses Biden on Debt
Just 24 hours after news broke that the Biden Administration is seriously considering canceling some amount of student loan debt, Melissa Byrne began mobilizing. Byrne, a former campaign staffer on the Bernie Sanders 2016 and 2020 campaigns, has been organizing around student loan debt for years. Last week, Byrne, alongside the NAACP and MoveOn recruited an all-star cast of progressive lawmakers for a rally in support of canceling student loan debt. At the rally, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) urged an overhaul of the “broken” student loan system. Noted Tlaib: “The U.S. Department of Education currently holds so much student loan debt that it’s now the nation’s largest consumer bank.” Inequality.org managing editor Rebekah Entralgo has more from the event.
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A Greed Grab About as Naked as They Ever Come
Could you feel comfortable earning just $35 million a year? Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon can’t. The $35 million Solomon took home last year matches up nicely with the pay that went to his fellow Wall Street CEOs. But Solomon’s take-home pales against the rewards that go to the financial world’s top dogs in private equity. KKR’s two co-CEOs, for instance, each pocketed over $500 million in 2021. That gap, the Wall Street Journal reports, could narrow next year. Up until now, the Goldman staff who manage the bank’s own in-house private equity division have split the profits from their wheeling and dealing 50-50 with the bank. From now on, 5 percent of those profits will go directly to Solomon and his deputies. This new perk, the Journal notes, could turn out to be worth “hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years.” Solomon clearly feels he deserves those extra millions. He has a tough job. Just last week, for instance, he had to sell Goldman shareholders on letting the bank continue to bankroll billions in fossil fuel investments.
Sorry, Spike, Crypto Won’t Fix Racial Wealth Gap.
A number of Black luminaries, including filmmaker Spike Lee, have been promoting cryptocurrency as a way to narrow the racial wealth gap. Crypto is a “fascinating technology that could bring much change to the world,” concede Institute for Policy Studies Associate Fellow Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Gerardo Sanchez. But for Black families having a hard time paying their bills, Asante-Muhammad and Sanchez write, high-risk crypto makes for a “bad bet.”

To make our country more equal, investing our time in fighting for better public policies would make much more sense. Universal health care, fairer taxes on the wealthy, and expanded community credit options like postal banking would all reduce the racial wealth divide. “Baby bonds” — government-backed trusts for new babies of all races — could alone reduce that divide tenfold.
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Bulldozing Away the Right to Tax the Really Rich
The danger our democracy now faces goes well beyond the antics of one individual mega-billionaire. We suffer in our midst an entire shameless plutocratic class. But most of these rich seldom get even a tiny fraction of the notoriety that has come the way of Elon Musk. Take, for example, the national yawn to the latest anti-democratic shenanigans of Arizona’s awesomely affluent. They’ve just kicked off this November’s statewide ballot an initiative that might have repealed a year-old massive tax cut — for Arizona’s wealthiest. This “flat tax,” once fully effective in 2024, will save Arizonans making over $5 million an extra $350,000 annually. The state’s poorest income-earners? They’ll save $4 a year. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
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What's on Inequality.org 

Sam Pizzigati, Still Another Reason for Taxing the Rich. On this week of the Met Gala, we are reminded that America’s wealthiest, as per new ProPublica data, may be even richer than we thought.

Elsewhere on the Web

Chuck Collins and Helen Flannery, New Data Tells Us Where Donor-Advised Fund Dollars Go—And Don’t Go, Nonprofit Quarterly. Recent research shows why we do need serious DAF reform.

Matthew Rozsa, The cult of Elon Musk: Why do some of us worship billionaires? Salon. Many of us fantasize about becoming billionaires, psychologists say, and rooting for a Musk, for those with this fantasy, amounts to rooting for what they perceive as a version of themselves, as “winners” in every sense that mainstream society deems worthy.

Nolan Higdon, Elon Musk and the oligarchs of the ‘Second Gilded Age’ can not only sway the public – they can exploit their data, too, The Conversation. Media windfalls today rest on a “surveillance capitalism” that makes the consumer of media a product that can be sold to those interested in shaping human behavior.

Jorge Majfud, Billionaires Do Not Give Anything to Society — They Take From It, Common Dreams. The rich do not compete; they destroy the competition. The rich do not create wealth; they accumulate it. The rich do not create knowledge; they kidnap it.

JP O'Malley, A Brief History of Equality: an interview with Thomas Piketty, Bella Caledonia. We have built a legal system designed to protect and privilege the wealthy over ordinary people.

Brian Levy, How Inequality and Polarization Interact: America’s Challenges Through a South African Lens, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. South Africa’s recent history illustrates how interactions between inclusion and inequality can fuel hope, but can also trigger vicious spirals of disillusion.

Paris Marx, Billionaires Like Elon Musk Don’t Know the First Thing About Democracy, Jacobin. Elon Musk says he’s trying to safeguard democracy and promote free speech. But what does a mega billionaire with a history of silencing critics and retaliating against workers know about democracy?

Judd Legum, Tesnim Zekeria, and Rebecca Crosby, Major corporations quietly funnel millions to national group behind regressive state laws, Popular Information. How corporate execs have helped the GOP gain majorities in 61 of 99 state legislative chambers.
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