Turmoil at Twitter and Ticketmaster proves the danger of consolidated wealth and power.

Late last week and then into the weekend, we all watched with horror and amazement as Elon Musk laid waste to careers and lives at Twitter, bringing the service to the brink of collapse.

Over 1,000 Twitter employees have so far rejected Musk’s ultimatum to commit to an “extremely hardcore” work environment, instead opting to take three months serverance. Their absence leaves the company with a bare-bones staff, and many of those remaining rely on their jobs for their visas. Their futures now rest on the whims of the world’s richest man in the middle of an ego trip.

The ongoing chaos at Twitter HQ should serve as a cautionary tale on what happens when we let wealth and power consolidate without limit. But Musk’s grand fortune and corporate domineering are facing what may prove to be an even greater threat on still another front. Read on this week to learn what that may be.

With the fate of one of the largest social media platforms in flux, we like to believe that our Inequality.org newsletter remains one of the most reliable ways you can keep up-to-date on the latest horror, humor, and hope in our deeply unequal world. If you feel that way too, please consider forwarding this week’s issue to a friend or two and encouraging them to subscribe. Thanks so much!

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

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In Red States, Direct Democracy Fights Inequality
“I don’t want to end up in the hospital or bankrupt, and I don’t want to put that burden onto my children,” Angela Linde shared recently, choking back tears as she spoke about her inability to afford health insurance.

This resident of Sioux Falls, South Dakota has worked as a hairdresser for over 20 years and now works a second job on top of that. With this new job, Linde found herself making too much money to qualify for the state’s current Medicaid benefits and too little to afford to buy insurance in the private market.

Linde knows other people in the same squeeze, a key reason she became involved in a citizen-led ballot initiative to force her state to expand Medicaid to uninsured working-class families. On Election Day, Linde and her fellow advocates — farmers, indigenous people, health professionals, faith leaders — won big. Inequality.org co-editor Sarah Anderson has more on how voters like Angela Linde used direct democracy in the midterms to tackle inequality.
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A Luxury Mall Mogul Comes Up Well Short in L.A.
This past February, at the news conference announcing luxury mall developer Rick Caruso’s candidacy for mayor of Los Angeles, a protestor shouted out a prediction: “L.A. doesn’t want a billionaire as mayor, Rick!” This past Election Day, voters agreed. They gave Karen Bass, a veteran congressperson and former community organizer, a comfortable 54-46 percent victory despite record campaign spending on Caruso’s part. The 63-year-old invested an estimated $108 million on his mayoral bid, outspending Bass by an 11-to-1 margin. That huge outlay — just 2 percent of Caruso’s $5.3-billion personal net worth — had up to 400 paid canvassers going door-to-door in the campaign’s final weeks. But L.A. labor unions enlisted hundreds of canvassing volunteers, enough to blunt Caruso’s campaign charge that candidates like Bass considered it “okay to have minor crimes without consequences.” Responded local labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez: “The best way to prevent crime is to give people economic stability.”
Upset Taylor Swift Fans Take Ticketmaster to Task
You might have already heard about the Taylor Swift ticketing debacle. Millions of fans logged onto Ticketmaster’s online presale with hopes of snagging seats to Swift’s upcoming tour — and quickly encountered hours-long queues and sky-high ticket prices. After thousands of site crashes and countless dashed plans, the “Swifties” connected the dots: Ticketmaster and Live Nation’s monopoly caused all this chaos.

Indeed, the campaign to Break Up Ticketmaster had been brewing ever since the Obama administration’s Department of Justice approved the problematic merger of Ticketmaster, the ticketing titan, and Live Nation, the venue and promotion leader. Ever since then, this monopoly has price-gouged eventgoers, bullied artists, and flouted the law. But it took legions of angry pop fans for the U.S. Justice Department to confirm last week their investigation into Ticketmaster’s abuse of market power.

The government’s revitalized interest in antitrust enforcement comes not a moment too soon. The Justice Department’s own tools can help us rein in corporate power and improve daily experiences as basic as buying concert tickets. Inequality.org’s Bella DeVaan has more on why Swift’s superfans are welcome additions to the anti-monopoly movement.
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A Promising Challenge to the World’s Richest Man
Tesla shareholder Richard Tornetta, a former heavy-metal band drummer, filed suit in 2018 against the company’s board for lavishing unnecessary mega millions upon super-billionaire Elon Musk. Last week, after years of legal infighting, Tornetta’s challenge to the Musk empire finally ended up in open court — before Kathaleen McCormick, a Delaware judge who’s just happened to have already demonstrated a distinct lack of patience with Muskian antics. Just last month, McCormick ruled against Musk in another case. She might well again. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
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What's on Inequality.org 

Chuck Collins, Updates: Billionaire Wealth, U.S. Job Losses and Pandemic Profiteers. While some billionaires have seen wealth evaporate, their combined assets are still 50 percent higher than on March 18, 2020.

Manuel Pérez-Rocha, Global Climate Talks Spark Action Against Investment Treaties Favoring Fossil Fuel Corporations Over People and Planet. Climate activists are demanding total elimination of the anti-democratic investor-state dispute settlement system.

Bob Lord and William Rice, Elon Musk Is Hiding the Ball Again on Taxes. Fanboys of the richest person on Earth are spinning bogus tales that swell the Musk fortune and embellish his “genius.”

Elsewhere on the Web

Linda McQuaig, Billionaires are far from harmless. Fueling the climate crisis, they’re among the most dangerous people on Earth, Toronto Star. The best hope of averting climate disaster may well be wealth taxes that significantly reduce the wealth and power of the super-rich.

Charles Hugh Smith, Where Crypto Went Wrong, Of Two Minds. Scrape away the high-falutin’ rhetoric, and blockchain/crypto distills down to the same old greed and avarice that powers traditional finance.

Marina Hyde, All hail Jeff Bezos the philanthropist! The rest of us will just keep paying our taxes, Guardian. The Amazon founder calls giving money away really hard. Luckily for Bezos, poor people do far more of it than he does.

Anand Giridharadas, This Week, Billionaires Made a Strong Case for Abolishing Themselves, New York Times. One after another, four of our best-known billionaires laid waste to the image of benevolent saviors carefully cultivated by their class.

Ethan Baron, Billionaires gone wild: Musk, Zuckerberg slash jobs, roll dice with future of Bay Area tech icons, Mercury News. On the fine line between a visionary and someone who’s hallucinating.

Robert Kuttner, Bankman and the Bastardization of Bankruptcy, American Prospect. The bankruptcy of billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire offers still another example of how our legal system offers the rich a wink-wink tap on the wrist and everyone else a punishing justice.

Amazon Has Squeezed Over $5.1 Billion from U.S. States and Localities, Good Jobs First. Governments are wasting huge sums subsidizing Amazon’s grand fortunes even as repeated exposés have shown the deplorable working conditions of Amazon’s warehouse workers.

Egberto Willies, Philanthropy by the mega-rich is anti-democratic. $100 million donation from Jeff Bezos explains it, Daily Kos. A message for billionaires with an urge to give: Write a check to the U.S. Treasury and let the nation, as a democracy, decide how to spend it.

Olafimihan Oshin, Sanders says billionaire money’s impact on election not getting enough attention: ‘It’s disgusting,’ The Hill. The senator says we have “to take on the greed of the 1 percent” and “create an economy that works for all, not just a few.”

Building a Movement for the Common Good, Nonprofit Quarterly. Our extreme wealth inequality and declining democracy demand a new movement for economic justice that can take on 21st century capitalism.

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