Are we in for a charitable golden age? Don't hold your breath.
 
INEQUALITY.ORG
THIS WEEK
We first began tracking billionaire pandemic wealth gains late in 2020. At the time, we had no idea we would still need to be doing that tracking two years later. But thatís exactly how things have turned out, and weíve just published our most recent pandemic-profiteering update.

As of Monday, November 21, our nation boasts 728 billionaires. They hold a combined wealth of $4.48 trillion, an increase of $1.5 trillion over billionaire wealth in mid-March 2020, an appraisal based on the Forbes billionaire database. Combined U.S. billionaire wealth prior to the pandemic stood at just under $3 trillion.

What to do with all this excess? Many top billionaires are encouraging their fellow one-percenters to give generously to various philanthropic ventures. Are we now going to be seeing a charitable golden age? Donít hold your breath. At this point, a skeptical posture makes the most sense.

The truth is, billionaire pledges often take years or decades to reach their nonprofit destinations ó if ever, as we argue in CNN today. That’s why we need more public scrutiny of billionaire philanthropy — and much clearer rules to make sure donations actually support real, working charities. More on all that in today’s issue.

Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
 
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
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FACES ON THE FRONTLINES
Thereís No Thanksgiving Without Farm Workers
If you enjoyed potatoes over the holiday weekend, you have farm workers like Bea to thank. Bea, a United Farm Workers member, harvests potatoes in Pasco, Washington, waking before dawn each morning amid freezing temperatures to move the potato harvest underground for winter storage.

Farm workers like Bea feed our nation, but they still lack the basic protections necessary to ensuring they can work and provide for their families without fear of deportation and wage theft.

Just before Thanksgiving, a delegation of farm workers traveled with their union to Washington, D.C. to pressure Congress to pass ó in the lame duck period while Democrats still control both legislative houses ó the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Inequality.org managing editor Rebekah Entralgo has more.
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WORDS OF WISDOM
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PETULANT PLUTOCRAT
OF THE WEEK
The CEO Gouging Music Fans to Fill Up His Fortune
A dozen years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice let the nationís biggest online ticketing giant, Ticketmaster, merge with the nationís biggest event promoter, Live Nation. Howís that merger working out? Just fine ó for Michael Rapino, the merged cultural giantís CEO. Rapino took home just under $14 million last year, and the 56-year-old now stands over halfway to billionaire status. Music fans, meanwhile, are standing in long lines grousing about the gouging that Ticketmaster’s monopoly power has inflicted. Ticketmaster ticket fees can run over 70 percent of ticket face value. And artists are losing out as well. Major chunks of the dollars fans pay for performers’ t-shirts are going straight into Rapino’s corporate coffers. But those performers and their fans — led by singer Taylor Swift — are fighting back. They’re calling on the feds to break up Rapino’s empire, and a Senate Judiciary panel is planning new hearings. The panel, so far as we know, won’t be charging Rapino a fee on his witness seat.
 
BOLD SOLUTIONS
This Giving Tuesday, Letís Reform Philanthropy
Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, a philanthropic sector holiday that encourages donations and volunteering. The day annually kicks off a season of giving in America, stirred by both the holiday spirit and ample tax benefits for giving. But regular people are finding it harder than ever to express and exercise their charitable impulses. These days, all year round, billionaires are drowning us out.

While individual giving hovers around 2 percent of annual disposable income, private foundations and donor-advised funds are accruing astronomical amounts of wealth. Rich donors prefer to give to intermediaries they control, and these intermediaries take in substantially more than charities on Giving Tuesday.

In 2021, Giving Tuesday’s entire U.S. fundraising total, $2.7 billion, about equaled the amount of donations over $1 million that donor-advised funds alone collected.

The goal of Giving Tuesday remains honorable ó but will also remain unmet until we see major reform in our philanthropic sector. Read more from Chuck Collins, Bella DeVaan, and Helen Flannery, all members of our Charity Reform Initiative.
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GREED AT A GLANCE
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TOO MUCH
Inequality Kills, But, Yes, We Can Stop the Killing
Serious books about America’s growing maldistribution of income and wealth have proliferated over the past quarter-century. These books on inequality have offered up important information and insights. Unfortunately, these contributions to the literature on inequality haven’t had much of an impact. Our grand fortunes remain grand. As of this past September, despite a serious stock-market swoon, the net worth of our richest 1 percent still sitsafter inflation — some 527 percent above our top 1 percent’s net worth in 1976. Amid numbers like these, books about inequality clearly remain as necessary as ever. And that brings us to a remarkable new book about inequality that just might make the sort of difference that books about inequality have so far been unable to make. That book: Stephen Bezruchka’s Inequality Kills Us All. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
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MUST READS

What's on Inequality.org 

Sarah Anderson, Video: Big CEOs’ Thanksgiving Tax Feast. In this 2017 throwback, our Global Economy Project director explains how Republicansí proposed corporate tax rate cut stuffed the turkey for our nationís wealthiest executives.

Chuck Collins and Helen Flannery, The Rise of the Monster DAFs. Rising like monsters from the deep, donor-advised funds have finally caught up with foundations as the wealthy donorís charitable warehousing vehicle of choice ó and stand poised to eclipse them.

Rebekah Entralgo, A Farm Worker Speaks Truth to Power in Washington. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh got an earful from essential workers before inducting them into the agency’s Hall of Honor.

Elsewhere on the Web

Matt Bruenig, 5 Insights from Norway’s 2023 Tax Proposal, People’s Policy Project. Cutting-edge egalitarian and climate-conscious tax reforms now stand high on the Norwegian progressive agenda.

Three new films hang the super-rich out to dry, Economist. Films that show the obscenely affluent getting humiliated can be entertaining. But movies that show them as ridiculous rate as truly revolutionary.

Ryan Cooper, Elon Musk’s Twitter Debacle Shows the Problem with Billionaires, American Prospect. Billionaires like Musk can lose more money than any single person has ever lost in history, in less than a month, and still have enough to live 10,000 lifetimes in resplendent luxury.

Dean Baker, Crypto Meltdown is a Great Time to Eliminate Waste in Bloated Financial Sector, CEPR. The financial sector remains a happy home for those who don’t mind bending or breaking the rules to fill their pockets.

Robert Reich, Elon Musk went on a firing frenzy at Twitter. Now he’s paying for it, Guardian. A growing part of the value of a corporation now lies in the heads of its workers, heads that know how to innovate, what needs improvement, and why the corporation succeeds — or doesn’t.

Oliver Bullough, Getting Rich for the Good of Humanity, Oligarchy. On the “effective altruism” of now-disgraced billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried: We’ll always be better off governed by fair laws that take everyone’s interests into account that we will be among devotees of TED talks convinced they can best save the world by getting as rich as possible — and then spending their loot as and when they see fit.

Rebecca Jennings, Why do we keep believing things that are too good to be true? Vox. Entrepreneurs like to tell themselves they innovate. In reality, they’re just following wherever the godlike venture capitalists decide to turn on the spigot.

Justin O'Connor, Cultural industries have been captured by billionaires – a new book considers what we can do about it, The Conversation. Big Tech’s business model: not “disruptive innovation,” but sheer monopoly.

 
A FINAL FIGURE
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GIVING TUESDAY

For billionaires, every day is Giving Tuesday. Under our loophole-ridden system, the rich can get a “charitable” tax deduction right away, while warehousing more than $1 trillion for years or decades before giving to any charity.

Inequality.org is leading the effort to close these loopholes. And since we’re a nonprofit, we’d much appreciate your support for Giving Tuesday: help us keep up our fight by making a donation today.

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