For Brazil’s just-elected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, fighting against fascism and for economic justice is nothing new.

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We didn’t expect our holiday break to be so eventful. From the drama over the battle for speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives to Brazil’s own January 6, we can now add former U.S. treasury secretary Larry Summers explaining to us — from the comfort of his tropical island home — that our nation needs “increases in unemployment to contain inflation.”

Our fight against inequality, these first few days of the new year have reminded us, has clearly never been more important. As the new Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, noted in his inauguration speech on January 1: “The real greatness of a country lies in the happiness of its people, and nobody is really happy in the midst of so much inequality.” Much more on Lula and Brazil in this week’s issue below.

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Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Battle-Hardened Labor Champ v. Far-Right Fascists
For Brazil’s just-elected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, fighting against fascism and for economic justice amounts to nothing new. Under the country’s dictatorship decades ago, this former metalworker was jailed for leading strikes and took great risks to build a democratic political movement that brought an end to military rule after 21 years.

Yesterday, a week after his inauguration, Lula once again faced violent far-right forces bent on blocking his pro-worker, pro-democracy agenda. Echoing the assault on the U.S. Capitol two years ago, supporters of defeated ex-President Bolsonaro stormed the Brazilian Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace, destroying property and attacking police.

Security forces have now regained control, but the attacks they beat back make chillingly clear the enormous hurdles Lula will need to overcome to achieve the egalitarian agenda he’s been pursuing for nearly half a century. Institute for Policy Studies researcher Omar Ocampo has more.
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Stop, Thief! We’re Looking at You, Walmart Chief
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon wants lawmakers to get tough on crime. McMillon told CNBC last month that lenient sentences have shoplifting theft “higher than what it has historically been.” All this theft, he adds, may force Walmart to raise prices. But FBI and National Retail Federation data, notes a Popular Information analysis, show no new pilfering tsunami. What is rising: Walmart quarterly revenue, up 9 percent in last year’s third quarter. Also doing quite nicely: CEO McMillon’s annual paycheck. The latest figures put his total pay at $25.7 million, well over 1,000 times the typical Walmart worker take-home. So is McMillon just blowing pure smoke over a crime wave at Walmart? Not exactly. Walmart is seeing a crime wave. McMillon just has the wrong criminals in mind. Since 2000, Good Jobs First stats  reveal, Walmart has had to shell out $1.55 billion in penalties for cheating employees on the wage-and-hour front.
In 2023, Let’s Really Reform Charitable Giving
If you’re a regular reader of, you know that our U.S. philanthropy has become untenably top-heavy. The ultra-wealthy account for the lion’s share of “charitable giving,” and they use intermediaries they control — private foundations and donor-advised funds — to keep their giving unaccountable to the rest of us.

Our work in 2022 highlighted what this sector-wide consolidation truly costs the Amrican people — and how we could fix these flaws by changing our charitable giving laws to galvanize more resources for working charities and our common good.

The last Congress didn’t manage to move forward on one key pending reform, the Accelerating Charitable Efforts Act. This legislation, if passed, would have fixed the charitable intermediary loopholes and enabled non-itemizers a receive a $300 charitable tax deduction. But the push for that legislation did help change the national conversation.

With new specificity and skepticism, the public this past year discussed and dissected how philanthropy functions — and new poll results now show a massive popular desire for political change. Read on for our round-up of the year in charity reform, just what we all need to get ready for the year ahead.
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Don’t Blame the Weather for the Southwest Mess
Late December’s heavy dose of stormy weather certainly did set the stage for the Southwest Airlines holiday meltdown. But Southwest can’t put the blame for the airline’s massive meltdown on the cold, wind, and snow. Other airlines delivered, amid the same winter weather, far better service. So what did Southwest in? The airline’s top execs, analysts point out, have spent years underinvesting in needed new tech. What struck those execs as more important than keeping their planes flying on time? Keeping shareholders happy — and themselves richer in the process. Everything else could wait.’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
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What's on 

Sarah Anderson, Before COB on the First Workday of 2023, CEOs Will Make More Than the Average Annual Pay for All US Workers. Before happy hour time, the typical top exec will have pocketed more than home health aides, firefighters, pre-K teachers, and other essential workers will make the whole year.

Elsewhere on the Web

Rebekah Entralgo, Union Buster of the Year: Howard Schultz, New Republic. You own a private jet and a $130 million superyacht. Would you have anything to complain about?

Whizy Kim, The ultrarich are getting cozy in America’s tax havens at everyone else’s expense, Vox. An insightful appraisal that draws on an report published this past fall.

Clay Cockrell, I’m a therapist to the ultra-rich. Trust me when I say Glass Onion is not as far-fetched as you think, Guardian. The greatest heartbreak that comes with extreme wealth: not being able to trust even your friends.

Michael Hiltzik, Our beleaguered billionaire crybabies, Los Angeles Times. Nothing spells “billionaires” in America like a demand that their efforts to exercise control over society be cloaked in secrecy.

Heather Gautney, How Private Equity Gave Rise to a New Power Elite, In These Times. The dominance of predatory financial firms has allowed a class of super-rich investors to exert vast control over our economic and political lives.

Alexander Larman, The idiotic tech billionaires who inspired Glass Onion, Telegraph. They shun phones, have infinitely more money than taste, and disrupt the world with bad ideas. Rian Johnson’s new film skewers them perfectly.

Peter Stothard, A Warning for Today's Super Rich From Ancient Rome's Wealthiest Man, Time. The lessons of the last years of the Roman republic: An ever more unequal society loses its links to democracy. Wealth is good. Excess wealth distorts.

Nancy MacLean and Lisa Graves, The Billionaire Kingmaker (Still) Dividing the Nation, The Progressive. Despite a rebrand, Charles Koch won’t stop until U.S. democracy has gone kaput.

Connor Gibson, Charles Koch’s Campaign to Make Dark Money Even Darker, Center for Media and Democracy. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing powerhouse bankrolled by billionaires, has been subverting lobbying and campaign finance laws for over a decade.

Natalie Zutter, Glass Onion Peels Back Myth of Genius Billionaires, Den of Geek. Rian Johnson’s latest Knives Out murder mystery debunks ideas about who among us deserve special treatment or attention.

Justin Klawans, The rise of the world's first trillionaire, The Week. A trillionaire could afford to buy every team in every pro sports league and still have three-quarters of that trillion-dollar fortune left over.

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