Our economic systems are rigged in favor of the wealthy.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely among the 94 percent of working Americans who pay into Social Security all year long. But if you make at least $1 million a year, tomorrow is going to be a great day. On February 28, those earning over that $1 million stop contributing to Social Security.

Someone making $10 million in a year, in other words, is contributing the exact same amount into Social Security as someone making $160,200. And some people — like Elon Musk, the highest-paid CEO in the world — don’t pay a single penny into Social Security.

Lawmakers who set the income cap on Social Security contributions back in 1983 didn’t anticipate the incredible 40 years of rising incomes — at the top — we’ve had since then. Now today, with Republicans in Congress considering cuts to Social Security in the name of “budget neutrality,” we have an opportunity to safeguard these vital programs for the future and reduce inequality. More on that and much more in the issue below.

An editorial housekeeping note: Sam Pizzigati, our Inequality.org co-editor, has been contributing our Petulant Plutocrat and Too Much features ever since we went weekly over a decade ago. Sam will be taking a hiatus from these features, starting this week, to complete his latest book, The Last Billionaire, a provocative look into our global future co-authored with Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow Bob Lord.

Need some more inequality-related reading in the meantime? Check out Sam’s two most recent books, The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970 (Seven Stories Press) and The Case for a Maximum Wage (Polity).

Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
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Garment Workers Take On Wage Theft, Wall Street
We can’t reveal the full name of our featured activist in this week’s Faces on the Frontlines. Revealing it could put her life in danger.

Dilhani worked for six years in a Sri Lankan factory that made clothes for Nike. Then, one day in 2021, managers locked her in a small room until she agreed to sign a resignation form. Why did they force her to quit? Dilhani, an outspoken member of her factory’s employee council, was pushing to get the wages workers lost during the pandemic repaid.

Dilhani now sells fruit by the roadside to try to stay afloat. But she’s also continuing her fight for justice. Her union and others in the region, along with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance and the Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum, are today launching a “Fight the Heist” campaign. A key demand: Nike and other big fashion firms must stop rewarding execs and shareholders with dividends and stock buybacks until they repay all their garment workers’ lost pandemic wages.
Read More Here
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No Cap on What the Rich Pay into Social Security!
Social Security has become another victim of rampant and rising inequality in America. FDR meant for his iconic program to ensure “equality in the pursuit of happiness.” Yet the wage income threshold we have in place today for contributions into the Social Security Trust Fund exempts the wealthy from paying their fair share into a program that millions of young, aging, disabled, and widowed Americans depend on.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates we’ve lost out on $1.4 trillion worth of Social Security Trust Fund contributions under the current cap. But we can make a simple fix. By requiring the wealthy to contribute “all year long and on all of their income,” notes Linda Benesch of Social Security Works, we’d have cause for celebration next February 28. Check below for more about how we can protect and expand Social Security.
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What's on Inequality.org 

Lindsay Koshgarian, Seven Things We Could Do If We Cut the Pentagon Budget by $100 Billion. We could afford transformative programs if we stopped throwing money at Pentagon contractors.

Evette Clemons, Credit Card Holders Get Protection From Fraud. Shouldn’t EBT Users, Too? Average-income families deserve the same consumer financial protections that higher-income Americans get.

LT Talarico, A Health Care Cliff Is Coming. Some 18 million Americans could soon lose Medicaid access. Here’s how to keep people from falling over the edge — and how to fight back.

Jim Hightower, Health Care Is Sick — And Profit Is the Disease. Corporate consolidation is burning out health care professionals and killing patients. But we have an alternative

Elsewhere on the Web

John Nichols, It’s Time to Talk About Nationalizing America’s Railroads, The Nation. Our railroad execs never look out for their communities. They look out for stock buybacks and dividends.

Douglas Rushkoff, The Apocalyptic Delusions of the Silicon Valley Elite, Current Affairs. How the super-rich plan to escape the world after they’ve destroyed it.

Medora Lee, How do rich people avoid taxes? Wealthy Americans skirt $160 billion a year in tax payment, USA Today. Some tax breaks require lots of money to even access.

David Campbell, Elizabeth Dale, and Michael Moody, US billionaires keeping more and giving less, Asia Times. Only 19 of last year’s top 50 donors to charity appear on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

Ed Pilkington and Sam Levine, In Wisconsin’s supreme court race, a super-rich beer family calls the shots, Guardian. A grotesque example of what happens when you get rid of campaign donation limits that restrict how much deep pockets can spend on elections.

Mads Andreas Elkjær and Torben Iversen, The Democratic State and Redistribution: Whose Interests Are Served? American Political Science Review. Inequality has increased markedly since 1980 in 17 advanced democracies. All but one of these nations, the United States, have taken serious steps to offset the losses their middle- and low-income populations have suffered.

Cameron Abadi, How Macron’s Ally Became the Richest Man in the World, Foreign Policy. The world’s richest man at one key juncture threatened to give up his French passport if France enacted a tax on wealth.

Chuck Kelly, Today's Wall Street oblivion — worse than it was in 2008, Asheville Citizen Times. The 2008 stock market crash, not an SEC investigation, exposed Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. His investors wanted their money back. Our political leaders today are ignoring economic realities once again.

Rob Copeland and Maureen Farrell, Hedge Fund Billionaire Extracts Billions More to Retire, New York Times. Ray Dalio has portrayed himself publicly as a management guru. Shakedown artist might be a more accurate descriptor.

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