A weekly newsletter from the Institute for Policy Studies
If all goes according to plan, by this time next week Congress will have passed a debt-ceiling increase. We won’t have to worry again about defaulting on the nation’s debt until 2025.
Getting to this point has come at quite a cost. The showdown on Capitol Hill seems almost certain to cut everything from funding for vaccine distribution and research to the resources the IRS needs to crack down on wealthy tax cheats.
Amid the flurry of “budget deal” headlines, the human impact of all these policy choices tend to fade out of sight. Count Joyce Kendrick, a co-leader of the Poor People’s Campaign in southwest Ohio, as one of those impacted. She’ll soon lose out on expanded food assistance benefits. In her own words:
“We need stronger safety net protections that won’t be torn away by lawmakers or complicated eligibility requirements. But now whenever I turn on the news, I hear politicians demanding we slash human needs programs even further so they can extend tax giveaways to the very wealthy. How is that fair?”
But the news doesn’t all rate as bad. In this week’s issue, we have from Minnesota the story of how lawmakers with a simple one-seat majority are passing an impressive, progressive agenda. Also this week: how we can bring people-centered banking to every zip code.
Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies' Inequality.org team
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
Minnesotans Win Major Labor Protections
Khali Jama has experienced a lot of inhumanity in Amazon warehouses, from contact with unsafe chemicals to the denial of sick time and time off for religious holiday observances. Jama, an Amazon worker organizer, has long pushed for Amazon to clean up its act. The Minnesota legislature has now actually listened, just passing a landmark Warehouse Worker Protection Act.
Amazon workers in Minnesota will soon have new access to the details of the injury-stoking quotas that frame their on-the-job lives, in their preferred language, and won’t be denied meal, restroom, or prayer breaks to meet those quotas.
Beyond Amazon warehouses, the labor bill extends crucial, nation-leading protections to nursing homes, meatpacking plants, construction sites, hospitals, and public schools — and doesn’t stop there. The legislation, notes the Minnesota Reformer’s Max Nesterak, also “mandates paid sick days, bans noncompete agreements, and boosts funding for workplace safety inspectors.”
Corporate power did keep other worker priorities from becoming law. Lawmakers neglected to pass safe-staffing ratios for nurses, and Governor Tim Walz used a rare veto to strike down a transformative wage increase for Uber and Lyft drivers. But this chapter in Minnesota politics will long be remembered. More at the link below on Minnesota’s nation-leading labor legislation.
Bring People-Centered Banking to Every ZIP Code
Nearly 10 million U.S. households have to use non-bank financial services to access their own money for paying bills, cashing checks, remittances, rent, and ATM withdrawals. High fees for these services amount to as much as $2,400 per family every year.
Three groups — Save the Post Office Coalition, Take On Wall Street, and Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund — have just released an in-depth report on the potential for solving this problem through postal banking.
In an Inequality.org exclusive, report co-authors Annie Norman and Aditi Sen critique Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s efforts to date to expand USPS financial services and call on postal leaders to “get postal banking right.”
Garbage In, Massive Garbage CEO Windfalls Out
Our world is drowning in garbage, the World Bank warns, that’s creating “serious health, safety, and environmental consequences.” How we handle solid waste, World Bank analysts add, will clearly play “an important role” as we struggle to come to grips with climate change. But getting that “important role” right won’t be easy. To significantly roll back the garbage tide, a wide variety of players will have to set aside self-interest and work together on behalf of our public good. Unfortunately, in waste management as in so much else, the tide is still recklessly rushing toward ensuring private gain. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
PETULANT PLUTOCRAT OF THE WEEK
A Mega-Millionaire Millennial Redefines the Right to Vote
This week’s dour deep pocket: The 37-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy, the recently announced Republican presidential candidate who owes his mega-million fortune, says Forbes, “to a biotech firm he launched nine years ago and his fledgling ‘anti-woke’ investment firm.”
What has him sour: Watching young people vote for “woke” candidates. In a presidential primary campaign swing through Iowa earlier this month, Ramaswamy called for a constitutional amendment that would make Americans under age 25 ineligible to vote unless they’ve passed a civics test or spent at least six months in the military or working as a first responder. In the 2020 presidential election, 18-to-29-year-old voters opted for Joe Biden by a 24-point margin over Donald Trump.
The last word: Ramaswamy’s bid “to disenfranchise literally millions of young Americans,” says NextGen America executive director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, amounts to “an explicit attempt” to “block young people who reject the Republican Party almost wholesale from voting.”
This week on Inequality.org
Rebekah Entralgo, In DeSantis’ ‘Free’ State of Florida, Union Freedom Is Under Attack. A slate of new bills signed by Florida's billionaire-friendly governor will make it harder for public sector unions to collect dues, worsening the state's teacher shortage and public school funding.
Sam Pizzigati, Doing Debt Ceiling Battle the FDR Way. During our last decade’s debt-ceiling brinkmanship, our co-editor recounted how a certain U.S. president used his era’s debt-ceiling debates to advocate for taxing the rich.
Elsewhere on the Web
Alexandra Olson, CEOs got smaller raises. It would still take a typical worker two lifetimes to make their annual pay, Associated Press. “What we shouldn’t lose sight of is that CEO pay is still off the charts by historical measures," our Sarah Anderson told the AP.
Rebekka Ayres, Billionaires Contribute to Climate Change the Most — and Determine Climate Policy, Teen Vogue. Why any serious conversation about climate justice needs to target the super rich.
Caleb Naysmith, The Billionaire Who Found Joy In Giving Away His Fortune, Yahoo Finance. The singular story of Chuck Feeney, a billionaire who gave away all but $2 million of his $8 billion fortune and now lives in a small San Francisco apartment that has “the austerity of a freshman dorm room.”
Julia Rock and Andrew Perez, Dark Money’s Behind The Debt Ceiling Plan To Punish The Poor, The Lever. GOP lawmakers are following the agenda pushed by an obscure conservative think tank bankrolled by far-right billionaires.
Julia Conley, Who's Funding 'No Labels'? Pro-GOP Billionaires Opposed to Democracy, Common Dreams. Billionaires are bankrolling a massive effort that’s peddling the false notion that most Americans back a “centrism” that rejects progressive policies like higher taxes on the rich.
Whizy Kim, The surprising reason luxury goods are booming, Vox. Marketing prof David Dubois: “Inequality fuels consumption.”
Roger Marolt, At the Entrance to Aspen, no bridge over wealth gap, Aspen Daily News. A handful of billionaires have displaced thousands of local workers out of Aspen while demanding, at the same time, ever more services from them, forcing workers to commute daily from homes over 50 miles away.
Angelo Young, These 19 Executives Pay Themselves More Than $150 Million a Year, 24/7Wall St. The lowest-paid of the 19 U.S. CEOs on last year's top-paid-exec list made nearly $75,000 per one working hour, more than our U.S. median worker annual income.
Gary Cooper, Share The Wealth: An Ethical Alternative To Getting Rich Quick, Forbes. our bodies contain over 30 trillion cells that all get along and even help one another. Imagine if 1 percent of our cells hoarded resources like the super rich do. We’d be sick.
Joel Golby, It seems there are only two modes of billionaire: deathly dull or unstoppably cringe, Guardian. What would you buy if you were richer than God? Surely something cooler than an eerie statue of your girlfriend for the prow of your yacht.
Chris Hayes, The Care Economy with Ai-Jen Poo, Why Is This Happening? The executive director of Caring Across Generations joins Hayes to discuss her path to activism and the need for care infrastructure.
During the first two years of the pandemic, billionaire wealth skyrocketed. But poverty did fall during this period as well — thanks to special social programs that have now expired. The expanded Child Tax Credit, higher unemployment insurance, Medicaid coverage protections, and other policies successfully cut the U.S. poverty rate from 11.8 percent in 2019 to 7.8 percent in 2021. But instead of reinstating these policies, Republicans are pushing for further safety net cuts for the poor and more tax cuts for the wealthy. Check out our interactive inequality charts at the link below.
Inequality.org | www.inequality.org | firstname.lastname@example.org
Managing Editor: Rebekah Entralgo
Co-Editors: Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, Sam Pizzigati, and Isabella DeVaan
Production: Isabella DeVaan