A weekly newsletter from the Institute for Policy Studies
Don’t quite understand how donor-advised funds work? Join the club! Like so much of what we cover in the realm of philanthropy and high finance — non-qualified deferred compensation, stepped-up basis, you name it — donor-advised funds operate outside public consciousness to preserve their benefits for the few.
But if you give us a couple minutes of your time to watch our new video, we think you’ll be able to get a better sense of just how donor-advised funds skew charity in favor of the ultra-wealthy and why we’ve become so preoccupied with them.
Why a video and not just another serious research drop? The more people learn about the machinations of our philanthropic sector, the more they understand how desperately we need real systemic change.
Last summer, our researchers collaborated with Ipsos to poll Americans on their attitudes toward philanthropy. We found that most Americans have no idea how much money is getting diverted into charitable intermediaries like donor-advised funds. Once apprised, 72 percent of Americans feel that these “DAFs” should be dispensing funds to real charities within two to five years of receiving donations.
And 81 percent of Americans do not believe taxpayers should be subsidizing the wealthy as they keep money in private foundations that will exist into perpetuity.
We’ve gathered a score of policy recommendations to help us fix all this. Take a look — and share our video with a friend!
Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies' Inequality.org team
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
Fighting Back Against Social Safety Net Cuts in Florida
Trish Brown is no stranger to the blues, both literal and metaphorical. The daughter of parents who picked cotton and peanuts and played the blues, her household struggled financially, but vital social safety net programs helped her family get by. As an adult, Brown worked three jobs — not enough to make ends meet, but enough to disqualify her from food stamps and cash assistance.
Politicians who vote for cutting the social safety net say their cuts “encourage” work. For Brown and so many others, cuts have exactly the opposite impact.
Brown, the founder and executive director of Power Up People, now serves on the coordinating committee of the Florida Poor People’s Campaign. She’s bringing together people from all walks of life to work together. For Brown, our country’s social safety net has always been flawed, under-funded, and over-complicated. But this safety net, as flawed as it may be, remains essential — and we need to protect it from political attacks. Read more of her story below.
Congressional Climate Tribunal to Investigate Corporate Deniers
What did Exxon know — and when did Exxon know it? In a commentary for The Hill, Inequality.org co-editor Chuck Collins calls on Congress to form a tribunal with subpoena power to investigate the role of fossil-fuel giants like Exxon in funding and fomenting climate denial and lobbying to block energy alternatives.
The fossil-fuel industry is, of course, denying any culpability, despite its role in manipulating public opinion, capturing regulators, and concealing information about the harm that comes from extracting and burning carbon and methane.
“We owe ourselves and the world,” Collins writes, “a deeper understanding of the irresponsible actions perpetrated by a couple dozen global corporations.”
Could We Actually End the Defense CEO Gravy Train?
In 2021, the most recent year with complete stats, the nation’s top five weapons makers — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman — grabbed over $116 billion in Pentagon contracts and paid their top two dozen execs some $287 million. America’s taxpayers are generously subsidizing these much more than ample paychecks. But back during World War II FDR didn’t tolerate that sort of Pentagon profiteering. We shouldn’t either. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
PETULANT PLUTOCRAT OF THE WEEK
Will Las Vegas Swallow the ‘Worst Owner in Sports’?
This week’s dour deep pocket: John Fisher, the billionaire son of the founders of the Gap clothing store chain. Fisher currently owns the Oakland A's, the Major League baseball franchise he wants to move to Las Vegas because Oakland won’t subsidize a new stadium for him.
What has him sour: Nevadans are now objecting to Fisher’s expectation that taxpayers in Vegas come up with $500 million to build him a new stadium and entertainment complex on the 49-acre plot near the Las Vegas Strip he recently purchased. Fisher has already totally alienated Oakland by refusing to spend the dollars for player pay necessary to keep his ballclub competitive on the field.
The last word: “To match the indignity to which the players are being subjected, Fisher should be required to attend all A’s games in a Bozo the Clown outfit,” writes San Francisco Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler. “The A’s players aren’t simply losing, they are being sacrificed at the altar of Fisher’s greed.”
This week on Inequality.org
Jake Johnson, ‘We Are Not Taxing the Very Wealthy Enough’: Runaway Inequality About to Get Worse. The astronomical U.S. levels of economic inequality are poised to become further entrenched in the coming years.
Joyce Kendrick, The SNAP Expansion Helped Me Lead a Dignified Life on Disability — Now It’s Gone. Pandemic social programs have been lifesavers. Now conservatives want to shred what little of these programs remains.
Farrah Hassen, Lights, Camera, Action: Why the Hollywood Writers Strike Matters. If you work for a living in this increasingly unfair economy — or just watch TV — you have a stake in the Hollywood writers strike.
Elsewhere on the Web
Steve Wamhoff, Congress Should Consider Attaching Work Requirements to the Biggest Tax Break for the Rich, Just Taxes. Congress could attach a new work requirement to the tax code’s lower rate for capital gains and stock dividends, a tax break that mostly benefits the richest 1 percent, including those who live off their investments and do not work at all.
Giovanni Sala and Fernand Gobet, Are rich people more intelligent? Here’s what the science says, The Conversation. The more years of schooling, the higher students’ intelligence scores. Unsurprisingly, family socioeconomic status affects education. But the influence of family socioeconomic status on wealth does not operate solely through education.
Robert Armstrong, The world wobbles; the luxury industry strides on, Financial Times. The imbalance between the very rich and the rest leaves the world a poorer place.
Holly Williams, From Succession to hit book Pineapple Street – the stories that reveal the lives of the super-rich, BBC. Jenny Jackson, the author of the best-selling Pineapple Street, believes that “rich people's feet will be held to flames," in fiction, at least.
Matt Bruenig, The SNAP Work Requirements, People’s Policy Project. With the new budget deal SNAP benefit cutoff, we have a classic example of shills for the rich inflicting pain on the poor.
Richard Hasen, The Urgent Warning That Got Cut From a Supreme Court Opinion 20 Years Ago, Slate. More than 20 years ago, then–Supreme Court Justice David Souter tried to warn that big money in politics risked turning United States officials into tools of an emerging “plutocracy.”
Alex Press, Rich People Are Boring, Jacobin. Cartoonist Syd Hoff drew the rich as they are: ridiculous, incompetent, and hopelessly out of touch.
Jan Weir, The Abuse of The Corporate Form: Why Corporations Are Out of Control, Medium. Efforts over recent decades to rein in corporate CEO pay, stock buybacks, and political contributions have not made much headway. A look at why.
Chuck Kelly, Rising inflation: Biden needs to warn voters that inflation will get worse, Asheville Citizen Times. The worst way government creates inflation: by cutting taxes on the wealthy.
Emma Agyemang, Private wealth advisers call for tax loopholes to be closed, Financial Times. Some 100 UK financial advisers to the wealthy are labeling their nation's current tax-loophole system as “anti-democratic.”
CEOs Defend Corporate Greed, The Onion. What Tim Cook from Apple has been thinking all along: “Corporate greed has allowed us to create paradise on earth for almost 1 percent of humanity.”
Charity Reform Initiative, Until the River Runs Dry. How wealthy donors use charitable intermediaries to their own advantage, drying up the river of donations.
Sean Claffey, Americonned. Premiering June 9, the film goes inside the JFK8 Amazon unionization effort and dives into our continuing national income inequality and its tragic destabilizing impact.
Ordinary Americans struggling to pay for housing and other rising costs, meaning they have less disposable income to share. For the charitable sector to be healthy and democratic, lower-income people need to be able to participate. Check our latest facts on how inequality influences philanthropy 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
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