A weekly newsletter from the Institute for Policy Studies
If I were you, I might be thinking, who’s this stranger in my inbox? Fear not — I come in peace! I’m Bella, the new acting managing editor of Inequality.org. I’m stepping in for the remarkable Rebekah Entralgo, with whom I was lucky to work since my first day at the Institute for Policy Studies in 2021.
I stumbled upon Inequality.org the way a good chunk of our readers do: while researching a college paper. Enrolling in "History of the First American Gilded Age” was an eerily prescient choice in early 2020 — as billionaire wealth began skyrocketing in the coronavirus economy.
For that course, I reviewed the 1915 Commission on Industrial Relations, which critiqued philanthropy’s role in industrial capitalism. Commissioners admonished steel baron Carnegie and oil baron Rockefeller for using their charitable foundation charters to cover up labor abuses, launder their reputations, and even “perpetuate predatory wealth.” (Sound familiar?)
Though the Commission surfaced rigorous plans to unlock more generosity and redistribute ill-begotten gains, WWI mobilization drowned out its potential political impact.
Was anyone bothered with trying to make charity more plentiful, I wondered, during our surging pandemic of inequality? Google led me to Inequality.org’s Emergency Charity Stimulus page, which called on private foundations to double their payout rates during the crisis. After a cursory read, I just knew: I need to work with the people behind this.
Three years later, here we are.
I’m incredibly proud of today’s edition, which highlights the effects of inequality on young people. Check out Next Leader Danielle Browne’s commentary on supporting young farmers, researcher Jasmine Corazon’s chart of the week on soaring college costs, and my take on young Americans’ huge stake in the retirement debate.
We’ll be taking the next two weeks off for our annual summer vacation, but in the meantime, if you’d like to introduce yourself, ask any questions, or share what you’d like to see from us, feel free to reply to this email directly.
for the Institute for Policy Studies' Inequality.org team
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
Cultivating the Next Crop of Young Farmers
Before joining our team at Inequality.org, Danielle Browne spent many days in the sun as an organic farmer. But “for young people like me,” she writes, “becoming a full-time farmer is nearly an impossible dream.” The median age for American agricultural producers has ticked up in the last decade, and there’s no wonder why: Costs of land and machinery keep increasing and the federal government’s farming subsidies channel towards larger, wealthier, and whiter farm operators.
“If we truly care about the future of our food,” Browne argues, we need to “offer solutions to preserve America’s farming culture.” The new federal Farm Bill might be able to build opportunities for young farmers: Learn how at the link below.
The Rich Sit On Huge Nest Eggs — Young Workers Deserve Them, Too
If young Americans had a nickel for every time they were told to start saving for retirement as soon as possible, they wouldn’t have to worry so much about their retirement security. But with crushing rents and student debt payments — not to mention looming climate catastrophe — young workers are finding it impossible to put aside even a fraction of their paychecks.
The firms at which young workers are heavily represented don’t make saving for retirement easy: A joint report by our team at the Institute for Policy Studies and Jobs with Justice revealed that at 22 low-wage employers, CEOs are set to receive more in monthly retirement checks from special tax-exempt accounts than their typical workers make in an entire year. Meanwhile, at least a third of their employees have not been able to put any money in their 401(k) plans.
To give young Americans a chance of experiencing dignified retirements, we need to tackle the short and long-term obstacles to saving: Let’s raise wages, strengthen labor rights, guarantee housing and healthcare, fight climate change, and, immediately, strengthen our Social Security system by requiring high earners to pay the same share of their total income into the system as ordinary workers. More at the link below.
A Good Year’s Pay for a Good Day’s Work?
Can you imagine a U.S. president proposing a budget that quadruples the paychecks that go to top federal officials? Of course not. No president would dare go down that road. America’s taxpayers, our top pols understand, have a distinct aversion to seeing people get rich off their tax dollars. Pay rates for top federal execs reflect that aversion. Our Department of Health and Human Services has, for instance, over 80,000 employees. Yet the top exec at HHS last year took home less than $250,000. Last year’s top-paid U.S. corporate CEOs, meanwhile, pocketed over $250,000 per day. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
PETULANT PLUTOCRAT OF THE WEEK
A Deep Pocket with the Guts to Champion Outrageous CEO Pay
This week’s dour deep pocket: Paul Sheard, a 68-year-old former vice-chair of S&P Global and senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government.
What has him sour: “Extreme disparities in wealth and income” and “the abject poverty that many people endure” make “most people — me included — feel sick to their stomachs,” writes this veteran Wall Street chief economist. But, in his case, apparently not that sick.
Sheard’s just-published new book, The Power of Money: How Governments and Banks Create Money and Help Us All Prosper, argues that “egregious and reprehensible” inequality rates as “justifiable and more innocuous than it is made out to be.”
The last word: How much courage does justifying inequality take? Sheard’s perspective: “There is not a lot of social or reputational upside in opening yourself up to the charge of being an apologist for the super-rich. But somebody has to point out what is on the other side of the inequality coin.”
This week on Inequality.org
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, From Affirmative Action To Reparations: Bridging Racial Economic Inequality. While our federal government backtracks, state and local lawmakers are increasingly taking action to repair racial divides through policies designed to address racial inequality.
Marcos González and Hernando Gerry Mitchell, The Richest 10% Are Starting to Feel the Pinch, but Will That Change How They Think About Inequality? High earners need to come around to the idea that they would benefit from progressive taxes and other policies to create an economy that works for everyone.
Elsewhere on the Web
Jacopo Prisco, He's a millionaire with a private jet. but now he's selling it for the sake of the environment, CNN. Moved by the Institute for Policy Studies' research on private jets, Patriotic Millionaire Stephen Prince pledges to ditch his.
Matt Ford, The Supreme Court May Preemptively Ban a Federal Wealth Tax, New Republic. An interesting case to take on, given the recent ethics questions about justices’ interactions with billionaires.
Paul Krugman, The Rich Are Crazier Than You and Me, New York Times. Why tech bro billionaires appear to be especially susceptible to brain-rotting contrarianism.
Kurt Wise, Debunking the Five Major Myths About Outmigration, Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center. Don't let myths about population flight scare your state away from taxing the rich: High-income people overwhelmingly choose to live where they want to live & where they have built successful careers, not where state taxes run the lowest.
John Johnson, Reward for the Super Rich: $14M a Day, Newser. That $14 million represents just how much the top 500 billionaires on Bloomberg’s richest list added to their wealth every day over the first half of this year.
Erica Werner, How sellers of L.A. mansions are dodging a tax meant to help the homeless, Los Angeles Times. The real estate industry, in opposing the city’s new mansion tax, is claiming that $5-million-houses no longer rate as mansions.
Peter Currier, Ayer natives produce film exploring income inequality in America, Lowell Sun. The story behind the making of Americonned, the new documentary detailing the current maldistribution of income and wealth in the United States now showing on iTunes and Amazon Prime.
Dave Braneck, Billionaires and Monarchs Now Run Soccer, Jacobin. Some of the biggest clubs in European football have become “sportswashing” vehicles.
Toure Reed, Even When They Fail, They Win: OceanGate and the Cult of the Super-Wealthy Innovator, Common Dreams. This deep-sea tragedy reminds us that our government and media continue to insist that we move heaven and earth to save the super-rich doing reckless stuff.
Book Talk with Emily Flitter, Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund. A conversation with the New York Times finance reporter about her new book, The White Wall: How Big Finance Bankrupts Black America.
Laura Flanders, Solidarity Economy 101, The Laura Flanders Show. Visit the Kola Nut Collaborative, a Chicago-based initiative promoting timebanking as a means of social and economic transformation.
Doug Henwood, How Austerity Spawns Fascism, Behind the News. Clara Mattel, author of The Capital Order, explores the links among neoclassical economics, austerity, and fascism.
Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei, The Labor of Love, Throughline. The idea of the ideal mother permeates our culture, our economy, and our social policy. And it distorts them.
Young people today face higher costs of obtaining a college degree than ever before. Since 1971, average tuition and fees of all degree-granting institutions has increased 192 percent, after adjusting for inflation. Even public institutions, traditionally the most cost-effective way of earning a college degree, have become out of reach for many. Since 1971, the average cost of a year of tuition at a public institution has increased 215 percent, from $2,492 to $7,869, rising faster than private institutions over the same period.
Inequality.org | www.inequality.org | firstname.lastname@example.org
Managing Editor: Isabella DeVaan
Co-Editors: Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, and Sam Pizzigati
Production: Isabella DeVaan