A weekly newsletter from the Institute for Policy Studies
“We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous quote is even more spot on today in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s rulings against affirmative action and student debt relief.
One key force behind the court’s sharp tilt to the right is a radically conservative billionaire named Leonard Leo. While Leo may not be a household name, for decades he’s been wielding his wealth and power to strengthen the dark money groups bent on reshaping our judicial system to favor the privileged.
The fightback has only begun and you can count on Inequality.org to be a platform for those on the forefront of the struggles for real democracy and an equitable economy. This week, we’re proud to feature a piece by Ronnette Cox of the Center for Popular Democracy on countering the attacks on affirmative action.
After today’s issue, I’ll be following the Inequality.org newsletter as a subscriber rather than as managing editor. Later this month I’ll start working as a campaign communications coordinator for the mighty Communications Workers of America. I owe so much of my interest in the labor movement, and how it intersects with wealth inequality, to my experience over the last two and a half years with the inequality team here at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Our fantastic program associate and co-editor Bella DeVaan will step in as interim managing editor, bringing along her extensive knowledge of both philanthropy reform and social movements. You’re all in very good hands. Stay tuned.
for the Institute for Policy Studies' Inequality.org team
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
Fighting Back Against the Supreme Court Attack on Affirmative Action
Ronnette Cox got her start when the Harvard Business School accepted her into a summer management program where she met other students like herself who’d never imagined attending an Ivy League institution.
“The program’s affirmative action initiative ensured that talented individuals from diverse backgrounds were introduced to essential business principles, alternative learning models, and a supportive network,” writes Cox in an exclusive for Inequality.org.
Now a web specialist at The Center for Popular Democracy, Cox is outraged that the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling will put Harvard’s program and similar initiatives in jeopardy.
“These programs offer hope and inspiration to marginalized communities, demonstrating that they too belong in spaces historically reserved for the privileged few,” she writes. More from Cox on how to fight back below.
Call Out the Big Money Behind Attacks on Responsible Investing
The Supreme Court just undercut racial equity in higher education. A corporate-backed right-wing campaign is also working to undercut racial equity in the workplace.
House Republicans have held two hearings this year to blast “ESG,” the acronym investors use for a range of environmental, social, and governance metrics, including racial equity, that can affect a company’s long-term performance.
Jessica Church, Advocacy and Political Manager for the Take On Wall Street campaign, describes the Republican attacks as a “culture war crusade” aimed at turning ESG into a political lightning rod similar to critical race theory and affirmative action. Read on for Church’s analysis on the big money behind the anti-ESG campaign.
Protecting Our ‘Opportunity’ to Remain Plutocratic
In today’s United States, all of us do not have an “equal opportunity” to become rich — or even comfortable. Rich people like things that way. To keep things that way, rich people have gone out of their way over the past half-century to make sure all of us do not have “equal opportunity” to a quality education. Last week, with the Supreme Court’s stunning ruling against affirmative action, our most fervent advocates of plutocratic privilege have now undone the world’s most ambitious attempt to create a system of public education that can truly guarantee all kids a quality education. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more on why — and what we can do about it.
PETULANT PLUTOCRAT OF THE WEEK
This Near-Billionaire Needs a Democracy-Refresher Course
This week’s dour deep pocket: Vivek Ramaswamy, the near-billionaire biotech and asset management exec who, at age 37, has launched a long-shot bid for the GOP 2024 presidential nod.
What has him sour: Letting Americans under 25 vote in U.S. elections. Ramaswamy is pushing a constitutional amendment that would raise the U.S. voting age to 25 from 18. Young people under 25 would have to pass a “civics test” to vote.
The founder of a RunGenZ, a Republican group working to organize young voters has decried Ramaswamy’s proposal, labeling the notion a return to the days of “Jim Crow laws, where you made people take certain tests to be able to vote.”
Other analysts fear that the outrageousness of Ramaswamy’s proposal will make other GOP limit-the-vote proposals seem less extreme. This past April, the Washington Post reports, a “top Republican legal strategist” told GOP donors that “conservatives must band together to limit voting on college campuses.”
The last word: Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, the executive director of NextGen America, calls the Ramaswamy move “an explicit attempt to hold on to power by any means and block young people who reject the Republican Party almost wholesale from voting.”
This week on Inequality.org
Helen Flannery, The 2022 Giving Slump Exposes the Fragility of Top-Heavy Charity. When ultra-wealthy donors dominate philanthropy, our charities are less resilient.
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, The Boldest Step to Close the Racial Wealth Divide in Generations. One state’s “Baby Bonds” program should be a model for the whole country.
Elsewhere on the Web
Andrew Leahey, It’s Time to Slap America’s Billionaires With a 100% Tax Bracket, Bloomberg. As of this month, Elon Musk’s net worth in 2023 has increased by $95.7 billion. Our 10 wealthiest U.S. billionaires have seen an increase of just north of $345 billion.
Crawford Kilian, Are These the End Times? Historian Peter Turchin Says Yes, The Tyee. A persuasive case that the U.S. has always been a plutocracy, with the first plutocrats the Southern enslavers and their Northern merchant-agents who sold cotton overseas and imported luxury goods for the enslavers.
Jeet Heer, Matchmaker Leonard Leo Helps Unite Billionaires With Supreme Court Justices, The Nation. High-court corruption rests on a network of plutocratic coziness.
Jeff Sommer, How Sweet It Is, if You’re the Boss, New York Times. CEO pay has risen again, reaching levels unthinkable just a generation ago. Google, Hertz, and Live Nation lead the way.
Christopher Gavin, Ultra-Rich Warned About ‘Pitchforks and Torches’ if They Don’t Create Better Charities, The Messenger. Advisors told a London conference of some of the world's wealthiest people that they face a real risk of actual insurrection.
Nicholas Boni, No Matter How Rich You Are, You Can’t Own the Sea, Jacobin. The deaths aboard the Titan submersible are a tragedy — a tragedy born of the hubris of the ultra wealthy.
Alexander Hurst, He’s the world’s richest man. So why do we hear so little from Bernard Arnault? Guardian. Maybe, after the wealth of a deep pocket hits $1 billion, we should build that person of means a winner-of-capitalism monument and then apply a 100 percent tax rate to any future wealth over $1 billion that this deep pocket might ever amass.
Ruby Healer and Luca Tavan, Five other places billionaires should explore, Red Flag. In the wake of OceanGate’s Titan submersible disaster, our thrill-seeking super rich have plenty of other options.
Oliver Balch, Revolutionizing wealth: should the rich be ‘deaccumulating’? Raconteur. A new British nonprofit begun by a former private wealth lawyer is promoting the idea of “responsible wealth stewardship and radical redistribution.”
Lauren Greenfield, Generation Wealth (2018). A documentary that investigates the pathologies that have created the richest society the world has ever seen.
Tribute to Daniel Ellsberg, Jacobin Radio. Ellsberg spent decades working to alert the world to the perils of nuclear war and wrongful interventions. “As I look back on the last 60 years of my life,” he wrote recently, “I think there is no greater cause to which I could have dedicated my efforts.”
Paris Marx, Why AI is a Threat to Artists, Tech Won't Save Us. Artist and writer Molly Crabapple joins to discuss why AI image generation tools are a threat to illustrators and why we need to refuse the idea that Silicon Valley's visions of tech are inevitable.
The Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action and student debt strike a double blow against Black Americans who face multiple hurdles in gaining higher education. Compared to their white peers, Black Bachelor’s degree graduates hold 13 percent more student debt and Black Associate’s degree graduates hold 26 percent more. Taking on student debt is also riskier for Black Americans because their average incomes after graduation are lower than whites with the same degrees. Check out our interactive charts on racial economic inequality at the link below.
Inequality.org | www.inequality.org | email@example.com
Managing Editor: Rebekah Entralgo
Co-Editors: Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, Sam Pizzigati, and Isabella DeVaan
Production: Isabella DeVaan