A weekly newsletter from the Institute for Policy Studies
After a week of heart-wrenching climate catastrophe, 16 young Montanans bring some good news: Montana court judge Kathy Seeley has ruled that their state, by investing in fossil fuel extraction, has violated their rights under the state constitution to a “clean and healthful environment.”
The Sunrise Movement, a national youth-led climate action group, is calling that ruling "proof that our generation is unstoppable,” equipped with the power to “bring down the fossil fuel industry and win a Green New Deal."
Today, meanwhile, just happens to mark the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, a painstakingly negotiated piece of federal legislation that ended up fast-tracking the largest investment in green technology our nation has ever seen. That same legislation, unfortunately, has left our Big Oil movers and shakers free to continue building their personal fortunes at our planet's expense.
“For better and for worse, the product of that tortured Beltway compromise is now the ground on which something more expansive and democratic might be built,” climate journalist Kate Aronoff notes. “It’s time to get ready to win and run the big green state in the new normal the Green New Deal created.”
In today's issue, a closer look at how the maneuvers of the rich and powerful caused and threaten to perpetuate environmental ruin in Hawai‘i — and how, on the ground, people are mobilizing to take care of one another, building a better, greener future.
Bella DeVaan, for the Institute for Policy Studies' Inequality.org team
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
Native Hawaiians Warn Against Disaster Capitalism
Wildfire in Maui’s Lāhainā, the historic former capital of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, has claimed over 100 lives and displaced thousands of residents. Locals now fear, writes Common Dreams journalist Jessica Corbett, that “wealthy outsiders will dominate and further serve themselves” with the multibillion-dollar rebuild from the wildfire’s deadly devastation.
Native Hawaiians on Maui — Kānaka Maoli — are now organizing to keep “disaster capitalism,” an apt term activist scholar Naomi Klein has coined to describe how our richest profit off crisis, from defining Maui’s future.
Decades of decisions that fortified Maui’s tourist economy at the expense of the region's original wetlands, explains Kaleikoa Ka’eo, a Hawaiian studies prof at the University of Hawai‘i Maui College, set the stage for this month’s horrors. He’s hoping that local community leaders will garner the political support they need to help “define what’s best for Lāhainā.”
More Kānaka Maoli insights at the link below.
Fighting the Destructive Impact of Medical Debt on Consumer Credit
The medical debt that an estimated 100 million Americans are carrying can wreck household credit scores, leaving families unable to access loans for homes, education, and other vital needs. A new federal proposal and a nearly activated New York state law are now tackling this problem head-on.
New York’s recently passed Fair Medical Debt Reporting Act aims to prohibit credit bureaus from acquiring patient medical debt information that would adversely affect their credit. All that remains for the bill to become law: Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature.
On the federal level, Rep. Rashida Tlaib has introduced legislation that would prohibit the inclusion of medical debt on credit or consumer reports. Common Dreams reporter Jake Johnson has more.
Tesla’s Rich People-Friendly Take on ‘Sharing’ the Wealth
Elon Musk, the world’s single richest individual, believes in sharing the wealth. Or so Tesla chief financial officer Zachary Kirkhorn can certainly attest. Kirkhorn announced earlier this month that he’s stepping down after four years as Tesla’s CFO. Over those four years, Kirkhorn has pocketed some $590 million, a tidy sum that averages out to an annual take-home not all that far from $150 million. But Musk’s share-the-wealth inclinations, Tesla workers can attest, don’t extend much beyond Tesla's executive suites. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
PETULANT PLUTOCRAT OF THE WEEK
An ‘Educator’ Who’s Making Millions Intimidating Workers
This week’s dour deep pocket: the attorney Phillip Wilson, the self-described “president, general counsel, and occasional barista” of the Labor Relations Institute, the nation’s most prominent “union avoidance” consulting firm.
What has him sour: any suggestion that LRI is doing anything underhanded in its ongoing efforts to ”educate” employees “about the disadvantages of unions.”
Plenty of employees would disagree with Wilson’s claim. The ready-mix concrete company Cemex, for instance, paid Wilson’s LRI $1.1 million to block a union organizing drive among its Nevada and California truck drivers. The organizers lost the unionizing vote after an election campaign where the company, a judge later ruled, committed “extraordinary violations” of labor law. One example: An LRI “persuader,” the court found, “illegally threatened workers with layoffs.”
The last word: Jennifer Abruzzo, the National Labor Relations Board general counsel, is calling the mandatory anti-union meetings LRI consultants arrange “inherently coercive.” If her charge survives employer challenges, the NLRB would be able to forbid anti-union consulting firms like Wilson’s from forcing workers to sit through virulently anti-union meetings.
This week from the Institute for Policy Studies
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Chuck Collins, Omar Ocampo, and Sally Sim, Still A Dream: Over 500 Years to Black Economic Equality. A look at Black economic inequality 60 years after the March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom.
Dan Petegorsky, Here We Go Again, Again With the Commercial Donor-Advised Fund Industry and A Perfect Example of Donor-Advised Fund Slipperiness in Silicon Valley. Charitable intermediaries are touting their generosity. Reporters should take a closer look.
Elsewhere on the Web
Harold Meyerson, Why Should CEOs Make 300 Times What Their Workers Make? The American Prospect. The UAW is demanding that Big Three automakers raise wages by the same percentage that their CEO pay has risen.
Edward Markey, Private jets are awful for the climate. It’s time to tax the rich who fly in them, Guardian. Private flights pollute up to 14 times more than commercial flights. Yet private jets get taxed less.
Rosalyn Pelles and William J. Barber II, Corporate Greed is a Moral Crisis. Working People Are Fighting Back, In These Times. Executive pay has soared close to 1,500 percent over the past 43 years, and the revenue threshold for making the Fortune 500 list has jumped 13 percent in just the last year.
Michael Mazerov, State Taxes Have a Minimal Impact on People’s Interstate Moves, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. State tax levels have little effect on whether and where people move. Yet some state policymakers are still opposing tax increases focused on the wealthy.
Kim Velsey, All the Quiet Money Can Buy: Talking to the professional soundproofers for the ultra rich, Curbed. Many buyers of high-priced housing in Manhattan, wowed by the serenity that only lots of money can buy, relish the contrast between the cacophony outside and the pin-drop-quiet inside.
Paul Prescod, `Pro-Worker’ Republicans Aren’t Serious, Jacobin. The new Ron DeSantis economic plan promises to stand up to the ruling class and big corporations. But his mega-rich donors have no reason to worry.
Robert Reich, Donald Trump, Samuel Bankman-Fried, and the rule of law, Substack. We have become so inured to the rich getting away with behaviors worse than what average people routinely get jailed for that the jailing of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of a collapsed cryptocurrency exchange, seems truly shocking.
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, WeWork’s Stock Imploded to 13 Cents Yesterday; Its Cult-Master, Adam Neumann, Cashed Out Years Ago and Is a Billionaire, Wall Street on Parade. Very shrewd Wall Street lawyers and investment bankers schemed to dump this dog of a stock on the American people.
Robert Reich, The Real Reason Social Security Is In Danger. This week marks Social Security's 88th birthday — at the same time our super-rich are putting this crucial plan at risk.
Workers Are About To Get Way More Power. Here's How, More Perfect Union. The National Labor Relations Board plans to re-establish the Joy Silk Doctrine, a move that would force employers to recognize and bargain with their employees if a majority of workers sign union authorization cards. Journalist Steven Greenhouse explains.
Breaking Down the Draft Merger Guidelines, American Economic Liberties Project. Assistant U.S. attorney general Jonathan Kanter and Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan explain how small business owners, workers, and entrepreneurs should view the FTC’s newly proposed merger guidelines and what these guidelines will mean for the future of the economy and antitrust law.
Rivka Rivera and Frank Cappello, Trading Places, Movies vs. Capitalism. Comedian and podcaster Jamel Johnson helps break down the class disparities depicted in this classic 1983 Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd comedy.
Eleanor Penny, On Cannibals and Capitalists, The Verso Podcast. Professors Nancy Fraser and Gargi Bhattacharyya join to discuss exploitation, expropriation, and racial capitalism.
Explore Booksellers, Chuck Collins, Aspen Public Radio. With the legitimate channels of political recourse too often blocked, Inequality.org co-editor Collins explains, we simply must reimagine how we can fight for the environment.
The poorest 50 percent of the world population holds the responsibity for just 12 percent of global carbon emissions but suffers 75 percent of the income losses relative to what incomes would be in a world without climate change. By contrast, the world’s richest 10 percent accounts for close to half of all emissions, but faces just 3 percent of relative income losses, according to the World Inequality Lab.
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