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I come bearing good news:
Yesterday, Joe Biden visited striking auto workers in Detroit, likely the first time in history a sitting president has walked a picket line. Biden’s message? Auto workers deserve a significant raise.
Shawn Fain, the UAW president, put the matter clearly as Biden listened beside union members. “Today, the enemy isn’t some foreign country miles away. It’s right here in our own area — it’s corporate greed.”
Also on Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission and 17 state attorneys general announced a historic lawsuit against Amazon, the mega-corporation that’s “exploiting its monopoly power,” as FTC Chair Lina Khan describes, “to enrich itself while raising prices and degrading service for its customers.” Read on for more about this major shift in enforcement and the organizers who’ve made it happen.
Oh, I'm not done! These huge blows against America's hugest corporations follow a significant weekend.
On Saturday, our co-editor Sarah Anderson had the honor of introducing Chile's President Gabriel Boric at an event in Washington marking the five decades since the 1973 Chilean coup.
"The dictatorship promoted extreme neoliberalism, relying on weapons, terror, and the silencing of dissidents and the closure of democratic institutions," Boric said. "But all of us here — gathered happy and celebrating life, not death — that’s a way to say that we won.”
Check out coverage in the Washington Post, The Nation, and Democracy Now! in our Must Watch list below.
And later, on Sunday, the Writers Guild of America ended its nearly 150-day strike with a deal writers are calling exceptional and experts are calling a big win. Guess the studio execs finally saw the signs…
Bella DeVaan, for the Institute for Policy Studies' Inequality.org team
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
The FTC is Suing Amazon. Organizers Paved The Way.
Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission announced a groundbreaking antitrust lawsuit against Amazon and its $1.4 trillion corporate empire. What made the FTC’s bold move possible? Decades of grassroots organizing, movement scholarship, and progressive advocacy, write Azza Altiraifi of Liberation in a Generation and Athena's Sasha Hammad in an Inequality.org exclusive.
For decades now, officials responsible for enforcing antitrust laws have failed to take effective action, allowing Amazon and other corporate goliaths to gain excessive power over our economy while devastating workers, consumers, and small businesses.
The Amazon case marks a huge step in the right direction. And by reorienting our antimonopoly framework, Altiraifi and Hammad argue, we can do much more to “democratize relations of political and economic power — and usher in an economy and a politics of abundance.”
Read more about the possibilities of antimonopoly action at the link below.
Toppling Wealth Supremacy for a Democratic Economy
Fifteen years ago, Lehman Brothers collapsed and triggered a Wall Street crash that swiftly destroyed trillions in home equity and retirement savings. Not so shockingly, writes Marjorie Kelly, Big Finance honchos haven’t learned their lesson. They’ve “engineered an even more entrenched system of creating wealth mostly for the ultra-rich while spinning out crisis after crisis for the rest of us.”
On this fated anniversary, Kelly argues, let’s look at the overarching problem of “financialization,” how our economy so ably manufactures debt to deliver ever-increasing gains to a select few investment portfolios.
To defeat this “wealth supremacy” — the notion that our wealthiest matter the most — we must "build an economic system designed not for maximum investment returns, but for life to flourish.” From worker-owned corporations to community banks and public utilities, Kelly adds, “the models and pathways we need exist around us.”
Read more from Kelly — and her new book, Wealth Supremacy: How the Extractive Economy and the Biased Rules of Capitalism Drive Today’s Crises — at the link below.
Murdoch made the world safe for plutocrats. E.W. Scripps had a better idea.
The world’s mightiest press lord of the past half-century has just announced he’s stepping down. The 92-year-old Rupert Murdoch, come this November, will no longer be lording over the corporate boards of the Fox news universe and the News Corporation, the publisher of media powerhouses that range from the New York Post to the Wall Street Journal. These immensely profitable news-and-views machines have left Murdoch a billionaire eight times over. But this deepest of media deep pockets took special care, in his retirement announcement, to position himself as a pal to the people. What would a real publisher pal to the people look like? Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
PETULANT PLUTOCRAT OF THE WEEK
TikTok: The Billionaire Buying Time for America’s Most Downloaded App
This week’s dour deep pocket: Wall Street trading firm major domo Jeff Yass, an early investor in ByteDance, the Chinese owner of the social media giant TikTok.
What has him sour: China-bashing moves in Congress and assorted state capitals to ban TikTok, a turn of events that would immediately jeopardize three-quarters of the $28-billion Yass personal fortune.
Yass ended 2020 as the seventh-largest U.S. billionaire political donor, with a hefty chunk of his political outlays, Americans for Tax Fairness reports, going to “single-handedly funding the fight to privatize and divert money from public schools” in Pennsylvania, his home state.
Now Yass is presenting himself as a champion of “free speech and innovation” as he bankrolls a right-wing campaign to rally GOP opposition to a TikTok ban — and keep the Yass fortune whole.
The last word: Just last spring, TikTok’s annual revenues, up over 150 times since 2017, appeared solidly on the shaky side. Now the company, the Wall Street Journal noted last week, “has many more friends,” all “with something in common: backing from billionaire financier Jeff Yass.”
This week on Inequality.org
Sam Pizzigati, America’s Auto Workers: On Strike Against Inequality. Again. UAW activists years ago helped usher in a vastly more equal society. Can history repeat?
Elsewhere on the Web
Allison Morrow, A core frustration unites striking workers: Exorbitant CEO pay, CNN. Since 1978, CEO compensation at America’s 300 biggest companies has gone up — even after taking inflation into account — an astounding 1,460 percent. The rise in typical worker pay? Just 18 percent.
Les Leopold, Why the strike by United Auto Workers is Wall Street's fault, Los Angeles Times. The billions lay out for stock buybacks mean billions less for both worker wages and developing high-quality, affordable electric vehicles to forge the transition to a green, sustainable economy.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Americans, stand with the UAW and me and fight out-of-control corporate greed, Fox News. What the UAW understands and all of us should remember: The last 50 years have seen a massive redistribution of wealth in America, in exactly the wrong direction.
Robert Reich, Why labor activism is good for America, Substack. The share of U.S. corporate income devoted to compensating the five highest-paid execs of large corporations has tripled since 1993, from an average 5 percent to over 15 percent today.
Julia Rock, Some Democrats Are Trying to Preemptively Outlaw a Billionaire Tax, Jacobin. Obama’s former Supreme Court lawyer and a Louisiana Democrat are using an obscure corporate taxation case to try to make a federal wealth tax illegal before it even exists.
Dennis Harvey, In ‘Dumb Money,’ Hollywood finally indicts Wall Street greed — and it’s fun, 48hills. This new flick speaks to economic inequality more astutely than any big-screen Hollywood endeavor in years.
Faiza Shaheen, Now it’s clear: hard work doesn’t make you rich. Surely that’s the death knell for the myth of social mobility, Guardian. In the UK, new research shows, the income and wealth of your family now matter more than ever in defining life outcomes, with social mobility at its worst in over 50 years.
Lynn Parramore, How Shareholder Value Fixation Turns AI and Robotics into a Recipe for Failure, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Instead of spending billions on stock buybacks that enrich the already rich, notes business historian William Lazonick, corporate giants like Apple could be paying their fair tax share and helping fund the transition to a decent future for everyone.
Justin Klawans, How the wealthy are impacting climate change, by the numbers, The Week. Wealthy people don’t just stamp out a huge carbon footprint. They set consumption’s aspirational tone.
Suzi Weissman and Nelson Lichtenstein, Strike at the Big Three, Jacobin Radio. Are these strikes opening a new period, igniting a newly energized working class, with the UAW again in a leading role?
John Koblin, Did Hollywood Writers Get Their Happy Ending? The Daily. After 148 days on strike, writers of movies and television are returning to work on Wednesday with an agreement in hand that amounts to a major win for organized labor in Hollywood.
Nick Hanauer and Michael Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit, Pitchfork Economics. Philosopher Sandel explains how the concept of meritocracy has helped to create such a massive divide in American politics and culture.
Labor unions continue to be a key bulwark against rising inequality. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, unionized workers earn significantly higher wages than their non-unionized counterparts. The gap runs particularly wide among women. Last year, median weekly wages for full-time unionized women amounted to $1,146, some $214 more than non-unionized women’s earnings.
Inequality.org | www.inequality.org | email@example.com
Managing Editor: Isabella DeVaan
Co-Editors: Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, and Sam Pizzigati
Production: Isabella DeVaan