A weekly newsletter from the Institute for Policy Studies
Forty years ago, people from the United States' poorest communities were 9 percent more likely to die each year than people in our richest communities. The current trend? People from our poorest communities are now 61 percent more likely to die each year.
“America is increasingly a country of haves and have-nots, measured not just by bank accounts and property values but also by vital signs and grave markers,” sums up a new Washington Post analysis of our death gap.
Our abounding economic inequalities — worsened by our inadequate health systems — deserve the blame. Last week, some 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers directly confronted this ongoing horror. They walked off their jobs in the largest strike of its kind in U.S. history.
These workers seek safer staffing ratios, higher pay, and better pensions. We all have a stake in their success. We need a health care system that doesn’t doom health care providers to burn out — or get sick themselves — while execs reap huge personal rewards at pay time.
Like everyone else, this week’s deadly violence in Israel and Palestine has left us devastated. If you're looking for insightful perspectives on the unfolding conflict, we encourage you to engage with the work of our Institute for Policy Studies colleagues Phyllis Bennis and Khury Petersen-Smith.
Chuck Collins and Bella DeVaan
for the Institute for Policy Studies' Inequality.org team
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
The Price of Amazon's 'Prime' Business Model? Our Bodies.
After four years of heavy lifting in an Amazon warehouse, Denise Kohr’s shoulder gave out on a busy day at work. While recovering from rotator cuff surgery, the company expected her to work as usual — against doctor’s orders — during the holiday shopping season. Kohr refused. In response, Amazon put her on indefinite leave with no disability accommodations. That move forced her back onto the warehouse floor.
“Stories like mine are a part of a larger problem at Amazon,” writes Kohr, “where workers are pushed to our physical limits only to be disregarded, ignored, and neglected by a billion-dollar company that makes its profits off our backs.”
Kohr and others like her are demanding that Amazon abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act and reform its accommodations system, ensuring that workers don’t have to sacrifice their health to keep their jobs. Read more at the link below.
Naming Defenders of the Donor-Advised Fund Status Quo
Donor-advised funds house a quarter-trillion dollars and have ballooned in size by 513 percent over the last decade. These funds receive 22 percent of America’s annual charitable giving but, crucially, don’t have any payout requirements.
In the last Congress, the proposed Accelerating Charitable Efforts Act offered some sensible donor-advised fund regulations. The law would have mandated most DAFs to grant away all their assets within 15 years. Yet the ACE Act, nonprofit expert Alan Cantor writes, “never had a chance.” Why?
A coterie of people and institutions, explains Cantor, “either have a vested interest in keeping DAF money from going out to charitable organizations or are acquiescing to those who do.”
Financial service firms and advisors, for example, have incentive to keep the money sitting in donor-advised funds dormant. They draw fees from asset management.
To fix the problem of DAFs, we've got to better understand how key players in the giving world benefit from the status quo. Read Cantor’s analysis to learn about who’s enabled the “unregulated and frankly terrifying growth of DAFs” — and how some of them could help turn things around.
Our New Reality: Private Yachts as Long as Football Fields
Back in the late 20th century, any luxury yacht a mere 40 meters long would have been considered gigantic. A 40-meter yacht today rates as “midsize.” About two dozen “superyachts” currently on shipyard order run over 100 meters. The cost of one of these giants? One recently went for $157 million. But that price-tag would hardly raise an eyebrow among the billionaires Forbes has just named as America’s 400 richest for 2023. This year’s Forbes 400 hold a combined fortune worth $4.5 trillion. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more on our latest 400 richest — and their impact on the rest of us.
PETULANT PLUTOCRAT OF THE WEEK
Guess Who Gets to Pay After a Billionaire Wheeler-Dealer Bombs
This week’s dour deep pocket: Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, the video-gaming giant that last year collected $6 billion in revenue from Fortnite, its top product.
What has him sour: The negative reaction to the massive layoffs that Sweeney’s privately held company announced late last month. At least 830 employees, about 16 percent of the Epic workforce, will be losing their jobs. Getting by without layoffs, Sweeney opined in an email to employees, would be “unrealistic.”
“We’ve been spending,” Sweeney’s email declared, “way more money than we earn.”
That “royal we,” journalist Ethan Gach quickly noted, amounted to a “peculiar invocation” given that Epic has been engaging in a long list of acquisitions that “people laid off probably had no say in.”
Analysts, meanwhile, put the net worth of Sweeney — who opposes any move toward a wealth tax — at about $5 billion.
The last word: Just after Sweeney’s emailed layoff notice, the Epic online store started offering an “emote” entitled “Share the Wealth” that shows a character blissfully throwing currency up into the air. Epic removed the emote — an icon or animation meant to display a gamer’s current emotional state — a short time later. Given the layoffs, quipped one commentator, Epic must have suddenly realized that hawking a “Share the Wealth” emote would be seen as a “bad joke.”
This week on Inequality.org
Azza Altiraifi and Sasha Hammad, Reclaiming Antimonopoly for Racial and Economic Justice. The burgeoning movement to rein in Amazon shows how antimonopoly work can democratize power.
Omar Ocampo, Heir Pollution. The dynastically wealthy are flying more than ever. They will continue to do so at our own climate peril — unless we fight against private jet expansion and, through struggle, mobilize for a green energy future.
Elsewhere on the Web
David Streitfeld, New U.A.W. Chief Has a Nonnegotiable Demand: Eat the Rich, New York Times. Says auto worker president Shawn Fain: “Billionaires in my opinion don’t have a right to exist.”
Nicholas Brown, Tom Bergin, and Brad Heath, The Racial Wealth Gap: A History of Inequity, Reuters. A look at the policies and practices that have disadvantaged Black Americans for generations.
Heidi Shierholz, The impact of the wave of strike activity goes far beyond the 2024 election, Financial Times. A revitalized labor movement could lead to a fairer economy for decades to come.
Alan Davis, The ultra-rich are not just the worst polluters – their donations to climate action are also another way of hoarding money and gaming the system, Fortune. Extravagant lifestyles and investments in polluting industries make the ultra-rich disproportionately responsible for climate change.
Joel Achenbach, Dan Keating, Laurie McGinley, Akilah Johnson, and Jahi Chikwendiu, Life expectancy in U.S. is falling amid surges in chronic illness, Washington Post. Dying prematurely has become the most telling measure of our nation’s growing inequality.
Bill Blum, Unequal Justice: Are Wealth Taxes Unconstitutional? Progressive. The Supreme Court stands poised to shoot down even the possibility of a stronger wealth tax.
Joe Hughes, The IRS Shouldn’t Be Lawmakers’ Sacrificial Lamb, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Cutting IRS funding to reduce the budget deficit could not be more counterproductive. The cuts increase the deficit because lost tax revenue from the wealthy more than cancels out the spending cuts.
Hannah Krieg, Seattle Does Not Have a Spending Problem, Big Business Has a Greed Problem, The Stranger. Washington State already has one of America’s most regressive tax structures. Now the Seattle Chamber of Commerce is fighting to stop new progressive city taxes that target wealth.
Matt Stoller, The Price-Fixing Economy, BIG. Our economic and political elites see the world almost entirely differently than normal people do. Prime case in point: inflation.
Simon Maina, Four myths about inequality stats debunked, Equals. Apologists for our unequal status quo have some well-versed lines for why people should dismiss statistics that show wide gaps in income and wealth. A UK response to these claims.
Republican cuts to IRS funding have made it easier for the ultra-wealthy and mega-corporations to get away with illegal accounting tricks to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Between 2010 and 2020, audits of corporations with income over $1 billion dropped 87 percent to a historic low of just 7 percent, according to an Americans for Tax Fairness analysis. Audits of corporations with income of over $100 million dropped by 91 percent. For an interactive version of this chart and other charts on taxes and inequality, check out the link below.
Inequality.org | www.inequality.org | email@example.com
Managing Editor: Isabella DeVaan
Co-Editors: Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, and Sam Pizzigati
Production: Isabella DeVaan