A weekly newsletter from the Institute for Policy Studies
Many political observers consider odd-year elections just the “calm before the storm” — but yesterday, we still felt a strong breeze.
Some highlights from last night's results: In Santa Fe, voters approved a new sales tax on high-end homes that will fund affordable housing construction. In Seattle, voters extended an affordable housing levy, a choice that will raise nearly a billion dollars over the next seven years to construct new homes for low-income renters shortchanged by the market.
And Ohioans have amended their constitution to preserve the right to choose an abortion, a critical win for gender and economic justice. The National Bureau of Economic Research links abortion denial to higher chances of poverty and a lower likelihood of full-time employment.
But not all Tuesday’s balloting brought bright news. In Cincinnati, voters nixed a public purchase of their railway, allowing a $1.6-billion sale to Norfolk Southern in the wake of last year’s East Palestine derailment disaster. That tragedy — triggered by an embrittled private freight system — soaked the region with toxic chemicals.
Maine voters, meanwhile, turned down the chance to forge their own nonprofit electric utility in what the American Prospect dubbed “a setback for public power.”
We'll continue monitoring and reporting on inequality-related ballot measures throughout the coming general election year. Stay tuned!
Chuck Collins and Bella DeVaan
for the Institute for Policy Studies' Inequality.org team
INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
The Medicare for All Movement Has Lost a Hero
Ady Barkan always lived the activist way. Early in his career, working with the Center for Popular Democracy, Barkan helped organize coast-to-coast movements that successfully secured paid sick leave in New York City and a $15 minimum wage in Seattle, transforming everyday life for millions of low-income people and popularizing a new vision of a just society.
But then, in 2016, Barkan learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a “death sentence,” he explained to the Washington Post last year, that “renewed my passion and commitment to reducing injustice elsewhere because too many communities across our country face death sentences in different ways.”
For the next seven years, Barkan’s diagnosis fueled his advocacy for Medicare for All: His “Be a Hero” organization highlighted the inanities and indignities of our extortionate healthcare system. Barkan “campaigned tirelessly,” notes Common Dreams’ Jake Johnson, “even as he lost the ability to stand, walk, and speak on his own.”
Last week, Barkan passed away at the age of 39 — we mourn this loss, cherish his example, and carry on his fight. More tributes to an irreplaceable leader at the link below.
Senate Bill Targets Firms That Pay CEOs Way More Than Workers
During their successful strike, UAW workers garnered big headlines — and enormous public support — with their demands for wage hikes on par with CEO pay raises at the Big 3 Automakers.
Building on this momentum, U.S. Senate Budget Committee chair Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives Barbara Lee and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have just introduced a bill that would reinforce union efforts to narrow the gaps between CEO and worker pay. The Curtailing Executive Overcompensation (CEO) Act would apply an excise tax to large corporations that pay their top execs over 50 times the firm’s median worker pay.
Check out lots more on this legislation and other policy solutions to outrageous CEO pay in a new report co-published by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center.
Is a ‘Mayday!’ Now Looming for Our Billionaire Class?
Folks at the U.S. Coast Guard every year handle thousands of “mayday” distress calls. Their counterparts worldwide handle thousands more. But we’ve never had a “mayday” more socially consequential than the “mayday” that U.S. auto workers have just thrust upon our global calendar. This potential “mayday” — on May 1, 2028 — just happens to impact only our world’s richest and has suddenly become a much more real possibility than a crash of any one of the outrageously deluxe private jets our wealthiest so love to ride. Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
PETULANT PLUTOCRAT OF THE WEEK
A Thrilling Role Model for Billionaire Heirs Everywhere
This week’s dour deep pocket: Mark Mateschitz, the richest millennial in Europe since he inherited last year the fortune of his dad, the late Red Bull CEO Dietrich Mateschitz.
What has him sour: Certainly not the taste of Red Bull. The corporation sells over 11 billion cans a year of its flagship beverage, and Mateschitz now holds 49 percent of the company’s shares. Red Bull shareholders last year pocketed half of the company’s latest annual profit, a thoughtful corporate dividend gesture that added $615 million to the mega-billion Mateschitz personal fortune.
Mateschitz held assorted management positions in Red Bull before his 78-year-old father’s passing. But he’s decided to forgo any further active role in the company and “concentrate on my role as a shareholder.” That decision, Mateschitz says, “did not come easy.”
“I do not believe,” the 31-year-old adds, “one should be both an employee and a shareholder.”
In his new shareholder-only role, Mateschitz — now widely regarded as “one of Europe’s most eligible bachelors” — ought to have plenty of spare time to continue wooing Victoria Swarovski, an heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Swarovski crystal empire.
The last word: In the United States, workers stocking Red Bull merchandise average $12.12 an hour.
This week on Inequality.org
Manuel Pérez-Rocha, The Huge Paradox at Biden’s Summit of Latin American Leaders. Leaders claim to support social and environmental goals. But they’re failing to challenge the corporate power that undermines those objectives.
Elsewhere on the Web
Elizabeth Spiers, A Tech Overlord’s Horrifying, Silly Vision for Who Should Rule the World, New York Times. Would-be corporate monarchs, having consolidated power even beyond their vast riches, have persuaded far too many of us to more or less go along with their view of our present and future.
Carl Davis and Eli Byerly-Duke, America Used to Have a Wealth Tax: The Forgotten History of the General Property Tax, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Reviving the general property tax would be an idea well worth a closer look.
Jayati Ghosh, Global tax evasion: the good and the bad news, Social Europe. Why we need a genuine assault on the tax evasion of rich individuals and the corporations they run.
Rogé Karma, The Secretive Industry Devouring the U.S. Economy, The Atlantic. A look at how private-equity execs lay off workers, evade regulations, and bankrupt firms while ensuring themselves safe landings and hefty rewards.
Thom Hartmann, The American Oligarchs Have Arrived to Destroy US Democracy, Common Dreams. Oligarchy breeds cynicism and discontent. If not challenged, oligarchy will swallow us whole.
Dean Baker, The Return of the Aging Crisis: Diverting Attention from Inequality, Beat the Press. Policy decisions have led to a massive upward redistribution of income over the last half century. Our news outlets, meanwhile, highlight demographics over the real causes of inequality.
Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria, Why reporters play dumb, Popular Information. The IRS funding cuts the GOP House majority is now pushing would actually increase the federal budget deficit by undercutting the IRS capacity to audit the tax returns of America’s rich.
Hannah Marder, 29 Wildly Out-Of-Touch Things Rich People Have Said, BuzzFeed. A panorama of contemporary cluelessness.
Peter Dreier, Right-Wing Billionaire Wins the World Series! Common Dreams. Billionaires own most Major League Baseball teams. But the owners of the teams that played in this year’s fall classic rated as particularly disgusting.
Most everyone across the United States has been noticing that housing is becoming more expensive. According to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, rent prices have grown more than inflation every year since 1999. For interactive charts on wealth inequality, check out the link below.
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Inequality.org | www.inequality.org | email@example.com
Managing Editor: Isabella DeVaan
Co-Editors: Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, and Sam Pizzigati
Production: Isabella DeVaan and Kufre McIver