A Cure for Excessive Wealth Disorder

Chuck Collins Director, Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies

The U.S. is suffering from excessive wealth disorder.

This isn’t your parents’ inequality influenza, but a more virulent strain of extreme disparities of income, wealth, and opportunity.

Just 400 billionaires have as much wealth as nearly two-thirds of American households combined. And just three individuals — Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates — have as much wealth as half of all U.S. households put together.

Since the economic meltdown of 2008, the lion’s share of income and wealth growth hasn’t gone just to the top 1 percent — it’s gone to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. This 0.1 percent includes households with annual incomes starting at $2.2 million and wealth over $20 million.

This group has been the big winner of the last few decades. Its share of national income rose from 6 percent in 1995 to 11 percent in 2015. But their biggest gains are in wealth, increasing their share from 7 percent in 1978 to over 21 percent today.

That’s 210 times their share of the population.

When you have over $20 million, you’ve easily taken care of all your needs and those of the next generation of your family. You’re living in comfort, probably with multiple homes, and don’t want for anything.

It’s at this point we see the telltale signs of excessive wealth disorder. Despite being already comfortable beyond measure, segments of this 0.1 percent will often invest their wealth to rig the political rules to get even more wealth and power.

They contribute the legal maximum donations to politicians and then do an end run around campaign finance laws to siphon even larger sums through “dark money” SuperPACs, using corporate entities that don’t have to disclose donors.

When this donor class demands tax cuts, their political puppets kick into overdrive to deliver the goods.

The 0.1 percenters create charitable foundations that become extensions of their own power and privilege. They undermine the health of the nonprofit sector by controlling a growing share of the charitable giving pie.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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Make Father's Day Union Made!

Make Father's Day Union Made!