Owning a Private Equity Firm like Printing Money

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

The next best thing to a license to print money? That might be owning a private equity firm. The three founders of what may be America’s most celebrated private equity outfit, the Carlyle Group, last year each took in over $96 million in dividends alone.

Financial gangs like Carlyle essentially manufacture inequality. They buy up companies, squeeze workers, then walk off with windfalls.

Unfortunately, suggests a new analysis from economist Branko Milanovic, we haven’t seen the last of characters like the Carlyle boys. Milanovic, the world’s premiere chronicler of global income inequality, sees four “powerful forces” continuing to pump up America’s grand divide.

Central to this mix: the avalanche of money in politics that allows the rich to write the economy’s rules — and “maintain the inequality momentum.”


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Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality. He is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Last year, he played an active role on the team that generated The Nation magazine special issue on extreme inequality. That issue recently won the 2009 Hillman Prize for magazine journalism. Pizzigati’s latest book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives (Apex Press, 2004), won an “outstanding title” of the year ranking from the American Library Association’s Choice book review journal.

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