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

Steel for Wind Power

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

Siemens Gamesa last month laid off 130 workers at its turbine blade manufacturing plant in Iowa, just months after GE Renewable Energy decided to close an Arkansas factory and eliminate 470 jobs.

The companies reported shrinking demand for their products, even though U.S. consumption of wind energy increases every year.

America’s prosperity depends not only on harnessing this crucial energy source but also ensuring that highly skilled U.S. workers build the components with the cleanest technology available.

Right now, the nation relies on imported steel and turbine components from foreign manufacturers like China while America’s own steel industry—well equipped for this production—struggles because of dumping and other unfair trade practices.

Steel makes up the bulk of turbine hubs and the wind towers themselves. It’s also used to make the cranes and platforms necessary for installing the towers.

Yet the potential boon to America’s steel industry is just one reason to ramp up domestic production of wind energy infrastructure.

American steel production ranks among the cleanest in the world, while China has the highest carbon emissions of any steelmaking nation and flouts environmental regulations.

The nation’s highly-skilled steelmaking workforce must play an essential role in the deeply-needed revitalization and modernization of the nation’s failing infrastructure. Producing the components for harnessing wind energy domestically and cleanly is an important step that will put Americans to work and position the United States to be world leaders in this growing industry.

 

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work