Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Darlene Foreman, a 60-year-old Black woman and one of the UC Townhomes tenant representatives, told the assembled press on July 11: “This is a fight for the Townhomes but not only the Townhomes.” It’s for people “all over the country who are facing displacement.” Behind her were about 50 other residents and supporters holding signs or cell phones as she continued: “I will not be displaced. . . . Me, the residents here and people all over the country are sick of it. So, if this fight takes today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, the year after that, then we’re gonna be out here fighting!” In the background were about 15 tents, which were put up on the property’s green lawn after a “Protect the Block Party” July 9. Residents and housing activist supporters are taking turns staying overnight as part of the “We ain’t going nowhere” campaign, joining in the residents’ resistance.
In March 2020, as the first wave of coronavirus infections all but shut down the U.S. economy, Congress responded with rare speed, passing a $2.2 trillion relief package called the CARES Act. The centerpiece of the law was an emergency payment to over 150 million American households that needed help. Congress used a simple filter to determine who was eligible for assistance: The full $1,200 was limited to single taxpayers who’d reported $75,000 a year or less in income on their previous tax return. Married couples got $2,400 if they had reported less than $150,000 in income. Money was sent automatically to those who qualified. Ira Rennert, worth $3.7 billion according to Forbes, did not appear to need the cash infusion offered by the CARES Act.
The Orange Era of racist rants will soon be over – just a few hundred mad tweets to go till January 20th, when the head flunky for the real rulers of the USA will take over the levers of government. Joe Biden made only one campaign promise that counts -- to the only people that matter to corporate Democrats -- when he assured the party’s rich funders that “No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change” under his presidency. But even as he spoke, back in June, the greatest change in wealth and power relationships in U.S. history was in full roar, as the billionaire class feasted on the Covid economy.
Washington, DC - Essential workers went underpaid, unsupported and forced to risk their health at corporations owned or operated by billionaires, even as the total wealth of America’s billionaires rose by more than $1 trillion under the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), United for Respect, and Bargaining for the Common Good Network. An analysis of billionaire wealth by IPS found that 647 U.S. billionaires gained $960 billion, almost $1 trillion in wealth between March 18, 2020 and November 17, 2020.
If you are in the 99% here is how well you are faring under Trump policies compared to the 1%: for each dollar of increased income that you earned in 2018, each One-Percenter got $88 more income. Huge as that ratio is, it’s small change compared to the super-rich, the 0.01% of Americans with incomes of $10 million and up. That ratio is $1 for you and $2,215 for each super-rich American household. Let’s call them the Platinum-Premiere-Point-Zero-One-Percenters The slice of American income pie going to the poor shrank under Trump by the same amount that it grew for the super-rich. Ponder that.
It is hard to think of an American film that provoked a greater backlash in 2020 than “Planet of the Humans.” Focused on the theme of planetary extinction and fanciful proposals to ward it off, the documentary was released for free on YouTube on April 21. The date was significant not only because it was the eve of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but because a global pandemic was tearing through America’s social fabric and exposing the human toll of the country’s globalized, growth-obsessed economic model.
Most billionaires don’t work harder, don’t think harder, and don’t know more. They have nothing over your average person except: a) luck b) sometimes inheriting a fortune and c) being more sociopathic. So I guess you could say they’re extraordinary on the sociopathy front. They are more willing to crush other humans to get what they want and thereby they are more able to get what they want. Billionaires in the U.S. have seen their fortunes skyrocket, increasing by 12.5 percent since the pandemic began. The Institute for Policy Studies released a study “showing that, in the eight weeks between March 18 and May 14, the country’s super-wealthy have added a further $368.8 billion to their already enormous fortunes.”
A shadowy right-wing nonprofit is helping coordinate coronavirus response strategy and promoting the lockdown protests. Working alongside close allies that have helped coordinate the protests, including Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks, Council for National Policy Action (CNP Action) has been hosting conference calls and publishing action memos around reopening states’ economies. CNP Action is the 501(c)(4) nonprofit affiliate of the Council for National Policy (CNP), a coalition of far-right political advocacy and think tank figures that has worked largely behind the scenes since its founding in 1981. CNP’s membership includes conservative Republicans and right-wing extremists who work together to shape policy. Trump allies, including senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and former chief adviser Steve Bannon, were CNP members as of 2014. Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow has also been a member, according to a recently published book by Anne Nelson.
Media outlets keep telling us that we’re all together in this pandemic. But we’re not. The super-rich have separated themselves from the rest of us, with concierge medicine, private travel accommodations, isolated but well-stocked resort homes, and a variety of other advantages that allow them to look beyond the hardships endured by average Americans. A few billionaires have contributed to the fight against Covid-19. But Luke Hildyard, Executive Director of the High Pay Centre, says, “Very generous individual grants can obscure the fact that on the whole, wealthy people’s charitable giving is pretty minimal.” In the most flagrant example of disregard for the rest of us, one company has installed private ‘doomsday’ bunkers in New Zealand with “luxury bathrooms, game rooms, shooting ranges, gyms, theaters and surgical beds.”
Billionaires dominate our politics, culture, and economy. Their wealth, as this report shows, has concentrated mightily over the last four decades — even as the number of U.S. households with zero or negative net worth is increasing and most of us are living paycheck to paycheck. The current pandemic is exposing our central economic and social reality: Extreme wealth inequality has become America’s “pre-existing condition.” In this report, we show how billionaire wealth has grown astoundingly over the last few decades — and, for some “pandemic profiteers,” even more dramatically since the COVID-19 crisis — even as billionaire tax obligations have plummeted. If this inequality isn’t treated with both short and long-term tax reforms and oversight, America’s “pre-existing condition” of extreme inequality could overwhelm not only our economy, but our democracy itself.
Conventional economic wisdom says a time of crisis is not the moment to enact tax increases. But, as Eric Toder at the Tax Policy Center recently pointed out: “[Tax experts] can begin to think of the time after the pandemic passes and how government should respond to massive increases in the public debt, and the new tax increases that Congress will need to enact to fund them.” Initial tax increases should hold harmless working- and middle-class families who will be the most economically vulnerable coming out the pandemic. The first several trillion in new revenue should come from America’s wealthiest households, those who have seen their taxes slashed over past decades. At the top of the list of new tax increases should be a wealth tax on our billionaire class.
While millions are facing health and financial uncertainty and unemployment rolls are reaching record levels due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, a small group of wealthy elites are thriving. Not only do the rich and powerful seem to have access to otherwise near-impossible to obtain COVID-19 testing and enjoy better access to healthcare, they are also self-isolating at swanky vacation estates in the Hamptons, the Catskills, and Sun Valle – or, like billionaire David Geffen, on lavish private yachts. All the while these billionaires and multi-millionaires are figuring out ways to maintain their wealth and even profit at the expense of everyone else who is struggling to stay afloat. Indeed, as J.C. Pan wrote for The New Republic: “The malfeasance of the ruling class has reached such a level of absurdity that it almost feels as if they’re trying to summon a mob.”