Archives for category: Economy

On his regular television show “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver explains how big corporations like Amazon prevent their workers from forming a union. They hire expensive consultants to advise them on tactics. They bombard their workers with warnings about what they will lose if they join a union. They require them to watch anti-union videos.

His show is both informative and amusing. He runs an anti-union video in which two actors play the part of workers who warn their colleagues not to join the union. After all, “we are one big family here.” Oliver points out that the two actors belong to a union. When he questions them about their hypocrisy, he responds that he can be paid to act like a rapist, but that doesn’t make him a rapist.

This show is a must-see. Oliver relies on data gathered by the Economic Policy Institute in D.C., which is a rare think tank that supports labor unions and progressive legislation.

Jan Resseger, one of our best informed bloggers and social justice advocates, lauds President Biden’s Build Back Better program for its benefits for children. It would end decades of policies that punish poor children. Our nation has dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly, but neglected our children.

She writes:

The U.S. House of Representatives finally passed President Biden’s infrastructure plan last Friday. The Senate passed it a while ago, and the bill is headed to Biden’s desk for signature.  At the same time, Democrats in the U. S. House of Representatives pledged that if the Congressional Budget Office confirms cost estimates for the Build Back Better Bill, Democrats in the House will pass the current version of the plan and send it on to the Senate for consideration. For months, Congress has been debating the programs that are part of this plan, and even if Congress passes it, it won’t be perfect.

Even if imperfect, however, the Build Back Better Bill in its current form would signify a truly revolutionary investment in America’s children. That is because the United States has, for decades, utterly failed to use government to begin to eradicate a morally reprehensible level of childhood economic inequality.

Cara Baldari of the First Focus Campaign for Children explains: “For the first time in generations, we are on the precipice of making serious and long-term progress to reduce our stubbornly high rate of child poverty in the United States. Historically, the United States has had a significantly higher rate of child poverty than other developed countries because we have continually failed to sufficiently invest in our children. While the establishment of Social Security has permanently reduced poverty for seniors, children have remained the poorest group in America. This situation is not due to a lack of evidence on what works to reduce child poverty, but rather the lack of political will to act.”

Since 1997, families who earn enough income to pay federal income taxes have benefited from a tax credit for each child. Last spring’s American Rescue Plan Covid-relief bill made the full Child Tax Credit available to children in families with low earnings or without income, and it increased the credit’s maximum amount—$2,000 per-child last year— to $3,000 per child and $3,600 for children under age 6—but only through the end of 2021. Without the extension of this reform, many children will fall back into deep poverty in 2022.

Balderi presents some recent history: In 2015, advocates for children “worked with Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) to secure federal funding for the landmark National Academy of Sciences study, A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty, which was published in 2019. This study, written by a committee of experts… confirmed that… providing families with flexible cash assistance through a monthly child allowance was the most effective way to combat child poverty, reduce racial-economic inequality, and improve children’s long-term outcomes.”  In a tragic irony, until this year families without income or with income so low they payed little in federal income taxes could not receive the full tax credit, while middle class and even wealthy parents could receive the full credit, thereby reducing their federal income tax.

Last week the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examined several provisions of the Build Back Better Bill which will, if the law is passed in its current draft form, reduce racial disparities.  The brief leads with the Bill’s provision to reduce child poverty by extending last spring’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit: “Build Back Better extends the American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit for 2022, which is expected to lift 4 million children above the poverty line and narrow the difference between poverty rates for Black and white children by 44 percent (compared to what the rates would be otherwise) and to narrow the difference between the poverty rates for Latino and white children by 41 percent.  Build Back Better also permanently ensures that the full Child Tax Credit is available to children in families with low or no earnings in a year.This is particularly important for Black and Latino children, about half of whom received a partial credit or no credit at all before the Rescue Plan expansion because their families’ incomes were too low, compared to about 20 percent of white children.”

In late October, a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Senior Research Analyst, Claire Zippel reported data collected from late July through September by the U.S. Census’s Household Pulse Survey. These data documented that, “Some 91 percent of families with low incomes (less than $35,000) are using their monthly Child Tax Credit payments for the most basic household expenses—food, clothing, shelter, and utilities—or education… Many of these households are receiving the full Child Tax Credit for the first time thanks to the American Rescue Plan’s credit expansion. The Rescue Plan temporarily increased the credit amount, provided for the credit to be paid monthly rather than once a year at tax time, and halted a policy that prevented 27 million children from receiving the full credit because their parents earned too little or lacked earnings in a given year.”

How did parents use the money?  Zippel continues: “Among households with incomes below $35,000 who received the Child Tax Credit, 88 percent spent their payments on the most basic needs: food, clothing, rent, a mortgage, or utility bills.  The Child Tax Credit payments also helped many parents and other caregivers invest in their children’s education, Pulse data suggest. Some 40 percent of families with low incomes used their Child Tax Credit payments to cover education costs such as school books and supplies, tuition, after-school programs, and transportation to and from school. (In some cases, these expenses may be for adults’ own education. About 5 percent of adults in low-income households with children are enrolled in school, other Census data show.)

The NY Times’ Claire Cain Miller adds that in its current form in the U.S. House of Representatives: “The Build Back Better Bill also includes extensive investment in pre-Kindergarten for 3 and 4-year-olds and assistance for parents to afford childcare as well as dollars to ensure that “teachers in child care classrooms be paid a livable wage, equivalent to that of elementary teachers with the same credentials… Also as part of the proposal, pre-K lead teachers must have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field, though they would be given six years to get the degree with some exemptions based on professional experience.”

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman strongly endorses these and other proposals to help families and their children: “Democrats may—may—finally be about to agree on a revenue and spending plan. It will clearly be smaller than President Biden’s original proposal, and much smaller than what progressives wanted. It will, however, be infinitely bigger than what Republicans would have done, because if the G.O.P. controlled Congress, we would be doing nothing at all to invest in America’s future. But what will the plan do?  Far too much reporting has focused mainly on the headline spending number.”

Krugman continues: “So let me propose a one-liner: Tax the rich, help America’s children.  This gets at much of what the legislation is likely to do. Reporting suggests that the final bill will include taxes on billionaires’ incomes and minimum taxes for corporations, along with a number of child-oriented programs.”

Krugman, the economist, comments on the economic arguments for Congressional passage of this bill: “(T)here is overwhelming evidence that helping children, in addition to being the right thing to do, has big economic payoffs. Children who benefited from safety-net programs like food stamps became healthier, more productive adults. Children who were enrolled in pre-K education were more likely to graduate from high school and go to college…. As I’ve argued in the past, the economic case for investing in children is even stronger than the case for investing in physical infrastructure.”

Krugman also believes that President Biden’s Build Back Better Bill, philosophically conforms to American political tradition: “Remember, we are the nation that basically invented universal education… America led the way in creating ‘common schools’ that were meant to include students from all social classes, and were justified by many of the same arguments now being made for universal pre-K and other forms of aid to children. So when Republicans denounce pro-child policies as socialist and try to promote private schools, they, not Democrats, are rejecting our nation’s traditions.”

Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect warns that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Krysten Sinema of Arizona threaten the fate of their party in 2022 by their stubborn opposition to President Biden’s ambitious $3.5 trillion budget plan (over ten years). In addition to rebuilding the nation’s highways, bridges, tunnels, and other parts of its essential infrastructure, Biden wants to lessen the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and combat climate change. His proposal would expand Medicare and Medicare and lower the cost of prescription drugs. It would provide child care credits that would lift millions out of poverty. The plan would make two years of community college free. Republicans oppose everything in his plan, even though it would bring economic relief and jobs to their constituents. Manchin and Sinema have forced their party to drop major parts of the plan and have thus far opposed raising revenue to fund it.

Meyerson writes:

I’m not aware of any poll that has asked the question “Do you think President Biden is being jerked around by two senators?” but I think a large number of Americans, if asked, would answer that in the affirmative. Of course, it’s not just Biden but the entire Democratic Party, root and branch, that’s being jerked around by Sens. Manchin and Sinema—and it’s the entire Democratic Party that will likely pay a price for this in next year’s midterm elections.

We’ve been here before. During the initial two years of his presidency, Barack Obama engaged in what seemed at the time like an endless succession of negotiations with Republicans and centrist Democratic senators over his proposed Affordable Care Act. In the end, the Republicans flatly rejected it in any way, shape, or form, but perhaps even more nettlesome was the determination on the part of two Democratic senators in particular—Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus of Montana and Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman—to pare back the bill. And pared it was, with Obama and his fellow Democrats forced to bow to Baucus and Lieberman’s demand to scuttle the establishment of a public option that could compete with profit-driven, coverage-denying private health insurance corporations.

As I’ve written in the current print issue of the Prospect, time plays a crucial role in the public’s assessment of elected officials and their programs. A program that’s slow to roll out and slow to deliver its benefits to the public doesn’t usually benefit its authors in the election following its enactment. Similarly, a president who proclaims a bold program, only to spend months being compelled to hack away at it due to the obstinate resistance of a handful of legislators who have the upper hand in the proceedings, doesn’t emerge unscathed from that process. Obama surely didn’t, though his inability to persuade some nominally Democratic renegades to support the public good over their insurance industry donors was only one reason why the Democrats bombed in the 2010 midterms, losing both houses of Congress in the process.

My concern is that Joe Biden is trapped in the same dynamic that plagued Obama, with his polling dropping precipitously as the two Democratic renegades, similarly more in the sway of donors (and innumerate economics) than the public interest, are prevailing over the president and the rest of the party in paring back a long-overdue shift to bolstering the fortunes of most Americans. Indeed, Biden has publicly stated that with only 50 Democrats in the Senate, just one senator—or in this case, two—effectively has presidential powers. What with Manchin compelling his fellow Democrats to halve their proposals (or, if he won’t budge from $1.5 trillion, cut them to three-sevenths), and Sinema rejecting an increase to tax rates on the wealthy and corporations, they’ve clearly diminished the appearance and actuality of Biden’s power, whether that’s their intention or not.

To be sure, there are other factors behind the erosion of Biden’s public support, as there was with Obama’s, and there’s a distinct possibility that when the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills are finally passed, and their programs promptly (one hopes) implemented, Biden will rebound. But just as Baucus and Lieberman played a role in dragging Obama down and giving the Congress over to the Republicans, so Manchin and Sinema seem poised to have a kindred effect over the fortunes of Biden and their congressional colleagues.

Sometimes, tragedy repeats itself as tragedy. 

Anand Giridharadas interviewed Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who is sponsoring a ”billionaires’ tax,” which would tax assets, not just income. This tax on the growth in their assets would affect between 600-700 billionaires. The revenue from the billionaires’ tax would pay for a large part of President Biden’s proposed budget plan. Two members of the Democratic Party—Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—have blocked the bill, objecting to its cost and to raising taxes to pay for it. Republicans will unanimously oppose it, so Biden can’t afford to lose even one vote. The discussion has gone on for months, and the Republicans hope to stall and stall, then win enough seats a year from now to destroy Biden’s plans and his presidency.

In another interview, Anand talks with Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman, who explains how the wealth tax would work. In a fascinating overview, he says the tax would affect fewer than 1,000 people: it’s the most progressive tax possible, targeted at the tippy top. It’s also technically different from a wealth tax in that it does not tax wealth itself, but the increase in wealth — what economists call unrealized capital gains.

To get an idea of who will pay the tax, scan Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. Elon Musk is #1, with more than $200 billion. Jeff Bezos is #2.

If The.Ink interviews are behind a paywall, you should subscribe. Anand is consistently interesting.

ANAND: Is the wealth tax on? Is this in the final package? Is this thing happening?

SENATOR WYDEN: We’re pulling out all the stops. Tonight we’re going to start talking about it in more detail. I have been unable to see even one senator getting up and actually saying, “Gee, I think it’s OK that billionaires are not paying any taxes for years on end.”

What the opponents are trying to do, because they aren’t willing to get up and actually act like they’re sympathetic to billionaires, they’re running the old FUD strategy — fear, uncertainty and doubt. If you can just throw enough FUD at it, then senators say, “Oh, gee, I really don’t know.”

ANAND: I’m hearing from a lot of people that Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have resisted even modest tax increases on corporations and rich people, that they’re with you on this. I’m curious: How did they get behind an unprecedented and historic wealth tax instead of relatively more modest ideas?

SENATOR WYDEN: Well, first of all, we’re calling this the “billionaires’ income tax,” so that people know that billionaires should pay taxes every year, just the way nurses and firefighters are.

All of the members are still making up their minds and saying we want to know more information about this and that, but around here, everything is always impossible until 15 minutes before it comes together — and particularly when you’re taking on such enormous, concentrated power. Billionaires know lots and lots of United States senators.

Editor’s Note (me): After Anand published this interview, and after Senator Wyden released his bill, Senator Manchin said he was not likely to support it because it targets such a small and specific number of people. It’s “divisive,” he said, to single out billionaires. When you don’t want to do something (like tax billionaires), any excuse will do.

“In the Public Interest” is our best source for alerts about privatization. Here is their latest warning.

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Odds are, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—which is still up for debate but is expected to be passed by Congress later this month—will incentivize privatization in some form or fashion.

As it stands, the bill would allow for more use of private activity bond financing. Private activity bonds, or PABs, are a key financing tool for so-called “public-private partnerships,” or P3s.

P3s are essentially expensive loans that hand some level of control over roads, water systems, school buildings, and other public infrastructure to corporations and private investors. Meaning, despite the warm and fuzzy name, they’re definitely a form of privatization.

Particularly worrying, the bill would also require the use of a problematic procurement tool—called a “value for money” analysis—that’s been causing issues for state and local governments for years.

When a state, locality, or school district wants to explore using a P3 instead of using tried-and-true traditional public financing, they often perform one of these analyses. Sparing you the wonky details, value for money analyses are often biased towards the private sector and chocked full of unfounded assumptions. In other words, they don’t provide an accurate comparison between private and public financing.

Ontario, Canada, learned that the hard way. After going on a P3 frenzy starting in 2001, they decided to take stock of their decision-making. A 2014 audit found that 74 out of 75 projects ended up being more expensive than their initial value for money analyses had estimated—a total of $8 billion more expensive.

Why would our federal government want to incentivize these types of deals? You tell me.

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) slipped the requirement for value for money analyses on federally supported transportation loans into the bill in August. Maybe the fact that Manchin has received more campaign contributions from financial firms than any other industry—including from CBRE, a real estate firm actively pushing P3s—has something to do with it.

Regardless of why, we should prepare ourselves. That’s why we just put out some guidance on value for money analyses—why they’re often problematic and how to do them better.

It’s wonky stuff—so don’t be surprised if your eyes glaze over. The point is to get it into the hands of decisionmakers in your town, city, council, school district, and state.

Email this to your representatives and let them know what’s coming with the infrastructure bill. As always, if you need help understanding or explaining things, get in touch.

Jeremy Mohler
Communications Director
In the Public Interest

In the Public Interest
1305 Franklin St., Suite 501
Oakland, CA 94612
United States

The American Prospect publishes two of our nation’s most thoughtful commentators: Harold Meyerson and Robert Kuttner. They represent liberalism at its best; they are on the side of working people, and they aim for a fair and just society. Nothing “neo” about them. You might want to sign up for their “On Tap” bulletins.

Here is Harold Meyerson, with news about the union that is reviving the strike as a way to gain better wages and hours.

Meyerson on TAP


The Little Union That’s Reviving the Strike


The roll call of unions that have actually changed the trajectory of American labor is relatively short: the United Auto Workers, the Mine Workers, and other CIO unions in the 1930s and ’40s, as factory workers organized; AFSCME and the American Federation of Teachers in the 1960s and ’70s, as unions took hold in the public sector.

Today, a much smaller union, punching way above its weight, is vying to join that list. After 40 years in a desert of union decline, workers’ ultimate weapon to win what’s rightly theirs—the strike—looks to be coming back, a long-overdue development that I discuss and analyze in some detail in my article on the Prospect website today. In that piece, I note that 2021 is beginning to look like 1919 and 1946, the years in which America experienced its greatest number of strikes. To be sure, today, with the private-sector rate of unionization reduced to less than 7 percent, most of the striking is individual rather than collective: employees refusing to return to their old poor-paying no-benefit jobs, creating a worker shortage that has compelled such anti-union behemoths as Amazon and Walmart to raise their employees’ wages. In tandem with this new form of individualized collective bargaining (ours is a time that requires oxymorons), unions themselves are beginning to strike, a phenomenon not seen ever since Ronald Reagan busted the air traffic controllers union when it went on strike in 1981.

And the union leading the charge today is the BCTGM, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, founded in the same year as the American Federation of Labor: 1886.

You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of the BCTGM, but they’re the folks who put breakfast on your table, bread in your sandwich, and candy in your kids’ time-to-see-the-dentist mouths. This year, though, they’re also the folks who are restoring a needed level of strategic militance to American labor. In July, protesting the crazy hours they were compelled to work (in some cases, up to 84 hours a week), their members struck a Frito-Lay plant in Topeka. The following month, members struck five Nabisco factories across the nation, also to protest the plethora of hours and the dearth of benefits. They’ve done a bang-up job of pressuring those corporations to grant their workers’ demands, by both striking and publicizing the absurd schedules and conditions their members were compelled to endure.

Now, this week, BCTGM members have struck every Kellogg factory in the United States, after negotiations over schedules and benefits had produced no results. Kellogg workers have documented how they’ve been compelled to work straight through the weekend, and how some have had to work 12-to-16-hour days to keep turning out those Frosted Flakes.

Though I’ve been writing about unions for the past 40 or so years, this is the first time I’ve written anything about the BCTGM. I can tell you that since this spring, the union has had a new president, Anthony Shelton, but I can do no more than infer that this may have something to do with the union now having to produce more picket signs.

But I do know that this outburst of militance has a lot to do with the same factors that produced the strike waves of 1919 and 1946. Those were the years following the two world wars, of course, when the words “front line” still meant exposure to deadly fire. Today, as the pandemic (we hope) recedes, it refers to workers who had to show up every workday and risk contracting a potentially fatal virus. In all three cases, those workers were hailed as heroes, and in all three cases, most of the jobs to which they either returned or continued to hold offered pay and working conditions that were anything but heroic.

So—strikes then and strikes now. And this time around, with the bakers leading the way.


~ HAROLD MEYERSON

When candidate Joe Biden proposed raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15, it seemed like pie in the sky. When labor unions demanded the same, the big employers ignored them.

But then came the pandemic, and everything changed. As the economy reopened, employers encountered unexpected labor shortages. They raised wages, they offered signing bonuses, and without Congressional action, the de facto minimum wage, writes Michael Sasso in BloombergBusinessWeek:

The push for a $15 federal minimum wage may have stalled in Congress, but Covid-19 is helping steer the U.S. ever closer toward a key objective of labor unions and their allies in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

An analysis of jobs posted from spring 2019 to spring 2021 from a sampling of cities shows many service-sector industries crossed above a $15 starting wage during the period, often by significant margins, according to Emsi Burning Glass, an analytics firm that tracks job postings to glean labor market insights. The trend seems to have gathered steam in the recovery from the Covid recession, with several large employers, including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Chipotle Mexican Grill, bumping up starting or average hourly pay to $15 or more. Amazon.com Inc. recently announced it was boosting average starting wages for open logistics jobs to $18 an hour.

Ten states, plus D.C., have passed laws that will incrementally raise their minimum wage to $15 over several years. Campaigning for the presidency, Joe Biden proposedraising the federal minimum wage, currently set at $7.25 per hour, to $15, but his administration would be hard-pressed to marshal enough votes in Congress—even among Democrats—to make that a reality.

That some companies are targeting $15 specifically suggests they’re signaling that they’re treating employees more fairly, which still represents something of a victory for the union-backed “Fight for $15” campaign, says Ben Zipperer, an economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI). In Los Altos, Calif., Smith.ai, a 330-person business that handles customer support for companies, recently raised its starting wage to $15 an hour, purposely choosing that rate in part because of all the attention on the issue. “I think people are looking at $15 as the new normal, kind of the new standard,” says co-founder Aaron Lee. “As we bump up to $15, we see a lot more applicants.”

The tight labor market has empowered workers to demand higher pay and improved conditions. The number of job vacancies exceeded new hires by 4.3 million in July, the most in data going back to 2000. Meanwhile, workers’ average hourly earnings climbed 0.6% in August, twice as much as forecast.

The article includes a graph showing that, before the pandemic, about 1/3 of workers earned less than $15 an hour. Now that proportion is down to 20% and may continue to drop.

The union movement built the middle class. For most of the past century, big business and plutocrats have waged war on unions and have largely succeeded. As the following analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows, the high point of the labor movement was in the in the late 1940s and early 1950s. As the strength of unions waned, inequality grew.

The EPI study begins:

Unions improve wages and benefits for all workers, not just union members. They help reduce income inequality by making sure all Americans, and not just the wealthy elite, share in the benefits of their labor.

Unions also reduce racial disparities in wages and raise women’s wages, helping to counteract disparate labor market outcomes by race and gender that result from occupational segregation, discrimination, and other labor market inequities related to structural racism and sexism.

Finally, unions help win progressive policies at the federal, state, and local levels that benefit all workers. And conversely, where unions are weak, wealthy corporations and their allies are more successful at pushing through policies and legislation that hurt working people. A strong labor movement protects workers, reduces disparities, and strengthens our democracy.

CBS News reported on an analysis by the U.S. Treasury showing that the richest Americans avoid paying $163 billion each year.

The top 1% of Americans are avoiding paying an estimated $163 billion in taxes a year, according to the Treasury Department. In contrast, more than 99% of taxes on regular incomes — paid via a paycheck — get paid.

That discrepancy is pushing the estimated tax gap, the amount of money owed by taxpayers that isn’t collected, to nearly around $600 billion annually, and to approximately $7 trillion in lost revenue over the next decade, the Treasury Department finds.

Tax evasion is concentrated among the wealthy in part because high-income taxpayers are able to employ experts who can better shield them from reporting their true incomes, the Treasury Department argued in a blog post. More complicated incomes such as partnerships and proprietorships – more frequent among high earners — have a far greater noncompliance rate that can hit as high as 55%.

“The tax gap can be a major source of inequity. Today’s tax code contains two sets of rules: one for regular wage and salary workers who report virtually all the income they earn; and another for wealthy taxpayers, who are often able to avoid a large share of the taxes they owe,” wrote Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy Natasha Sarin.

Meanwhile our roads, bridges, tunnels, and other vital infrastructure are underfunded. Schools need to invest in physical improvements. Class sizes are too large, especially in urban districts. Teachers are underpaid in comparison to other professionals with the same education credentials.

Taxes are too low on those who can most afford to pay them. Tax avoidance is thriving while our society’s basic needs are not.

It’s past time for nation building at home.

When Jeff Bezos divorced McKenzie Scott in 2019, she received 4 percent of Amazon shares, valued then at $36 billion. She determined that she wanted to give her staggering wealth away. In the past 11 months, she has donated more than $8 billion as direct gifts to nonprofits.

None of the recipients asked for the money. None expected it. They were selected by Scott’s team, and out of the blue, got a phone call informing them about their good fortune. One of her trusted advisors is her new husband, Dan Jewett, who teaches chemistry at her children’s school.

In 2020, she gave away nearly $6 billion to 500 organizations. She just revealed that she donated another $2.74 billion to 286 organizations. The average size of the grants was about $10 million. Her grants come with no strings attached, unlike “gifts” from the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and many other venture philanthropists. The recipients can use the money as they see fit.

Read her statement in Medium, where she makes clear her disdain for the system that creates vast inequality. Her article also lists the organizations that received her surprise grants.

She writes, in part:

People struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating. This is equally — perhaps especially — true when their work is funded by wealth. Any wealth is a product of a collective effort that included them. The social structures that inflate wealth present obstacles to them. And despite those obstacles, they are providing solutions that benefit us all.

Putting large donors at the center of stories on social progress is a distortion of their role. Me, Dan, a constellation of researchers and administrators and advisors — we are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change. In this effort, we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others. Though we still have a lot to learn about how to act on these beliefs without contradicting and subverting them, we can begin by acknowledging that people working to build power from within communities are the agents of change. Their service supports and empowers people who go on to support and empower others.

Despite her determination to give her fortune away, Amazon’s stock price has soared because of the pandemic. Scott’s fortune is now valued at $60 billion. She will have to give her billions away faster. Much faster.

McKenzie Scott seems to understand that our current economic system is unjust. We need a wealth tax to correct the insane inequality that now characterizes our society.