Author Archives: Sam Pizzigati

Must our billionaires remain politically immortal?

The heirs of the just-passed Sheldon Adelson, the biggest campaign donor of our time, could be poisoning our democracy for generations to come.

We haven’t seen the last of billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Or, to put the matter a bit more exactly, we haven’t seen the last of Sheldon Adelson’s fortune. Continue reading

Our post-Trump democratic prospects: What the Ming Dynasty can tell us

‘Good government’ has always rested on equitable distributions of wealth and power.

How best to understand the assault on the Capitol this week? Might some historical perspective help us better comprehend how endangered our democracy has become? Could that perspective point us to a more promising post-Trump path? Continue reading

In 2021, let’s ring a global alarm—on inequality—that everyone can hear

Our task ahead: preventing a deeply unequal world from recreating pre-pandemic business as usual.

Remember that old joke they used to tell—and maybe still do—in luxury retail circles? The customer, precious product in hand, walks over to a haughty sales clerk at a high-end emporium and timidly asks: “How much does this cost.” Continue reading

The rich are cheering Wall Street’s latest records; Americans of modest means are draining 401(k)s

The nation’s woefully inadequate response to the pandemic is jeopardizing millions of retirement futures.

The all-time record highs that Wall Street has registered this week have given some Americans—the nation’s already rich—considerable cause for celebration. Continue reading

The rain on our yes-we-now-have-a-vaccine! parade

What could be better than a drug that can stop COVID? A society that doesn’t let some make billions off a drug millions can’t access.

Who doesn’t like a race? A grand global race, like the competition to run the first mile under four minutes. Or the race to scale the world’s highest mountain. Or be the first to walk on the moon. Continue reading

Why can’t inner-ring Democrats just say ‘no’ to billionaires?

The problem runs even deeper than Donor Class donations.

Have you heard the latest about the strategic political genius of billionaire Michael Bloomberg? Continue reading

The 2020 election as a triumph for democracy? Hold the hosannas

Higher voter turnouts mask the reality of the ‘affluent authoritarianism’ that now governs America.

In real horse races—races that actual horses run—the winners go on to run other races. Racehorses do races. They have no other responsibility. Continue reading

Out of the UK, a bold pay prescription for a post-Trump America

Two British think tanks are calling for a cap on the compensation that goes to corporate chiefs.

On November 9, 1932, the day after Election Day, progressively minded Americans woke up feeling a sense of relief—and a sense they might finally have an opportunity to forge real social change. At that moment, in the depth of the Great Depression, progressives could sense a new beginning. Continue reading

The Biden tax plan: The more progressives look, the more progressives like

This package of serious tax-the-rich proposals will have no easy road through Congress.

Want to know where the 2020 presidential election is heading? Don’t obsess about the polls. Pay attention to the tax lawyers and accountants who cater to America’s most wealthy. Continue reading

Can you imagine Ivanka Trump consulting for a pizza parlor?

At tax time in a plutocratic America, anything goes for a family like the Trumps.

The warmest and fuzziest phrase in the political folklore of American capitalism? “Family-owned business”! These few words evoke everything people like and admire about the U.S. economy. The always welcoming luncheonette. The barbershop where you can still get a haircut, with generous tip, for less than $20. The corner candy store. Continue reading

The arithmetic of avarice: Tweaking how we compute CEO compensation

Top corporate execs, turns out, are making even more than we previously thought.

How much do America’s big-time corporate CEOs make? Such a simple question, right? Not quite. Economist Larry Mishel has been working to get the answer right—for decades. And now Mishel, a former president and currently a distinguished fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute, has just released his latest take on the corporate pay universe, a set of newly revised stats that track the past half-century of executive compensation. Continue reading

Within health care USA, risk and reward have never been more out of kilter

Nurses are losing lives and jobs while execs rake in million after million.

How’s pandemic life been going for you? If you work in America’s health care industry, that depends. That totally depends. Continue reading

Social distancing for mega-million fun and profit

Stocks are soaring, auctioneers are hammering, and the awesomely affluent are feeling no pain.

For the world’s super rich, the thrills don’t come cheap. But they do keep coming—even amid a pandemic. Case in point: this past Monday night’s historic Sotheby’s art auction, the first-ever “hybrid” sale of high-end artwork. On site in London, Hong Kong, and New York, socially distanced Sotheby’s specialists took in phone and online bids for four-and-a-half hours of often breathless auctioneering. Continue reading

Still more reasons to defund our CEOs

Their relentless rush to hit the pay jackpot is fueling the calamities that confront us.

America’s dirtiest three-letter word may now be “CEO,” and our ongoing economic meltdown is only making that tag even dirtier. Chief executives the nation over have spent this past spring scheming to keep their pockets stuffed while their workers suffer wage cuts, layoffs, and even death by COVID-19. Continue reading

A new Amityville horror only billionaires can stop

One of the nation’s largest middle-class counties faces a huge hit on public school budgets as the super rich get set to frolic in the summertime surf.

Remember The Amityville Horror, the 1979 hair-on-edge thriller that would become one of America’s most popular scary movies ever? The horror may soon be returning, this time in real life. Continue reading

The inefficient and incredibly lucrative chase for a coronavirus vaccine

Our hottest biotech firm hasn’t yet manufactured an antidote to Covid-19. The company has manufactured three billionaires.

Centuries ago, back in the Middle Ages, battles against plagues seldom went well. Medieval public health warriors had little scientific knowledge about their viral assailants. And what little knowledge they did gain, they couldn’t easily share. Kingdoms had no vehicles for rapid and reliable communicating. Continue reading

Civil disobedience, billionaire-style

Automaker mogul Elon Musk defends his ‘freedom’ to endanger the lives of his workers

Last week, billionaire Elon Musk defied local public health officials and reopened his flagship Tesla auto assembly plant in Fremont, California. Public safety officials had ordered that plant shut down—over Musk’s fierce opposition—almost two months earlier. Continue reading

Shed no tears for CEOs with sinking share prices

In today’s corporate pay environment, even a global pandemic can’t deny chief execs their windfalls

Sometimes calendars can be cruel. A regularly reoccurring event can suddenly reoccur at a most inopportune moment. Just ask Ronald Rittenmeyer, the chief executive of Tenet Healthcare, a for-profit colossus that runs 65 hospitals and over 500 smaller care centers across the country. Continue reading

How to wage war, FDR-style, on our pandemic

People fight harder, Franklin Roosevelt understood, when the rich don’t get richer.

The United States president, Donald Trump, is now proclaiming, stands at “war.” We are facing, in the novel coronavirus, “an invisible enemy” that could claim the lives of more Americans than every shooting war America has ever fought. Continue reading

I have an issue with how exit polls treat issues

Polling questions that isolate ‘inequality’ do no justice to the social ills that ail us.

We can’t seem to have an election these days without “exit polls.” News organizations—on every big ballot-box day—now routinely stop voters exiting polling places to ask who they voted for. Continue reading

Living in inequality, dying in despair

Americans are living a little longer. But we still lag well behind the developed world’s life expectancy norm. As the world’s most unequal developed nation, we shouldn’t be surprised.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some welcome news late last month: Americans are living a tiny bit longer. In 2018, the federal health agency reported, U.S. life expectancy at birth inched up about a month, from 78.6 to 78.7 years. Continue reading

Trump’s EPA is a huge cancer risk

Industry-friendly regulators are letting chemical companies flood the country with toxins. It should be a scandal.

This January, President Trump claimed credit for new figures from the American Cancer Society showing “the sharpest one-year drop in cancer death rate ever recorded” between 2016 and 2017. Continue reading

Braggadocio in the White House, carcinogens in our neighborhoods

In Trump America, science no match for ‘free market’ fundamentalists and CEOs chasing windfalls

Earlier this month, still another one-day-wonder of a Twitter storm surfaced and quickly sank in Donald Trump’s America. On January 9, President Trump claimed credit for new figures from the American Cancer Society that show—between 2016 and 2017—“the sharpest one-year drop in cancer death rate ever recorded.” Almost immediately, the American Cancer Society politely pointed out that the Trump administration had nothing to do with this encouraging decline. Continue reading

McKinsey, ICE, and CEO pay’s most obvious contradiction

The consultants are coming—and they know just what the powerful want.

A blockbuster exposé on federal immigration policy and consultants at McKinsey & Company has suddenly bumped the giant consultancy industry onto America’s political center stage. Continue reading

For billionaire Bloomberg, trying to buy the presidency is just a sound investment

America’s wealthiest billionaires buy a national election at $100 a vote—and still make money.

Gracie Mansion, the official residence of New York’s mayors since 1942, hosted billionaire Michael Bloomberg for three terms. Continue reading

Michael Bloomberg bought Gracie Mansion. Could he buy the White House?

With personal fortunes worth dozens of billions, modern American deep pockets can afford one of just about everything

The 220-year-old Gracie Mansion, the official residence of New York’s mayors since 1942, hosted billionaire Michael Bloomberg for three terms. The first term began after Bloomberg, then the Republican candidate for mayor, spent an incredible $74 million in 2001 to get himself elected. He spent, in effect, $99 for every vote he received. Continue reading

Can an economic stat help narrow our grand economic divide?

Egalitarian-minded economists are pushing for a ‘GDP 2.0’—and getting some lawmaker help.

Why do so many Americans deeply distrust government? One part of the reason, two top economists suggested to a key congressional committee this week, just might be the most basic—and familiar—of the economic statistics the federal government produces. Continue reading

Have researchers just hit an inequality trifecta?

Three new sets of stats help us understand why America’s 400 richest have never been richer.

At racetracks all across America, lucky bettors every so often rake in small fortunes when the horses they pick to finish one, two, three—a trifecta—just happen to finish in that order. Last spring at the Kentucky Derby, for instance, a $1 trifecta bet returned a tidy little $11,475.30. Continue reading

The GM strike: A century of context

In deeply unequal societies, real gains for working people never come easy.

Wars end with treaties. In the middle of the 20th century, the “class war” that finished off America’s original plutocracy ended with the “Treaty of Detroit.” Continue reading

The key to distributing wealth more equitably

We only build—and sustain—more equal societies when we confront the economic dynamics that generate inequality in the first place.

CEO compensation in the United States may have finally crossed the line—from outrageously unfair to intolerably obscene. In 2018, a new Institute for Policy studies report details 50 major U.S. corporations paid their top execs over 1,000 times the pay that went to their most typical workers. Continue reading

Wealth that concentrates kills

Two new official reports out of Washington trace our growing economic divide and the high price we pay, in dollars and lives, for letting that divide fester.

The weight of the wealth that sits at the top of America’s economic order isn’t just squeezing dollars out of the wallets of average Americans. That concentrated wealth is shearing years off of American lives. Continue reading

Make America… more like Canada

Canadians enjoy much better health care, much less inequality, and—a new study finds—higher incomes too.

We Americans tend not to pay much attention to our northern neighbors. Often, entire election cycles can come and go without anyone running for national office saying anything about Canada. Continue reading