News Release Archive - COVID-19

Beyond “Pathetic” Relief Bill: How to Fix Finance

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Commondreams reports: “‘Pathetic’: Congress Passes Covid Relief Bill With Billions in Gifts for the Wealthy, $600 Checks for the Working Class.” David Sirota writes: “Dems refused to seize a rare opportunity to outmaneuver McConnell — now the final COVID relief bill skimps on benefits, provides tax breaks to the rich, and notches a big win for austerity extremism.”

ELLEN BROWN, ellenhbrown@gmail.com, @ellenhbrown
Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of 13 books including the best-selling The Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free.

ScheerPost just publisher her latest piece, “FDR Knew Exactly How to Solve Today’s Unemployment Crisis,” which states: “The National Infrastructure Bank of 2020 can rebuild crumbling infrastructure across America, pushing up long-term growth, not only without driving up taxes or the federal debt, but without hyperinflating the money supply or generating financial asset bubbles. The NIB has growing support across the country from labor leaders, elected officials, and grassroots organizations. It can generate real wealth in the form of upgraded infrastructure and increased employment as well as federal and local taxes and GDP, paying for itself several times over without additional outlays from the federal government. With official unemployment at nearly double what it was a year ago and an economic crisis unlike the U.S. has seen in nearly a century, the NIB can trigger the sort of ‘economic miracle’ the country desperately needs.”

Vaccines: Paid for by Public, Made for Profit

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DEAN BAKER, dean.baker1@verizon.net@DeanBaker13
Baker is a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and just co-wrote the New York Times op-ed “Want Vaccines Fast? Suspend Intellectual Property Rights.”

The piece discusses a major proposal “forward by India and South Africa in October, [which] calls on the W.T.O. to exempt member countries from enforcing some patents, trade secrets or pharmaceutical monopolies under the organization’s agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights, known as TRIPs.

“It cites the ‘exceptional circumstances’ created by the pandemic and argues that intellectual property protections are currently ‘hindering or potentially hindering timely provisioning of affordable medical products’; the waiver would allow W.T.O. member countries to change their laws so that companies there could produce generic versions of any coronavirus vaccines and Covid-19 treatments.

“The idea was immediately opposed by the United States, the European Union, Britain, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Australia and Brazil. It was opposed again at another meeting in November, and again last week. …

“The vaccines developed by these companies were developed thanks wholly or partly to taxpayer money. Those vaccines essentially belong to the people — and yet the people are about to pay for them again, and with little prospect of getting as many as they need fast enough.”

Billionaires Promised to Give Away Half Their Wealth, Instead, They Doubled it

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Aug 4, 2020 is the 10th anniversary of the “Giving Pledge,” started by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. (See New York Times piece from Aug. 4, 2010.)

CHUCK COLLINS, chuck at ips-dc.org; also via Bob Keener, bobk at ips-dc.org

Collins is director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the report “Gilded Giving 2020: How Wealth Inequality Distorts Philanthropy and Imperils Democracy” and “The Giving Pledge at 10: A Case Study in Top Heavy Philanthropy.”

He said today: “Private philanthropy has always been a form of power for wealthy donors. But as wealth inequality has exploded in recent decades, it has concentrated that private power in even fewer hands — and all subsidized by private taxpayers.”

The findings include: “Of the 62 living U.S. Pledgers who were billionaires in 2010, their combined wealth has increased from $376 billion in 2010 to $734 billion as of July 18, 2020, an increase of 95 percent, in 2020 dollars.

“Of these 62, 11 have seen their wealth go down either because of aggressive charitable giving or market changes. But the remaining 51 have seen significant increases in their net worth. Nine of the billionaires have seen their wealth increase over 200 percent over the decade, adjusted for inflation. These include Mark Zuckerberg (1783 percent), John Doerr (416 percent), Marc Benioff (400 percent), Bernie and Billie Marcus (311 percent), Ken Langone (288 percent), Ray Dalio (280 percent) Arthur Blank (277 percent) Stephen Schwarzman (245 percent), Scott Cook and Signe Ostby (221 percent).

“The 100 living U.S. Pledgers who were billionaires on March 18, 2020 had a combined wealth of $758.3 billion at that time. This is the date of both the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns in the U.S. and the publication of Forbes‘ annual global billionaire survey. By July 17, 2020, their assets had surged to $971.9 billion. This means that over the four worst months of the pandemic in the United States to date, their collective wealth increased by $213.6 billion — an increase of 28 percent.”
Collins also just wrote the piece “In a pandemic, billionaires are richer than ever. Why aren’t they giving more?” in The Guardian. 

Said Collins: “Philanthropy should not become a taxpayer-subsidized extension of private wealth, power, and influence for the richest 0.1 percent. … Congress needs to update the rules governing philanthropy to prevent abuses to the tax code and protect our democracy and nonprofit sector.”

The “Gilded Giving 2020” report finds that top-heavy philanthropy poses considerable risks to “the independence of the nonprofit sector, the integrity of the tax system, and to democracy itself.” It also suggests that the 2017 tax cut and the COVID-19 pandemic will worsen this drift toward inequality in philanthropy.

Collins and his fellow analysts found: “Small donor giving has been steadily declining for two decades. Between 2000 and 2016 (most recent data), the percentage of households giving to charity has dropped from 66 percent to 53 percent. Wage stagnation, unemployment, declining homeownership all contribute to economic insecurity and declines in giving.

“The increase in charitable giving has been driven by donations by wealthy donors and mega gifts over $300 million.”

August 4, 2020