COVID-19 Archives - Accuracy.Org

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

Share

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

The Billionaire Behind Efforts to Kill the U.S. Postal Service

Share

A U.S. Postal Service letter carrier delivers mail while wearing PPE | Credit: In the Public Interest (ITPI)

LISA GRAVES, via Evan Vorpahl, evan at truenorthresearch.org,
Graves is the executive director of True North and has led several investigations into those distorting U.S. democracy and public policy. She just wrote the brief “The Billionaire Behind Efforts to Kill the U.S. Postal Service,” which states: “The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the already-struggling U.S. Postal Service to the brink of financial collapse. But the most trusted and popular institution in America hasn’t been struggling by accident.

“Since the 1970s, a concerted effort to popularize the fringe idea of privatizing the Postal Service has been advanced for nearly five decades with the support of one man: the billionaire and libertarian ideologue, Charles Koch, chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Industries.”

The brief traces Koch’s connections, influence, and ideological push to “weaken and ultimately privatize one of America’s most essential public services — and, along with it, the jobs of hundreds of thousands of public servants. …

“The Postal Service has lost revenue since COVID-19 started spreading exponentially in the U.S., with its revenues down more than 30 percent as many businesses have closed or reduced operations. But the real reason for its financial crisis is not only the pandemic. The agency would be in a much stronger financial position had Congress not passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) in 2006, which ‘requires the Postal Service, which receives no taxpayer subsidies, to prefund its retirees’ health benefits up to the year 2056,’ on a 50-year basis. (John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ did an in-depth show on this manufactured crisis earlier this year.)

“The HEROES Act would fund a portion of the Postal Service’s request to keep it from going bankrupt, but Koch’s groups oppose even that, seeking to achieve his longtime goal of eliminating one of the most trusted of American institutions and one vital to our democracy. The question is: will the American people stand up to Koch’s radical efforts to defund and destroy one of our most essential public services, wreak havoc on our economy, and privatize the good jobs of thousands of public servants? Or will we stand up to this billionaire and his bullying, say ‘NO!,’ and punish any politician who toes the Koch party line?” See PDF of the brief.

“Battleground States”

Share

Photo credit: Fincantieri

KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Kelly is co-founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and just wrote the piece “Battleground States.” She writes: “On Thursday, June 25th, President Trump’s re-election efforts took him to the ‘battleground’ state of Wisconsin, where he toured the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard. He railed against the Democrats as a scarier enemy than Russia or China. He also celebrated Wisconsin’s win over domestic enemies like the state of Maine in securing a key shipbuilding project. ‘The first-in-class FFG(X) [frigate] will not just be a win for Wisconsin workers; it will also be a major victory for our Navy,’ Trump said. ‘…The stunning ships will deliver the overwhelming force, lethality, and power we need to engage America’s enemies anywhere and at any time.’ On many military minds, it seems, was China. …

“Before the pandemic hit, and before this U.S. Navy contract was awarded to Marinette, my fellow activists at Voices for Creative Nonviolence were planning a protest walk to the Marinette shipyard. As Trump noted in his speech at Marinette, they are currently building four Littoral Combat Ships for sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. … In late 2019, with the U.S. Navy no longer interested in purchasing Littoral Combat Ships from the yard, the Marinette shipyard had been ‘saved by the Saudis’ and by Lockheed Martin, which had helped arrange the contract.

“The Saudi military has been using U.S.-supplied Littoral (near-coast) Combat Ships to blockade the coastal ports of Yemen, which is undergoing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis due to a famine exacerbated by the Saudi-led blockade and an invasion involving relentless aerial bombardment. Actual cholera epidemics, reminiscent of centuries past, were another result of the war’s creation of lethal delays and shortages for Yemeni people in desperate need of fuel, food, medicine and clean water. Yemen’s humanitarian situation, worsened by the spread of COVID-19, is now so desperate that the United Nations humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, warned Yemen will ‘fall off the cliff’ without massive financial support. President Trump took full credit for the Saudi contract at [Thursday’s] rally. …

“We must resist signing contracts with weapon makers profiting from endless immiseration of the Middle East and needless superpower rivalries inviting full nuclear war. Such contracts, inked in blood, doom every corner of our world to perish as a battleground state.”

Billionaires Deforming Education?

Share

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kevin at kevinkumashiro.com
Author of ten books on education, Kumashiro is former dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco and co-founder of Education Deans for Justice and Equity,

He has helped organize a statement signed by over “650 educators of color and educational scholars of color across the U.S.” calling for a “retreat from the market-based initiatives (like the so-called ‘portfolio model,’ expansion of choice, and deprofessionalizing of teaching) being foisted by billionaires upon poorer communities of color.”

The statement — “This Must End Now: Educators & Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational ‘Reforms’” begins: “The public is being misled. Billionaire philanthropists are increasingly foisting so-called ‘reform’ initiatives upon the schools that serve predominantly students of color and low-income students, and are using black and brown voices to echo claims of improving schools or advancing civil rights in order to rally community support. However, the evidence to the contrary is clear: these initiatives have not systematically improved student success, are faulty by design, and have already proven to widen racial and economic disparities. We must heed the growing body of research and support communities and civil-rights organizations in their calls for a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the problems facing our schools, a retreat from failed ‘reforms,’ and better solutions.”

Kumashiro recently wrote the piece “Corona-Capitalism and the Racialized Looting of Public Schools,” which states: “As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, proponents of market-based reforms have wasted little time capitalizing on the same two conditions that propelled privatization post-Katrina, except at a scale and level without precedent: school closures and federal funding.”

Barr Prosecuting Pacifists: Activists Face Prison for Action at Huge Nuclear Weapons Base

Share

Mass on the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 home base porch, August 8th, 2019, Brunswick, Ga. | Courtesy of Bones Donovan

On April 4, 2018, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, seven activists — following the Biblical edict to “beat swords into plowshares” — used bolt cutters to enter one of the largest nuclear weapons bases in the world at the Kings Bay Trident submarine base in Georgia.

On Monday, the first of the defendants, Elizabeth McAlister, a long time peace activist who founded Jonah House in Baltimore with her late husband Phil Berrigan, is scheduled to be sentenced. For public access to audio of this hearing, dial 1-888-684-8852, enter the call access code 2296092 and enter the security code 1234.

The support group for the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 states that the Catholic Worker activists, after entering the nuclear weapons facility “then split into three groups and prayed, prayerfully and symbolically poured blood, spray-painted messages of disarming nuclear weapons and to love one another. They hammered on parts of a shrine to nuclear missiles, hung banners quoting Dr. King, ‘the ultimate logic of racism is genocide’ and another naming the ominicidal logic of Trident. The seven waited to be arrested.”

A year ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Prize winners wrote to Attorney General William Barr asking the charges against the activists be dropped. Instead, at their trial in October, the prosecution and judge prevented the activists from mounting a series of defenses, including presenting a justification or necessity defense with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg testifying on their behalf — or invoking international law. The prosecution and judge even effectively kept the reality of the nuclear weapons at the base from the jury. The activists were convicted on October 24.

The group states that the defendants “asked for home confinement during this time of COVID-19, as entering prison could be a death sentence. Their request was denied by the prosecution. Elizabeth McAlister, at 80 years old, the eldest of the KBP7 defendants, was notified that her court date was changed from May 28 to June 8. She is to be sentenced by video while she stays at her home in Connecticut. McAlister will probably not face additional prison time because she served over 17 months before trial.

“Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker Movement, was granted an adjournment and given a new date on June 29, 3:30 p.m. in Brunswick, Georgia.

“Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, Mark Colville, Carmen Trotta, and Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J. (who has been detained in jails in Camden County and Glynn County for more than 25 months) also asked for an adjournment and were given June 29 and 30 as their new dates to appear with no times specified yet. They were not told whether they’ll be allowed to be sentenced in person in open court or whether they’ll have to travel to Brunswick to be sentenced remotely by video once they get there. …

“As they wait for sentencing, each of the defendants and their families continue to serve as their communities’ human needs grow exponentially during this COVID-19 pandemic. The defendants call for the release of people in prisons, in federal and state prisons, county and city jails, especially the elderly, the infirm and all non-violent offenders.”

Interviews are available with:

MARK COLVILLE, markcolville9761 at gmail.com
One of the seven Plowshares activists, Colville is co-founder of the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven with his wife Luz Catarineau. In late December, the New Haven Register wrote: “For their sustained, compassionate approach to building and supporting their community and for their lived opposition to war and violence, the Colvilles are the New Haven Register’s Persons of the Year.”

More information and interviews with other Plowshares activists are available via the group’s extensive website and via the media team:

Bill Ofenloch, billcpf at aol.com, @kingsbayplow7
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08 at gmail.com

Pandemic “Billionaire Bonanza” Swells as Unemployment Escalates

Share

CHUCK COLLINS, chuck at ips-dc.org; also via Bob Keener, bobk at ips-dc.org, @chuck99to1
Collins is co-author of the study “Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, and Pandemic Profiteers,” which came out in April. He is with the Institute for Policy Studies and is co-editor of Inequality.org.

They have updated the analysis and find that “between March 18 and May 28, over 40 million applied for unemployment. Over the same ten weeks, the wealth of U.S. billionaires surged $485 billion, a 16.5 percent increase.” See “Updates: Billionaire Wealth, U.S. Job Losses and Pandemic Profiteers.”

Collins said today: “The surge in billionaire wealth during a global pandemic underscores the grotesque nature” of inequality in the U.S. today. “While millions risk their lives and livelihoods as first responders and frontline workers, these billionaires benefit from an economy and tax system that is wired to funnel wealth to the top.”