Taxing the (Very) Rich: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

July 21th 2019


By Chuck Collins


Six months ago you might have been hesitant to say the words.  But thanks to a political season of bold ideas – and the furious response of the U.S. public to four decades of extreme inequalities of wealth and power – you can now utter the words in polite company.  It is time to tax the very rich.

On June 25, 2019, the Institute for Policy Studies co-produced a conference with our allies at the Economic Policy Institute that was truly ground-breaking, thanks in part to its title: “Taxing the (Very) Rich: Finding A Cure for Excessive Wealth Disorder.” Over 21 organizations joined us in co-hosting the sold-out conference at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. Note this conference was aligned and inspired by the April 2019 conference “Taxing the Rich,” hosted by the Patriotic Millionaires. You can watch their entire April gathering here

A Viewer’s Guide to Our Conference on Taxing the Rich

You can watch the whole conference on YouTube, now broken into 13 bite-sized segments.  Here’s a primer to enjoy it.

The conference began with a keynote address by Nobel Laureate and New York Timescolumnist Paul Krugman.  He talked about how it has been hard to broach the topic of the distorting impact of the very rich. Talking about the 1 percent fails to talk about the plutocratic impact our democracy is facing.  Krugman wrote a blog post in preparation for the conference on “Excessive Wealth Disorder.” It’s worth watching Krugman’s whole 40-minute talk.

Alan Davis of the Why Not Initiative provided a humorous introduction to Excessive Wealth Disorder and the importance of understanding the role of the 0.1 percent in disrupting our society. See his introductory remarks here.

The conference included six electrifying 7-minute talks about the ways that the concentrated wealth of the richest 0.1 percent undermine different aspects of our economy, democracy, environment, civic life and philanthropy.  

Heather Boushey from the Washington Center on Equitable Growth discusses the ways that extreme inequality undermines economic health and stability. A brilliant critique of trickle down. 

Nancy McClean, professor of history at Duke University and the author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, talks about the threat to democracy posed by the money power of the 0.1 percent. 

Barbara Ehrenreich, author of over a dozen books, including Nickel and Dimed, is cofounder of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.  She thanked the “class traitors” in the room and talked humorously about the ways that the rich wreck things and put a burden on the rest of us, including pushing up cost of housing and higher education and higher levels of pollution. 

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