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Les Leopold
After graduating from Oberlin College and Princeton University's Woodrow
Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (MPA 1975), Les
co-founded and currently directs two non-profit educational
organizations: The Labor Institute (1976) and the Public Health
Institute (1986). He designs research and educational programs on
occupational safety and health, the environment and economics. Leopold is the author of Runaway Inequality: An Activists Guide to Economic Justice: (Labor Institute Press, 2015), How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Financial Elites get away with siphoning off America's Wealth (John Wiley and Sons, 2013), The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance destroyed our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity, and What We Can Do About It, Chelsea Green Publishing, June 2009, and The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007

Entries by Les Leopold

Will ISIS Trump Sanders Populism? 10 Economic Facts that Won't Go Away

(129) Comments | Posted November 20, 2015 | 6:53 AM

In a horrific flash of bombs, bullets and blood, the ISIS attack on Paris immediately altered our political discourse. Our previous national focus on economic inequality is being drowned out, at least temporarily, by incessant calls for boots on the ground, no-fly zones, embargoing Syrian refugees and demands for increased...

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How Did We Become Incarceration Nation?

(22) Comments | Posted November 2, 2015 | 11:02 PM

Our political and media elites should be ashamed of themselves. It's taken nearly 20 years for them to realize that we are the largest police state in the world -- that we have more prisoners than China or Russia both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population....

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Wage Theft Comes to America: The Facts That Drive the Sanders Revolt

(60) Comments | Posted October 27, 2015 | 10:36 AM

(From Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice, Labor Institute Press, 2015)

In Denmark, companies like McDonald's and Burger King pay workers $20 an hour plus benefits, and don't bat an eye. These same companies, which are actually based in the U.S., pay American workers less than...

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Why One of the Richest Countries on Earth Is So Poor: The Facts that Drive the Sanders Revolt

(191) Comments | Posted October 16, 2015 | 6:02 PM

An excerpt from Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice

The United States is among the richest countries in all of history. But if you're not a corporate or political elite, you'd never know it.

In the world working people inhabit, our...

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How Wall Street Occupies America: Rising Debt and Runaway Inequality

(42) Comments | Posted January 14, 2015 | 8:58 AM

Increasing debt and runaway inequality are of a piece. That's because debt at compound interest rates is extremely powerful. Borrow a little today and, in time, you could become destitute. To get a feel for its power, imagine that you borrowed just one nickel at 5 percent interest when Christ...

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The Eight Ugly Scars of Runaway Inequality

(32) Comments | Posted January 5, 2015 | 8:28 AM

America is the richest country in all of history. We have the largest economy and the largest number of millionaires and billionaires. At the same time, however, we lead the developed world in economic inequality. In 1965, CEOs received $20 for every dollar earned by the average worker. Today the...

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Runaway Inequality, Runaway Incarceration

(3) Comments | Posted December 22, 2014 | 5:23 AM

Why are white cops shooting unarmed black men?

On one level the story is simple: racism. Too many police officers fear people of color in the neighborhoods they patrol, and are likely to over-react with force during encounters. The local courts also engage in discrimination by failing to indict...

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Are We the World's Most Anti-Worker Nation?

(39) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 2:06 PM

The verdict is in: The typical American is even poorer than his or her equivalent in Greece. The median Australian is four times wealthier. The Canadians are twice as wealthy. To be sure, we continue to lead the world in billionaires (571 in 2014, with China a distant...

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The Driving Force Behind Runaway Inequality

(12) Comments | Posted December 1, 2014 | 6:50 AM

Runaway inequality is destroying the American Dream. Is it too late to save it?

That depends on what is really driving inequality. In the 1960s the gap between CEOs and the average worker was 20 to 1. By 2012 it was 354 to 1. What happened?

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We Are the Most Unequal Society in the Developed World... And We Don't Know It

(425) Comments | Posted November 17, 2014 | 9:53 AM

The American people have spoken. But what did we really say about inequality?

At first glance, it seems that extreme inequality mattered little to the majority of voters who put pro-business candidates into office. After all, the Republicans, along with far too many Democrats, are certain to cater to...

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As Bad As You Think It Is, It's Worse: Wage Theft Comes to America

(393) Comments | Posted November 10, 2014 | 1:24 PM

In Denmark fast food workers make $20 an hour plus benefits, and the corporations who employ them are still profitable. Why there and not here?

The answer is simple and painful -- wage theft. In America corporations are systematically stealing our wages. Virtually everyone in the bottom 95...

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The Hedge Fund That Ate Chicago

(4) Comments | Posted May 9, 2014 | 10:45 AM

There's a battle royale raging in Chicago. It pits hedge funds, the Chicago financial exchanges, real estate interests and Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the one side, against public employee unions and community groups on the other.

At issue is whether public employee pension benefits should be slashed.

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New Report Reveals How Wall Street Impoverishes Los Angeles

(28) Comments | Posted March 25, 2014 | 4:26 PM

Los Angeles paid at least $204 million in fees to Wall Street in 2013, and probably significantly more, in addition to principle and interest payments, according to the report, "No Small Fees: LA Spends More on Wall Street than Our Streets." The study, issued today by a coalition...

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Our Most Powerful Weapon Against Wall Street? The Reverse Eminent Domain Movement

(33) Comments | Posted December 23, 2013 | 2:43 PM

Wall Street tore the heart out of our economy. It profited wildly by puffing up the housing bubble. It profited wildly again when the federal government provided more than $10 trillion worth of bailout money and loans. And right now, 95 percent of the economic growth of our so-called recovery...

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Wall Street's Police State?

(26) Comments | Posted December 6, 2013 | 8:50 AM

The U.S. leads the world in prisoners with 2.24 million in jail and more than 4.8 million on parole. That's nearly more than the combination of all those incarcerated in China (1.6 million) and the Russian Federation (681,600).

Minorities have been especially hard hit, forming

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America's Greatest Shame: Child Poverty Rises and Food Stamps Cut While Billionaires Boom

(984) Comments | Posted November 8, 2013 | 8:13 AM

There are 16.4 million American children living in poverty. That's nearly one quarter (22.6 percent) of all of our children. More alarming is that the percentage of poor children has climbed by 4.5 percent since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. And poor means poor. For...

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Banking That Wall Street Will Save Us From the Tea Party and Default?

(14) Comments | Posted October 15, 2013 | 10:59 PM

As we approach the debt limit deadline, we hold our breaths hoping that Wall Street can talk some sense into the Tea Party fanatics. Democrats in particular seem to believe that only Wall Street can pull us back from the brink. But the brink of what? If there's a debt...

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Is the President Selling Out Higher Education to Wall Street?

(60) Comments | Posted September 26, 2013 | 7:46 PM

The Obama Administration is transporting Wall Street logic into higher education by proposing to measure the value of a college by the earnings of its graduates. This conceptual coup may be the best news for Wall Street since the abolition of Glass-Steagall.

We need not repeat all that...

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How Wall Street Devoured the Recovery

(50) Comments | Posted September 20, 2013 | 7:31 AM

We are entering a disastrous new era in which all the economic gains go to the top one percent, according to data from economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. They report that "Top 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.4% from 2009...

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Happy Labor Day... for Wall Street

(89) Comments | Posted August 30, 2013 | 6:02 PM

Labor Day, established in the late 19th century, "is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers," according to the Department of Labor's website. It is a "tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity,...

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