Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies where he directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good (www.inequality.org). He is also co-founder of United for a Fair Economy and Wealth for the Common Good.

Recent Articles

The Wealthy Kids Are All Right

In a tough economy with dwindling social supports, children of privilege have a bigger head start than ever.

AP Photo/Luigi Costantini
T wo 21-year-old college students sit down in a coffee shop to study for an upcoming test. Behind the counter, a barista whips up their double-shot lattes. In the back kitchen, another young adult washes the dishes and empties the trash. These four young adults have a lot in common. They are the same age and race, each has two parents, and all grew up in the same metropolitan area. They were all strong students in their respective high schools. But as they enter their third decade, their work futures and life trajectories are radically different—and largely determined at this point. The culprit is the growing role of inherited advantage, as affluent families make investments that give their children a leg up. Combined with the 2008 economic meltdown and budget cuts in public investments that foster opportunity, we are witnessing accelerating advantages for the wealthy and compounding disadvantages for everyone else. One of the college students, Miranda, will graduate without any...

Back from the Dead

On April 13, the U.S. House of Representatives undertook its annual drill of voting to permanently abolish the federal estate tax, our only tax on inherited wealth. In 2003, the House passed identical legislation. Last time, Congress' projected 10-year cost of repeal was $162 billion; now, it's a cool $290 billion. The lopsided vote for repeal, with 42 Democrats joining a unified gop, might suggest that the sun is setting on the estate tax. Anti-tax maestro Grover Norquist characterized it as “flopping around like that stupid fish in the boat.” “It's over, fish,” Norquist declared in one interview. “You're done!” But an obituary (or fish fry) is premature. Thanks to gridlock in the Senate and mounting deficit concerns, pressure is building for reform , not elimination, of the tax. This pushback is coming from budget hawks, officials in states that continue to tax inherited wealth, and progressive organizing. Public opinion is shifting, as budget cuts begin to trickle down into local...

Tax Wealth to Broaden Wealth

I recently spoke at a veterans' club in suburban Boston about the dangers of America's growing wealth gap and its possible solutions. I informally polled the assembled group of 150 men, all white and over the age of 60. How many had received a low-interest home mortgage from the Federal Housing Administration, the Veterans Administration or the Farmers Home Administration? About two-thirds raised their hands. How many graduated from college without any debt, thanks to the GI Bill or other public-education programs? Again, about two-thirds. How many thought that these past policies were bad investments or a waste of tax dollars? Not one. My final question generated a lot of laughter: How many had helped their children, through a "Parental Down Payment Assistance Program," purchase a home or start a business? Almost every hand in the room went up. Here was living testimony that our country's postwar commitment to wealth building for one generation and one racial group has had...