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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/27/12

Sam Pizzigati and Too Much, the Online Weekly on Excess and Inequality

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My guest today is Sam Pizzigati, Editor of Too Much, an online weekly on excess and inequality. Welcome to OpEdNews, Sam.  Especially in the wake of the Occupy movement, there's been a growing awareness of the economic chasm in America. Tell us about Too Much, please. 

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We actually started Too Much -- as a print quarterly -- back in 1995, long before most people were giving much of a thought to the enormous concentration of wealth and power at America's economic summit.

Back then, even some economic justice organizers dismissed our concentration on the wealth of our wealthiest. By talking about the rich, their argument went, we were distracting attention from the struggle to help the poor.

But today we have a much greater understanding that the two go hand in hand. Those nations that have done the most to "level up" the poor have been the same nations that have worked hard to "level down" the rich.

We like to think that Too Much has contributed to this greater understanding, especially since we switched to a weekly email newsletter format in 2004. We also maintain a Too Much web site where we archive all our coverage.

How did you become interested in this in the first place, Sam?  Have you been on board at Too Much since the beginning?

Yes, I've been involved with Too Much from the start, and my interest in inequality goes all the way back to the 1950s when I was growing up in suburban Long Island, right next to Levittown. In my universe as a kid, we had no mansions and no hovels. A basic level of equality seemed like the natural order of things.

That may be why the explosion of inequality that began in the late 1970s and early 1980s struck me as so incredibly perverse. I've been writing about inequality, in one way or another, ever since.

At what point did you strike a chord with others? I think many of us bought into the myth of the American dream of social mobility long after it was little more a pipedream.

I did my first round of radio interviews on inequality in 1992, after my first book. Callers then clearly still bought into the 1 percent narrative, the trickle-down, feed-the-cow-so-the-flies-can-eat story. By 2004, and a second round of call-in shows, that support for trickle-down was really ebbing.  

Average Americans had given the rich everything they asked for -- lower taxes, deregulation, privatization -- and average American life had only become harder. And that all came before the 2008 meltdown. Now I believe that standard 1 percent take has lost almost all credibility. Even Republican candidates were running ads this fall trying to position themselves as crusaders against Wall Street.

Where does ALEC fit in here? While many ALEC supporters were defeated, there are many left in office. What now?

The key now really needs to be linking up local struggles against austerity with national targets, particularly the banking giants that took free money from Uncle Sam and are now squeezing hard-pressed state and local governments, all the while creating still more windfalls for power suits.

A number of activist groups are moving in this direction. We hope they find Too Much a useful resource in their work.

I admit that I had never heard of Too Much before now. How do we spread the word about what you do?

We depend totally on word of mouth. The best way to spread the word: click your way on the Web to the current Too Much weekly issue at . Then just click the "Share" link at the top of that current issue, to pass it along and urge your friends to subscribe. And don't forget to subscribe yourself!

Will do! How did Too Much weather the switch from print to online? That's been a toughie for journalists and journalism everywhere. 

In our case, not so much a problem. The switch enabled us to greatly increase our frequency, to weekly, and most all the existing print subscribers really appreciated that.

Glad to hear that, Sam.  Give our readers some examples of recent articles to whet their appetite for more. How many articles can there possibly be on one subject without repeating yourselves?

In our latest issue, we highlight long-forgotten plutocracy-busting ideas from our progressive past. Did you know, for instance, that FDR proposed a 100 percent tax on individual  income over $25,000 -- a little over $350,000 in today's dollars -- back in 1942?

Last month, we highlighted a provocative new analysis from economist Jeff Faux, who describes what he sees as America's emerging "servant economy." More and more, Americans are spending their careers catering to the ultra rich. We're not talking just butlers here. We're talking architects who specialize in designing $3 million horse barns for the rich with a hankering for equestrian pursuits.

And we always highlight fascinating new data, not just from the usual suspects, but from outfits like global private banks. One staggering recent revelation from Credit Suisse in Switzerland: Just 0.6 percent of the world's adults hold over $1 million in net worth. This 0.6 percent has over twice as much wealth as the 91.5 percent of global adults who hold under $100,000.

We don't worry about repeating ourselves. Our incredibly unequal world is continually amazing us.

Sad but true. I had never heard that about FDR's plan for a 100% tax on income over a certain amount. How radical! Tell me, Sam: is Too Much largely a one-man operation?

I edit Too Much, but I get plenty of support from my colleagues at the Institute for Policy Studies, from both our Boston and  Washington, D.C. offices. Too Much now circulates as an IPS publication.

Nice!  Thanks so much for talking with me, Sam. It was a pleasure. I'm so glad Too Much is out there. Good luck with it!


The Too Much web site

The current Too Much issue

Subscribe to Too Much


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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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