Activist who left the 1% writes book on inequality

Chuck Collins. (Photo by Lori DeSantis)

Jamaica Plain resident Chuck Collins has been organizing against income inequality for decades, including giving up his personal fortune in his 20s—so when he was invited to write a book about inequality and the 99 to 1 percent divide, he jumped at the chance.

“I believe we are on the brink of ecological and economic challenges, and yet the powerful 1 percent is blocking some urgently needed changes and reforms,” Collins told the Gazette. “[But] I see a number of positive signs and ultimately believe we, as a society, have a huge capacity to evolve and transform ourselves to address these problems.”

The book, “99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It,” comes out April 3. It includes history on a previous “Gilded Age” earlier this century, and how America managed to re-balance income inequality, partially resulting in the boom of the 1950s through 1970s.

More immediately important, it includes actions both the 99 and 1 percents can take—individually and together—to bring about such an age of plenty again.

“This book is not an attack on the 1 percent,” Collins said. “In fact, it argues that there are a huge percentage of allies in the one percent who advocate for an economy that works for the 100 percent. These extreme inequalities of wealth undermine the quality of life for everyone.”

The “short and comprehensive” book has the latest data on inequality as well as history and analysis, Collins said.

Collins grew up in the 1 percent, a great-grandson to meat packer Oscar Mayer, but gave up his $500,000 inheritance to the Haymarket People’s Fund and “other social change foundations” at the age of 25, he told the Gazette. He then turned his life to organizing for the good of the “100 percent,” as he describes in the book.

“I started out [writing this book] wondering if these trends toward extreme inequality of income and wealth were too daunting,” Collins said. “But as I wrote ‘99 to 1,’ I came to believe that we can reverse them, that the social movements building this spring will make reducing wealth inequality a core demand.”

Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., co-founder of and the JP Forum, a lecture and workshop series. “99 to 1” will be available April 3 from, and local bookstores.

The JP Forum will host a lecture featuring Collins and the book on April 26, with a similar Spanish-language program on May 4.

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