Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are, together, richer than the half of the population of the United States. Bezos was the fortunate recipient of an abrupt surge in the value of Amazon stock that has given him a net worth of over 100 billion dollars. Which makes this comment particularly appropriate:
One of the best soundbites I’ve heard about modern economics is (paraphrased)) “It’s not possible to earn a billion dollars. It is possible to steal a billion dollars.”
There is nobody smart enough, hardworking enough, trained enough and dedicated enough to earn a billion dollars without leveraging corrupt systems and exploiting people.
The poverty threshold in America is $11,490 for one person. If someone has a billion dollars, that is 87,032 times the poverty line.
It’s possible for someone to be twice as smart as another worker. It’s possible for them to be four or five times as hardworking. It’s possible for one person to have ten times the training of another person. So if you have one person that is half as smart, a fifth as hardworking, and a tenth as trained, they should reasonably earn one percent of the other. That’s the very outside figure. But anyone who takes in more than a million dollars per year did not earn that, they stole it. They found a vulnerable system to exploit or they found a group of people to cheat. Maybe they did it legally. Maybe they paid someone to make it legal to do that. It happens. But “earn”? Actually -deserving- that much money because of their merits and efforts? No.
I don’t mind some inequities in wealth — I buy into capitalism just enough to think that a motivating reward system for human behavior is a good thing — but we’re well beyond what is fair or reasonable. I can live with some people making a million dollars a year, but only if we’re also making sure that no one has to live in rank poverty. But someone “earning” billions while huge numbers can barely keep food on the table, can’t afford rent, can’t go to a doctor when they need to, and their children have no opportunities for a good education…that is an obscenity.