Do billionaires need all their wealth?

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, January 30th, 2020 at 8:00 AM

OK. Hear me out. No one person needs a billion dollars. 

That is an astronomical amount of money that’s almost impossible to fully comprehend. It could be used much better than basically being hoarded by a select few, especially if you consider the difference between the rich and the poor worldwide.

There are people both in this country and beyond that cannot afford life’s basic necessities, such as food, water and shelter. Yet one of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates, can afford a house that’s 66,000 square feet in size and that has 24 bathrooms, according to Business Insider. 

The difference in not only money, but quality of life, in these two situations will always astound me. 

I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t mention that most of the billionaires in the world are philanthropic in many ways. Continuing with the Gates example, he and his wife Melinda started a foundation in their name and, according to Forbes, donated $35.8 billion of Microsoft shares to his foundation. They seem to recognize the significance of the wealth gap, as well. The foundation does the following, according to their website, “In developing countries, we focus on improving people’s health and wellbeing, helping individuals lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.” 

So obviously they’re not evil, at least not all of them. For further proof, Forbes has a list of the 50 best philanthropists of 2019, and they said that, “Nine of the top ten givers made it to the ranks of the 2019 Forbes 400 list; altogether, 39 of the 50 top givers are Forbes 400 members.” So, some of them do recognize the privilege they have.

However, a huge impact certainly isn’t being made because people in developing countries are still struggling. For another instance, Forbes also says Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hosts his Bezos Day 1 Fund, which is working to eliminate homelessness and improve preschools in low income areas. Yet, according to KOMO News in Seattle, where one of Amazon’s headquarters is located, it has the third highest homeless population in the U.S. He also ironically has seven apartments and five homes across the U.S., according to Business Insider.

Neither homelessness or health in developing countries seems to be getting better due to these donations. If they were willing to not be billionaires and use their wealth to just fix a problem, without going through a foundation, they’d achieve a lot. For example, if Bezos put into cash an even 10% ($11.6 billion) of his Bloomberg-reported $116 billion net worth, he could give each of the reported 11,199 homeless people in Seattle $1,035,806.77. With a net worth that high, he probably doesn’t have that much on hand. However, he could very easily use a credit card or get a loan from a bank for that amount or more. 

Gates is a little more difficult to calculate because the prices needed to help his cause will fluctuate. However, let’s say that part of his initiative to improve health is developing countries was to give everyone in Africa a flu shot. There is 1.3 billion people there currently, according to World O Meter, and the Center for Disease Control says that a flu shot from the private sector costs $16.82. If we multiply those two together, we get around $22.2 billion. Pricey, hell yes, but Gates has a Bloomberg reported $115 billion as a net worth so he would still have a little under $100 billion in his bank account. 

We could also just...tax them. You might think we’re doing this already, but according to The Chicago Tribune, Amazon paid $0 in taxes in 2019. Market Mad House reported that Bezos himself, along with every other billionaire, only pays $7,979.40 in social security taxes because it only applies to the first $128,700 a person makes. This amount is minuscule in proportion to net worth and income. 

Gates himself is a proponent of this idea, commonly known as a wealth tax. This would be taxing people not only on income, but also on net worth. Gates said in a blog post, which responded to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s proposition of this tax, that, “I’m for a tax system in which, if you have more money, you pay a higher percentage in taxes.” 

I’m with him. We could do what was needed to help different situations with their tax money. For example, we could fix the roads and bridges that Amazon uses to deliver their goods. It could also be used to do something like fix the water crisis in Flint.

The moral of the story is that no one needs that massive an amount of money, and we need to be spreading the wealth in a more beneficial way. 

Tags: billionaires

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