Billionaires Own an Inconceivable Amount of Money

First of all, we need to wrap our heads around how much money a billionaire owns. To become a billionaire you need to know what a billion is.

Here are two brain teasers:

1. If one dollar equals one second, how long do you have to count to get to a million?

10 hours? 24 hours?

Wrong.

Bill Gates isn’t a pip-squeak millionaire, though. He owns billions.

Here’s the next arithmetic problem:

2. If one dollar equals one second, how long do you have to count to get to a billion?

Most people I ask say a month or a year once they know the answer to the first question.

Wrong again.

It gets better. Bill Gates owns 130 billion dollars while Jeff Bezos has 212 billion. You have to count their dollars for 128 years and 211 years, respectively.

Check out Wealth, Shown to Scale if you find the answers hard to believe. It visualizes the wealth of the world’s richest people. Prepare for a lot of scrolling.

Our brains aren’t evolved to understand large numbers. This plays into the hands of Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and co. We think they’re rich and, therefore, must do something right, like read killer books or ace their morning routine.

We don’t understand how rich they are. You can be insanely disciplined, well-read, and determined. Still, you won’t make a billion dollars, because…

Billionaires Didn’t Earn Their Wealth

You can’t make a billion dollars through hard work and discipline.

As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it,

No one ever makes a billion dollars. You take a billion dollars.

There are two ways to become a billionaire:

1. Inherit it;
2. Inhuman, relentless exploitation of the poor and the working class.

If you make \$250,000/year (more than triple the US median family income of 2020) it’d take you 4,000 years to make a billion.

If you make \$15,000 (the US minimum wage) It’d take you 66,000 years.

A billionaire doesn’t work 66,000 times harder than a housekeeper.

Therefore, there’s no such thing as a self-made billionaire. Show me a billionaire and I’ll show you a system they exploited and/or a vast inheritance.

Bill Gates became wealthy through other people’s labor. He built Microsoft through relentless resource extraction. The plastic, rare metals, and energy to build and power the computers and manufacturing plants are results of slavery, oil drilling, and child labor.

This exploitative process happens everywhere you look:

Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest man. His Amazon employees qualify for food stamps and can be fired for taking bathroom breaks.

Mark Zuckerberg became a billionaire by exploiting our privacy and psychology.

Billionaires Hoard Wealth

If you earned \$10 million in your lifetime you’d consider yourself rich. However, you’d still be \$990 million away from being a billionaire.

You can’t spend a billion dollars in a lifetime. That’s what hoarding wealth means. There’s no reason anyone should have more money they can spend in several high-end lifetimes while others starve, are homeless, and die of curable diseases.

Imagine a monkey that hoards more bananas he could ever eat while other monkeys around him starve. Scientists would study that monkey. They’d want to understand what’s wrong with him— and conclude he’s a mentally ill monkey.

Yet, we put the human epitomes of this monkey on the cover of Forbes. We worship them as role models and devour books that teach us how we can copy their success.

Billionaires Aren’t Charitable

They seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see in poverty, but their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it… the proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.— Oscar Wilde on philanthropists

The Gates Foundation is a prime example of philanthrocapitalism.

As the social justice organization Global Justice Now writes in its research paper Gated Development, the priority of the Gates foundation is to involve business in addressing poverty and inequality.

This isn’t a neutral charitable strategy but an ideological commitment to promote neoliberal economic policies and corporate globalization. Big corporations directly benefit in spite of evidence they aren’t the solution.

Business, exploitation, and capitalism created inequality and poverty. Remember Microsoft couldn’t have flourished without cheap labor and resource extraction.

A fundamental system change and a drastic redistribution of wealth aren’t in a billionaire’s interest. Performative, business-charity without joggling power structures is.

Besides, the numbers you see billionaires devote to charity are ridiculous if you consider their total wealth.

For example, Bill Gates donated 1.75 billion dollars to COVID-research. That’s 1.3% of his net worth.

Jeff Bezos donated \$100 million to Feeding America in April 2020. He makes \$215 million in a day.

Don’t hundreds of millions of dollars still do good, though?

No. Again, billionaires earn their wealth by stealing from and exploiting the poor. Throwing a tiny fraction back doesn’t solve anything.

Billionaires Pay Fewer Taxes Than Us

Thanks to ProPublica we know the richest 25 Americans paid a “true tax rate” of 3.4% between 2014 and 2018. Meanwhile, their wealth skyrocketed.

How is that possible?

Easy. Billionaires don’t pay income taxes, as they don’t have an income. They have capital gains and dividends from investments. In short, their money creates more money, not their labor. The United States taxes this lower than wage income.

They further reduce this rate by doing charity and taking deductions for interest payments to credits for business owners, etc.

According to ProPublica, Warren Buffet’s wealth grew by \$24.3 billion between 2014 and 2018. He paid 0.1% taxes on it.

Meanwhile, Elon Musks' wealth grew by \$13.9 billion meanwhile. He paid 3.27% in taxes.

Billionaires Jeopardize Democracy

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, aka the Frightful Five control everything. They’re inescapable. You can opt-out of one or two of them but together they control the entire economy.

Billionaires are some of the most important public figures in the world. At the same time, they’re unelected and, therefore, accountable to no one.

However, they’re experts in their public image. We see them as charitable people who have our interests in mind and bring society forward through innovation and technology.

At the same time, they do everything to escape taxes, and the local governments we elected to distribute wealth back into society.

Billionaires Don’t Give A Fuck

It would cost a few billion dollars to end the world’s most painful, aggravating problems, like poverty, homelessness, and famine.

Any billionaire could pick one such problem and halt it tomorrow. Yet, they choose not to.

You think you can be successful and achieve wealth with the right determination and discipline. The truth is, you’re only one bad year, one disease, one lost income stream, or one broken MacBook away from complete financial ruin.

You’re certainly not one good year away from becoming a billionaire.

Bill Gates couldn’t care less, though. Like any billionaire, he doesn’t have your best interests at heart. I’ll go as far as Jessica Wildfire and say billionaires are high-functioning psychopaths.

They squeeze their workers like lemons for profit while they hoard more money than they could spend in several lifetimes.

Therefore, stop reading about billionaire morning routines. Stop writing about good billionaire habits. Don’t look up to them, paint them as role models, and encourage others or yourself to replicate their success.

In short: Don’t defend the indefensible.