In the past week, we’ve seen massive wildfires rage in California, a nation continue its violent reckoning with systemic racism, a deadly pandemic with no signs of abating, a sociopathic con artist playing President run for reelection, and Jeff Bezos officially become the first man “worth” over $200 billion. Would it surprise you at all to learn that the latter is one of the major reasons we currently enduring all of the former?
An indefensible wealth — Bezos’ newfound, literally incomprehensible wealth piled atop an already unimaginable fortune is bad enough standing from our New Gilded Age perch and staring down global eco-catastrophe, but it’s the knowledge that his profits come directly from the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout that makes this new milestone particularly difficult to accept. Since March, Amazon’s share price has more than doubled, resulting in the company’s CEO “earning” $10 billion around the exact same time he had to be publicly shamed into allowing his workers to take handwashing breaks.
This is a man who found it easier to spend $16K on his mansion contractors’ traffic fines than to make them park a little farther away from his $23 million Washington DC abode. “Out-of-touch” with the real world is an understatement. He’s essentially shrugged off any attempts at governmental oversight and antitrust regulation, and with Amazon’s stranglehold on the market unlikely to abate anytime soon, it’s doubtful we’ll see any meaningful change in the near future.
His charity is anything but charitable — To compensate for all this — and the rest of his company's indiscretions, like using data on sellers strong-armed into using Amazon for fulfillment to launch competitor products and crush them — Bezos often attempts to brand himself as one of those mythical “billionaire philanthropists” (an oxymoron if there ever was one), when in reality the amount of money he’s recently given to worthy causes is downright offensive.
Earlier this year, he donated $690,000 to combat Australia’s own horrendous wildfires, a sum he earns approximately every five minutes. A $10 billion donation toward "climate justice” is fine and well... until you take a step back and realize that is literally 5% of his entire wealth these days. Hey, while we’re at it, here’s some quick math for you: if you suddenly found yourself with $200 billion, spending $1,000 a day would still take you 548,000 years to run out of cash. That’s more than double the length of time the human species has walked this damn planet. Also, you wouldn't run out, because it would earn interest at a rate faster than you were spending it.
How does any single person deserve that kind of wealth? The answer: of course they don’t. Someone out there could possibly argue that billionaires are necessary for the world’s economy. They’d be wrong, but nevertheless, there is absolutely no way one person should horde $200 billion, and nobody should defend, celebrate, or be in awe of that achievement. Future generations will marvel at how we did not hold men like Jeff Bezos criminally responsible for this kind of narcissistic greed in the face of so much calamity.