Letters to the Editor
Saturday, December 23, 2023
How Billionaires Hurt the Economy
Some may think that the one percent are the key to a successful capitalistic economy, but billionaires are hurting the economy and the other ninety-nine percent of people in America by abusing their power. There are very intentional systems in place that make the one percent wealthier and the working-class poor. The combination of how the economy runs, how these billionaires make so much money, and overall corruption is what negatively impacts everyone else in America. America has always prided itself on the idea that anyone can be successful here and there is ample opportunity. We are told that all it takes is hard work and that you must pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. The truth is that not everyone is going to be successful, even if they work tirelessly for the rest of their life. The first step is addressing that there is a problem and that the one percent is a big part of it.
First, it is important to understand just how much a billion dollars really is. In fact, a billion of anything is too much for the average person to comprehend. Rob Reich is a professor of political science, director of the center for ethics and co-director of the center on philanthropy and civil society at Stanford university. He uses this example to help people understand how much a billion dollars really is, “When you say the median income of a family of four in the United States is something like $50,000 a year — if you were to triple that, it would seem to most people like, ‘My gosh, that’s a lot of money; $150,000 a year!’” This is not even comparable to how much a billion dollars would be. There is no plausible reason any one person needs that much money no matter who they are or how hard they have worked. And that raises the question; are billionaires the ones working for their own money? Considering that America is so capitalistic, you could see that these billionaires just hire the working class to make money for them. These employees are paid minimum wage, which is clearly not a big deal to these billionaires, and their corporation is not going to suffer for paying their employees a livable wage. The pay is not even enough for someone to live off. The fact that so few people are successful enough to even be billionaires proves that it is not hard work that gets you to the top, but rather luck. If it was hard work that got you there, all these minimum wage employees would eventually be successful, or at the very least get out of poverty. It is so rare to be a billionaire that we can name the few that are, and we call them the one percent.
Why is it that so many people are okay with only one percent being incredibly wealthy while many others are left in poverty or struggling? Even the middle class has nothing compared to the one percent. It is common that the middle class resents the working class for their welfare and blame them for the economic crisis. Meanwhile a lot of the middle class is just fine with the one percent being so wealthy. Many Americans argue that billionaires deserve the money they have and that if you are not rich it must be that you are lazy. Of course humans want to believe this. Americans want to believe that they have power over how successful they are. That what they have is what they earned through hard work and therefore they deserve it. Afterall, this is the American dream and a foundation for this country. Immigrants move here for a chance to work their way up. You can achieve anything with hard work and make something of yourself. Unfortunately, this is all a lie that many Americans want so badly to be true. This idea is due to the fundamental attribution error and the just world phenomenon. Humans assume that the world is fair and that whatever hand you have been dealt is what you deserve and have earned. People are more likely to assume that what happens to you is your own fault. They do not look to the outside factors that could cause something. So, people will assume that billionaire have worked hard for their money and deserve it, while assuming that those in poverty have done something to put themselves in that position. In reality, the world is not a fair place and people should take that into consideration when feeling the need to assign blame. Look at the homeless crisis for instance, people are not willing to help the homeless because they believe that they must have done something to deserve such a fate. They are often treated as less than human and society says it’s their own fault when really people don’t know their whole story. Instead, assumptions are made that they are drug addicts or lazy. Everyone deserves to be treated like a human and even if someone assumes they just don’t want to work, that shouldn’t mean that they are less valuable as a person than someone with extreme wealth. In “Wealth without Limits: In Defense of Billionaires” Flanigan and Freiman believe that billionaires are important and should not be taxed because they are in a better position than the government to help those in need. I argue that it is human nature to be greedy and billionaires are under no obligation to contribute to the general population. Taxing the rich would ensure that the money is going to help society and that everyone is contributing. Billionaires not being taxed has outweighed the good of their few charity donations. Their donations have not done much to help economic issues like the homeless crisis. Real change can start with the government taking action in different ways like by providing housing. There could be real change in the economy if the one percent were taxed their fair share, or even more.
There are many external factors as to why so many Americans are in poverty. One explanation is the poverty paradox. Mark Robert Rank, the author of “The Poverty Paradox” gives one instance of this concept, “It’s become more rigid in terms of mobility and one way to think about this is not only does the United States lead the OECD countries in poverty, but we also have the most income and wealth inequality. What’s happened is that as the income distribution has gotten wider, the rungs on the ladder have gotten further apart, making it more difficult for people to move up.” In 2020 the gap between the wealthy and the poor tripled. This means that the middle class is shrinking, and the wealthy are getting wealthier while the poor are getting poorer. Another reason there is so much poverty in America is the fact that the ultra-wealthy don’t pay enough taxes. All the taxes are coming from the middle class which not only makes it difficult to become upper class but could cause them to become lower class. Many people hope that because there are billionaires, it will create jobs and the money will “trickle down” and create a successful capitalistic economy. But seeing as employees are not being paid well and often have poor working conditions, this is not a realistic expectation. And the fact that the gap between wealthy and those in poverty is proof of that.
It would be nearly impossible for someone to make a billion dollars if they didn’t do anything underhanded. One example is Warren Buffet, he has been accused of using stock manipulation to hurt the economy. By repurchasing their companies own stocks it puts money towards that rather than choosing to pay or hire new employees. All this does is increase stock prices and make more money for themselves. Money is power which is why billionaire can get away with pretty much anything. It is no secret that American politicians are “bought” by these major corporations such as oil companies. It is the billionaires that are running this country, not the actual politicians that are being voted for. The one percent have so much power because they can put their money towards anything they choose. Elon Musk has chosen to make microchips that can be inserted into someone’s brain. They are currently finding people to sign up for a test trial. But before he got to this point, he experimented on monkeys which is animal cruelty and clearly unethical. Many animals died during this process, but nothing will happen to him because billionaires are even above the law. On top of this, is it even ethical to conduct something like this? Elon Musk’s goal is to use these chips in humans to eventually replace other technology. No one person should have the power to create such projects independently.
In conclusion, the one percent thrive while the ninety-nine percent are harmed. It is not healthy for anyone to be a billionaire. Big corporations make money off low-income workers to line their own pockets. Equality should be the priority and that starts with billionaires paying their share of taxes. More laws need to be put into place to keep the one percent from having too much power over politicians. No one should be above the law especially due to wealth. Our system needs real change if we want America’s economy to succeed. Maybe one day everyone really will have opportunity and a chance to succeed.
Smith, David. “The Poverty Paradox: Why Is There Still so Much Economic Hardship in the US?” The Guardian, 11 May 2023, www.theguardian.com/books/2023/may/10/poverty-paradox-new-book-mark-rank-us-economic-hardship.
Constantine, Katie. “Top 5 Ways Billionaires Are Bad for the Economy.” Www.oxfamamerica.org, 15 Jan. 2023, www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/stories/top-5-ways-billionaires-are-bad-for-the-economy/.
Mahdawi, Arwa. “Think Billionaires Are Just Super-Rich People? Big Mistake | Arwa Mahdawi.” The Guardian, 6 Nov. 2019, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/06/billionaires-super-rich-extreme-wealth-political-influence-inequality-gates-bezos-buffett.
“I’ve Always Wondered: Should There Even Be Billionaires?” Marketplace, 15 Apr. 2021, www.marketplace.org/2021/04/15/should-there-be-billionaires-ethical-question/.
Engle, Jeremy. “Is $1 Billion Too Much Money for Any One Person to Have?” The New York Times, 15 Feb. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/02/15/learning/is-1-billion-too-much-money-for-any-one-person-to-have.html.
Flanigan, Jessica, and Christopher Freiman. “Wealth without Limits: In Defense of Billionaires.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 25, no. 5, 23 Nov. 2022, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10677-022-10327-3.
Simani, Robert Faturechi,Ellis. “How Warren Buffett Privately Traded in Stocks That Berkshire Hathaway Was Buying and Selling.” ProPublica, 9 Nov. 2023, www.propublica.org/article/warren-buffett-privately-traded-stocks-berkshire-hathaway-ethics-irs. Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.