These men are the wealthiest billionaires in the United States of America:
Jeff Bezos: $114 billion
Bill Gates: $106 billion
Warren Buffett: $80.8 billion
Mark Zuckerberg: $69.6 billion
Larry Ellison: $65 billion
Larry Page: $55.5 billion
Sergey Brin: $53.5 billion
Michael Bloomberg: $53.4 billion
Steve Ballmer: $51.7 billion
Jim Walton: $51.6 billion
Note that one of these guys is running for President.
I can’t get my head around what $1 billion looks like much less $114 billion, but here’s what Money Magazine said in 2018:
Bezos’ net worth on Jan. 1 (2018) was $99 billion. On May 1 (2018) it was $132 billion, meaning it rose $33 billion. If you divide that difference by the 120 days in that period, you find that he made $275 million a day. Divide that by 24 hours in a day to get about $11.5 million per hour, the equivalent of roughly $191,000 per minute or — the clincher — $3,182 every second.
Jeff Bezos increases his wealth by over $3000 every second.
Billionaires are not inherently bad people. Some have worked hard for their money and some have been generous. But most have not been generous in terms of proportional giving.
The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board asked a couple weeks ago:
Who would do more with $1.08 billion—Bill Gates or Elizabeth Warren?
Yes, Bill Gates has donated millions – billions even – of his wealth towards public health initiatives. But he is the exception. No matter what you think of Elizabeth Warren – or any other candidate for President – I would trust her with $1.08 billion more than Kylie Jenner.
FedEx is an example of one multi-billion dollar corporation which has benefited from the 2017 tax cut (i.e. they pay zero taxes) and they have not kept their promises about investing back into their own company much less contributing to the common good. FedEx obviously uses the nation’s highways but they contribute zero to the upkeep of those highways. They earned $69.7 billion is 2018 and yet they are “struggling.”
In fact, here is a list of U.S. companies that paid zero taxes in 2018. Zero.
I met a new neighbor recently who hopes to find space in the men’s shelter here in Charlotte, but chances are slim because the shelters are full and will most likely continue to be full. Local overnight accommodations hosted by houses of faith did not open for business until last night. D. has been sleeping in the woods near my apartment.
D. can’t get a job because he doesn’t have an address. He has a phone, a charger, and a social services card that allows him to ride the bus for $1. He depends on strangers for food.
There are enormous political and administrative issues which keep us from offering enough homes, enough school lunches, clean water, livable wages, and affordable health care for every human being in this nation. The truth is that we could offer these things if we wanted to. We just don’t want to.
The financial divide in the United States will be our downfall as a nation. It used to be true that you could live a comfortable middle class life working one full time job as a barber or a firefighter or a public school teacher. This isn’t true in many places because – while unemployment rates are low – wages are also low.
These are not merely political or economic issues. These are spiritual issues. How are we – as people of faith – addressing them? Is it really democracy when elections can be bought? Can we call ourselves “a good nation” when we ignore the needs of the poorest Americans for the sake of corporate tax cuts? As one GOP voter said recently: “We have no moral compass, but, hey, we have conservative judges!”
Our nation will be judged for this. God came into the world once already to help us see the truth. I believe God will come again and it won’t be pretty – especially for those of us who have congratulated ourselves for being such good people.
PS Prosperity Gospel is a heresy.
Image of Bill and Melinda Gates by Jon R. Friedman seen at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC
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I’m a TRUE FAN OF THIS BLOG and frequently recommend it to others. I believe disagreements are often helpful in driving one to clarify thoughts. So, when you say that teachers used to be able to support a family on one salary, I need to tell you that you’re mistaken. I began teaching in 1965 and only with the additional income of my husband (a social worker) were we able to live debt-free (we could pay our bills). By the 1970’s, I was single again and salaries were better but I lived in a 1-bedroom rental and drove a VW beetle for over 10 years. Colleagues with families qualified for food stamps. Teachers have always had to augment their incomes by whatever means they could manage – 2nd & 3rd jobs, other family members working (‘family leave’ to see to the needs of children or parents = unheard of). In the town where I live now there was a developer who put up an apartment building with great fanfare “for lower-income people – like teachers, firefighters and police” and I had to realize he was right… I’m one of the lucky ones as through a small inheritance some decades ago, I was able to buy my own home, and have a pension (I’m unable to collect my full SS because of an “off-set’ instituted decades back – even though I paid into it all those years and can’t even get my “widow’s benefit’ because of the dame policy.) So, NO, teachers have not been able to live on their salaries for a very long time, if ever.
Thank you for this correction. I wonder how teachers are indeed supposed to support themselves.
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I’ve wondered whether small churches with minimal resources beyond their building could share their address with unsheltered people for the sake of helping them get jobs, government benefits, etc., without actually offering physical shelter. Has anyone tried this? What would be the requirements and complications?