Jeff Bezos’s $500 Million Superyacht Proves We Need An Obscenity Tax

We could raise $1+ trillion for healthcare and education with zero job losses

Jared A. Brock
Jun 4 · 5 min read
Image credit: Boat International

The world’s wealthiest man/most dangerous politician is making news again with the announcement that he’s building a half-billion-dollar boat.

Little is known about Oceanco Y721 beyond the basics:

  • It’s 417 feet long containing several decks.
  • Once finished, it will be the world’s largest three-masted schooner.
  • Like all good yachts, it comes with its own support yacht and helipad.
  • The annual operating cost is a cool $50 million.

And Bezos isn’t the only one buying new boats amidst a global health crisis.

I guess that’s what happens when the world’s 2,365 billionaires add $4 trillion to their net worth during a pandemic that killed millions and financially crippled millions more.

It’s time for an obscenity tax

For centuries, nations have used excise taxes to curb anti-commons behaviors like gambling, alcoholism, and coal production, among others. (And if the weak sugar tax has taught us anything, it’s that we haven’t pushed them nearly hard enough.)

Clearly, profligate consumer spending is an anti-social behavior. If we lived in a real democracy, the vast majority of the human population would almost certainly vote against egregious personal expenditures such as $500 million private yachts.

That said, we don’t want to go totalitarian and totally stop people from spending the way they want to spend…

So why not charge the richest people on earth a 100% tax on completely unnecessary luxury goods?

If Zuckerberg wants to burn $12,000 on a motorized surfboard, fine.

If you want to buy a $2 million puppy or pay $9,315.71 for a pizza, no problem.

If you want to own one of the world’s 2.5 million private jets, go for it.

You’ll just have to pay the new sales tax.

But he earned it!

Apologists are quick to suggest that billionaires really do “earn” their ten-digit net worths — a mathematically impossible feat made manifest only off the backs of untold millions of workers, menace economics, and usually a hefty dose of monopolization or financialization — and that all taxation is theft.

They are, of course, wrong on both accounts.

Some even dopily argue that everything in modern life is a luxury — iPhones, cars, wine, etc — and that’s true; but any reasonable person can accept that there are obviously levels of spending that are simply unacceptable while others suffer. Democracy should decide. (It’s ironic to think the direct democracy is the only real form of truly free-market capitalism. This must be an extremely scary thought for all the faux-free marketers who are actually just thinly disguised corporatists.)

How much an obscenity tax could raise

The potential income from taxing the obscene purchases of the ultra-elite is absolutely enormous:

When you add in obscenity taxes on doomsday bunkers, private islands, and pet cheetahs, our global community could re-allocate trillions towards real necessities that could improve the lives of everyone on earth.

How we could spend it

Taking back just $1+ trillion from the world’s greatest extractors could be spent on things that would vastly improve the health and future of our people and our planet:

  1. Give Medicare to 200+ million people.
  2. Send 10+ million students to university for four years.
  3. Power 10+ million houses with solar for 50 years.

And remember: that’s every single year.

$1 trillion might seem like a lot, but remember: the rich can afford it.

Income and corporate tax rates for the top 1% have been falling for decades and will continue to trend in that direction — introducing an obsenity tax might be the only way to bring some sense of equality back into our global family.

In conclusion

Remember, this isn’t a proposal to tax any source of income that might be used to re-invest in active assets that nominally “create jobs.” Right-wingers can make no claim that this tax would be “stealing” from the “productive” economy. This is literally just a tax on outrageous personal spending.

The beauty is that, unlike income taxes and corporate taxes which are easily evaded by the elite, sales taxes are taken at source. Worst case scenario: The mega-rich stop wasting so much money on unnecessary luxury purposes.

I subscribe to the radical notion that the real needs of our global family are a far greater priority than the flaunting excesses of the elite.

Because what’s more important? The health, safety, education, economic security, and ecological sustainability of the next generation, or the purses, paintings, and superyachts of the sociopaths who clearly don’t care if the rest of us suffer and die?

We need to care less about Jeff’s boat and more about our brothers and sisters who can barely keep their heads above water.

Surviving Tomorrow

Navigating Life in the Age of Democratic Destruction, Ecological Collapse, and Economic Irrelevance

Jared A. Brock

Written by

Author, filmmaker, cell-free futurist. 500+ articles. TIME/Esquire/Guardian/HuffPost SurvivingTomorrow.org | Join 5,000+ readers & save💰+⏰ → LevelUp.crd.co

Surviving Tomorrow

Our freedom and future are under attack on all sides. Surviving Tomorrow chronicles the greatest threats to humanity: democratic destruction, economic irrelevance, ecological collapse, technological dominance, and spiritual bankruptcy. We should never worry when we can resist.

Jared A. Brock

Written by

Author, filmmaker, cell-free futurist. 500+ articles. TIME/Esquire/Guardian/HuffPost SurvivingTomorrow.org | Join 5,000+ readers & save💰+⏰ → LevelUp.crd.co

Surviving Tomorrow

Our freedom and future are under attack on all sides. Surviving Tomorrow chronicles the greatest threats to humanity: democratic destruction, economic irrelevance, ecological collapse, technological dominance, and spiritual bankruptcy. We should never worry when we can resist.

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