The Inherent Cruelty of a Billionaire Class.

How the hoarding of wealth has become class antagonism.

Lauren Martinchek
Jun 16, 2019 · 3 min read
Photo via Matt Lamers on Unsplash

The concept of a billionaire never used to bother me.

Perhaps I just never gave it enough thought. The idea of that amount of money belonging to just one individual and their family was so wildly beyond my imagination that I never stopped to consider what that actually means. But there comes a point where the distribution of wealth becomes so vastly divisive that it’s not only impossible to ignore, it becomes inherently cruel.

We are well beyond that point.

The more I learn about American money, and how so much of it is unattainable to those who are responsible for creating it, the more I tend to agree with the idea that there should be no such thing as a billionaire. It goes well beyond something as simple as wealth redistribution. Rather, it’s an issue of morals and ethics.

Is it ethical for Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon to be worth $153.8 billion dollars while his warehouse employees are making around $15 dollars an hour, and skip bathroom breaks to avoid being fired by machines monitoring their productivity? I also might add that his employees give back some of that meager income in taxes, while his company employing them did not even pay a penny. Was it ethical for Steve Jobs to be worth billions of dollars while his factory employees in China were living in such devastating conditions that they have suicide nets outside their dormitory windows? Is it moral for someone to have that kind of money while there are people dying because they can’t afford the life saving drugs they need?

There is something so boring and dishonest about the argument that “they earned it, they should keep it”, or that they’re being “punished for success.” It is not a punishment to give back a significant portion of their wealth to those who are responsible for generating that inconceivable amount of money, especially considering that even afterwards they’ll still be able to keep more than enough to retain that wealthy, comfortable status. It’s just ethical.

But I find it difficult to believe that anyone becomes a billionaire by being an ethical, decent human being. Profit motives oftentimes stand in the way of that and for one thing, that level of financial success is virtually impossible to achieve on your own. Sure, a billionaire may have designed a product or started a business, but of course there comes a point where their wealth is dependent on the productivity and success of those who work for them. I can’t think of very many billionaires here in the United States who are known for paying their employees well. Here, I would argue billionaires are more of a burden than an asset.

When it comes down to it, it takes a thief to become a billionaire. It requires theft of worker’s time, theft of worker’s well earned wages, and theft of worker’s productivity, not to mention the theft of mental and physical health that is such a common occurrence in today’s economic system. Becoming a billionaire has nothing to do with extolling the entrepreneur, but rather everything to do with exploiting the system in such a way that allows you to get as much as you possibly can out of your workers as humanly possible, while giving them as little as you can back in return. Including by the way, their tax money which is often handed back to these billionaire employers in the form of tax breaks or subsidies. That isn’t the free market. That’s class warfare.

I’m not interested in arguing that the billionaires themselves are inherently evil, but the culture of the system they operate within is dependent upon the crony capitalist exploitation of labor. In a just economy, billionaires would simply not exist and they should be taxed until they no longer do.

The Startup

Lauren Martinchek

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Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at LaurenMartinchek@gmail.com or Twitter @xlauren_mx

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