Wealth gap between America’s richest and its commoners has been hotly debated for decades.
- The pandemic pushed millions out of jobs in the US but the rich made billions agitating some US policymakers.
- Growing contrast between America’s Richest and the bottom 40 percent.
- Jeff Bezos faces criticism over his passive sense of philanthropy as he goes on to amass huge wealth even during troubling times.
- Jeff Bezos and his company, Amazon might be becoming the poster boy of ‘corporate greed’.
The issue was once again in the spotlight as Sen Bernie Sanders lashed out at America’s (and the world’s) richest man Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on the issue of unionization. In his opening remarks, Sen Sanders said that Bezos, along with tech tycoon Elon Musk, held more wealth than America’s bottom 40 percent combined. Bezos’s current net worth stands at $182 billion, and he has added $77 billion to this kitty during the COVID-19 pandemic that pushed 9.8 million people out of employment in the US by November 2020.
These stark numbers do inspire intrigue into the high life of the Amazon boss. But the obscenity of this wealth cannot be truly understood unless pegged against the kind of life an average American can afford.
The Difference Between America’s Richest Man and the Bottom 40
As mentioned, Bezos added $77 billion to his net worth in the past year alone, during a pandemic no less, whereas the median household income for the average American shrunk to $61,937. This means, for Bezos spending $88,000 is akin to an average person spending $1.You will find more infographics at Statista
He also happens to be one of the biggest landowners in the US, with five plush properties across the US. These include an estate in Medina, Washington, comprising two homes spread over 5.3 acres of land, a Spanish-style mansion in Beverly Hills, California, a ranch in Texas that also serves as the base for this outer space venture Blue Origin, a townhouse in Washington DC with the likes of Obamas as neighbours, and three luxury condos at Central Park West, Manhattan. While 580,466 people in the US do not have a home to live in.
Watch: Why The Wealth Inequality Is Growing in the United States?
Curiously, cities like New York and California – where Bezos owns luxury properties – rank among the highest in homeless population. The Amazon CEO also owns a $65 million private jet and had spent $250 million on acquiring The Washington Post.
A Subdued Philanthropic Streak
Despite all his riches, Mr. Bezos has been slow to find his philanthropic streak. Unlike hyper-billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet known to have donated a chunk of their wealth to charities, Bezos has not engaged with social causes as actively. His philanthropic gestures involve support for The Dream US that supports those brought as undocumented immigrants to the US in their childhood, and Mary’s Place, a Seattle-based organization working toward providing shelter and employment training to the homeless.
He is seen more inclined to put his weight – and dollars – behind unconventional experiments such as an underground giant ’10,000 year’ mechanical clock being built in West Texas by the Long Now Foundation.
At a time when a majority of Americans are reeling under unprecedented financial duress, this approach almost reeks of apathy. According to a report studying the impact of the COVID-induced economic slowdown on employment, housing, and food, 22 million adults – comprising 11% of America’s adult population – did not have enough food to eat. In 77% of these cases, the reason was lack of money to buy food. Among them, 15% were households where even children didn’t have enough to eat.
Another study by Pew Research found that 46% of the people in low-income groups – aka the bottom 40% – were struggling to pay their bills. This includes an inability to pay rent and mortgages, apart from other utilities and essentials. In all, 25% of adults said someone in their household (them or another working member) was laid off during the pandemic and 32% reported reduced hours and pay cuts.You will find more infographics at Statista
Low-income adults have been the hardest hit by the pandemic-triggered economic crisis, being forced to dip into their savings and retirement funds to make ends meet. Not just that, they’re also less likely to find employment again in contrast to middle and upper-income groups, the research pointed.
For a person with the means and money at his disposal to not step up at such a time is naturally bound to raise eyebrows. With allegations Amazon denying its workforce paid sick leaves and the CEO of one of the biggest multinational corporations stepping in to stop its workers from unionising, America’s richest man Jeff Bezos is risking becoming the poster boy of ‘corporate greed’ that is often seen as the driving force behind growing income inequality in the country.