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The Math is Extreme: Wealth Gap in the US

Capitalism is robbing our Working Class.

Workers Unite.

The toxicity of capitalism and it’s absolute need for worker exploitation in order for it to thrive needs to be addressed, the real risk of a worker uprising is inevitable and brewing as I write this.

Forbes lists the world’s Billionaires in real-time on their website, updating with 15 minute interval stock price fluctuations. While it may not be completely extensive, as it only features public figures where their wealth is known, it does enough to show the extreme wealth gap that is increasing every day in the US and the world. Obviously Russian Oligarchs and Cartel are not even considered in this list so that wealth is unknown, yet is certainly in the system and most likely rivals the ones on this list. Regardless, I thought it would be interesting to do some quick and dirty math using Forbes information. After scrolling through tons of double-digit Billionaires across mostly the US, but the world as a whole, I took note of the names I saw and the rank and location. I was mostly interested in the US, so here is what I found. For context, the ranks listed are based on the total world Billionaires.

With Bezos and Elon at the top obviously, I wanted to see where other famous Billionaires were, and I was actually surprised that the epitome of the “poor man’s Billionaire”, former President Donald Trump, ranks only 1297 on the Forbes Billionaires list. There are hundreds listed wealthier than him in the United States, I just thought that was funny. The two “poorest” Billionaires listed, both at rank 2579, are Wilbur ‘Ed’ Bosarge Jr. who does High Speed Trading, and GT Dave, who made his $1,000,000,000 in kombucha. Over 700 of the 2579 Billionaires listed live in the US, including nine of the top ten. The top ten US Billionaires have a combined worth of $1,120,270,000,000 as of February 1st 2022. They are holding 1.1 Trillion dollars in wealth while, in contrast, the Federal minimum wage is still $7.25 per hour. It’s even allowed to be as low as $2.13 in some states for server positions due to being a “tipped” employee, and the difference to be paid by the employer if tips do not reach the Federal minimum wage of $7.25, which is common practice for employers to not pay this difference. Millions of Americans are working in positions paying the minimum wage, and millions more are only several dollars over in a country that continually raises the cost of living more and more, trapping us in a never-ending cycle. 

At $7.25 per hour, that’s $13,920 per year. Or $58 a day. Average rent in America is about $1,200 per month, so if anybody holds a minimum wage job plus or minus several dollars, chances are high that they’ll need to hold two of these jobs, or they won’t be able to survive. Most of these jobs were deemed “essential” only two years ago. That lasted a few short months. Essential workers make up almost half of all workers in the lowest-paid occupations. Now that the pandemic has started to thin out the already exhausted workforce with sickness from Omicron and the answer is to shorten the days of quarantine from 10 to 5 because the economy can’t handle more than that. With the force of psychotic customers brainwashed with pandemic misinformation, the utter lack of worker protections, and yet again being ignored by our leaders and employers when we cry out, “PAY US MORE” and “RELIEVE OUR BURDENS PLEASE” we are met with still no action or tiny insignificant changes. Meanwhile, the super rich continue to receive endless welfare for their colossal fuck-ups and gentle slaps on the wrist for financial crimes and rule-breaking, and the ever-growing military industrial complex looks for the next location to invade and justify dumping tax dollars into future weapons, meanwhile ignoring the veterans that live on the streets. The stuff these wealth hoarders get away with legally is already too much.

Americans and people in a lot of Capitalist societies have an ingrained mindset that they too, with hard work, can BE a Millionaire or a Billionaire, but just haven’t gotten there. Often referred to as the “Temporarily Displaced Millionaire” mindset and is common across the US undeniably and is just one way the public helps to shoot itself in the foot. Education and  common sense would help relieve this mindset, but you can see why there is a steady push for anti-intellectualism among heavily Republican voting areas. Education is the enemy of the lord, and liberator of the serf. 

To put into perspective what it would take to get to these crazy double-digit Billionaire numbers, here are some calculations I made based on Forbes real-time Billionaires list and some common wages in comparison.

If you made these wages, how long would it take to get to a Million, or even a Billion? Without missing a day or spending a penny, it would take:

Per Hour: $7.25

To get $1 Million

8 Hours Per Day, 5 Days Per Week: 71.83 Years

To get $1 Billion

8 Hours Per Day, 5 Days Per Week: 71,839.08 Years

Per Hour: $15.00

To get $1 Million

8 Hours Per Day, 5 Days Per Week: 34.72 Years

To get $1 Billion

8 Hours Per Day, 5 Days Per Week: 34,722.22 Years

Now you know what you can accomplish by working non-stop with no missed days, spending no money on food, housing, education, or healthcare!

Being born thousands of years before the construction of the Pyramids of Giza to get to a billion, even at the out-dated requested $15 per hour, is absurd to think about. At $15 per hour, you’ll never be a Millionaire, let alone a Billionaire. At $50 per hour, you’ll still struggle to reach a million, taking into account the rising cost of living and lack of protections for the working class. The point of working shouldn’t be to survive, it should be fulfilling and contribute to the betterment of society and in return reward you with extra funds to enjoy life. The existence of Billionaires in this country is what kills this ideal. A practical solution would be to distribute the wealth in a way that allows the public to live with security in knowing their basic needs are met, such as housing, food, water, clothing, education, and healthcare. This distribution wouldn’t stop Billionaires from existing, it would simply stop the wealth from disproportionately going into the top and create a population capable of enjoying life. Pursuit of happiness and all that.

Realistically, what would you need to make to get to Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk’s level? Let’s start with what you would need to make per hour for 100k, 1 Million, and $1 Billion per year, which has happened in the US since 2020.

To make:

Per Year: $100,000

You Need Per Day: $416.67

8-Hours per Day, Hourly: $52.08

Per Year: $1 Million

You Need Per Day: $4,166.67

8-Hours per Day, Hourly: $520.83

Per Year: $1 Billion

You Need Per Day: $4,166,666.67

8-Hours per Day, Hourly: $520,833.33

Several Americans made $1 Billion and much more per year in wealth since 2020, the beginning of the pandemic. Even at that rate, it would take 100’s of years to be worth more than Elon Musk, and more than a lifetime to get to the top ten wealthiest Billionaires in the US and the world. It doesn’t even make sense, when you consider all the issues that have plagued Tesla. Take a look at Kroger, who has posted steady profits through the pandemic, even being able to give out bonuses to the corporate suite. The truth is that these numbers represent the unpaid wages of the workers, as record profits mean wages should also go up for the lowest paid worker, yet they don’t. Luckily, the King Soopers Strike shed light on this and currently strikes across the country are gaining traction. There is a lot of work and a long road ahead, though, to achieve true worker profit sharing a common and enforced practice. Meanwhile, the wealthy soak up the profits with little concession to the ones that produce it.

It is said it takes time to acquire wealth, yet the wealthiest on the list is only 50 years old. A majority of his wealth came in the last two and a half decades, and was funded by his already wealthy place in life. He didn’t come from nothing, he came from South African Emerald mining, but surely there was absolutely no exploitation in the process of that. His wealth exists of the backs of others entirely. 

Let’s imagine a situation now. You have hopes of becoming a Billionaire, with the “honor” of gracing the Forbes list with your hourly wage. You started working in 2000 and landed a great job, with all the benefits but even more – paid housing and all utilities included, food and PTO with extra paid vacation for 8 weeks a year. Everything is covered, and you don’t spend a dime, taxes are paid and/or not included for illustrative purposes. The job would have to pay you $27,000 per hour, and you work with no gaps for 22 years. At $27,000 per hour, you made $51,840,000 a year, and you didn’t even need to spend a penny! You look at your account, and you imagine the billions that you’ll have and how Elon or Bezos will have fresh competition. With only $1,140.480.000 you’ll see that you’re still $234,459,520,000 or so short of Elon’s current number. Luckily, you’ve just barely ranked on the Forbes list, around the 2,500s. That’s still $175.4 Billion away from number two, Bezos. You’re still not even wealthier than Trump. You’ll be dead before you reach $20 Billion, even with the current wealth-favored system that increases wealth exponentially. At any wage based job, you’ll never reach the wealth of the 700+ Billionaires in the US and they didn’t get there by working for somebody else, making at least $27k an hour. They get to that kind of wealth by exploiting the workers and not properly compensating in line with increased productivity. On top of this, corporations and the wealthy regularly receive huge tax breaks and bailouts when the public gets a pep-talk and a band-aid. That’s a huge problem.  While it’s true that a majority of Elon or Bezos’ wealth lives in the stock market, it still represents the wealth displaced from the workers. Most workers can’t even afford to participate in the stock market, not to mention the market is not especially designed to protect the retail investor, or in fact brokerages designed exclusively to fleece the retail investor. The important point to remember though is that the value of the stock represents the productivity of the companies workers.

To be clear, I’m not against being wealthy to the tune of having hundreds of millions if it’s done ethically. I’m not jealous or desire that. I know the amount of money it takes to survive and what it would take to achieve my little American Dream. Bezos just had needs a bridge in Sweden disassembled in order to fit his new $500 Million yacht through. I have a bit of an issue with that. He has profited during the pandemic, abused his workers, gotten his workers killed, and meanwhile blasts off on his rockets. If you need a bridge disassembled to get your yacht through, you have too much wealth, at least while the amount of poverty in the US still exists. Again, I don’t care if you want lots of money, I just want everybody to get the foundational needs before the Billionaires go back for their 53rd share. It’s hard to imagine that a multi-Billionaire would even exist in a system that provided and cared for all equally, and workers shared in the profits of their productivity. How much money is enough? Can we ethically say that an unlimited level of wealth acquisition in a society plagued by hunger, homelessness, and no universal healthcare? No Education for all? Even $1 Billion is more than any person can ever need to live a luxurious life in the US, free from needing to work or suffering from food or housing insecurities, and nobody should have $10+Billion and growing. Yet we absolutely have people in the US that suffer from homelessness, hunger, lack of healthcare, and crushing student loan debt, and those in power allow it to continue for no reason other than cruelty and greed. Our politicians are on the list as well, but are even more commonly paid for by the Billionaires further up on the list. 

 This country’s idolization of the rich and super rich is unusual, but the complete disdain and disgust of the poor, sick, and defenseless is abhorrent and is what troubles me the most. The root of the problem must be greed. We demonize the homeless, interchanging the labels of homeless and drug addict, as if the punishment for addiction should be homelessness. Your child can’t afford to pay for school lunch? No more lunch! This behavior is the life-blood of capitalism and without strong social safety nets rather than corporate welfare and wealth-concentration, we, the workers, will continue to make their wealth grow off of our labor.

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