opinion

OPINION: There needs to be a cap on wealth



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When speaking with New York Times writer Andrew Ross Sorkin, Bill Gates refused to side with Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “If I had to pay $20 billion, it’s fine, but when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over," he said. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

The United States currently has the most billionaires of any country in the world at 607. Moreover, 14 of the world’s 20 richest people live in the U.S.

This should be an obvious sign of drastic income inequality in the country, but our profit-driven, highly individualistic culture has accepted the existence of such an extreme concentration of wealth with high praise, viewing owning a billion dollars as a great accomplishment. 

No one person should ever be able to own a billion dollars. No one can legitimately “earn” a billion dollars.

It is not physically possible that Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, works that much harder than a worker making $7.25 an hour working 70 hours a week at two minimum wage jobs. Bezos makes nearly $9 million an hour — is it ever possible for someone to work that much harder than anyone else?

Extreme wealth such as this cannot possibly be obtained without massive worker exploitation. Large corporations like Amazon and Disney were not even paying workers a living wage until they were faced with extreme pressure from lawmakers.

The U.S. needs a cap on wealth because there is a finite amount of wealth in society and no one should be able to accumulate that much when millions of workers can’t make ends meet.

Even if the U.S. changed the top marginal tax rate to 100% on all income over $999 million, that is still an exorbitant amount of money for one person to own. 

The CEOs of large corporations only get to where they are due to worker exploitation. The shareholders and board of directors are not elected by workers.

The average worker for a corporation has no voice in how the company operates and how the benefits of their labor are allocated. With such weak labor unions in the U.S., workers are often forced into working low wage jobs with very poor benefits, if any at all.

When speaking at a recent forum with New York Times writer Andrew Ross Sorkin, Bill Gates refused to side with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, in a hypothetical matchup with Donald Trump, claiming he would support the more “professional” candidate.

He explained that his hesitancy stems from his reservations with Warren’s wealth tax proposal. Gates said: “If I had to pay $20 billion, it’s fine, but when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over.”

This just demonstrates how out of touch billionaires in this country can be. If Warren’s wealth tax were implemented, Gates would actually pay about $3 billion, a small fraction of his $106 billion.

It is appalling that anyone with such extreme wealth can be so callous when 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, with nearly half of all workers making less than $30,000 a year.

Wages have been stagnant since the 1970s, and billionaires like Gates have the gall to oppose inconsequential tax hikes which would hardly affect their elite status but massively help the working class.

The real reason why Gates hesitated to endorse Warren over Trump is because Trump’s tax cuts would allow for him to continue to hoard more of his money. 

Multiple studies show that happiness plateaus after obtaining a particular amount of wealth. In the U.S., $75,000 is the average annual household income where day to day happiness ceases to increase with every dollar earned thereafter.

There is no legitimate reason to continue allowing the extremely wealthy to hoard a substantial sum of the wealth in this country. Even moderate tax increases like those proposed by Warren are enough to drastically change the lives of the working class.

When so many Americans are shackled with huge amounts of student loan and medical debt making starvation wages, it is beyond equitable in my view for the elite class to sacrifice some so the many can live with basic necessities.

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