A Different Kind of Billionaire

30-year-old crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried drives a Corolla and sleeps on a beanbag. 

In semi-related news, India’s Guatam Adani has moved into the world’s top ten richest people with a networth of over $100 billion. 

Sentence to ponder, “Mr. Adani’s net worth topped $100 billion on Monday, up from $57 billion a year ago.” 

Bezos’s Landlocked Yacht—Part Two

Not so fast, Jeff.

Thousands Pledge To Egg Jeff Bezos’s Mega-Yacht As It Passes Through Rotterdam Bridge.

“’Rotterdam was built from the rubble by Rotterdammers and we don’t just take it apart for the phallus symbol of a megalomaniac billionaire,’ reads a statement on a Facebook group for the protest. ‘Not without a fight.'”

And dig this, a journo with a sense of humor:

“The group currently shows 4,000 people committed to attend, and another 14,000 interested. Due to the widespread public outcry, it appears that the bridge adjustment is no longer approved, and Y271 may need to find another way to sea. Knowing Jeff Bezos, he’ll probably arrange for thousands of underpaid Amazon workers to drag the yacht overland, with a 48-hour delivery guarantee.”

Bezos’s net worth is estimated at $181.1 billion. His yacht cost $485 million. If my math is right (it’s a lot of zeroes to keep track of) that represents .0268% of his net worth. So that’s like a millionaire buying a boat, make that a kayak, for $2,680.*

*someone please check my math

The Future Is Bright

Thanks to my fam for hijacking the humble blog this weekend. . . the Good Wife’s idea, the daughters’ execution. After editing the beginning of the post, youngest said to eldest, “It’s kinda creepy how well you mimic dad’s writing voice.”

There are an overwhelming number of intractable problems in the world. You being stuck with me as primary author again. A slow walk to possible war in Ukraine. Environmental degradation. Global poverty. Pandemic induced loneliness and related mental health challenges. Endless Super Bowl crypto commercials.

But there’s at least one glimmer of hope that has not been reported widely enough.

Rotterdam bridge to be dismantled so Jeff Bezos’ yacht can pass through.

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From DutchNews:

“Bezos’ three-masted yacht is being built by the Oceano shipyard in Alblasserdam but is too big to pass under the bridge when the central section is raised to its full height. Now Oceano and Bezos have approached the council about temporarily dismantling the bridge at their cost. According to Rijnmond, city officials are prepared to take that step, despite the opposition of local history experts and others.”

How wonderful that Bezos’ yacht will not be stuck in Alblasserdam. It makes you wonder what else is possible when city councils and others truly commit to the greater good.

Postscript: A reader just asked, “Is that sarcasm?” YES.

Monday Required Reading

There is no vacation from reading. Indeed, some take the view that there’s no vocation, but reading.

The rich vs the very, very rich: the Wentworth Golf Club rebellion. The makings of a great novel.

The very, very rich vs the Mormon church. I’d read that novel too.

It’s time for car companies to shut up about electric vehicles and just ship them. Amen.

Norway’s most popular cycle route. Yes please.

Here’s what schools are doing to try to address students’ social-emotional needs. Shame on me, I shoulda lead with this.

Wednesday Required Reading and Listening

  1. The public library is open and freely available to all. Imagine a world in which the Billionaire Boys’ Club invested in public libraries instead of space travel.
  2. Does Ethiopia have a future? Things are looking more and more dire by the day.
  3. Being kind to yourself
  4. A 100 year-old priest was nudged from his parish. He has no plans to retire.
  5. ‘Dormzilla’ at University California, Santa Barbara. A good problem to have. 

A Billionaire Here, A Billionaire There

A blogger I read is asking his readers for questions for an interview he’s going to do for his podcast with David Mark Rubenstein. Here’s the first sentence of Rubenstein’s wikipedia entry.

“David Mark Rubenstein (born August 11, 1949) is an American billionaire businessman.”

Anyone with 1,000 or more million dollars is routinely introduced as a billionaire.

Given that bizarre phenomenon, I’m going to stop increasing my wealth when I get to around $950m. I would hate to be reduced down to a “billionaire educator”.

Until then, don’t forget to upgrade your iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches.

Paragraph To Ponder

“Rihanna is now worth $1.7 billion, Forbes estimates—making her the wealthiest female musician in the world and second only to Oprah Winfrey as the richest female entertainer. But it’s not her music that’s made her so wealthy. The bulk of her fortune (an estimated $1.4 billion) comes from the value of Fenty Beauty, of which Forbes can now confirm she owns 50%. Much of the rest lies in her stakein her lingerie company, Savage x Fenty, worth an estimated $270 million, and her earnings from her career as a chart-topping musician and actress.”

You go gerl.

What To Make Of The Secret IRS Files

A week ago, ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest showed how the wealthiest Americans pay little in income tax compared to their wealth in “The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax”.

Pro big business libertarians were outraged at ProPublica’s decision to release private tax information of people who, in their view, have contributed disproportionately to the public good.

The extremely well written report left many others shocked by the findings and gleeful that the billionaire class was exposed.

Long story short, most Americans pay 14% of their income in taxes, billionaires pay 3+% on average. That’s because we tax income and not wealth and billionaire’s wealth grows much, much faster than their income.

Everyone concedes that the highlighted billionaires haven’t done anything illegal, which leaves many wanting to make our tax system much more progressive.

A few thoughts:

  1. As long as we tax income and let wealth slide, the Great Tax Divide will only widen. At some point, billionaires’ physical safety may very well be threatened. It is in their self-interest that we have a more egalitarian society. Therefore, it is in their interest to pay more in taxes.
  2. We need to invest a whole lot more in the Internal Revenue Service. Specifically, we need more, better trained agents who understand of how the ultra-wealthy avoid taxes sometimes illegally. Right now the ultra-wealthy are emboldened by the ridiculously low rate at which they are audited.
  3. Conservatives often defend things like video surveillance by asking, “Well, what do you have to hide?” In that same spirit, when it comes to personal income taxes, maybe we should go the way of Norway.
  4. Debates about the ethics of ProPublica’s decision-making will continue especially since they’ve said this is just the first of several related reports. As will debates about the implications of the data and related policy questions.

socialism-socialism-socialism

Let The Ultra-Rich And Influential Skip The Line For Covid-19 Vaccines

“Donations would come from five tiers. For each tier, the mechanism is the same. People (or businesses on behalf of their people), donate money to get to the front of the Covid-19 vaccine line. There are limited available slots and getting the vaccine must be publicly documented so others can be motivated by these influential figures.

In the first tier, 100 of the wealthiest Americans each donate $100 million to be first in line for a vaccine, getting it within the first weeks of availability. This raises $10 billion.

In the second tier, 1,000 people each donate $10 million to get vaccinated within the first month. This raises another $10 billion.

You can see where this is going: The third tier requires a $1 million contribution for up to 10,000 people. The fourth, $100,000 for up to 100,000 people. The fifth and final tier requires a $25,000 donation from up to 400,000 people. Everyone participating in the program is vaccinated within the first two months of vaccine availability. The bigger the donation, the further toward the front one goes.

All told, this raises $50 billion for the cause by vaccinating just 511,000 people.”

Levine goes on to say he doesn’t “pretend to know the optimal ways to spend this money,” but knows there are a lot of places it can help, ultimately arguing “it can help get past the multitude of barriers to vaccine access, big and small, that exist in the U.S.”

Levine is a bold, clear-headed thinker, but damn, are we really ready to throw the towel in on the (dis)United States being a tax payer funded democracy that aspires to greater equality? Is social mobility so anemic we’re ready to officially acknowledge we’re more of an aristocracy than a democracy?  Are people ready to drive on the Jeff Bezos Highway and live in Apple Incorporated affordable housing?

I’m definitely not ready to throw in the towel on our longstanding democratic ideals, but I can’t disagree with Levine about this:

“My proposal is neither conservative or liberal — or it can be portrayed as both. For conservatives, it is a free-market solution: People and businesses are making a choice on how they use their money. Liberals can view it as a wealth tax: People who can afford it pay for early access to a vaccine and, in doing so, pay for others to get vaccinated. I believe that the concept is inherently nonpolitical. Instead it is a solutions-oriented approach to concerns that have been raised about U.S. vaccination programs.”

A One Act Play

The setting: Jeff Bezos’s and MacKenzie Scott’s Medina, WA kitchen. After working together to make Kraft macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, they serve themselves, grab two cans of Mountain Dew, and sit down at their formica dinner table. It’s one of their last dinners together as a married couple. A few days following this meal, they decide to pull the plug on their marriage. 

Jeff: Mac and cheese with dogs never gets old. [laughs uncontrollably] 

MacKenzie: No, it doesn’t. [inner voice. . . but your laugh has sure started to] 

Jeff: What did you do today?

MacKenzie: I spent most of it journaling. Which helped me realize I don’t want to help you turn Amazon into the world’s retail store anymore. I think $182 billion is enough money. I want to make the world a better place through writing and giving my share of our money away.

[All the while, Jeff texts Lauren Sanchez under the table.]

MacKenzie: [Softly, sadly, and with a deep sense of resignation.] Did you hear me?

Jeff: Yes, you said you want to help me make Amazon into the world’s retail store. 

[MacKenzie stares at Jeff in silence]

Jeff: [Head in his lap.] Can you pass the applesauce?