Justice and Advocacy

Breaking the Taboo

We’ve alienated each other from the conversation about fiscal policy, corporate policy, and shamed ourselves into silence. Either you’re a temporarily embarrassed rich person in the job and car and house and clothes of a poor person, or you’re too rich to ever disclose what you make, and feel guilty for amassing wealth that’s just pennies to the few people doing most of modern exploitation.

So, in the spirit of breaking taboos, I will reveal how much money I made last year: $12,000. Without unreportable charity, it would have been completely impossible for me to have kept a roof over my head during that entire time.

You and I will never be rich. Unless you’re in the 0.01%, but hey, there’s only a 0.01% chance that you’re in the 0.01%, right? You will always make exactly amount of money you need, by statistical chance. Never more, never less. Because inflation means every step forward keeps you exactly where you are. Let’s say you want to be earning $70k by 2023. That’s a valid goal for anyone to aim for five years in the future. My friend Matthew used an inflation calculator[1] to determine that $70,000 will have the spending power of $61,869 in 2023. That’s what a gridlocked economy looks like.

What are our chances of getting incredibly wealthy, and making the ranks of billionaires? The number of billionaires has doubled in the past seven years…from 1,011 in 2010[2] to 2,043 in 2017.[3] Interestingly, none of that wealth was spread from the original billionaires to the others. Each of the billionaires who’ve joined the list have apparently built their “own” (I’d say stolen) wealth. This is demonstrated in the fact that the amount of money they all have has also doubled.

So, just to guess: if this trend continues (double the number of billionaires and double the wealth between them in the next seven years), there will be somewhere around an even 4,000 billionaires in the world by 2025. That means that compared to everyone else in the world, you’ve got a 0.00005714288979593702% chance of becoming a billionaire in the next seven years. That number is so astronomical, it looks like it’s straight out of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

And yet I will guarantee you that people who are stuck in the mentality that the American Dream is real, that it’s not false hope to believe in those kinds of chances, will say one of two things in response. It’s either “well, I don’t need to be a billionaire,” or “you can still work really hard and get there.”

Yet I have numerous friends who nobly claim that they will someday get rich, so that they can join the ranks of philanthropic heroes. I urge you, please, consider the fallaciousness of this dream. You and I need to stop pretending that we are rich, that we’ll someday be rich, or that we identify with the rich. Unless of course, you agree with Congress members in thinking that $450,000/year is “middle class,”[4] in which case you are equally dissociative toward facts.

[1] https://smartasset.com/investing/inflation-calculator#LmeRPSsb5q

[2] https://www.forbes.com/2010/03/09/worlds-richest-people-slim-gates-buffett-billionaires-2010-intro.html#4d128eb141ab

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2017/03/20/forbes-2017-billionaires-list-meet-the-richest-people-on-the-planet/#2a71d4fa62ff

[4] http://www.newsweek.com/tax-cuts-republicans-middle-class-trump-701094