Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of approximately $131 billion, but he can’t seem to find anywhere on Earth to spend it.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Bezos was asked if he had plans on how he wanted to invest the approximately $131 billion in wealth he’s accumulated through his highly priced Amazon stock ($6 billion of which was recently generated in just 20 minutes).
While it’s hard to comprehend just how much money $131 billion is, a good way to quantify that would be to point out that Jeff Bezos — who is 54 years old — could hypothetically spend $13 million every single day for 365 days a year, and still have over $7 billion to his name by the time he reached 80 despite never taking another paycheck again as long as he lived.
But in a surprise to many, Bezos plans to launch all of his money into space.
“The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” Bezos told Business Insider’s Mathias Döpfner, Axel Springer, and Alyson Shontell. “I am going to use my financial lottery winnings from Amazon to fund that.”
This is a departure from a tweet Bezos sent in June of last year, in which he solicited ideas for philanthropy from his 551,000+ followers:
Because Bezos apparently doesn’t apparently see anything worthwhile on planet Earth to spend his money on, it seems prudent to assemble a list of just a few things that could use a few million or billion of the Amazon founders’ dollars (all of these scenarios will allow Bezos to keep $1 billion for himself).
1. Pay Amazon employees a living wage
If Bezos were to hypothetically carve up $130 billion in net worth, he could feasibly increase the annual pay of all 566,000 of his employees by nearly $23,000 for a decade (amounting to an additional $442.30 per week for each worker). The workers could certainly use it — according to The Intercept, one in three Amazon workers in Arizona make so little they qualify for food stamps, while one in 10 workers in both Pennsylvania and Ohio qualify for food stamps.
2. Reimburse taxpayers for Amazon’s 2017 tax refund (or just pay Amazon’s taxes)
Even though Amazon didn’t pay any federal taxes on $5.4 billion in profit last year (which would amount to $1.89 billion in tax revenue assuming a 35 percent tax rate), the very least Jeff Bezos could do would be to reimburse working class Americans who paid their taxes by paying back the $137 million tax rebate Amazon got through crafty accounting.
As Grit Post reported last month, most of Amazon’s tax breaks were made possible by Jeff Bezos being able to buy Amazon stock at a severely discounted price, despite the actual market price of the stock currently trading at roughly $1,600 per share (also known as the executive stock option tax break). However much Bezos paid for his shares, Amazon was able to deduct the full market price of the shares on its taxes, resulting in its $137 million rebate.
Yes, you read that right — working-class taxpayers are subsidizing the astronomical growth of Bezos’ net worth.
3. Provide single-payer healthcare for the entire state of Vermont for 30 years
Vermont entertained the idea of single-payer healthcare by expanding the public health insurance system for state employees to all Vermonters, although former Governor Peter Shumlin, a moderate Democrat, eventually killed the proposal, fearing its estimated $4.3 billion cost. However, $4.3 billion is nothing to Bezos, who could use $130 billion of his net worth to fund the program at that cost for more than three decades.
4. Provide 216,000+ new affordable housing units in San Francisco
San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the country, and nonprofit resource Guidestar estimates there are between 7,000 and 15,000 homeless people in the city limits, making it the highest per-capita homeless rate in the country. There are roughly 35,000 homeless people in the San Francisco Bay Area altogether, according to Guidestar.
Using 1950 Mission Street’s cost of $600,000 per affordable housing unit, Bezos could devote $130 billion to building more than 216,000 affordable housing units in the city, building not only enough homes to house all of the Bay Area’ homeless, but to also ease the housing crisis in the Bay Area (the cheapest single-family home on the market in San Francisco is currently selling for almost $650,000).
5. Treat 7.4 million patients with stage II breast cancer
Breast cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer today, and treatment can cost up to $17,396 for a patient with stage II breast cancer, according to registered nurse Roxanne Nelson. And because there are roughly 3.1 million patients with a history of breast cancer in the United States as of January 2018 (including women who have already undergone treatment), this means that Jeff Bezos could not only pay for treatment of every breast cancer patient in the United States, but could pay for treatment of millions of other patients around the world.
6. Treat 2.8 million patients with lung cancer
Lung cancer is currently the #1 deadliest form of cancer in America today, claiming more than 158,000 deaths in 2016 alone. A 2005 study from a lung cancer journal found that treatment can cost up to $46,000, including initial treatment costs of $11,500 per patient. The American Lung Association estimates that at some point in their lives, 415,000 Americans alive today have been diagnosed with lung cancer.
This means that, even after setting aside $1 billion for himself, Jeff Bezos could treat over 2.8 million lung cancer cases, making sure every American gets treatment, along with over 2 million others around the world.
7. Build his own goddamn Amazon headquarters
A CNN report from last October stated that Amazon’s new HQ2 — which it’s currently asking cities to fund through various tax gimmicks — would cost $5 billion to construct. Assuming a share price of $1,572, Jeff Bezos could sell 3.18 million shares of Amazon stock (he currently owns 78.83 million shares, meaning he would only sell 4 percent of his total shares) and easily fund HQ2 on his own.
8. Build 5.6 million tiny homes and end homelessness in the United States
Tiny homes have proven a popular way of addressing homelessness, with Madison, Wisconsin’s occupy movement constructing them to help shelter the city’s homeless population. In 2014, Ryan Mitchell of the Tiny House Conference told Forbes that a tiny home can be built with roughly $23,000. If Jeff Bezos wanted to, he could devote $130 billion to constructing 5.6 million tiny homes. This could easily house the approximately 500,000 homeless people in the United States along with 5 million other homeless people around the world.
9. Fully fund federal affordable housing programs for more than 2 years
In addition to ending homelessness in the United States, Jeff Bezos could, if he wanted to, help the federal government provide affordable housing for impoverished Americans. With the U.S. government spending approximately $46 billion per year on means-tested affordable housing programs and tax expenditures, Bezos could hypothetically devote his wealth (minus $1 billion for himself) to 2.8 years of funding federal affordable housing programs that roughly 5 million Americans depend on.
10. Provide 4-year, full-ride scholarships for 1.28 million public university students
According to data from the College Board, the average cost of one year of tuition, housing, books, and other costs at a public university in the 2017-2018 academic year is approximately $25,290 per year. If Bezos were to divide up his wealth while still keeping $1 billion for himself, that would amount to roughly 1.28 million four-year scholarships for public university students.
11. Create over 1 million full-time, $15/hour jobs for 4 years
One policy Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has proposed is guaranteed full employment for all U.S. citizens, in which the federal government would put millions of people to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. Sanders proposes that everyone working these jobs gets paid at least $15/hour, with the same health, vacation, and retirement benefits afforded to current federal employees. While there’s currently no cost-benefit analysis of Sanders’ plan, it’s worth noting that if he wanted to, Bezos could create a version of this program with his wealth alone.
Assuming someone making $15/hour works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year, their salary would amount to $31,200 before taxes, amounting to $124,800 over a four-year period. This means Bezos could dedicate $130 billion toward giving 1.04 million Americans a guaranteed $15/hour job for four years all by himself, while still being a billionaire.
Carl Gibson is co-publisher of Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.