One billion is one thousand millions, which means Jeff Bezos has one hundred thousand millions of dollars. Bezos, who is 53, could spend $10 million every single day for the rest of his life while taking in no additional income, and by age 80, would still be a billionaire.
If you bundled $100 bills and stacked them on pallets, Bezos’ net worth in stacked and bundled $100 bills would require 1000 standard 48″ by 40″ pallets. Even with 80 percent space utilization and double-stacked pallets, Spartan Logistics’ warehouse space calculator estimates that Bezos would need more than a mile and a half of square footage to store his total net worth in hundred-dollar bills.
Bezos’ net worth compared to the GDP of other countries is astounding. According to data compiled by the International Monetary Fund in April of this year, Bezos now has more wealth to his name than the GDPs of nine African countries — Burkina Faso, Mauritius, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Madagascar, Chad, Rwanda, and Benin — combined. Bezos’ net worth is also larger than the GDP of developed states and territories like Puerto Rico ($99 billion), Ecuador ($97.3 billion), and Ukraine ($95.9 billion).
Even before 2017 Black Friday sales on Amazon catapulted Bezos’ net worth into the 12-figure range, he was already amassing significant power through his wealth. In 2013, Bezos bought the Washington Post, which, according to Alexa, is one of the top 50 most popular websites in the United States with almost 100 million unique visitors in September alone and nearly 1 billion page views. Bezos also now owns one of the largest grocery chains in the U.S., after his purchase of Whole Foods Market, which accounted for more than $15.7 billion in sales last year and posted a higher profit margin than Walmart.
The scary part of Bezos’ new ascendancy to the top of the world’s richest is in how much political power could theoretically be bought with the kind of wealth he now controls. The 2016 presidential election, for instance, totaled $2.65 billion in spending from both sides, and another $4.2 billion when accounting for election spending on all other federal campaigns for U.S. House and Senate.
Bezos could theoretically use his net worth to purchase the next 16 federal election cycles outright — for all candidates in all positions. This means that every member of Congress, every U.S. Senator, and every president between now and 2048 could be financed by Jeff Bezos alone.
With such a tremendous amount of wealth to his name, it would be easy to think that Jeff Bezos is the last person who needs additional subsidies from U.S. taxpayers. However, that’s exactly what would happen under President Trump’s tax plan.
An analysis of the Republican tax bill by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that those in the richest top 0.1 percent of Americans (Bezos’ class) would see their after-tax income increase by roughly 10 percent if the bill were to become law. Senate Republicans’ version of the tax bill would simultaneously increase taxes for approximately 13.8 million working-class Americans to pay for more handouts to billionaires like Bezos.
A 1934 radio address by U.S. Senator Huey Long (D-Louisiana) addressed the problem of wealth inequality by alluding to generational inheritance. Sen. Long advocated for capping wealth at the height of the Great Depression, when millions of Americans were struggling to provide food and shelter for their families while a few wealthy oligarchs accumulated vast riches to their names.
“We do not propose to say that there shall be no rich men. We do not ask to divide the wealth. We only propose that, when one man gets more than he and his children and children’s children can spend or use in their lifetimes, that then we shall say that such person has his share,” Long said.
In early November, the Institute for Policy Studies found that Bezos, along with Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, had more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans combined. Simultaneously, when accounting for student loan, medical, and credit card debt, approximately 20 percent of American households actually have a negative net worth. And last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that 93 percent of U.S. counties never recovered from the Great Recession.
The United States may have the largest economy in the world in terms of GDP, but we shouldn’t be able to call ourselves the wealthiest nation in the world when 6.5 million American children don’t have enough to eat while one American controls enough wealth to feed every hungry person in the world for three years in a row. However, this is the inevitable result of capitalism.
A system that is built on endless growth is unsustainable and destined to lead to a winner-take-all society, where a few have everything while the rest have nothing. If left unchecked, capitalism will be the death of democratic institutions and America will become no different than Russia, where oligarchs control every facet of government and the people are mere subjects.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for 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.