In this day and age, ultra-wealthy people like Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey seemingly come under fire for some considerable controversy/human rights abuse on an almost weekly basis. With all of this drama, you'd think that people would eventually see through the ruse that these are infallible saviors of humanity, and more just grifting fraudsters making infinite money while everyone else suffers.
But the myth that the mega-rich improve things still trudges on, despite it being based on massive misinformation and general bias ...
You've probably heard this one before, "billionaires earned their money because they ultimately improve the lives of everyone." It's a tried and true myth that crops up whenever anyone has even the slightest critique of a select few hoarding the vast majority of the wealth. The truth is, however, that this is just plain old false.
Some people might think, "Well, Amazon and Uber bring so much innovation to the economy," which isn't the full story here being told. On average, innovation, in general, is actually quite rare, expensive, and labor-intensive to produce. The exact opposite is true: often, rich people are very terrible at bringing actual innovation to the market.
Think of every terrible startup idea like Juicero or Google Stadia and just how much "innovation" these products bring, which is precisely zero. Yet, people still buy into this narrative full stop. The enormous tax cuts that the wealthy receive also tend to negatively affect innovation, stifling growth and creating carbon-copy clones that only exist to be some shittier version of pre-existing things.
In general, billionaires are far closer to parasites, with most of them making their vast fortunes not from innovation but from political influence and connections. This also negatively affects economic growth, as wealth hoarding tends to ... you know, not flow evenly to the workers responsible for putting your precious Tesla or iPhone on the market.
Next up on the list is the myth that wealthy people are simply benevolent individuals who merely bless our planet with their big genius and presence. Elon is our next Leonardo/Iron Man/Jesus/whatever, and he's going to punch global warming in the stupid face and get us to Mars.
The reality is a lot less cool and a lot more depressing. Most of the time, billionaires exert massive carbon footprints on the planet from overproduction and mass pollution that destroys ecosystems all the time. The same junk that we call innovation and the same miserable tech products we always talk about as great are doing severe harm to our planet on the reg.
In general, the government refuses to even get billionaires to reduce their carbon footprints, and many of them aggressively lobby against progressive eco-friendly legislation, leading to our atmosphere and plant life slowly being degraded into nothingness.
Hell, even companies like Tesla or Google, who strive for eco-green initiatives, are actually doing a lot more harm than good and getting away with it via carbon credits trading. Carbon credits are basically permits that companies can buy that lets them emit an allotment of greenhouse gases for a price. Basically, big companies like Tesla are getting rich off screwing our planet over right as we speak, and nobody is doing anything about it. On the bright side, when we're all dead from climate change, maybe it'll all finally stop.
The ultra-wealthy are often known for two things: being well, wealthy, and philanthropy. Frequently, billionaires are praised for donating loads of money to charity for "the greater good." If there's any real issue with the unfathomable amount of wealth one person like Bill Gates may have, then the counter-argument "Most of it goes to charity anyway!" gets rolled out and shuts down all further discourse.
Yet, if you look at where the money is going most of the time, this is actually a lot more heinous than you think. You see, billionaires often use charities as a kind of tax haven front to launder money to gain political favor among the elites. For example, Mark Zuckerberg has donated millions to charity between the years 2012 and 2017 and even put forth a mission statement to donate 99% of his wealth ... eventually -- funny how it's always "eventually" and never comes.
On top of that, Zuckerberg's own charity basically invests in other corporations, rather than actual charity initiatives, which all comes from how the Zuckerberg-Chan foundation operates. It technically isn't a charity, more so just a company that can technically divert funds however it wants to. But with pithy statements and pledges like "we will give 99% of our stock value away," it's not hard to see why it's incredibly misleading.
On top of that, huge donors usually also gain control of a charity when pledging funds, and donors don't even need to send them to benefit from things like tax benefits and good PR. Donors can hold funds "indefinitely," all while reaping the benefits of the actions they didn't actually do. This happens enough times that it has become an increasingly common way for billionaires to boost social clout without actually committing to the actual effort.
So this one is also pretty common among those that worship Bezos' shiny bald head and whatever his $X00 billion net worth is at the time of you reading this. There's this idea that rich people are just better than everyone else and are simply wealthy because they worked harder. Billionaires are sharks in an ocean of tuna fish, and they're just exercising their rightful place in the social hierarchy.
Except not really. The actual reality of this is that billionaires exploit constantly. The wealthy by and large commit wage theft on unfathomable levels every year, as a study published by the RAND Corporation shows that over $50 trillion has been taken from the working class over a couple of decades.
Nobody is calling any of this out because it's just an assumed implication that if one has wealth, they surely must have worked for it. This assumption doesn't work because the wealth generated from billionaires often comes from very lucrative connections and deep pockets. Trump famously said he got his start with a "small loan of a million dollars," which, news flash, isn't actually work.
Same with Jeff Bezos. He didn't start from the bottom; he started by way of a $250,000 loan from his parents to invest in Amazon after having failed the first time, by the way. A lot of billionaires got their wealth in almost the exact same way. So when they're not pilfering from their own employees, they're basically just sitting around using their own immense privilege in very unearned ways. But we guess Elon loves dank memes, so that gives him a free pass.
The last ironclad defense of wealthy people is that they're not actually a blight on resources on the economy, but one of the greatest enhancements to it in existence through the form of job creation. After all, Amazon has tens of thousands of employees, all of which wouldn't have had any work if Jeff Bezos didn't graciously create the company. And because of his brilliance, thousands of people can now put food on the table and pay bills.
Except, this isn't actually how job creation works. For starters, most of the jobs created by wealthy entrepreneurs aren't actually sustainable. Many coast on initial funding to ease through losses but eventually crumble, destroying the same exact job they purported to create. The same entrepreneurs also are just as likely to shred up existing jobs than create them. Take Uber, for example, which is basically killing a lot of jobs for taxi drivers and, in some cases, killing them very literally.
Another thing to note is that an overwhelming amount of startup jobs also simply empower pre-existing work instead of creating accessible jobs for working-class people. A report done by Stanford University shows that about 72% of startup jobs are pretty much just firms that already existed and that an overwhelming amount of this "new" labor is going to people starting with well-off established incomes.
In other words, job creation is more so job empowerment, giving high-income earners even higher incomes while denying and destroying job access for the working-class people at every turn. Most of it is even tied up in the gig economy, which is incredibly turbulent and not at all secure, as workers tend not to have the same protections traditional jobs might give. On top of that, trickle-down economics just flat out doesn't work, according to a recent study, which shows that most of the wealth over decades hasn't trickled down but remained concentrated among the wealthy, just like high-income work.
So the next time you see some dingus exalting the likes of billionaires with some pseudo-intellectual notion that they do things for the greater good, just ask them, "For which group?"
Top image: Christos S, Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock