Stop Telling Bruce Wayne To Spend His Money On Social Programs
We asked readers to pick out something that bugs them about Batman stories. Plenty of complaints came in about Batman's voice, Batman's eyeliner, and Batman's nipples (with only Craig Z., a man of culture, complaining that the Bat nipples went away). Another answer came up again and again. "Batman could fight more crime and do more good by using his billions to make Gotham a better place, instead of just beating up everyone that goes nuts there," said Rich D.
"Wayne has seemingly infinite money and could literally end poverty," said Mike H. As Jenevieve P.D. put it, "He spends millions on bat toys to beat up poor people, when he could use his vast wealth to make everyone in Gotham City better." Matt M. angled his take on taxes: "Bruce Wayne could prevent far more crime paying taxes that support social services than beating up mentally ill people with military prototype armaments."
Dedicated comic fans have spent time considering that idea, and the reality is a little different from what a lot of people think.
A sum that's an absurd fortune for one man proves surprisingly small when spent on the wider public. Respected nerds estimate Bruce Wayne's net worth at around $10 billion. Gotham is based on New York City (it's a little bigger actually), a city with an annual budget of $100 billion. So if Wayne could convert his entire fortune into cash—something heirs to corporations can't actually do—and spent it all on Gotham, he'd boost city spending by ... well, by some, but not by all that much, and not for long.
Of course, he might have more luck by taking just a portion of his wealth and spending it more narrowly on the programs he considers most important. Except, that's what Bruce Wayne already does.
That's a large part of his character. His "cover story" as a society man has him funding social causes, constantly. One Twitter account, TheBat_Family, has been collecting hundreds of examples of this. Wayne builds mental health facilities, city infrastructure, and housing for the homeless. He funds legal services, youth services, medical care, child care, education, and emergency relief. He sponsors immigrants and refugees, artists and ex-cons. He also hires current criminals to give them an alternative to crime, backs other people's businesses, and pays for property damage caused by supervillains—and by Batman.
You don't need to read comics to learn of Wayne's philanthropy. Even in the movies, we see the Wayne family building cheap public transportation, Bruce backing honorable politicians, and the Wayne Foundation funding orphanages (till it runs out of money). Unfortunately, good works can only go so far when your city's targeted by multiple secret societies and an ancient curse.
However, maybe those readers of ours weren't actually suggesting how to fix the movies but instead hinting at what real-life billionaires should be doing. It's a bit like the common complaint that, instead of building robots, Tony Stark should work at sharing his arc energy with the world. That complaint persists, even though, in the last Spider-Man movie, we learned he already did that. They just never devoted a whole film to the process because it went off without a hitch.
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Top image: Warner Bros.