Billionaires Should Not Exist

Elaina Martin, Editor-in-Chief

   When asked if billionaires should exist, Senator Bernie Sanders said they were “a moral and economic outrage” and that it is terrible that the three richest Americans control as much wealth as half the country ( And unless one is a billionaire, it’s hard not to agree.

   Arguably, no one is worth even one billion dollars, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars. As stated by one commentator, People only become billionaires because successive governments have organized our economic system, from taxes to property law to rights at work, to benefit the rich — often at the expense of the poor” ( Similarly to billionaires, homelessness and poverty are both the products of an unfair system that benefits those who have already reaped more than their fair share from society. Such is succinctly stated by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her former political advisor in a slogan: “every billionaire is a policy failure” (

   And so they are. According to the New York Times, “By one estimate, the failure of wealthy Americans to pay their fair share forces everyone else to pay an extra 15 percent in taxes. At the same time, almost one-fifth of American families with children report that they can’t afford to give their kids enough food” ( When the underfunded Internal Revenue Service [IRS] can’t keep the rich accountable, it’s the middle and working class Americans who pick up the slack, because, as everyone knows, taxes are for the poor. The consequences of wealthy tax avoidance in impoverished communities are starkly evident. To put this into perspective, “…if the IRS were able to collect the unpaid taxes that the top one percent owe — absent any increases in top tax rates or new system of wealth taxation — enough revenue would be generated to wipe out student debt for most people in this country” as of 2020 (

   The theory of ideal capitalism argues that through hard work and smart choices, any person should be able to make him or herself a fortune, or at the very least be able to support his or her family. As one humanitarian organization stated, in the United States, this isn’t the case. Super rich CEOs depress wages and profit off of poorly compensating the workers who make their companies possible ( Investment Officer Ray Dalio said, “Capitalism basically is not working for the majority of people… because the ‘trickle-down’ process of having money at the top trickle down to workers and others by improving their earnings and creditworthiness is not working; the system of making capitalism work well for most people is broken” ( What’s even worse is that excessive wealth is able to function as a positive feedback loop — the more money rich people have, the more they can invest it, and therefore can generate even more wealth.

   It’s inarguable that superfluous wealth is precisely that: superfluous. Because in the end, what can’t one buy with six hundred million dollars that one could buy with two hundred billion? The wealth just sits in bursting bank accounts and the wealthy watch from their ivory towers as the majority of the world continues to suffer and struggle. But when faced with policy change that would lead to a higher wealth tax, many millionaires and billionaires balk at the idea and fight against it, selfishly protecting their excessive wealth even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many states don’t have the money to keep up with the demands of the pandemic (

   According to the BBC, Tesla CEO Elon Musk (who is now the second richest man in the world) even recently moved to Texas to avoid high California taxes — just another snub to ordinary Americans, many of whom pay more taxes per year than alleged billionaire President Donald Trump ( Billionaires are so far removed from the rest of society, from the normal world, that they’ve lost much of their humanity. They develop a superiority complex and they don’t believe that they owe anything to benefit the greater society as a whole other than their highly profitable businesses.

   Arguments favoring billionaires express the importance for the wealthy to take it upon themselves to benefit society through donations and philanthropy. Take Billionaire Amazon Shareholder MacKenzie Scott, for instance. She has recently made headlines for the highly generous, no-strings-attached donations she has made to Black and female-led nonprofits, giving to groups that are constantly underserved, according to the New York Times. Each gift can be used in any way the organization chooses, which is shocking considering that most billionaire’s philanthropic ventures involve tight control of funds and strict regulations on how they can be used (

   While Scott’s contributions are commendable, big philanthropy is hardly the solution to excessive wealth, but rather a way for billionaires to feel less sheepish about their fortunes and a way to control society even more than they already do. As argued by one New York Times columnist, many billionaires approach giving in the same way they do business — with intent to shift a system in their favor by way of giving. Moreover, the majority of billionaires don’t even involve themselves in philanthropic work — people like Billionaire Businessmen Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are exceptions, not the rule (

   This criticism of philanthropy isn’t new: when American business magnate and the world’s first billionaire John D. Rockefeller announced his plans to start a charity foundation, former President Theodore Roosevelt argued against it, stating that “no amount of charities in spending such fortunes can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them” (

   Yet, there are ways to make the system more equitable, and a wealth tax is a great way to start. National Public Radio reported that even a moderate wealth tax as low as three percent of assets minus debt, such as what Senator Elizabeth Warren was proposing during her presidential campaign, has the ability to generate the income the government needs to instate better programs to ensure the financial well being of the people who really need it (

   Sanders was right: billionaires should not exist. They represent the failings of US fiscal policy and the devastating ability of the super rich to abuse our capitalist system and they must be held accountable for their actions. Furthermore, charity work can’t fix wage disparity or create better healthcare systems, but reforming the American capitalist system to better support those who really need it has the ability to do massive amounts of good.