Billionaires can end COVID-19


Macie Kuyper and Grace Gaul

   $3,715. That’s how much Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, makes per second. 

   Bezos spent 0.13% of his net worth on the most expensive house ever built. Along with other billionaires, he could easily pay for everyone else’s salaries during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep everyone home and safe. Yet, he continues to spend his money on a world record house that cost millions of dollars. Billionaires could be doing a lot more to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they are choosing to let people die, to let the country tumble into economic devastation because they know they’ll be fine. 

   Around 226 people per hour, or one person every 16 seconds, dies from COVID-19. In the time it takes to watch a 90-minute soccer game, 340 people die.

   While millions risk their lives and livelihoods as first responders and front line workers, these billionaires can sit comfortably in their million-dollar houses and watch their net worth rise. The total net worth of America’s billionaires rose 15% during just two months in 2020. 

   To put it in perspective, Bezos makes $222,884 a minute. If he spent $1 million every day, it would take him 516 years to blow his fortune. He makes more money in a minute than 2/3 of the US population makes in a year. Bezos along with every other billionaire in America has a combined wealth of about $9.1 trillion. This number is so large it’s even hard to fathom, yet the number keeps increasing as the world goes through a deadly pandemic. 

   There are 614 billionaires in the United States alone. Of the wealthiest 170 American billionaires, 34 have seen their total net worth increase by tens of millions of dollars during 2020.

   While the richest 1% of people earn money during the pandemic, 189 million people received a stimulus check as government support along with about 40 million people who have lost their jobs. As the wealthiest people in the world get richer, everyone else has to suffer the real consequences of living through a pandemic. 

   Bezos is the richest man in history, yet he has only donated a small amount, an amount so small that the money hardly helps. Bezos has donated $125 million which is only equivalent to $85 for the average American.

   Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have personally donated $58 million through their Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, the personal philanthropic organization to which they have pledged 99% of their wealth. The $58 million donation includes $25 million to the Gates Foundation for COVID-19 research. 

   To the average middle-class American, Zuckerberg’s personal giving for Coronavirus relief is the equivalent of only $84. 

   Elon Musk donated 1,000 ventilators towards COVID-19 relief that his own company could make, so he did not have to spend any money himself. He has also made no public cash donations. Musk has been vocal on Twitter, first dismissing the response “The Coronavirus panic is dumb” then complaining about the stay-at-home orders “Give people their freedom back!” and “FREE AMERICA NOW.” 

   As one of the richest people in the world, he truly has the power to make a difference and save lives. The pandemic may seem “dumb” to Musk, but that’s because it hasn’t affected him personally unlike the rest of the world. 

   The top 50 richest people in America have a combined net worth of $2 trillion. If that money was divided and split up equally among all 50 people each of the 50 people would have 40 billion dollars. In reality, this would not make sense because they all have different amounts of money but for the sake of figuring out the exact math splitting the $2 trillion equally was necessary.

   The total income of all minimum wage workers in America for a month is around $16.5 billion. So to pay for everyone’s income that makes minimum wage and keep a large percentage of our community home and safe, each billionaire would only have to pay 0.825% of their net worth. For Jeff Bezos alone, it would only be about 9% of his net worth to pay the entire $16.5 billion himself. 

   Donating such a small percentage of their net worth seems almost dumb not to do. These people could be heroes, they could save thousands of lives, yet they won’t donate such a small percent? 

   A Washington Post survey of the nation’s 50 wealthiest people and families, who have a collective net worth of about $1.6 trillion, found that their publicly announced donations toward COVID-19 relief efforts amount to about $1 billion, which is less than .1% of their vast personal wealth.

   It may seem like a lot of money, but in reality, it’s not. Many people believe that these people worked for their money and they should choose how to spend it. But 2020 is not a normal year. Thousands of people are dying every day, and many billionaires are just watching it happen. 

   On the other hand, there are some billionaires that have donated to COVID relief. For example, Bill and Melinda Gates have donated $150 million to fund research for a vaccine. The Gates have donated 12% of their net worth.

   Another billionaire who has donated more than others is Mackenzie Scott, Bezos’ ex-wife. Scott says she has given away more than $4 billion in the last four months towards COVID-19 relief. Melissa Berman, CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, told Bloomberg that Scott’s nearly $6 billion in donations this year “has to be one of the biggest annual distributions by a living individual” to working charities.

   Only a few of the hundreds of billionaires in America have donated a reasonable portion of their income. That shows how selfish many people in America are being. Thousands of people are dying every day and the people actually being affected usually don’t have any money or power to do something about it. 

   Researchers have estimated that it would take around $8 billion to fund research and develop treatments for all, nearly ending the pandemic. The money would be spent on various efforts to slow the spread of the virus, nearly ending it. 

   In a class survey that asked “If you were a billionaire would you pay for nearly everyone’s salary for two months to keep everyone home and safe?”, 73% of the respondents stated that if they were a billionaire they would help bring an end to COVID.

   “You see all the poverty and lack of supplies, materials during these hard times but you choose to do nothing about it…it makes no sense and it’s selfish,” a West Ottawa student stated. It’s a common belief that people deserve to do whatever they want with the money they earn, but the world is going through a pandemic that has taken the lives of 298,000 Americans. A small percent of anyone’s income could really make a difference and billionaires have the most power out of anyone to do this, and yet not enough of them have. 

   It’s not possible to keep everyone home; the essential workers would still have to go to work, but it is proven that an effective shutdown is the best way to end the pandemic. Over the past few months, many states have issued shutdowns to try and end the crisis but the numbers are still skyrocketing. It’s not possible to keep everyone home for a month, but it is possible to keep the majority of people home. This could only happen if they were getting paid, and that’s when the billionaires come into play. 

  If Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates, and other billionaires donated enough money to pay for everyone’s salary for one month, people could stay home instead of risking the lives of themselves and their loved ones. An effective shutdown and a vaccine are the most effective ways to prevent people from dying.

   This may seem like too much to ask for, but to pay for all minimum wage workers’ salaries for one month wouldn’t even make a dent in these billionaires’ incomes. The top 50 wealthiest people do not have to be the only ones to do this. There are many people with enough money that could pitch in and help end COVID-19. 

   The amount of money that these billionaires have donated may seem like a lot to the average American but in reality, they’ve only donated a small portion of their wealth. These people have so much money and they have the power to help end this horrible crisis yet they are allowing innocent people to die. 

   It’s mind-boggling that someone could have this much money and still choose to keep it to themselves after seeing the devastation taking place around the country; how many mansions and yachts does one really need?