Inequality.org

Robert Reich explains why $100 billion is an unfathomable amount of money

Former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich released a new video on Tuesday in which he broke down the mind-bending reality of just how much $100,000,000,000 dollars actually is.

"The word 'billionaire' didn’t even exist until 1844. Fifty years later, we got 'multibillionaire.' And for the next 127 years, that was enough. But in 2020, while the working class faced near-record unemployment during the pandemic, the wealthiest Americans faced a different problem. Some of them had gotten so rich, there was no longer a word to describe just how rich they were," Reich began. "That’s why today I want to bring you one of the newest additions to the English language: 'centibillionaires,' people with $100 billion or more."

For scale, Reich compared the ultra-exclusive 12-digit-wealth club to that of their less-fortunate 10 and 11-digit counterparts. The math is truly staggering:

What’s it like being one of history’s first centibillionaires? It’s hard to even imagine, but let’s try it by comparing them to the less fortunate. By which I mean just … regular … billionaires.

If you’re a regular billionaire, you can afford a private jet. If you’re a centibillionaire, you can afford a brand-new Gulfstream jet every single day for more than ten years.

Not sure what you'd do with a new Gulfstream every day — maybe give one to each of your closest 4,000 friends?

A regular billionaire would struggle to buy their own professional baseball team. Sad, I know. But a centibillionaire could easily buy every team in the entire major league.

If you’re a regular billionaire, you can donate to your alma mater and get your name on a building. If you’re a centibillionaire, you could single-handedly give every teacher in America an $8,000 raise for 5 straight years.

Of course, that’s not all you could do. $100 billion is enough to wipe out all the medical debt in the United States. Or provide permanent shelter for every homeless person in America. Or buy Covid-19 vaccines for the entire world.

Basically what I’m saying is, $100 billion is a lot of money. More than two and a half million times what the average American worker makes in a year.

Reich then picked apart why – and how – so much money can accumulate in the coffers of such a minuscule fraction of people. And the answer is not that those few have "two and a half million times" the work ethic than basically everyone else:

As it turns out, the system that the super-rich themselves carefully crafted and lobbied for, benefits... the rich! And while you may not own more private jets than your average centibillionaire, you probably do pay a higher tax rate. And thanks to legal loopholes and the Trump tax cuts, when the wealthiest Americans die, they get to pass on most of their centibillions to their kids tax-free.

Reich said that Americans must come together to choose the kind of country they want to have:

We’ve got two choices as a country. We can tax the richest Americans fairly, and invest that money in ways that benefit all of us.
Or we can keep doing what we’re doing, and watch as centibillionaires get even richer while the rest of us get left behind. If you think wealth and power are too concentrated in the hands of a privileged few now, just imagine what a few more years of trickle-down nonsense will bring.

Reich warned that what comes next is even more unsettling:

Of course, it won’t be all bad. At least 'trillionaire' is easy to say.

Watch below:

Here’s What It’s Like Having $100 Billion vs. $1 Billion | Robert Reichwww.youtube.com

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If this huge pay difference simply reflected a “marketplace” judgment on the sheer talent of America’s top execs, top U.S. corporations would be totally dominating global markets, outselling their foreign rivals by wide margins in everything from cars to computers.

U.S. corporations are doing no such thing, of course. In one key global market sector after another, foreign corporations that pay their CEOs much less than U.S. CEOs are running neck and neck with their U.S. counterparts — and often leading the pack.

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Labor leaders like Tim Roache, the general secretary of one of the UK’s largest unions, are welcoming that pledge. Top execs in the UK, Roache observes, made more in the first three days of 2018 than average British workers will make over the course of the entire year.

“Does anyone really think these fat cats,” asks Roache, “deserve 100 times more than the hard-working people who prop up their business empires?”

A question even more worth asking in the US of A.

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