Here are some numbers you should keep in mind the next time you hear a billionaire assert that their business cannot afford to pay a $15 minimum wage. If we take one of the $170 billion dollars that is the current projected value of Walton family’s Walmart estate and project it over the course of one year, we get the following numbers. Keep in mind that these numbers are evaluated based on the course of every hour of every day in a 365 day year. If you are looking for a math challenge for your children, have them revise this to a forty hour work week! For now, here’s what one billion dollars looks like in relation to a 24/7 financial year.
— $115,000 for each of the 8,760 hours in a year.
–$1,900 for each of the 525,600 minutes in a year.
–$32 for each of the 31,536,000 seconds in a year.
Another way of trying to imagine this quantity of money is to think about how long it would take to pay out $1,000,000,000 if $1 was issued every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If someone offered you $1 billion dollars on those terms you might not take it because it would take almost 32 years to pay out!
The US has around 640 billionaires whose combined wealth is around $3.4 trillion dollars. Thirty years ago, there were 66 billionaires with an estimated wealth of $118.8 billion. The 400 richest Americans have as much combined wealth as 210,000,000 Americans. Yet Republicans decry the very modest Democratic proposals to share the burden of the current crisis as “socialist” policies. The fact is that some time ago the rich declared a stealth war on the poor in this country. The main weapon of the rich is the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
The Covid crisis has revealed the absolute dysfunction of our political system. In front of an audience of members of his Bedminster Golf Club, who pay around $350,000 in annual fees, he falsely claimed that he had signed a “bill” that would suspend payments to Medicare and Social Security. The clear purpose of this alleged economic relief to the public is to later claim that these two institutions for the poor and elderly are not economically viable. The executive order (not a “bill”) was a convoluted effort to appear to be doing something about the economic problems created by his administration’s catastrophic failure to address the crisis.
In the meantime, Wall Street is generally doing well. In the minds of most Republicans, the right people are dying: the elderly and people of color. The death of Herman Cain hardly received a Hunger Games tribute because, well, the emperor has no clothes. “We salute your ignorance and your arrogance.”
The Citizens United decision made the theologically heretical assertion that corporations are people and that money is speech. In effect, it amended the first three words of the preamble to the Constitution to “We the corporations. . . .” We are seeing the class warfare declared by the rich revealed on a daily basis in the forms of secret state police intimidation, voter disenfranchisement, compulsory labor, bailouts for the wealthy, and evictions for the poor.
We are not one step closer to being out of the Covid crisis than we were in March. Other, more democratic countries in Europe and Asia, have brought the pandemic under control. Those countries did not have to listen to leaders and the general public assert how masks were limits on personal freedom. Those countries had an orderly health care system ready to engage a logical testing and tracing regime that was well-explained to an understanding and intelligent public. Those parts of the world that have been influenced most by the Enlightenment Ideals encoded in our founding documents now look upon the United States with pity and dread. The people who claim to assert the need to make America great again have no clue as to the basis for American greatness in the first place.
A note of warning to those privileged people who feel that now is the time to assert class conflict. The standing lesson of history is that it is very difficult to win a war against people with little to lose.