Economy Julia Conley Politics

Sanders Denounces ‘Morally Obscene’ Wealth as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Steps Down

The Vermont senator renewed his bid to "tax the billionaires."
Jeff Bezos
Outgoing: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

By Julia Conley / Common Dreams

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday marked Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s last day as CEO of the company by reiterating his call for a wealth tax and denouncing the fortune amassed by the world’s richest person as “morally obscene.”

“Jeff Bezos makes some $2,537 every second of the day . . . nearly three times more in one second than the median worker in this country makes in an entire week,” said Sanders.

Bezos has an estimated net worth of over $200 billion, while the average U.S. household has a net worth of $748,000 according to the Federal Reserve. U.S. Census Bureau data shows Bezos’s wealth is 739,489 times the median net worth of Americans who have reached retirement age.

Bezos will stay on as Amazon’s executive chairman while focusing on philanthropic work as well as Blue Origin, his private space venture through which he is scheduled to join three crew members on the company’s first suborbital flight later this month.

Last month, Sanders vehemently objected to a Senate bill amendment that could award $10 billion in additional funding to Blue Origin, expressing concern that Bezos and SpaceX founder Elon Musk “deciding that they are going to take control over our space industry.”

“Does he really need $10 billion from Congress for space exploration?” Sanders asked at the time.

Bezos’ wealth has grown by more than 12,000% in the last 23 years, since he was first named one of the country’s richest people, with a net worth of $1.6 billion, in 1998. 

Between October 2019 and October 2020, Bezos became $80 billion richer even as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis forced millions of Americans to turn to food banks for the first time, left tens of millions unemployed, and displaced thousands of people due to uneven state-level protections from eviction.

Sanders introduced legislation last August to tax the pandemic wealth gains of 467 billionaires, including Bezos, by 60%—a measure which would provide the federal government with more than $420 billion in revenue.

“We can continue to allow the very rich to get much richer while everyone else gets poorer and poorer,” Sanders said at the time. “Or we can tax the winnings of a handful of billionaires made during the pandemic to improve the health and well-being of tens of millions of Americans.”

17 comments

  1. The average U.S. household has a net worth of $748,000? … as in, edging close to a
    million? Really? Are you sure this isn’t a terrible typo that should have been caught
    by even a half-blind editor?

    1. Robert Scheer is a hero of mine. I followed him when he wrote
      for the LA Times, then Truthdig, and now the Scheerpost.
      Did you find something offense about the question regarding the average
      net worth of a US family? Should I have admitted what was probably a catty though
      unintended swipe at a Scheerpost editor, but really, is the question itself not worth asking?

    2. OK, so yeah, you should not have been so catty … because the link to the source of the fact was embedded in the sentence.

      (Here: https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/average-american-net-worth)

      Here’s the deal, mathwise: Average is not the same as median.

      The average includes all those gazillionaires and so grossly inflates the number. So, yes, the average of three-quarters of million is believable, and (accidentally) captures the approximate mid-range of the upper-upper-“middle-class” (really, the rich people who are not ultra-rich), who are longtime homeowners, have pensions, etc. Here in California, if you can liquidate that net work, you can buy a bungalow in the desert and eke out a very modest retirement budget.

      But the MEDIAN net worth is $121,700, and most of that is based on the value of the house that, depending on where you live, you can’t sell for enough to make money off moving anywhere cheaper. So, if your share of the house is now worth 100K, your 401K etc is at 40K, your car worth 15K and you have 15K in credit card debts and 20K in student loans, you come about to a net worth of $120K if I did the arithmatic right…

      Happy?

      1. Nice hypothetical, but You didn’t address his misunderstanding.

        ‘average’ is what is called the ‘mean’ in statistics. To calculate it you take everyone in the population, add up all of their values (in this case money) and divide by the number of members in the sample.

        Median, you line them all up from least money to most money and pick the one in the middle. (or if there are an even number you go halfway between the two in the middle)

        If you have ten people, nine have one dollar each and one has 91 dollars, the average for the group is 10 dollars, but the median is one dollar.

      2. That makes me happy. Citing the mean is frequently a good way of subtly lying with numbers, whereas the median is truer to “average” experience because the extremes were lopped off.

  2. It’s too bad that in the end Bernie cowed down to Biden and the Corporate Democrats….It’s difficult to take hm seriously now.

    1. He had his chances….WICE….First time he gave in and backed Right-Wing Democrat Hillary Clinton….Next, equally Right, Joe Biden….If he truly believed in the principles he espoused, he would have fought harder…..Authentic Leftists lost respect for him after that.

    1. Has Joe Biden repealed the Trump tax cuts yet? No.

      Joe Biden: “First thing I’d do is repeal those Trump tax cuts …

  3. The moral obscenity is misunderstanding guys like Bernie Sanders – mollifying people so that the war can continue without interference. Languish in misery and hate the rich people? No thanks. The people who pay the most under the invisble hand of market forces are completely invisible: “The average U.S. household has a net worth of $748,000”

  4. Philanthropic work??? Yes, just like Bill Gates. Power corrupts, and the “electoral system” of the USA enables the continuing worsening inequality and election of corporate stooges.

  5. Bernie Sanders can say all sorts of cool things but he still remains in the hard-core capitalist Democrat party, always voting for permanent war, with Liz Warren saying she’s a capitalist to the bone and Nancy Pelo$i saying ‘We’re Capitalists, Deal With It’.

    Sanders is there to attract more voters to Dems. If any of then really cared they would start a third party.

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