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.”

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