Wednesday, December 8

Has the pandemic created a new era for the super-rich? | Actuality | ICON


“The media constantly covers the comings and goings of the super-rich.  Branson, Bezos and Musk are not three innovators but three absurdly rich kids with absurdly expensive toys, ”Sam Pizzigati, researcher specializing in inequality.
“The media constantly covers the comings and goings of the super-rich. Branson, Bezos and Musk are not three innovators but three absurdly rich kids with absurdly expensive toys, ”Sam Pizzigati, researcher specializing in inequality.

It is turning out to be a good year for Juan Andrade, a Galician who lives in Nice and is dedicated to selling boats. Preferably large. Since December, sales in your company, Super Yachts Monaco, they go like a shot. They calculate that profits have increased by 40% compared to 2019. “People want to spend a quiet summer, and there is nothing calmer than a private boat. There you have an easily controllable environment ”, explains Andrade. “The clients have been launched. The industry is breaking sales records on all ship sizes and within the super-luxury segment as well. “

Anyone who works selling things to the super-rich can report similar experiences. Trayor Lesnock, founder of Platinum Luxury Auctions, an auction house that offers mega properties to the highest bidder, recently counted on Financial Times taking the private islands out of his hands. “Having an island has always been considered desirable and cool, but it was often seen as a fantasy dream. With the covid, it has begun to be seen in a much more practical way, since everyone looks for private spaces in which they can keep their distance from others ”, he declared. Although there are Scandinavian islets that are sold for the price of an apartment on the second line of the beach in Spain, where the real movement is taking place is from 25 million dollars, a figure that gives access, for example, to a piece of land near the Great Australian Barrier Reef.

The super-rich, it seems, have become especially wayward. An estimated 500 new people became billionaires during the pandemic. It is Forbes who takes care of updating the list every year. By his calculations, most of those new mega-rich are Chinese, about 290. Take, for example, 45-year-old Chen Zhiping, founder of a vaping add-on company. Among the Americans on the list are household names such as Kim Kardashian, director and producer Tyler Perry, and Apple CEO Tim Cook. There are not only new billionaires; those who already were have also made disproportionate amounts of money. The most notorious case is that of Jeff Bezos. In April 2021, the founder of Amazon was $ 72 billion richer than in January 2020. Bezos could have given a check for 88,000 euros to each of his 876,000 employees around the world and still have remained the same. rich than before the pandemic.

“The industry is breaking sales records for all ship sizes.  Within the super-luxury segment, too ”, Juan Andrade, owner of the boat company Super Yachts Monaco.
“The industry is breaking sales records for all ship sizes. Within the super-luxury segment, too ”, Juan Andrade, owner of the boat company Super Yachts Monaco.

He did not send those checks, but what he did do at the beginning of July is to leave his position in the company he founded 27 years ago, whose management he leaves in the hands of his right arm Andy Jassy. With all that free time, Bezos will focus, among other things, on his own space race. On July 20, the Amazon founder spent 11 minutes in space aboard one of his company’s ships. Blue Origin, accompanied by three other crew members, including his brother Mark. Bezos launched Blue Origin in 2000, just six years after launching Amazon (when it was still primarily a large online bookstore and not an omnipotent global superpower), and his plans are to send Earthlings to live and work in orbital space colonies that would enter the world. operation when our planet reaches the final phase of the energy crisis largely caused by companies like Amazon. That is what distinguishes billionaires from standard millionaires, after all: they offer you the problem and the solution.

Richard Branson is also involved in the space race, who decided to advance his own spacewalk so that Bezos was second. On July 11, he tested one of the planes of his company Virgin Intergalactic, spent a moment of weightlessness outside the Earth and returned. On his return he declared that he had fulfilled a dream and added a democratizing veneer to his excursion. “My mission was to make the dream of space travel a reality for my grandchildren, for their grandchildren, for many people who live today, for everyone,” he said.

Both Bezos, who congratulated him on Twitter, and the third space billionaire in contention, Elon Musk, who even came to New Mexico to support Branson, tried to convey that they took it with sportsmanship. Musk’s company, SpaceX, has already brought astronauts to the space station and is now working on building a spacecraft that will take humans to the moon and to Mars. That we earthlings are spending the second pandemic summer, marked by a dizzying economic depression, watching how the super-rich compete with each other to hide in their remote private islands or directly to flee the planet that they have contributed to worsen says a lot about the moment we live in.

The Canadian writer and activist Linda McQuaig co-authored with economist Niel Brooks almost a decade ago a book entitled The super millionaire problem. How the super-rich have taken over the world and how we can get it back (Captain Swing). Everything that they described and diagnosed there, the growing danger of this new oligarchy, has only been pronounced since its publication. “Billionaires have not only expanded their power over the world’s resources, but increasingly dominate the global economy and politics. In many ways it can be said that they are the most serious threat we face, blocking the possibility of dealing with the existential danger posed by climate change and environmental destruction. We could face these dangers if it weren’t for their active interference, ”he denounces.

To alleviate the growing power of the super-rich, Brooks and McQuaig propose a combination of regulatory mechanisms that prevent them from influencing legislation and many, but many taxes. Let’s not forget that, according to a ProPublica leak last June, Bezos did not pay a single penny of federal taxes between 2007 and 2011, and dozens of other billionaires, including Elon Musk, Warren Buffet and Michael Bloomerg, contributed ridiculous amounts to the coffers. American public.

Sam Pizzigati, researcher at the Institute for Policy Studies and editor of Inequality.org, dedicated to the analysis and denunciation of inequality, wrote The rich do not always win (Captain Swing), to defend that it is still possible to do something to reduce the power of the wealthiest in the world, and that in fact a century, when the plutocracy of the so-called golden age was ended. In 1963, the super-rich paid 91% taxes in the United States. Do you think Biden can do to Bezos and company what Franklin Roosevelt did to the Rockefellers and other plutocrats of the time? “In 1932, Roosevelt did not mention that proposal against the concentration of wealth in his campaign, nor did Biden in 2020. But both quickly realized that either they caused discomfort to the great fortunes or they would see their administrations fall like the first. victims. Biden has announced a tax plan that would put us on that path. And, if he listens to the progressives and makes it a focus of his 2022 campaign, the next Congress could have a majority large enough to impose those measures, “he predicts for ICON.

If more or less everyone who is not a billionaire or a fanatic liberal agrees that, at the very least, accumulating so much wealth and sharing it so little is ugly, why do we keep reading the latest occurrences of Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Amancio Ortega? The media treats today’s famous super-rich almost like the cast of The Avengers, each with their attributes and their superpowers. Zuckerberg’s, for example, is not bad at all: the ability to get information about almost the entire planet and use it to make money and change elections.

“Most of us know from personal experience that the rich are not smarter than the rest,” reflects Pizzigati. “Mere luck can make you rich. Exploiting others makes you rich. Receiving a large inheritance makes you rich. Most of the media, however, still treat wealth as proof that someone is bright and brave. These types of media tirelessly cover the comings and goings of the super-rich and treat each step they take as a fundamental act. The current fixation on the space race between Branson, Bezos and Musk illustrates this phenomenon perfectly. When in reality we don’t have three innovators but three absurdly rich kids with absurdly expensive toys. “

David Vidal, creator of the Master in Literary Journalism at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​sees in the construction of this story the trace of a long literary tradition. “We have, on the one hand, people of high dignity who star in the canon from Greco-Latin literature until realism appeared in the 19th century, and on the other, the rich as a villain, present in comics and popular cinema. In Zuckerberg I find these two archetypes in equal parts ”. Nor does he believe that journalism, busy covering the lives of the super-rich and their crazy gadgets, is fulfilling its supposed function of questioning power. “The tendency of generalist journalism is to build a positive account of these characters. They are the heroes of the system. Those who have achieved excellence ”. The truth is that the space race of Branson, Bezos and Musk, for example, has also been greeted with a mixture of exasperation and laughter. Because that is 99.9% of us: memes about gentlemen buying rockets.

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