America has driven more than 650 species to extinction. And it should do the same to billionaires.

Why? Because there are only five ways to become one, and they’re all bad for free-market capitalism:

1. Exploit a Monopoly.

Jamie Dimon is worth $2 billion today… but not because he succeeded in the “free market.” In 2008, the government bailed out his bank JPMorgan and other giant Wall Street banks, keeping them off the endangered species list.

This government “insurance policy” scored these struggling Mom-and-Pop megabanks an estimated $34 billion a year.

But doesn’t entrepreneur Jeff Bezos deserve his billions for building Amazon?

No, because he also built a monopoly that’s been charged by the federal government and 17 states for inflating prices, overcharging sellers, and stifling competition like a predator in the wild.

With better anti-monopoly enforcement, Bezos would be worth closer to his fair-market value.

2. Exploit Inside Information

Steven A. Cohen, worth roughly $20 billion headed a hedge fund charged by the Justice Department with insider trading “on a scale without known precedent.” Another innovator!

Taming insider trading would level the investing field between the C Suite and Main Street.

3. Buy Off Politicians

That’s a great way to become a billionaire! The Koch family and Koch Industries saved roughly $1 billion a year from the Trump tax cut they and allies spent $20 million lobbying for. What a return on investment!

If we had tougher lobbying laws, political corruption would go extinct.

4. Defraud Investors

Adam Neumann conned investors out of hundreds of millions for WeWork, an office-sharing startup. WeWork didn’t make a nickel of profit, but Neumann still funded his extravagant lifestyle, including a $60 million private jet. Not exactly “sharing.”

Elizabeth Holmes was convicted of fraud for her blood-testing company, Theranos. So was Sam Bankman-Fried of crypto-exchange FTX. Remember a supposed billionaire named Donald Trump? He was also found to have committed fraud.

Presumably, if we had tougher anti-fraud laws, more would be caught and there’d be fewer billionaires to preserve.

5. Get Money From Rich Relatives

About 60 percent of all wealth in America today is inherited.

That’s because loopholes in U.S. tax law —lobbied for by the wealthy — allow rich families to avoid taxes on assets they inherit. And the estate tax has been so defanged that fewer than 0.2 percent of estates have paid it in recent years.

Tax reform would disrupt the circle of life for the rich, stopping them from automatically becoming billionaires at their birth, or someone else’s death.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing against big rewards for entrepreneurs and inventors. But do today’s entrepreneurs really need billions of dollars? Couldn’t they survive on a measly hundred million?

Because they’re now using those billions to erode American institutions. They spent fortunes bringing Supreme Court justices with them into the wild.They treated news organizations and social media platforms like prey, and they turned their relationships with politicians into patronage troughs.

This has created an America where fewer than ever can become millionaires (or even thousandaires) through hard work and actual innovation.

If capitalism were working properly, billionaires would have gone the way of the dodo.




Should Billionaires Exist? | Robert Reich

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Robert Reich is a professor at Berkeley and was secretary of labor under Bill Clinton. You can find his writing at https://robertreich.substack.com/.