Billionaire wealth built on exploitation of the people

Art by Anna Opalsky/Falconer

Through its rose-colored glasses, America wrongfully sees billionaires as the heroes of capitalism, poster children of the United States and self-made geniuses. In reality, billionaires like Elon Musk and Sam Bankman-Fried are just crooks in disguise that steal from the average American. Society must face the reality that billionaires are not gods and symbols of hope that should be idolized, but rather thieves that should be shunned for stealing the jobs, right to work in a safe environment and money directly from the pockets of the average American.

When it comes to Elon Musk, the CEO of Twitter and Tesla, and Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO and founder of FTX, mainstream media may as well be their public relations team. The New York Times celebrated Musk as a visionary who “makes innovative products that work well [and] delight customers…” while Forbes fawned over Bankman-Fried as the “do-gooder” of crypto world with a “Robin Hood-like philosophy” three months before FTX collapsed.

As a critic and obsessive user of Twitter, Musk offered to buy the platform for a whopping $44 billion, thinking he could fix its “mistakes.” Though one would expect billionaires to be savvy investors making calculated decisions like a chess grandmaster, Musk is most definitely not. Not only did he spend $44 billion on a company only worth $13.316 billion, but Twitter had also been bleeding money for the past six years. Realizing his blunder too late, Musk tried pulling out of the deal, but Twitter threatened him with lawsuits to make sure Musk followed through with his promises. It did not take long for the 15th most internationally used social network to descend into absolute anarchy.

According to the Network Contagion Research Institute, an organization dedicated to identifying and forecasting cyber-social threats, within hours of Musk’s Twitter takeover, the usage of the n-word increased by 500%. As an attempt to recuperate from losing billions following the purchase of Twitter, Musk monetized verification on Twitter and fired nearly half of the staff.

It did not take long for fake accounts imitating companies like insulin giant, Eli Lilly, to wreak havoc. One tweet from a verified account that looked like Eli Lilly’s real company account was all it took for the pharmaceutical giant to lose $15 billion in one day, scaring other pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer to stop advertising on Twitter.

One thing Musk excels at though, is creating terrible working conditions for his employees. Following investigations by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), from 2014 to 2018, Tesla’s plant in Fremont, California, has racked up 54 OSHA violations — when a company or employee ignores safety hazards. In contrast, BMW, Ford and General Motors have a combined total of only 18 OSHA violations in the same time period.

Bankman-Fried is yet another example of fanatical belief in a tech guru gone wrong. For many, cryptocurrency is seen as the golden ticket out of a life of mediocrity. Countless rags to riches stories flood social media feeds, crazing over the insane investment returns on Bitcoin.

In 2018, Bankman-Fried, through his trading firm Alameda Research, made as much as $25 million a day by first buying Bitcoin in the U.S. and selling it in Japan where it was valued at 10% higher, according to Reuters. Using the funds he acquired from the trades, Bankman-Fried founded his cryptocurrency FTX in 2019, which quickly garnered the interest of investors. Countless investors believed FTX to be the next big thing. However, their hopes, dreams and savings had already dissipated by late 2019 when Bankman-Fried started secretly siphoning billions of dollars from his customers’ accounts to Alameda Research, who used the money to fund their own trading.

Two years later, when it was uncovered that $451 million was withdrawn from FTX in one week alone, mass hysteria spread amongst investors, causing a bank run when shareholders tried withdrawing their money all at once. Since Alameda Research had recklessly used their money, all transactions were frozen solid. At the end of the day, the biggest losers of the disaster were not the trading firms with hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead, it was the small, independent investors who trusted the company all just for Bankman-Fried to say, “I’m sorry, I should’ve been better.”

Billionaires do not accumulate net worths higher than the GDP of entire countries by doing a net good for society. These are individuals whose paychecks are based upon how many customers, workers and loopholes they can exploit.

If America does not recognize that billionaires are the byproduct of a broken system immediately, the average American will suffocate under the weight of billionaires’ relentless greed.

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