By Quentin Choy
July 20, 2021
Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson are all competing to be “Space’s billionaire.” While many news outlets and media companies are hyping this up as the “second great space race,” I feel like most normal people don’t care all that much.
Problems on Earth like climate change, stagnant wages, and monopolies create a general distrust of billionaires like Jeff Bezos. People tune out excessive media coverage of billionaires like Bezos, Musk, and Branson touring space while they know that more pressing issues are facing their daily lives.
People from all across the political spectrum are indifferent or hostile toward this so-called second great space race. Fox News‘ coverage of the launch has about 45% dislikes from its viewers on YouTube. About 9% of ABC News‘ coverage received dislikes. 26% of viewers watching CNN‘s coverage disliked the video.
Most dislikes came from the Fox News viewers who are likely more conservative than viewers of CNN or ABC News.
I think this comes from many conservative viewers of Fox News believing that the rest of mainstream media is elitist and opposes the average working-class American.
While I think all three of these news outlets don’t support the working-class, Fox News does its best to appear like it cares through its cultural conservatism which many working-class workers identify with.
Aside from their distrust in CNN and ABC News, many working-class Americans distrust Jeff Bezos himself. They know that he doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes and that working conditions for Amazon are bad.
This awareness coupled with his seemingly out-of-touch space ventures results in distrust from the working-class left and right. Blogger Jill Dennison covers her thoughts on “billionaires playing Buzz Lightyear” in her post which you can read here.
Issue #1: Climate Change
Several problems already exist on Earth. Some can be solved by these billionaires, but some are caused by them as well.
The first issue that can be solved or at least addressed, is the issue of climate change.
Wildfires and droughts ravage the western United States. Floods in Germany are wiping out towns and killing dozens of people. Many people question why billionaires spend their time trying to leave Earth rather than trying to save it.
Some conservatives like Charles C.W. Cooke at the National Review argue that billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson owe Americans nothing.
“‘Why don’t they fix the problems on earth?’ Sure, they could do that, if they want to. But if they don’t? That’s fine, too. The thing is — and this seems to be the part that far too many people seem to struggle with — it’s their money. It’s not your money; it’s theirs. And you don’t get a say in how they spend it.”From the National Review’s “Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson Owe You Nothing“
While many conservative working-class Americans likely disagree with Cooke’s take on billionaire space travel, Jeff Bezos holds responsibility for the next issue that he could solve.
Issue #2: Stagnant Wages and Poor Working Conditions
In the United States, workers face financial hardship and stagnant, low minimum wages. The federal minimum wage is currently just $7.25/hour.
Workers for Amazon have informed several media outlets about being forced to skip bathroom breaks skip lunch breaks, and even having to pee in water bottles.
According to VICE News, an Amazon trainer in South Bend, Indiana tells female-employees to invest in “She-Wees,” a portable female urinal. Reports from workers say that they can be fired if caught peeing in public.
“I am a trainer for my [delivery company] and I tell all the new girls to invest in a she wee or you will not make it at this job.”Amazon trainer in South Bend, Indiana
Aside from poor working conditions in Bezos’ company, workers across the United States cannot afford necessities off of most minimum wages.
A recent study found that full-time minimum-wage earners can’t afford a fair market rent on a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.
“In its signature Out of Reach report released this week, the National Low Income Housing Coalition determined that a full-time hourly worker would need to earn $24.90 an hour, more than three times the $7.25 federal minimum wage, in order to afford a $1,295-a-month rental home.”National Low Income Housing Coalition 2021 Study
With the NLIHC report saying that the lowest wage needed (West Virginia) is $14.83, and the highest one needed (California) is $39.03 to make rent, the fight for a $15 minimum wage is quite the tame compromise by workers.
However, such legislation is still viewed as “radical” by many lawmakers in Washington D.C.
Issue #3: Paying $0 in Taxes
According to a report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Amazon paid $0 in federal income taxes in 2019.
Most average Americans pay more in taxes than Jeff Bezos, whose company makes billions of dollars each year.
“This isn’t the first year that the cyber-retailing giant has avoided federal taxes. Last year, the company paid no federal corporate income taxes on $5.6 billion in U.S. income.”From ITEP’s “Amazon in Its Prime: Doubles Profits, Pays $0 in Federal Income Taxes“
Assistant Speaker of the House Katherine Clark (D-MA) tweeted that billionaires ought to pay their fair share.
While perceived “radicals” like Bernie Sanders have been calling for fair taxation of the rich for years, these space tours have really put things into perspective for many people.
Taxing the rich is not some sort of communist agenda. It simply means to tax wealthy Americans like Jeff Bezos at fair rates. People debate what that fair rate should be, but $0 in taxes for a man worth far more than the average American is not that rate.
Over 170,000 people signed a petition to “not allow Jeff Bezos to return to Earth.” Imagine how disliked you must be from working people to have tens of thousands sign a petition banishing you from Earth!
Overall, these billionaire space adventures are a waste of time and money. I don’t see how it affects normal working-class Americans in any way. The United States already reached the moon and beyond through NASA.
If these men want to fly around in their space toys, that’s fine, but they should expect resentment from normal people who work for low wages and pay more in taxes.
While the media continues to interview and obsess people like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, most Americans will not remember them as space pioneers.
Rather, they will be remembered as what Jill Dennison calls “three men whose combined wealth could raise the entire planet out of poverty and have made their wealth from the blood, sweat and tears of the average Joe.”Follow WeTheCommoners Blog on WordPress.com