Can we all just get along, and stop the beat down of Jeff Bezos?
An outpouring of enmity and envy has greeted the Amazon founder’s extravagant (and personally risky) trip to space. It is an ugly illustration of where we have come as a country in the past few years, politically and morally.
The flight rocketed Bezos and three crewmates up 66.6 miles high for four minutes of weightlessness. Bezos has invested upward of $5 billion since 2000, and the feat is a bold breakthrough in private space travel and a feat of daring innovation and ingenuity.
It was the well-earned realization of a boyhood dream.
On Twitter, a pouty tribe saw a crass stunt by a spoiled man-child in a comically phallic rocket ship. They decried it as a symbol of capitalism’s exploitation of workers; an insult to the people who crusade to save us from climate change; and an offense to the employees of Amazon. Fodder for every liberal talking their own book.
''Who else thinks ending poverty on earth is more important than billionaire space tourism?'' tweeted Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., bashed Bezos and pushed for a first-ever wealth tax on billionaires, and higher corporate taxes, and more IRS agents.
Fame hound AOC, wide-eyed and clueless, tweeted with the requisite solemnity: ''Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this — with lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance ...''
As if they were slaves blocked from finding a better job. Marx would have loved this.
Once we hailed the United States of America as the Land of Opportunity. Now a lot of our leaders, media and social justice warriors live in the Land of Envy. They try to stoke outrage by decrying wealth inequality, systemic racism, and white supremacy, which now is applied to anything that is white majority. Such as America itself.
Bezos, as if hoping to pre-empt the assault, unveiled two stunning donations of $100 million apiece: one for CNN commentator Van Jones and his Dream Corps , which aims to help ex-convicts and minorities land jobs in tech and green energy; and one for José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, which feeds people after natural disasters and other crises.
Bezos makes for an unlikely target. He owns The Washington Post, a cornerstone of the liberal media. He came from nothing and grew up in the same city where I was born and raised, Hialeah, Florida, amid Cuban immigrants and Castro refugees.
By the time Jeff was 4, his mom had divorced and married Cuban immigrant Miguel ''Mike'' Bezos, who adopted his stepson and gave him the surname that would become famous.
One night in 2002, when I was with Forbes, I hosted an invitation-only dinner for 25 people at a tech conference in Phoenix. Jeff Bezos crashed it and sat down at my table for the next two hours. He was worth $1.5 billion at the time and ranked #293 on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people.
We talked about business and growing up in Hialeah. He had the most joyful, buoyant laugh I ever have heard.
He was approachable and engaging, and genuinely interested in what other people had to say. And excited about everything he was doing.
Two decades later, Bezos’s wealth, tied to his stake in the company he founded, has soared with the price of Amazon stock. AMZN went public in 1998 at $18 and today trades above $3,300 a share. That is up almost 200-fold in a time when the S&P 500 index rose only five-fold. Bezos’ wealth is up roughly the same 200-fold.
The envious haters can clutch at their pearls and curse the idea that any one man could be worth more than $200 billion. It is a ridiculous amount of wealth, but who the heck are they to make that call? They should give the guy a break. It’s his money.
Today Amazon is worth $1.7 TRILLION. Jeff Bezos owns 10% of it; this means he created some $1.5 trillion in wealth for other people. Those people being the owners of Amazon stock. Plus, more than five million small businesses that sell on Amazon.
And 1.3 million employees of Amazon, which starts them at $15 an hour, twice the federal minimum wage. And millions of customers who are able to buy high-quality goods at super-cheap prices, delivered free to their doors in a day — or even less time.
As for all the critics of this rich man’s space race: what the heck have you created?
Dennis Kneale is a writer and media strategist in New York, after six years as anchor at CNBC and Fox Business Network and 25 years at The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. He helped write "The Trump Century: How Our President Changed the Course of History," by Lou Dobbs, published in September 2020 by HarperCollins. Read Dennis Kneale's reports — More Here.
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