The American Billionaire Myth

Walter Rhein

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Americans have always been fascinated by wealth. People who amass huge fortunes are instantly given celebrity status no matter what unscrupulous means they used to enrich themselves. There is a long history of idolization for criminals and outlaws in our country. Billy the Kid enjoys iconic status even though he was nothing more than a common murderer. Billionaires are no different.

The weird thing about billionaire adulation is the willingness of working class individuals to defend the rich. “Well, they got that money by working hard,” they say, even though they don’t have any evidence to support the claim. All they know is that the billionaire has money so they assume it was earned.

Why would anyone make that assumption?

You can much more easily acquire a fortune by stealing money than you can by earning it. Bonnie and Clyde were bank robbers, again they are American icons, they stole everything they possessed.

However, if you are critical of billionaires, bought-off politicians will accuse you of engaging in class warfare. “That’s class warfare!” they spout angrily. However, in actual practice, the only class warfare going on is the one the rich wage against the poor.

As programmed as working class individuals are to defend the rich, they are equally programmed to attack the poor. “Well, those people are poor because they are lazy, or they use drugs, or they are just plain stupid.”

Just like there are a lot of ways to get rich, there are a lot of ways to become poor. Oppression, exploitation, having your money, pension, or social security fund stolen from you all result in poverty. Yet, nobody claims it is “Class warfare,” when the poor are mercilessly attacked.

The bottom line is that it is no more true to say that billionaires earned their money than it is to say that poor people live in poverty because of their own laziness. Both of those concepts are false.

People say that the United States is the land of opportunity. That only in the US can you be born in one class and, through diligence and labor, move up to another. There is truth to that statement. However, every year a greater percentage of the new wealth that is created goes to a small ruling class.

What that means is bit by bit, your potential for upward social mobility is being eroded. This potential is being eroded at the rate of a percentage point or so a year. At that rate it won’t take very long to achieve a society in which nobody can move up any longer.

We might be there already.

Billionaires aren’t smarter than us, they aren’t harder working, they aren’t morally better. They’re just egotistical maniacs who have acquired enough money to eradicate poverty, suffering, hardship and they choose not to. It’s odd that so many people aspire to be billionaires, when in practice, they are so blatantly in conflict with the morals most of us claim to hold of utmost importance.

So, the next time someone defends a billionaire, ask them why they aren’t defending the impoverished instead? Class warfare does exist in the US, and it’s the helpless, exploited, and impoverished people who most often endure unprovoked attacks from the billionaire class. Don’t perpetuate the billionaire myth. They aren’t paying you, in fact, if you further their ends, you’re working for free to further enrich them.

Make no mistake, they’ll never reward you. If rewarding people who deserved it was in their nature, they wouldn’t be billionaires.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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