Jeff Bezos Projected to Become the World’s First Trillionaire by 2026

We must ask ourselves why no one person has made a trillion dollars before and whether anyone even should.


Audrey Hill

Nayu Shimo ’20 believes that Jeff Bezos could only earn a trillion dollars through the use of labor systems that value profits over worker safety.

Jeff Bezos makes about $78.5 billion a year. For reference, that is about 1.72 million times more than the average annual income in the United States at about $45,552 (Business Insider), and 59,470 times more than the average annual income of the top one percent in the United States, at about $1.32 million (CNBC). 

The CEO of Amazon and the richest man in the world, with a net worth of $158.2 billion as of June 18, 2020, is now on track to becoming the world’s first trillionaire by 2026, according to a prediction by Comparisun. Even if this calculation turns out to be an overshot, it is a good indication of the egregious amount of wealth that Jeff Bezos has amassed.

 There are probably hundreds of comparisons one could make for how much money Bezos makes in a second, a day, a month, a year, but ultimately we just need to understand that it is more money than any one person could ever need or even spend in their lifetime. The amount of money that Bezos has is enough to end homelessness in the United States, save millions from famine in Yemen, and still have over 100 billion dollars left over (with millions more coming in every hour). 

Which raises the question: is it even ethical for one person to have that much money? Of course, we are made to believe that our capitalist society rewards those who work the hardest, and Jeff Bezos is the capitalist poster child – a self made entrepreneur who reaped incredible amounts of money from his business, one which has practically become essential to many people’s daily lives. Richard Lam ’20 believes that yes, it is absolutely ethical and reasonable. “I think that we need rich people like Bezos, because it’s rich people like Bezos who allow the modern capitalist society to function,” Lam said. 

But with the rapidly rising wealth gap between upper-income and lower and middle-income families, and 43 million Americans struggling with most, if not all, of their lives over finances, while 135 million Americans struggling with at least some aspect of their financial lives (Forbes), is it fair to say that those struggling are simply not working hard enough? People in lower economic classes have significantly fewer opportunities for social mobility than those in higher economic classes. To put it more bluntly, the poor stay poor while the rich get richer (the richest of them all even more so). 

And at what point does personal gain through exploitation of workers through a corrupt economic and legal system outweigh merit? “I don’t think that there’s such a thing as an ‘ethical trillionaire,’” Nayu Shimo ’20 said. “The creation of our modern economic system was dependent on slavery, dispossession, colonialism, and violence. Climbing up the corporate money ladder means to continue to utilize these oppressive systems and processes, and ultimately prioritizing profit over people.”

Amazon employees work in strenuous conditions, constantly moving packages, unpacking dangerous products, walking potential miles a day throughout warehouses. “Amazon employees don’t feel comfortable going to the bathroom during their shifts, and Amazon actively cracks down on strikes,” Emma Basch ’20 said. For all of the difficult work and commitment to their jobs that they are expected to show, Amazon employees face harsh disciplinary action if they go over their allotted unpaid leave time, experience little leniency for work-related injuries, and simply do not get paid enough. Even after Amazon raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour in late 2018, permanent employees were displeased because the bonuses that they counted on during surge periods (November and December) were significantly decreased, while Amazon (and by extension, Jeff Bezos) reaped the same level of profit.

It is this type of treatment and unfair distribution of wages that has made Bezos his billions. “No billionaire or trillionaire has ever ethically become that wealthy,” Audrey Hill ’20 said. “They did it by exploiting their workers, and through paying themselves several dozen times what they pay their workers.”

Jeff Bezos may have created an incredible business that branches into many aspects of daily life, from the delivery of practically any product one could imagine to supermarkets to monopolizing web services, but he did not fully earn his wealth. While many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck through working multiple jobs, Bezos makes more in a minute than a middle-income earning American makes in a year. And he does so by utilizing a corrupt system that keeps those very underpaid Americans in the same financial situations with minimal mobility for years. “[Jeff Bezos] didn’t earn a trillion dollars,” Basch said. “He extracted it from overworked, mistreated employees.”

Is it even ethical for one person to have that much money?