Billions of people all over the world struggle daily to make ends meet. There are various factors of life that just keep getting more expensive. Real estate costs are rising as the demand for housing worldwide increases, leaving many homeless. Healthcare is extraordinarily expensive and often times not accessible to those who need it most. Student loan debt has collectively reached over $1 trillion. Worst of all, these expenses lead to individuals and households racking up credit card debt in order to keep up.
Meanwhile, the nation’s richest continues to accumulate wealth at a record pace. It’s no secret that income inequality is staggering. For reference, Jeff Bezos now has a net worth of $134.9 billion and Kylie Jenner makes the average US salary in two hours. While we’re not experts in wealth redistribution, it seems rather upsetting that the world’s richest hold a combined net worth of $5.4 trillion while the rest of society struggles to get by. While a generous few — including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet — are regular donors, there is a lot left in that combined net worth that could be tapped into. We may find that solving some of the world’s biggest problems is chump change for the top 0.1 percent.
Money can’t solve everything, but where money is the problem, money is typically the solution. When we look at things like rising debt and low minimum wage, more capital is the necessary solution. Since average citizens don’t have the financial power to tackle these large-scale issues, we turned to the world’s 2,208 billionaires to see if they have the funds at their disposal to contribute to these problems — or even solve them entirely. With a combined net worth of $5.38 trillion, it certainly seems possible.
While rich governments attempt to aid poorer countries with foreign aid, this only adds up to about $156.4 billion annually — only 3 percent of the net worth of billionaires — according to the OECD. Perhaps there’s much more that could be done if each billionaire was willing to give just a meager amount of their total net worth.
There are over 700,000 workers in the US making minimum wage, which currently sits at $7.25 per hour. Working full time at this wage puts people just barely over the line of poverty. Often times, this yearly salary (just over $12,000) isn’t enough to support one person, let alone a family, so people end up taking on multiple jobs just to make ends meet. If each of the world’s billionaires stepped in and donated a little over $5 million annually, we could double the minimum wage and raise the standard of living for hundreds of thousands of overworked, underpaid people.
Because the federal minimum wage is so low, many families often times can’t cover necessary expenses like medical bills and groceries. This leads to a disastrous downward spiral of debt. The average American has a credit card balance of $6,375. Nationwide, this has accumulated to over $1 trillion. While some may be racking up debt due to frivolous and unnecessary spending, many are in debt out of dire need — a need that could be met if each billionaire gave a one-time donation of $453 million.
When minimum wage is low, debt is high. When debt is high, mortgage payments get missed. And when mortgage payments get missed, people end up on the streets. This may be why there are currently 554,000 homeless people in the U.S. With real estate prices on the rise (the median home price is now $200,000), many are priced out of ever owning a home. Enter the billionaires — if each one gave just 14 percent of their net worth, they could buy a tiny home for each and every homeless person, eliminating homelessness in the United States.
Medical bills are a dreaded mountain many Americans don’t have the means to climb over. While there are certain aspects of our health we can control, sometimes things happen unexpectedly. Given that most Americans don’t have enough saved to cover even a $1,000 emergency, very few have enough to cover the costs of surgeries or even a single emergency room visit. 42.9 million Americans have unpaid medical bills, with the average amount of medical debt sitting at $1,766. If each billionaire were to give a lump sum of $343,122,282, we could completely eradicate all medical debt.
When we look at college tuition prices, many families don’t have the means to fully pay for schooling, even if they’ve been saving. Young Americans continue to pursue an education, but not without a heavy burden. 42.3 million borrowers have racked up over $1 trillion in student loan debt. To remedy the problem, 317 billionaires would have to give a one-time donation of $4.1 billion — the average net worth of billionaires.
There are clearly benefits to solving these problems in society. If debt was lessened, people would have more disposable income to put into buying a home or car. People would also have additional capital to put into the economy if the minimum wage was raised to $15, plus this study shows that productivity would increase and turnover would decrease. If even one of these issues was eliminated, it would have a ripple effect that would benefit the economy as a whole. Will it ever happen? The ball’s in your court, billionaires.