Moon Race: No Such Thing as an Ethical Billionaire

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are engaged in a modern day version of The Space Race that some are calling a “moon race.” Both Musk’s SpaceX and Bezos’ Blue Origin recently competed for a NASA contract to send astronauts to the moon. SpaceX’s $3 billion bid was selected, but Blue Origin filed a lawsuit in federal claims court, arguing that the decision to reject their $6 billion bid in favor of SpaceX was unfair. There’s currently an Oct. 12 deadline for a federal judge to answer Bezos’ claim. 

In July, Bezos flew into suborbital space for ten minutes and ten seconds with Blue Origin, a company he has reportedly funded with at least $5.5 billion of his own money. One seat on the flight was auctioned off for $28 million. According to Bezos, Blue Origin has already sold “$100 million worth of tickets for future passenger flights to the edge of space.”

Musk’s SpaceX currently invests in a satellite internet program called Starlink, and in June he forecasted that the total investment in Starlink could be up to $30 billion dollars. 

The total amount of money spent on these space ventures mentioned so far is over $44.6 billion. If all 1,876 Bates students paid the full cost of attendance, it would cost under $143 million. The low end of estimates of the cost to end world hunger is $7 billion a year. According to a statement from a Housing and Urban Development official, it would cost about $20 billion total to end homelessness in the United States. 

You might be thinking that Bezos and Musk are bad people for spending their billions on space travel that serves no purpose whatsoever, and I’d have to agree with you. You might say they’re evil for choosing to throw funding at space travel instead of world hunger. You’d be right. However, the real truth of the issue is far worse than some judgement on the individual moralities of these men. 

Bezos’ net worth stands at $198 billion, and Musk’s is even higher at $209 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index of the world’s 500 richest people. I firmly believe that there is no person in the world who “needs” or “deserves” a billion dollars. Does anyone work millions of times harder than anyone else? Do Bezos or Musk generate that much value in their “innovation” by spending ten minutes in the lowest rung of suborbital space? 

Instead of asking yourself why Bezos isn’t stopping homelessness, why don’t you ask: how the hell did we wind up in a situation where one man collected enough money to do that? Why does anyone even have billions to throw at unnecessary space travel, while a global pandemic takes its toll and over 800 million people go hungry?

As late stage capitalism has progressed, the United States has rolled back regulations and progressive tax policies in favor of lesser capital gains taxes and loopholes for the rich to get richer. The top tax bracket in this country is taxed at a rate of 37%. Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has proposed a rate of 70% for the highest bracket, and in the 1950s the rate was as high as 94%. 

We shouldn’t just be angry at Bezos, Musk, and their similarly wealthy peers for using their money in ways we don’t agree with. We should be angry at elected government officials, whose responsibility it is to address income inequality by instituting a more progressive system of taxation. 

In 2018, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk reportedly paid no federal taxes at all. They shouldn’t have been able to obfuscate taxes to amass the wealth that they now misuse in the first place. We can’t wait for billionaires to be charitable or kind enough to give away money, and we shouldn’t have to. What can we do? 

Tax the rich.