Jeff Bezos wants a lunar landing, Elon Musk is planning a mission to Mars and Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Does not appear to be impressed by any of it.
Wednesday at a meeting of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, Sanders raised a question it has been a fixed part of his political platform for many years: wealth distribution. “Anyone who thinks we do not have an oligarchy right here in America is seriously mistaken,” he said. “Today in America, multibillionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson are off on pleasure trips on their rockets to outer space.”
Sanders seemed to cite the three billionaires’ space companies: SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, respectively. All three U.S.-based companies have played a major role in redefining – and even reviving – national conversations about modern space exploration.
Musk, Bezos, and Branson have each poured large sums of their own money into these companies: Bezos, for example, spends $ 1 billion of its own Amazon share a year on Blue Origin. But while his short trip to space in a Blue Origin rocket last July could be considered a “joy trip,” it is doubtful whether he would call his consumption nonsense.
Rather, Blue Origin’s mission statement defines the company’s goals as essential to humanity’s future survival and emphasizes that “in order to preserve the Earth, our home, for our grandchildren’s grandchildren, we must go to space to harness its limitless resources and energy.”
Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, similarly told Time magazine in December that his “overarching goal has been to make life multi-planetary and enable humanity to become a space-based civilization,” thus preserving the planet. In October, SpaceX was valued at $ 100.3 billion after a secondary share sale.
For Sanders, these plans are more the result of abundance than humanity-enriching efforts, especially given that “over half the population of this country lives from wage to wage,” he said.
“In our country, the two richest people now own more wealth than the bottom 42% of our population,” Sanders added, referring to reports that Bezos and Musk own more wealth than a total of 130 million Americans. Data from the Federal Reserve System seem to confirm Sanders’ estimates: In the fourth quarter of 2021, the top 1% of Americans owned 32.3% of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 50% owned 2.6%.
The pandemic only widened this wealth gap. Musk, whose net worth is $ 286 billion per March 31, earned $ 121 billion in 2021, according to the charity Oxfam. The organization estimated that the 10 richest people in the world added more than $ 400 billion to their fortunes last year.
In 2020, Sanders was co-sponsored by the Make Billionaires Pay Act, which proposed that individuals with more than $ 1 billion in net assets pay higher taxes to cover the costs and services of public and private health insurance for uninsured individuals for one year, including prescription drugs and care. related to Covid-19.
The bill was presented to the Senate in August 2020, but no further action was taken.
Not surprisingly, Sanders has also spoken out against private space companies receiving state aid. Congress is currently considering sending $ 10 billion to NASA, which would transfer those funds to a private company in a high-value contract for lunar landers. On Wednesday, Sanders tweeted his strong opposition to the provision, arguing that companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX do not need the money.
“In my opinion, if you’re worth $ 180 billion, if you have mansions and a superyacht, if your hobby is trying to take to the moon or Mars or anywhere, then you’re doing pretty well on your own,” Sanders wrote. “No, Mr. Bezos, you do not need $ 10 billion in corporate welfare to subsidize your space travel.”
Musk, Bezos and Branson did not immediately respond to CNBC Make Its request for comment.
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