Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he would donate about USD 690,000 to help victims of the Australian bushfires but what ensued was a heated conversation about the way billionaires contribute to humanitarian crises and charities.
Being the richest person alive, Bezos is worth more than USD 116 billion, so when he announced plans to donate less than a million US dollars to help Australia, many perceived him as 'cheap', especially as the world needs at least $300 billion to fight the looming threat of climate change.
The world's wealthiest people often face backlash for not spending enough for the greater good of their communities and for working so hard to hoard millions and billions. They are often blamed for contributing to an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.
But how much charity is 'good enough' for wealthy donors?
Australia is trying to recover after months of huge fires devouring more than 25 million acres of land, killing 27 people and at least 50 million animals, as well as forcing thousands of people out of their homes. Even though Australian fires are normal at this time of year, flames flaring up in different parts of the continent have reportedly been extremely higher than usual, with smoke increasingly affecting air quality in Sydney and other major cities.
Online, Bezos' relatively small contribution provoked strong criticism. Many drew comparisons the Amazon CEO's contribution and other contribution sizes made to Australia's fires.
They calculated that Bezos makes $150,000 a minute, which means he would only be donating about five minutes worth of his profit for the environmental tragedy. They also shared calculations arguing that his donation amount to about 0.0000059% of his net wealth.
$690,000.00— ConnectALLtheDots (@solvealltheprob) January 13, 2020
JEFF BEZOS EARNS
5 MINUTES. pic.twitter.com/q9NDE4VDBD
In the wake of the on-going Australian fires, many celebrities, millionaires, and billionaires have raised donations to help relieve the disaster and to protect the environment from greater damage, including comedian Celeste Barber who raised about $32 million and Chris Hemsworth and Elton John donating 1$ million each.
In addition to a huge number of comments attacking the world's wealthiest man, Bezos also received some support from people defending him and pointing out that "people will never think a donation is good enough no matter how much money is being given away."
Jeff bezos could donate 100 million dollars to Australia and y’all wouldn’t be satisfied because he makes millions. I never understood the narrative— bails?? (@McclurgBailey) January 13, 2020
Critics have frequently targeted Jeff Bezos as a 'cheapskate' in terms of donations until 2018 when a list published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy listing America's top 50 donors for the year ranked Bezos as the most generous philanthropist, with contributions amounting to $2 billion.
In 2018, Jeff Bezos and his ex-wife MacKenzie launched The Day 1 Families Fund, a charity organization committed to giving away $2 billion to funding nonprofits that help homeless families in addition to creating a network of nonprofit preschools in low-income communities.
With every major international disaster, billionaires like Bezos still face plenty of backlash for 'not doing enough'. Criticism can be understood in light of the fact that out of more than 7 billion people living on earth, only 14 million have joined the millionaire's club, and only about 2000 people are defined as billionaires.
As more politicians talk about a widening wealth gap and calling for higher taxing measures for the rich, earning six-digit figures is considered by the vast majority of the world population as a huge amount of money.
Many would argue that wealthy people can enjoy a high-standard lifestyle and still share their mega fortunes with the rest of the world to help improve life quality for billions of struggling people in underprivileged communities, developing nations, and those suffering because of wars and other global challenges like climate change.
Billionaires and millionaires are usually expected to realize that they have made enough money to make a real difference on a global level. Aid and humanitarian organizations constantly share studies and statistics about how much money is needed for each cause, hoping that their figures will guide philanthropists as they plan their annual charitable contributions.
A 2017 report by Oxfam International stated that the mostly-men 2000 billionaires of the world who own $762 billion could have ended extreme poverty seven times over. Similar studies encourage calls for wealthy people to consider devoting their money for humanitarian causes and elevating world living standards for those who are not as lucky as they are.
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