The recent billionaire buy-out of Twitter by Elon Musk has left a lot of people thinking, “wow, for $44 billion, what would you do?” That amount of money is so incomprehensible, so surreal and intangible, it’s as ethereal as the social media platform itself. According to a recent study, there are more than 700 billionaires in the United States. That’s not a lot of people, but it’s a lot of wealth. Like, a lot.
Combined, the top-10 billionaires, who each have over $100 billion, far exceeds the gross domestic product (GDP) of most nations. Ukraine’s estimated GDP is about $112 billion. So, yeah, one billionaire could likely help recover a war-torn nation.
What a burden really, to have that much money. Always to be criticized for how to spend it. Gates, Bezos, Zuckerberg, the whole lot, don’t get cut much slack for trying to end malaria, homelessness, climate change, or make the world more just through their own wealth disbursements. Still, these philanthropic endeavors cease to answer the never-ending quandary of how on Earth we can have people with infinite wealth and such abject poverty co-habiting the same planet? The conundrum continues to plague humanity.
Andrew Carnegie, the American Steel giant, ranked among the wealthiest man of all time. His legacies are many, but his wealth ended after his death, bestowing most of it to universities and scientific foundations. One of his lasting gifts was public libraries. He sought to see it that every person in America have free access to self-education. Similarly, Joan Kroc, heiress to the McDonald’s fortune, gave it all away upon her death, much of it to the Salvation Army to build, wouldn’t you know it —indoor pools and recreation centers.
It’s ironic that two of the most prominent public philanthropic projects in the valley, as of late, fall into the category of libraries and pools. Accolades to Friends of the Winthrop Library for accomplishing their fundraising without a Carnegie! That’s no small thing. The first Joan Kroc Center in San Diego was built with a gift of $90 million. As for the 26 Kroc Centers throughout the country, it took $1.5 billion to build them, averaging $57 million, all of which also house worship space for the Salvation Army.
Back to what would you do with $44 billion? Elon Musk apparently asked the World Food Program via Twitter (of course) what it would cost to end world hunger — they reportedly replied. Unfortunately, it’s more than he has, at least right now. But not by much. Curious as to why buying Twitter is the next best option. Anyway, it’s a fun dinner game conversation piece for the whole family. So far, our family’s billion-dollar missions would result in the following: Putin would be gone; all the houses in the valley floodplain would be moved to higher ground and salmon runs restored; there’d be a fund for education, health care and housing; and yes, we’d have a new pool in the valley with a recreation center free to all residents.