Kevin O’Leary is an investor and television personality. His net worth is $300 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In moral terms, however, he’s worth less than your bus driver, your mail carrier or just about anyone else. Here’s why:
“It’s fantastic,” O’Leary says in response to the report that the 85 richest people in the world have as much money as the bottom 3.5 billion. But let’s hear him out, what’s his reasoning?
“It inspires everyone to look up at the 1% and say, ‘I want to become one of those people. I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top.’”
O’Leary knows he’s trolling here. That’s why he keeps poking (“What could be wrong with this?”) at his co-anchor, business journalist Amanda Lang, until she responds.
Any pundit or politician who you hear making these kinds of claims—that wealth inequality is great because it is so motivating—is not talking about the real world. They are talking about how they worship the rich, which helps them keep their jobs.
The truth is that wealth inequality contributes to poverty, weakens democracy, and is never good for the poor and middle class. When we talk about making things more equal, we mean having CEOs make ten to forty times more than their median employee as opposed to 200 times, which is the average today. We have plenty of redistributive policies today (social security, Medicaid, etc.) and we should have more.
The bottom 3.5 billion don’t need extra motivation, they need access to shelter, clean water and basic medicine. Sure, there’s a lot more to be done, but a billion people don’t even have that. Or maybe if we just told them how rich jerks like O’Leary are, everything would better.