When I was just a tyke, cowboy actors were marketed as role models for little backyard cowpokes like me, and we could send off to get a certificate making us “Pals of the Saddle” or some such with Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy or others.
Cute for a 4-year-old. Less so for 57-year-old Jeff “Space Boy” Bezos.
Yet the gabillionaire profiteer, labor exploiter and tax scofflaw who heads the Amazon online retail syndicate, was all dressed up in July, playacting as a heroic conqueror of space. Little Jeff took an ego trip on his very own rocket ship, publicizing it as some combination of Wright Brothers innovation and Apollo moon landing. But the whole thing took only 11 minutes, barely made it to space, achieved no scientific purpose, and did zero to enhance American prestige in the world.
As for personal genius or heroics, Bezos didn’t invent or build the spacecraft, didn’t have any role in flying it, and he faced no cosmic unknowns (he didn’t even have to wear a space suit). All he really did was to buy the spacecraft.
But he did get to dress up in a sort of space-style jogging outfit, with his name and his corporate logo emblazoned on it. Then, like a little boy getting a cereal-box certificate proclaiming him a cowboy, when the diminutive megabillionaire floated back to terra firma he held a fake ceremony at which some former NASA official pinned a set of phony “astronaut wings” on him. More pathetically, his corporate lobbyists are said to be appealing to Washington officials to award official astronaut wings for what amounted to a rich man’s carnival ride.
So, there you have the new pantheon of America’s flight heroes — the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, John Glen, Neil Armstrong… and Jeff “Space Boy” Bezos. Did I mention “pathetic”?
And speaking of money... There’s nothing irredeemably wrong about being rich — indeed, one good role model for handling wealth, rather than letting it handle you, is music superstar Dolly Parton. She donated a cool million bucks to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2020 to help finance its development of the Moderna vaccine that’s now preventing millions of people from dying with COVID-19.
But then there’s ugly rich, like Bezos, who keeps spending gobs of his unsurpassed net worth on vainglorious purchases that end up revealing his essential worthlessness. After last month’s flight, he actually ran a global media campaign to glorify him for spending untold billions on his adventure. Back on Earth, he publicly blurted out that Amazon’s underpaid and abused workforce should be applauded, because “you guys paid for all this.”
Meanwhile, Wall Street speculators keep bloating his personal fortune. On just one day last year, his wealth was jacked up by $8 billion! One day! For doing nothing — didn’t work longer, harder or smarter. Well, he has been diligent about one task: tax dodging. Even though his wealth now tops $162 billion, he’s had years in which he’s paid zero income tax for the support of our nation.
But this year Jeff suddenly became a philanthropist! Increasingly ridiculed as a self-indulgent rich jerk, he loudly announced he was giving $200 million to charitable causes. Wow — how generous. Except… that’s no sacrifice for Jeff, it’s pocket change — doling out two big bills means he still has his $161,800,000,000 in his vault.
We don’t need his self-serving “charity,” we need a wealth tax to restore a bit of fairness and to support America’s Common Good.