“Billionaires should not exist,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said last month. And, at the Democratic presidential debate this week, he said that the wealth disparity in America is “a moral and economic outrage.”
“Senator Sanders is right,” said Tom Steyer, a businessman from California who happened to be the only billionaire onstage that night (as far as we know).
“No one on this stage wants to protect billionaires — not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires,” noted Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
It’s an idea that’s going around. Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder who is worth close to $70 billion, is apparently open to it. “I don’t know that I have an exact threshold on what amount of money someone should have,” he said in livestreamed question-and-answer session with company employees in early October. “But on some level, no one deserves to have that much money.”
Yet here we are, chugging into the 10th year of an extremely top-heavy economic boom in which the 1 percenters, by all statistical measures, have won, creating the greatest wealth disparity since the Jazz Age. This era, in length and gains, dwarfs the “greed is good” 1980s, that era of yellow ties, nigiri rolls and designer espresso machines that has come to symbolize gilded excess in popular imagination.
And yet the only thing we know in this casino-like economy — a casino that may, in fact, soon be shuttered — is that for those at the top, too much is never enough.
Many normal, non-billionaire people wonder: Why is that?
Studies over the years have indicated that the rich, unlike the leisured gentry of old, tend to work longer hours and spend less time socializing. Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, whose worth has been estimated in the hundreds of millions, has said that he wakes up at 3:45 a.m. to mount his daily assault on his corporate rivals. Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla and SpaceX, is worth some $23 billion but nevertheless considers it a victory that he dialed back his “bonkers” 120-hour workweeks to a more “manageable” 80 or 90.
多年来的研究表明，富人与那些悠闲的老绅士不同，他们的工作时间更长，社交时间更少。苹果公司(Apple)首席执行官蒂姆·库克(Tim Cook)的身家估计在数亿美元，他说自己每天凌晨3点45分起床，向公司的竞争对手发起每日攻击。特斯拉(Tesla)和SpaceX的掌门人埃隆·马斯克(Elon Musk)身家约230亿美元，他把自己每周120小时的“疯狂”工作时间调至更“好对付”的80或90小时，还觉得这是一种胜利。
And they continue to diversify. Lady Gaga makes a reported $1 million per show in her residency at the Park MGM in Las Vegas, and has evolved from pop music to conquer film — but still also recently unveiled a cosmetics venture with Amazon.
Almost everything rich people touch makes money, but this current financial inferno has meant little for the bottom 50% of earners in the United States, who have 32% less wealth than they did in 2003.
The 1% have, as of last decade, 85% of their net worth tied up in investments like stocks, bonds and private equity, where value has exploded. According to Redfin, the average sale price of properties in the top 5% are up 43% nationally over the past decade, and up even more in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Fine vintage watches, which have become a must-have for the young male money class, are exploding in value, with prices on certain five-figure models of Rolexes doubling in just a few years.
Gold, once derided as a relic, is up 40% in the past few years.
马克·扎克伯格No One Has a Retirement Number These Days
“What’s your number?” asked anyone caught up in the dot-com boom of the 1990s.
Could you retire to Napa with $5 million? $20 million?
Some hit their number and some went bust, but Silicon Valley is more than ever a showcase for the unfettered capitalism of 2019.
Yet no one seems to talk about their number anymore, said Antonio García Martínez, who sold a startup to Twitter and served as a Facebook product manager before publishing his memoir, “Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley,” in 2016.
然而，安东尼奥·加西亚·马丁内斯(Antonio García Martínez)说，似乎没有人再谈论他们的理想退休金额了。他把自己的初创公司卖给了Twitter，并在Facebook担任产品经理，之后于2016年出版回忆录《混乱的猴子——硅谷的肮脏财富和随机失败》(Chaos Monkeys: Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley)。
Yesterday’s big score is just seed capital for tomorrow’s bigger one.
“There’s never some omega point,” García Martínez, 43, said. “People who get to that point don’t stop once they get there.”
“People say, ‘Why don’t you develop a hobby, or do philanthropy?’ ” García Martínez said. “But for many, they simply can’t stop doing it. They derive transcendent meaning from capitalism. Without their money, what else would they have?”
At a time of low taxes, friendly interest rates and torrents of venture capital available to would-be moguls, it’s a historical moment in the quest for more among the entrepreneurial class.
Tim Ferriss, the life-hacking author and podcast star who was an angel investor in Silicon Valley for nearly a decade, wrote in an email that many of these people have been “navigating work and life in sixth gear for decades.”
Without Constant Work, We Must Face the Nature of Existence
“Once they have no financial need to work — are ‘post-economic,’ as some say in San Francisco — they have trouble shifting into lower gears,” Ferriss wrote. “They’re like drag racers who now have to learn to navigate the turns and intersections of neighborhoods at 30 mph.”
“Without ambitious projects to fill space,” he added, “there is often a void that makes some of the bigger questions hard to avoid. The things you neglected are no longer drowned out by noise; they are the signal. It’s like facing the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
In a sense, it has been going on in this country for 2 1/2 centuries. “We are a nation founded on the overthrow of kings and the idle rich, so the hustle is deeply baked into mainstream notions of what it means to be American,” said Margaret O’Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington who is a New York Times opinion contributor.
在某种意义上，这种情况已经在这个国家持续了两个半世纪。“我们的国家建国的基础就是推翻国王和无所事事的富人，所以这种忙碌感深深融入了美国人身份认同的主流观念，”华盛顿大学(University of Washington)历史学教授、《纽约时报》观点撰稿人玛格丽特·奥马拉(Margaret O’Mara)说。
Rich People Know Too Many Rich People
With the number of Americans making $1 million or more spiking by 40% between 2010 and 2016, according to the Internal Revenue Service, you may think that the rich are finally feeling flush enough to ease up, kick back, chill out.
国税局(Internal Revenue Service)的数据显示，2010年至2016年，美国年收入在100万美元以上的人的数量激增了40%，你可能会认为，富人们终于感到手头宽裕，可以休息、放松、舒服一下了。
They are not.
One recent Harvard survey of 4,000 millionaires found that people worth $8 million or more were scarcely happier than those worth $1 million.
In a widely cited 2006 study, rich people reported that they spend more time doing things they were required to do.
Why do they want to do this to themselves?
The fact that there are more rich people who are, in fact, richer than ever may be part of the reason.
Sociologists have long talked about “relative income hypothesis.” We tend to measure material satisfaction by those around us — not in absolute terms.
“For most people, enough is enough,” said Robert Frank, the wealth editor for CNBC and the author of the 2007 book “Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich,” who has interviewed many plutocrats. “But there is another group of people, no matter what they have, they have to keep going. I call them ‘scorekeepers.’ They’re truly driven by competitive zeal.”
“对大多数人来说，足够了就是足够了，” CNBC台的财富编辑罗伯特·弗兰克(Robert Frank)说。“但还有另一群人，不管他们拥有什么，他们必须继续前进。我管他们叫‘记分员’。他们真正的驱动力是对竞争的狂热。”
Money Is Like Alcohol but for Money
Living inside bubbles, the rich need greater excess just to feel the same high, said Steven Berglas, a psychologist, executive coach and author.
“If you’re an alcoholic,” he said, “you’re going to take one drink, two drinks, five drinks, six drinks to feel the buzz. Well, when you get a million dollars, you need 10 million dollars to feel like a king. Money is an addictive substance.”
Feeding the addiction becomes even more challenging in a top-heavy economy where the price tags of the status symbols keep adding zeros.
For the superrich looking to buy their way in to professional sports, it’s no longer enough to have courtside seats or a luxury box. You need a team. They’re pricey.
The Golden State Warriors, for example, sold in 2010 for an NBA record $450 million to an ownership group headed by Joe Lacob, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. The team is now valued at $3.5 billion.
例如，2010年，金州勇士队(Golden State Warriors)以创纪录的4.5亿美元卖给了一个由硅谷风险投资家乔·莱科布(Joe Lacob)领导的所有权集团。该队目前价值35亿美元。
Even that is not enough. Now you have to build the biggest, flashiest arena. The Warriors owners recently put the finishing touches on a gleaming new waterfront arena in San Francisco called the Chase Center. It was financed largely by themselves for $1.4 billion.
Not to be left behind, Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft chief and owner of the rival Los Angeles Clippers, is seeking to build a $1 billion pleasure dome of his own in Inglewood, California.
微软前首席执行官、洛杉矶快船队(Los Angeles Clippers)老板史蒂夫·鲍尔默(Steve Ballmer)也不甘落后，他正寻求在加州英格尔伍德建造一座价值10亿美元的球场。
Clustered courtside together at the sporting palaces, the celebrities, naturally, begin to envy the fortunes of the moguls near them.
The Rich Suspect the Roller Coaster Is About to Crash
As a hedge fund veteran, precious metals adviser and financial author, James Rickards is a rich guy who talks to a lot of other rich guys. They don’t always like what he has to say.
He believes that the current debt-fueled recovery may be a prelude for an economic collapse to dwarf the Great Recession. Until recently, he said, such theories were met with polite lack of interest by many wealthy people. Lately, something has changed.
“Literally, in a matter of weeks, certainly a couple of months, the phone calls have had a different tone to them,” Rickards said. “What I’m hearing is, ‘I’ve got the money. How do I hang on to it?’ ‘Are gold futures going to hold up or should I have bullion?’ ‘If I have bullion, should I put it in a bag in a private vault?’ ”
“It’s a level of concern that I’ve never heard from the superrich,” he said. “The tone of voice is, ‘I need an answer now!’”
It is not just the rockiness of the stock market. The fears of the wealthy seem to be of a more existential nature.
It is as if the very people who have profited most from these good times cannot believe that times are good — or that they will stay good, in the event of, say, a Bernie Sanders presidency.
Paul Singer, who oversees the behemoth Elliot Management fund, is reportedly tapping investors for billions as a war chest for a possible market implosion.
管理着庞大的埃利奥特管理基金(Elliot Management fund)的保罗·辛格(Paul Singer)据信正在向投资者募集数十亿美元资金，以应对可能出现的市场崩盘。
Among the tech zillionaire classes, a place to bug out in the event of an economic collapse, environmental disaster or violent uprising became the thing to have.
After he left Facebook, García Martínez himself bought 5 wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest equipped with generators and solar panels, as The New Yorker reported in 2017.
据《纽约客》(The New Yorker)2017年报道，离开Facebook后，加西亚·马丁内斯自己在太平洋西北部的一个小岛上买了5英亩林地，配备了发电机和太阳能电池板。
The newly rich from normal backgrounds are the most anxious of all, said Jennifer Streaks, a personal finance commentator and CNBC contributor.
“Imagine growing up middle class or even poor and then amassing millions,” Streaks said. “This sounds like the American dream, but suddenly you have a $5 million apartment, a $200,000 car and a family that has these expectations.”
A panic ensues when those people believe “that they are one bad investment away from being broke.”
And the Rich Become Anxious and Isolated
It’s not like Jeff Bezos, the $110 billion man, is going to have to auction off his $65 million Gulfstream jet if he makes a bad bet on Amazon delivery drones (or goes through a $36 billion divorce).
Even so, the isolation that often accompanies extreme wealth can provide an emotional impulse to keep on earning, long after material comforts have been met, said T. Byram Karasu, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx who said he has worked with numerous high earners in his private practice.
即便如此，时常伴随巨富的孤立感可以在物质享受得到满足很久之后，提供一种继续赚钱的情感冲动，布朗克斯区的阿尔伯特·爱因斯坦医学院(Albert Einstein College of Medicine)精神病学荣休教授T·拜拉姆·卡拉苏(T. Byram Karasu)说，他说在私营执业期间接触过大量高收入者。
Apex entrepreneurs and financiers, after all, are often “adrenaline-fueled, transgressive people,” Karasu said. “They tend to have laser-focused digital brains, are always in transactional mode, and the bigger they get, the lonelier they are, because they do not belong.”
Berglas, a onetime member of the Harvard Medical School faculty in psychology, said: “If you can’t relate to people, you presume that the failure to have rewarding relationships is because of jealousy — your house is three-X your neighbors’, and they look at your brand-new Corvette and drool. It’s a compensatory mechanism — ‘I might not have a ton of friends, but I can do anything I want and I’m the most powerful SOB there is.”
Limitless opportunity, extreme isolation. They already own the present. What else is left to buy but tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that? Suddenly, the fetish of the superrich for space tourism starts to make sense.