American billionaires “go on fun trips” in space

Jeff Bezos wants to land on the moon, Elon Musk plans a mission to Mars and the senator. It doesn’t look like Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Liked any of them.

On Wednesday, at the US Senate Budget Committee meeting, Sanders raised an issue This was a regular part of his political platform for many years: the distribution of wealth. “Anyone who thinks we don’t have oligarchs here in America is deeply mistaken,” he said. “Today in America, billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are taking fun trips aboard their rocket ships into outer space.”

Sanders appears to be citing the three billionaire spaceflight companies: SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, respectively. The three US-based companies have played a large role in redefining — and even reviving — national conversations about modern space exploration.

Musk, Bezos, and Branson have all poured large amounts of their own money into those companies: Bezos, for example, spends $1 billion of his Amazon stock annually on Blue Origin. But while his brief trip into space aboard a Blue Origin rocket last July could be considered a “fun ride,” it’s doubtful he would describe his spending as petty.

Instead, Blue Origin’s mission statement identifies the company’s goals as essential to humanity’s future survival, emphasizing that “in order to preserve Earth, our home, for our great-grandchildren, we must go to space to take advantage of its unlimited resources and energy.”

Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, told Time magazine in December that his “overall goal was to make life multi-planetary and enable humanity to become a space-faring civilization,” thereby preserving the planet. In October, SpaceX was valued at $100.3 billion after a secondary stock sale.

For Sanders, these plans are more manifestations of extravagance than endeavors that enrich humanity, especially given that “more than half of the people in this country live paycheck to paycheck,” he said.

“In our country, the two richest people now own more wealth than the bottom 42% of our population,” Sanders added, referring to reports that Bezos and Musk have more wealth than the 130 million Americans combined. Data from the Federal Reserve System appears to confirm Sanders’ estimate: in the fourth quarter of 2021, the top 1% of Americans owned 32.3% of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 50% owned 2.6%.

The pandemic has widened this wealth gap. Musk, who had a net worth of $286 billion on March 31, rose to $121 billion in 2021, according to the charity Oxfam. The organization estimated that the world’s 10 richest people added more than $400 billion to their fortunes last year.

In 2020, Sanders co-sponsored the Make Billionaires Pay Act, which proposed that individuals with more than $1 billion in net assets pay higher taxes to cover the costs and services of public and private health insurance for uninsured individuals for one year, including prescription medications. By prescription. and care related to Covid-19.

The bill was introduced to the Senate in August 2020, but no further action was taken.

Not surprisingly, Sanders has also spoken out against private space companies receiving government funding. Congress is currently considering sending $10 billion to NASA, which will funnel that money into a private company in a high-value contract for lunar landers. On Wednesday, Sanders tweeted his strong opposition to the clause, arguing that companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX don’t need the money.

“In my opinion, if you’re worth $180 billion, if you have mansions and a luxury yacht, if your hobby is trying to go to the moon or Mars or wherever, you’re doing yourself a good job,” Sanders wrote. . “No, Mr. Bezos, you don’t need $10 billion in corporate sponsorships to support your space travel.”

Musk, Bezos and Branson did not immediately respond to a CNBC Make It request for comment.

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