Tl;dr?! Apparently it’s all the rage to run for President of the United States if you have a billion dollars (US) — and I’m looking at you, Tom Steyer and you, late-entry, Michael Bloomberg. Don’t you have better things to do with your billions? This is my take of how to spend a billion dollars if I
were of a mind had a billion dollars. (Sung to the tune of 🎶 “If I had a Million Dollars by the Barenaked Ladies” 🎶 )
Hey buddy! Can you spare a billion?
In the current field of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for POTUS, the accumulated wealth of Tom Steyer ($1.6B) and Michael Bloomberg ($52.4B) give us pause. Evidently they believe that the dollars they’ve hoarded unto themselves are enough evidence that they should run the country. And Mr. Steyer might be only 3% of a Mr. Bloomberg, and Mr. Bloomberg might be 33X a Mr. Steyer, but me? I believe the excessive number of zeroes (9) that follow the significant digits of their net worth are a testament to a their lack of imagination and their latent-, or maybe even overt-selfishness. Eh, today I’ll cut them slack. They’re latently selfish.
Well, we believe there are plenty of opportunities for them to be overtly selfless. The minimum wage is just that. A minimum. If one can pay people more, why not? If one has the means to create companies with benefits and well-paying jobs, why not?
As I’ve written before, out at wealth’s end there are ways to apply wealth to pursuits other than vanity projects like a 500′ clock in the Texas mountains, or a rocket program whose intent seems to pine for the abandonment of human life here on earth, or running a campaign to be President of the United States.
A billion dollars in $100 bills weighs about 10 tons. Think of it! Literally 10 tons! That’s enough to kill someone or even a small crowd. So as not to intentionally harm anyone, here is a list of other projects one could fund with a billion dollars.
Grocery Stores in Urban Food Deserts
There are well-populated urban communities which do not have access to affordable, healthy food options in the form of a local grocery story.
I’d install as many urban food desert grocery stores as I could afford! A quick check on the Googles and I’d allocate $1 Million per Grocery Store Start-up. So maybe start with 600 grocery stores? Reserve the remainder for operating and unexpected costs? Just think of the positive impact I could have on 600 or so communities — local access to affordable, healthy food options for low-income folks, non-minimum wage employment with benefits (yeah, I’d be all in on that), add vitality to communities suffering from inadequate nutrition choices.
Guaranteed Minimum Income in an Economically Depressed Area
The United States has many regions whose economic balloon has never been inflated or whose balloon is woefully under-inflated now. Infuse some air in that balloon and give a guaranteed income to anyone living in the zip code. This is essentially expanding on the Universal Basic Income idea Andrew Yang has proposed but, I mean, I have a billion dollars, right?
Go big or go home.
Instead of Yang’s 10 random families, I’d target every residence in a geographic area and see what this way comes. A socioeconomic experiment writ large, this would need careful consideration and definition because as a quick shot there are so many built-in undesirable consequences. For example, we would introduce income disparity with our neighbors across the street whose residence is in a different zip code. Hmm … well, it’s worth considering.
It occurs to me while exploring this option, that a guaranteed minimum income was what the very large middle class had back in the 1950’s – 1970’s. More than 50% of the population had a “middle class” income and lifestyle. It felt secure. When the Teflon Cheeto and MAGAs want to “Make America Great Again,” this is what they long for, this is what they remember as “great.” If one was born middle class, one could reliably stay middle class.
Evidently, the MAGA memory celebrates that the racism, homophobia, misogyny, religious piety, hate, and on and on, of that era is stuck to the bottom of their shoes like toilet paper and we remain gobsmacked that they are proud of this stench of a bygone eras. Don’t they realize there is no “again” in MAGA? No they don’t. We’ll all have to clean up the s*it and toilet paper on the floor but I digress and wax deep in the mixed metaphor and gah! it stinks in here.
For more reading of life in an economically disadvantaged zip code: “A Closer Look at Milwaukee Zip Code 53206,” (2015).
Public Library Expansion
Build some libraries in urban deserts. Libraries today are so much more than books. They are community centers — books, media, internet access, reading spaces, meeting spaces, reference and all the other stuff I don’t know.
Thinking of Andrew Carnegie here.
Assistance for SNAP Beneficiaries
Approximately 700,000 families SNAP benefits are being cut. Provide monthly assistance to the “able-bodied” who still need to eat. Feed people, why not?
Note, “able-bodied.” I have a problem with this. When I see the bill checking out at the grocery store, I wonder how bad my diet would be if I had to rely on a minimum wage job to feed myself. I see “able-bodied” people working minimum or near-minimum wage jobs because corporations and employers devalue labor. Do these employees have to make a choice between food? or shelter? In a country with this much wealth — there are hundreds of multi-billionaires — do we really want a society where people are forced to make a choice between two basic needs? We’ve read the reports of Amazon employees who rely on food stamps.
Help people feed themselves.
I read of areas of the country where there is a dearth medical facilities — clinics, hospitals, doctors, nurses. Well, take that show on the road!
Healthcare is self-care and I believe that medical care is often given over to industry-type thinking rather than actual health and preventative care. Start a business — just think of the people you’ll employ, the places they’ll go, the people they’ll serve!
Healthcare. Avoid making “patients.”
Although the graphic of an ambulance is misleading as to the actual article content, this is an excellent read on mobile health clinics: “How Do Mobile Health Clinics Impact Patient Access to Care?” by Sara Heath, November 07, 2018.
Low-income Housing Insecurity
I visited the exhibit based on Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted in September. The amount of time and percentage of income low-income folks spend scrabbling for inadequate, sub-standard housing is such an unbelievable tax on their humanity. As I can’t imagine how I’d feed and house myself on a minimum wage income — it is an “or”, food or shelter, one of them, not both — I can’t imagine the stress induced by constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the eviction hell-hound.
At the end of the Evicted Exhibit, there were models of alternative low-income housing put together by architecture students. Well! If I had a billion dollars, I’d explore a project to innovate on low-income housing and community building.
Fund Half a Presidential Candidate Run
I did a back-of-the-envelope analysis of the amount of money spent en toto by the Clinton and tRump campaigns in the 2016 election. It worked out to ~$2.4 Billion USD on a turnout of 129 million voters or ~$18.69/voter.
This made me ill.
Holding the envelope to my head this year, I predict that to fund a blue wave in the 2020 election cycle, the DNC should get at least $2 Billion.
And the envelope says:
100,000,000 (D) voters * $20/ (D) vote = Yep! $2Billion
This should make you ill too. And I’m not just sayin’. Citizens United needs to go. We citizens and voters are tired of this eternal election cycle churn.
So with a $1 Billion, I could fund half of a better-politician-than-me’s campaign!
Or shine more
light money on someone else’s spotlight. Kamala Harris, my first choice for presidential candidate dropped out of the race. Lack of funds to stay in this circus? Probably. Again, makes me ill. There has to be a better way to filter POTUS candidates but that’s another post.
Contribute to the public school system
Local property taxes (usually) determine the quality of education, the resources available to the local schools. As someone who holds her public education near-and-dear to her heart, I’d like public schools to be funded more equitably. The quality of your education should not depend on the housing your parents can afford.
I could contribute $2M to 500 schools “🎶… if I had a billion dollars …🎶”
Pick an Epidemic
Pick an epidemic. Any epidemic.
Well, don’t pick malaria. Bill Gates has malaria covered. He’s pledged billions.
Pick a different epidemic to focus your billion on.
Entrance fees — museums, zoos, botanicals, etc.
Pay it ahead! Instead of dropping your money in huge philanthropic gestures on the back-end of museum, et al, support, go for the front-end! Pay or subsidize entrance fees for anyone and everyone.
Let’s do some math:
If we assume an entrance fee of $25/person (that’s what I paid at the Museum of Modern Art in New York), then
$1,000,000,000/$25 person = 40 million attendees
The money would run out long before a year was out, but think of the legacy! Change it up. Front-end philanthropy. Let people in, why not!?
Kansas City announced fare-free public transit and although it doesn’t inspire me to visit Kansas City immediately, it does speak to their recognition that availability of transit impacts quality-of-life. For the better! And we approve.
The estimated cost to Kansas City for fare-free public transit is $8M. So using math and assuming $10M/year, we could provide 100 cities with free public transit for a year!
Whoa! Maybe we will visit Kansas City. I look forward to the reports on how this changes their system — ridership, use, expansion — the hidden benefits, the unknown consequences.
If you have a billion dollars …
When implemented many of these are economic incubator/test ideas. Best if you can influence and aid the creation of self-sustaining communities. The point is not to make MORE money for yourself. The point is to make a difference in the quality-of-life for OTHER people. Share the wealth.
And yes, the risks are great. Or maybe not. If you already have $1B, you’re well-insulated. You could lose a zero or two off that net worth, but! But! Not many people can say they just spent $1B with the singular goal of improving the lives of others. Join Bill Gates. Not one in a million, but one who could spare a billion! Think about it.
Please, don’t make us eat the rich. We’re not really interested. We’d rather you walk back from wealth’s end and participate with us in this great society.
And just think what you could do with a couple billion!
And for the rest of us? Be as generous to others with your time, resources, money, or even just attitude, as you are able.
Here’s an ear worm for-you-from-me waiting to happen:
Enjoy! Or not.