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The calculation is off by a factor of a billion.
Income inequality is so severe, an Instagram post suggests, that a single American billionaire could give away enough money to make everyone else in the world a billionaire — and still keep the bulk of his fortune.
"If Bezos has 200 billion dollas, and there’s 7 billion people on earth, why can’t we each get a billion and (he’d) be left with 193 billion dollas left?" the Oct. 25 post says.
There’s a reason we can’t, and it’s not selfishness or the gift tax. It’s arithmetic.
The post, which received more than 128,000 likes, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) Many of the commenters also noticed the flaw in the argument.
First, let’s check the numbers.
According to Forbes, which tracks the real-time wealth of the world’s richest people, Jeff Bezos — the founder of Amazon.com, and owner of the Washington Post and aerospace company Blue Origin — had a net worth of $197.6 billion as of the end of trading on Oct. 27. So yes, close to $200 billion. He and Tesla CEO Elon Musk run neck-and-neck for the title of world’s wealthiest person.
The world’s population is on the cusp of 7.8 billion people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s population clock. So the post is off on the population figure, but on the correct order of magnitude.
Now for the math. In order to provide $1 billion to each person on Earth, Bezos would have to have more money than even he has.
$1 billion X 7.8 billion people = $7,800,000,000,000,000,000
That's $7.8 quintillion, or about 40 million times Bezos' fortune.
Looked at a different way, if you rounded up Bezos’ fortune to the even $200 billion stated in the post, and apportioned it evenly among the world’s 7.8 billion people, each one would get about $25.
Bezos, as one of those 7.8 billion, would be left with just $25.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire.
Instagram post, Oct. 25, 2021
Forbes.com, profile of Jeff Bezos, #1 on the Forbes 400, accessed Oct. 28.
U.S. Census Bureau, World Population Clock, accessed Oct. 28.
World Bank Databank, Gross Domestic Product 2020, accessed Oct. 28
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