Jeff Bezos could probably save the world right now. So where is he?

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It only took three months for the world to completely turn on its head. Since the beginning of the year, the novel coronavirus has spread to a total of 196 countries, afflicting 420,000 people and taking 19,000 lives.

Panicked governments are fighting tirelessly to contain the unforgiving outbreaks. Healthcare systems are struggling to stay afloat in a turbulent sea of ailing patients. Collapsing economies have us on the brink of another Great Depression. Innocent people are dying every day.

As the world burns up in flames, humanity remains behind closed doors. In their isolation, some random thoughts come to their minds: How long will this be? Who will save us? Where is Jeff Bezos?


The short answer to the last one is: he's around.

In fact, the Amazon CEO was the only top-ten billionaire to add to his net worth during this pandemic. While his compeers lost billions, he managed to stay in the green by over $2 billion. He's also the only person worth $100 billion right now, leading Bill Gates by $27 billion.

So yeah... he's around.


Back in February, Bezos sold Amazon stock worth $3.4 billion right before the markets crashed, a move that ended up saving him around $317 million.

"His transaction came at a time when the stock market was said to be overvalued," writes Mark Emem for CCN. "He sold his shares just after the United States recorded its first confirmed coronavirus infection—in Bezos’ home state of Washington, no less."

Today, Amazon remains strong and steady, despite seeing an 11 percent drop in mid-February. The company is even hiring 100,000 more workers in the U.S. to keep up with growing demands, while also increasing wages by an additional $2 per hour.


I think it's safe to say that Jeff Bezos and his e-commerce empire are doing pretty well these days.

Of course, that's not to say that Bezos has turned a blind eye to the coronavirus crisis—Amazon has made some sizeable donations, including $20 million to the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative to accelerate the delivery of coronavirus tests to the market, $1 million to emergency funds in Washington, D.C., $5 million to small businesses, and another $1 million to the Seattle foundation.

But when you're so rich that money is literally nothing but an afterthought, and there are people out there who, amid this pandemic, are living in fear that they might not even make it to their next paycheck, shouldn't the onus be on billionaires like Jeff to do something more than just sprinkle grains of rice?


Spencer Dinwiddie, the star point guard of the Brooklyn Nets, is aligned with this outlook. He recently spoke to GQ about the should-be roles of the ultra-rich during these unprecedented times.

"Like, $100,000 donations from individual players does a lot of good, don’t get me wrong. But for an owner, that is quite literally nothing. They don’t even blink at that. Where you’re talking about the scale and who bears responsibility, everybody should do their part as much as they can. My percentage might be $100,000. Theirs might be $10 million. Which one is going to support families for a long time?"

Britney Spears also agrees. The popstar gained praise from the public after she magnified the call for a strike and the redistribution of wealth in America. She took to Instagram to post a message composed by writer Mimi Zhu, which read: "We will feed each other, redistribute wealth, strike."


The point these celebrities are trying to make is that, as much as the donations are substantial and deeply appreciated, these billionaires are in a position to do so much more.

Yes, it's their money, and yes, they're the ones who built their wealth from the ground up; no one is denying that. But when someone has way more money than he or she needs, and the world is in absolute turmoil, shouldn't that person feel some obligation to give more than what is essentially chump change to them? Is that wrong to say?

Jeff Bezos could dust $1 billion off his shoulder and he'd still have $118 billion left. Do you know how many face masks, gloves, and hospital gowns $1 billion could buy? Probably a lot, since, of the $8.3 billion the U.S. has provided for emergency funding, that's what was set aside for medical supplies.


"We’re not trying to build as many tanks as we did in World War II," said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, regarding the overwhelming demand for medical devices and equipment. "I do think that capital could play a role in helping some of this production. That’s where [billionaires] could come in."

But even beyond his buying power, Bezos has social power. During this pandemic, he has the opportunity to effect positive change using his influence. Just as Kylie Jenner's words have an impact on many millennials and Gen Z youths (sometimes to their detriment), Bezos' words can also have an impact on politicians in global authorities. His input could be incredibly valuable even in situations where money isn't the root problem in decision making.

"This isn’t a money problem, this is an operational and administrative problem, and it’s really a core government function," said Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the CDC. "There are some private-sector initiatives that may be helping—for example, an effort to get testing more widely available—but really this is about the government doing what only the government can do."


That said, Amazon's $20-million donation to the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative is great, but Bezos could do even more good by using his voice to pressure the government into doing better for its people. Perhaps he can start by joining other corporations in telling Trump it's too early for people to flock to their churches on Easter Sunday.

Amazon remains to be among a list of companies that have been accused of not doing enough, despite its philanthropic efforts. For one, the company has decided to keep its distribution centers open even though some of its workers have been infected by the virus. It has also only offered unpaid time off through March, which for many workers is not long enough.

"We shouldn’t let philanthropic generosity excuse corporate leadership failures," said Rob Reich of Stanford University. "There are many things CEOs can do in the context of their own companies that are as important if not more important than philanthropic efforts."


At the end of the day, people follow the money, and Jeff Bezos is money. If he invested more of his time into this public health emergency, other people might become more invested in it, too.

Of course, all of this is easier said when you're observing from the outside. Who knows what Jeff Bezos is going through right now. Maybe, when you look at the minutiae of his situation, it's not that simple.

But if it is that simple, we can only hope that Jeff and the rest of the world's wealthiest will step up to the plate.

Photo by Wallpaper Safari

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