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JeffBezos Is Already $40B Richer This Year–While Typical Amazon Worker Made $12K (time.com)
44 points by dsr12 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments



The problem isn't that some people have a lot of money. The problem (in America) is that too many people fall through the cracks. I think a healthy society would be one where there's a strong social floor, but uncapped upside potential for those who want to pursue it. However, if a company gets government support, de facto or otherwise, then I'm 100% in favor of pay caps.


I disagree. In America I think it’s more than just “some people fall through the cracks.” It’s a lot of people, and it’s not some unfortunate accident that befalls the occasional worker, it’s a systemic problem affecting tens of millions of Americans. The kind of poverty we have in America, the richest nation on earth per capita, is insane. And it happens because those in charge are satisfied. Who’s in charge? The people who can afford to buy the favor of politicians. They LOVE the huge supply of desperate workers we have because it means big profits.

And that’s what this article is about.


I never said, "some people fall through the cracks," I said "too many people fall through the cracks." It's very systemic, hence the need for a social floor without cracks. No person should be denied medical care, food, basic shelter, or access to education.

It also shouldn't be surprising that the rich and powerful want to be taxed as little as possible. I think both sides get too hot-headed and the discussions inevitably turn to "let's take their money away!" vs "let's advance the creation of a social floor for everyone!" I don't think it's a bad thing at all that some people are rich, but I think poverty is a very bad thing.


Hey I’m right there with you, and sorry if I misread your comment. I strongly advocate for a voluntary solution to the missing social floor through the use of collectives and total automation of basic human needs. I don’t think taxation is a good long term solution because it’s inherently not voluntary and thus will always cause tension.


It wouldnt be a problem that people made too much money if it wasn't for the fact that those people are making too much money by taking it from others. You can grow the pie and everyone wins, but when executives go from a few multiples of an average workers pay to several hundred[1], thats a zero sum game

[1]http://fortune.com/2017/07/20/ceo-pay-ratio-2016/


Does that 40B translate into more innovation or production from him? I don't think so.


There is no way Bezos could pursue Blue Origin as fast as he has without being having multiple Billions of net worth. Rockets are expensive and extremely risky.

So your premise is incorrect.


Have they produced anything actually useful yet and the capital wouldn't have dissapeared from the economy if it was shared more equally.

Pointing to a billionaire's hobby as a reason he deserves to keep billions instead of his workers getting a living wage seems like a weak argument


Here’s another way to look at the staggering amount of money Jeff Bezos has made so far in 2018. Amazon has an estimated total 566,000 employees worldwide. If the company CEO decided to pass along his $40 billion in increased net worth in 2018 to his workers, each of them would get about $70,000—which is more than twice the median Amazon employee’s salary.

These statements are always ridiculous to me. There is no way he could convert $40B to cash and everything else stay the same.


I think the point of that is to show an order of magnitude. He could always give his stock away on a restricted basis. Same result, right?


No - as the restrictions fall off, the probable number of sellers rise and the price falls - some of the current value of his holdings reflects the fact that they are not at play in the market - its the old supply/demand at work


I think you're getting too tangled up in the specific framing device the article uses. There's no easy way for Jeff Bezos to conjure up $40B in cash to hand out as bonuses, but there are plenty of ways he could have not made that $40B in the first place.

For a dramatic example, Amazon could decide tomorrow to give the entire company a 20% raise and eat the stock price crash. They'd be fine. Jeff Bezos is prioritizing growth and shareholder value but it's entirely within his powers to prioritize other things, like paying his employees a living wage all the way down the pay scale. Amazon would be a slightly smaller and less important company with a somewhat lower share price and the world would be a better place.

When he says that he doesn't have anything other than space exploration to spend his money on what he means, in part, is there's nothing he can change without negatively impacting the metrics he cares about. The point of this argument is that he could choose to care about different metrics.


Full disclosure I am an Amazon Web Services employee. The thing to realize about Amazon is that employees (at least on the tech side) are shareholders too, and a large amount of our compensation comes in the form of Amazon stock.

Amazon salary isn't that amazing, its pretty average or perhaps a bit below average for a major tech company. As the article mentions Bezos' salary is only $80k. But the value of the stocks that you get as a tech employee is very significant, and you know that their value is only going to increase. This is why Amazon has a strong incentive to grow the stock price, its baked into the culture based on the fact that so many employees get stock as part of their total compensation package.

On the flip side if Bezos was to cause a stock price crash he'd end up with a lot of very unhappy people on the tech side in Amazon Web Services. Amazon would not be "fine" because they'd lose a lot of tech employees or have to hugely increase salaries to make up for the loss of total value. Basically my point here is that the "shareholders" who are benefiting aren't just rich people, they are also middle class tech employees like me, and probably you and most of the people here on Hacker News.

"Bezos makes $40 billion" is an attractive headline, but he wasn't the only one who made money from the growth in Amazon stock price. Lots of employees at Amazon also saw the value of their stock increase, and I don't think any of us want to see that go down.


Not every employee in amazon is a well off techie.


> For a dramatic example, Amazon could decide tomorrow to give the entire company a 20% raise and eat the stock price crash.

Whereupon Bezos would be removed as CEO and sued into a smoking crater.


$166/week before taxes.

We consider that “employed”?

How can anybody live like that? I can’t imagine.

Housing would be out of the question, but not having housing would be every bit as unsustainable.

Considering the variablility in different prison or slavery experiences, I cannot help but wonder about the overlap in quality of life provided by one of these vs. $12,000/yr wage earnings in the contemporary US. While slavery won’t guarantee shelter, it does incentivize providing it. Prison even guarantees it. A $12,000/yr wage makes both food and shelter into a critical compromise.


Maybe they are part time? It’s “average worker” after all


Do you mean to imply that this is their income by choice? Because they don’t want to work more than this? This sounds like a bold accusation.

Let’s not play dumb. Part-time work is preferred by low-wage employers because it skirts providing benefits and job security. I content with this as a seasoned professional. I can’t in any honesty imagine low-wage workers would not face this problem to a larger degree.

“Average worker”...OK, even worse. So there are enough workers at Amazon warehouses making making less than that to give us an average of $12,000/year. I’m sorry, I do not get your point at all.


Let's read the article first?

> Meanwhile, the median Amazon employee’s salary in 2017 was $28,446. During the first five months of this year... that median-earning Amazon worker worldwide has made around $12,000 before taxes, assuming salaries have stayed more or less the same this year.

This article just has a slightly dishonest headline to catch people's attention. It's $28k, and it's a median, and it's worldwide.


Not really wanting to get involved in this debate or having a strong opinion either way, but I'll point out that I did part time warehouse work (not Amazon) to get me through college. Many of my co-workers were in exactly the same boat.


Possibly the implication was that this is one of several jobs they are forced to work in order eat and have housing, which is not pleasant, but common enough to approach 'average'.


I didn't see anything approaching an implication there.


This is an absolutely ridiculous article. There is zero substance to it, nor any meaningful discussion of any sort. I kinda expected more from an article on Time :-/


That makes no sense... net worth is not disposable cash. WTF is this article about.


It's about how (certain types) of workers get shafted in favor of shareholders.


the inane jealously used by politicians everyday when the election cycle is spinning up


When the Industrial Revolution came around, society said 'theyre not even doing the work, machines are! The workers don't deserve more pay!' and employers were more than willing to progress to the point where entire families, children included, worked 16 hour days 6 days a week just to be able to feed themselves. Then there was the New Deal which basically forced employers to pay 600% more for their workers practically overnight (rough numbers, reducing number of workers per family from 4 to 1 and hours worked from 96 to 40).

Now with the computer revolution, society says 'theyre not even doing the work, the machines are! The workers don't deserve more pay!' and since 1980, wages have been nearly frozen despite astronomically rising productivity due to technology. It would make sense that this continues until families are starving. There may never be another New Deal, though, because when that originally came around you couldn't shut down any discussion of helping people just by whispering the word 'socialism'.


> When the Industrial Revolution came around, society said 'theyre not even doing the work, machines are! The workers don't deserve more pay!' and employers were more than willing to progress to the point where entire families, children included, worked 16 hour days 6 days a week just to be able to feed themselves. Then there was the New Deal which basically forced employers to pay 600% more for their workers practically overnight (rough numbers, reducing number of workers per family from 4 to 1 and hours worked from 96 to 40).

You are missing the part of the story where that happened in europe, and people fled europe to go to the US where those things did not happen at all, and where even Marx said that the government was not oppressing its people like they did in England.

Maybe it had something to do with europe being an aristocracy back then.


Are you actually arguing that workers were not oppressed in the US during the industrial Revolution? Here's a few examples off the top of my head. Threw in a modern one with wage theft just in case you think times have changed as well

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homestead_strike [2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fi... [3]https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/militia-slaughte... [4]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_union_busting_in_th... [5]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_store [6]https://www.epi.org/publication/wage-theft-bigger-problem-th...


> Are you actually arguing that workers were not oppressed in the US during the industrial Revolution?

Compared to the manual subsistence farm labor they were doing before, you mean?

Rural workers flocked to the new factories because it was better than what they had before. You see the exact same process playing out in China right now.

Most of the Amazon warehouses are located in semi-rural areas that didn't have available jobs of any sort before.


It may have been less oppressing but it was still oppression. Also I'd argue that they _thought_ it would be better, not that it was. We don't have perfect information to make rational choices and they certainly didn't have it back before a global communications system existed. The factory owners routinely lied and changed the deal on employees.

Regardless you stated that none of the opression that happened in Europe to workers happened in the US and that is probably false. If you had a source for that quote from Marx, I would like to see it


> It may have been less oppressing but it was still oppression.

Well, by that argument anything short of perfection is unacceptable.

> Also I'd argue that they _thought_ it would be better, not that it was.

It was demonstrably better. Median income (measured in constant dollars), lifespan, and education levels all took a dramatic jump over the course of the 19th Century, both in the U.K. and the United States.

> Regardless you stated that none of the opression that happened in Europe to workers happened in the US and that is probably false.

I stated nothing of the sort. You're confusing me with another poster.


You are correct on me confusing you with the poster I originally replied to, my bad


There is no comparison of dimensions of what the US went through and what Europe was going through. In the US you had the ability to turn to farming yourself and survive, whereas you couldn't in Europe.

And also you have to take into account the extreme levels of poverty that were standard at the time. Just having your farm with your family and kids would mean that the smallest health issue starved the entire family to death. The process was gruesome to todays standards, and it is reprehensible to what we do and can do today but it turned a world with 90%+ extreme povery into a 40% extreme poverty in a century, unlike anything before in history.


You are conflating "less opressed" with "not opressed", and disregarding all of the actual opression that was happening to labor from both business owners and the government.

Also it was the industrial revolution when people were flocking to the cities to work in factories in part because working a farm was no longer enough to survive for most people. Other than a few periods of time when the government gave out land grants, a penniless immigrant couldn't just show up and get land.


The New Deal occurred in the USA, not Europe. It was in the USA as well as Europe that the economy was abusive and exploitative of workers. The New Deal never would have even happened if there weren't social movements to end child labor, to have a single person paid so much for only 40 hours of work that they could raise an entire family comfortably on a single income. It was the whole point.


The new deal happened because of the depression, not because of social movements. No depression , no New deal. It was also the winds of the time to turn to welfare states.


Regulate that either investors or employees can not make more than 10X of minimum employee wage? Immaterial on how much they invest or have stocks. That way there is money available for more companies, and employees are paid fairly?


That just encourages companies to subcontract out low-wage work rather than doing it in-house. The low-wage workers themselves are not better off. I believe that regulations on 401(k) plan participation have already encouraged companies to shed low-wage workers.


When they game that regulation, then regulate sub-contracting. This is a cat and mouse game. The problem is, currently the mouse (regulators) - are dead.


Wait, aren't the companies' anti-social behaviors the mouse, and the people trying to hunt down those behaviors (regulators) the cat?

It may just be me; I always thought that the cat was doing the hunting in a "cat and mouse" game.




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