Current Affairs

A Magazine of Politics and Culture

A City’s Shopping List

What will your city buy when its billionaires are expropriated?

Estimates of Jeff Bezos’ wealth vary, but according to a January report from Bloomberg, the zero-tax-paying, warehouse-worker-abusing, dick-pic-sending Amazon founder has a net worth of $137 billion. As per the terms of his contentious divorce settlement, his entire fortune (yes, estimated net worth and all, not even liquid assets!) has been bestowed upon a random medium-sized U.S. city of 150,000 people. What will this lucky city be able to buy with $137,000,000,000? Much, much, much more than you’d think.

  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner ($20 per meal) for every city resident, every single day, for 10 years: $32.85 billion
  • 10 percent down payment on a home for every family (based on median U.S. housing price of $200,000, and assuming one house for every two people): $1.5 billion
  • Monthly mortgage payment for every home for 10 years, excluding taxes and insurance: $8.08 billion
  • Retrofit every home for the Green New Deal (using Bloomberg’s high-end estimate of $100,000 per house, again assuming one house for every two people): $7.5 billion
  • Install a lovely rooftop garden on every home: $112.5 million
  • Build 10 stunningly beautiful public libraries (10 million apiece): $100 million
  • Operate a state-of-the-art library system for 10 years: $200 million
  • Every resident gets a Shetland pony ($1,000 per pony): $150 million
  • Shetland pony upkeep for 10 years (presuming an annual per pony cost of $5,000 a year): $7.5 billion
  • Every household gets a top-of-the-line hot tub with massage jets ($10,000 each): $750 million
  • High-speed, carbon-neutral, accessible light rail system with 10 stations (rounding up to account for typical American grift, corruption, and outrageous consultancy fees): $3 billion
  • 1000 high-quality massage chairs on each one of the 10 light rail station platforms ($5,000 per chair): $50 million
  • Public education for every child for 10 years (children are, on average, 22.4 percent of population, so 33,600 children x annual above-average public education cost of $15,000 per child x 10 years): $5.04 billion
  • College education for all current residents (assuming the average cost of tuition at a four-year private college of $35,000 per year): $21 billion
  • Expert daycare for 10 years (33,600 children at $20,000 per child): $6.72 billion
  • Mechanical mobility-squids (an average of 10 percent of the population has mobility issues and the mecha-squids cost $2,000 each, plus R&D expenditures of 2 billion with room in the budget for cost overruns): $2.75 billion
  • Annual voucher for a pair of cool $100 sneakers for all residents for 10 years: $150 million
  • Working with a nature conservancy group to plant 1 million trees in and around the city: $3 million
  • Universal basic income of $2,000 a month per citizen for 10 years: $36 billion
  • Extraordinary pyrotechnic concerts every weekend for 10 years, booking the best acts, compensating them and the stage crew handsomely (each concert has a $3 million budget): $1.56 billion
  • Ecstatic Mardi Gras parades every day of February for 10 years (based on the budget of the most expensive krewe in New Orleans and rounded up for non-toxic beads): $1.9845 billion

Grand Total: $137,000,000,000

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