EDITOR’S COLUMN: Female billionaires are not the answer

A diverse ruling class still rules

When working towards a more equal society, we do not need billionaires of all shapes, sizes, colors and gender. We need less billionaires.

Bloomberg broke the news late in October that Taylor Swift officially reached billionaire status.

It is unsurprising that a celebrity with such a loyal fanbase was celebrated for the milestone. However, this highlights the hypocrisy of today’s slightly progressive and overwhelmingly white liberal politics.

The notion that billionaires should not exist is mainstream enough for the headline of a Teen Vogue op-ed. Such a stance maintains that nobody can make a billion dollars on their own. Rather, they take it from others through inheritance or exploitative labor practices.

When the billionaire space race picked up in 2021, Elon Musk, Jeff Besoz and Richard Branson garnered mass criticism for their grotesque displays of wealth. This cemented their image of cartoon villains. They confirmed that some of the richest men in history will sooner launch themselves away from the planet than sacrifice their wealth to save it.

Whether it’s Bezos launching into orbit during a pandemic or Sen. Ted Cruz flying to Cancún during a Texas snowstorm, we’ve seen powerful men use their money to run away from our problems.

In 2022, 88% of the world’s billionaires were men, 65% were white and 60% were over 60 years old, according to a study from Statista. It is not liberating when a white woman descending from three generations of bankers and stockbrokers joins this club.

It’s hard to find a space with college-aged women and no Swift merch in sight. When the eras tour stopped in Detroit, it felt like I knew every single person in attendance.

Reuters reports that the University of California at Berkley offers a business course centering on the singer’s entrepreneurship. New York University, University of Texas and now University of Florida offer classes covering the pop culture, politics and lyricism of Swift and her discography.

Because she is so popular among and genuinely empowering to many girls and women, I feel the need to acknowledge that Swift did not invent the system she benefits from. She worked hard and played the game. That doesn’t change the fact that the game is rigged.

The rising tide of billionaire wealth does not lift all boats. I do respect Swift and remember taking guitar lessons as an eight-year-old so I could live a life like hers. It is delusional for most of us to think that a guitar will get us to that point and not generational wealth and privilege.

As broken down by NPR, Oxfam revealed that 125 billionaires emit the same annual carbon footprint as the entire country of France. In 2022, a marketing and analytics agency posted a list of celebrities with the highest carbon emissions from private jet usage alone. Swift’s jet took first place.

At the time of the study, Swift’s jet emitted over 8,250 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 11 months. That is nearly 1,200 times the amount of the average person’s total yearly emissions. The Swift public relations team, a true master of their craft, attempted to clean up the situation by claiming all emissions could not be attributed to Swift herself, who regulalry loans out her private jet to close friends.

If anyone from Big Rapids or a Ferris alum becomes a billionaire, I would love to write the news story about it. It is simply just not a realistic vision for us.