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Opinion: A look into how wealthy people make more by doing less

American corporations make millions off of the working class.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/edwinbai/" target="_self">Edwin Bai</a>

Edwin Bai

May 1, 2023
Considering the question of whether wealthy people work less, we can find plenty of examples of wealthy people making money off of very little work. 

In fact, the national average income from the stock market is $53,356 as recorded by ZipRecruiter, a massive sum when compared to the work put into it. On the other hand, carpenting, a much more labor intensive and work heavy job, barely makes more than the stock market, at a whole $57,619, a year according to salary.com. The difference between the labor and money made between the two illustrates the difference between the wealthy and the working class; wealthier people are able to earn more while working less, while poor are forced to work far more for far less.

Through these examples, we are able to demonstrate how the further up the social class you go, the less you need to work, and the more you are able to earn. Paradoxically, the labor class is forced to work far more for far less, completely contradicting the notion that “the harder you work the more you earn”.

In fact, this hypocrisy extends further when examining the average American work hours of a 9-5 job. Typically, this type of work requires eight hours of work a day, five days a week, totaling to 40 hours a week, although the actual work hours may vary between 35-48 hours. This type of job is reportedly tedious, labor intensive, and low paying, especially since wages are dropping recently, as illustrated by Peterson Institute for International Economics.

So despite the fact that members of the working class may work upwards of 40 hours a week, they still earn far less than someone who barely puts in any work into landlording.

The median weekly earnings of full time wage workers in the United States was $1,440 in the first quarter of 2022, which would translate to a little under $56,000 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is barely above what one would get through passive income within the stock market and far below the salary of a landlord. How could this possibly be fair when one considers the amount of tedious, strenuous work one puts into a 9-5 job? 

Furthermore, an increasing number of people are beginning to take on multiple jobs, as stated by Reuters. In fact, around 7.8% of American workers had more than one job in 2018. Yet despite working multiple jobs, it’s been reported that they earned less than people with only one job on average.

The paradox continues in this example: how could someone who’s working harder earn less? Not only does the working class work more and earn less than the wealthy, but those within the working class who are working multiple jobs are earning even less despite working more. So clearly, effort doesn’t have much of a correlation with payment in the higher echelons of society.

But shouldn’t harder jobs be paid more even if one works less? Sure, this sentiment is completely valid when we take into consideration high skill labor such as surgery and lawyering that requires years of education. It is reasonable that such difficult jobs should pay more than low skilled labor, even if they work marginally less because it upholds the idea that the harder you work, the more you earn.

However, this sentiment isn’t universal, and there are a number of ways to earn income that are simpler and less taxing than 9-5 jobs, yet pay more, such as the previously mentioned forms of passive income. We can further examine Elon Musk’s source of income to better understand how the rich work less labor intensive jobs yet earn more money.

One of Elon Musk’s most prized corporations is the car manufacturer Tesla, designing futuristic, state of the art cars that employ only the most modern technology known to man, supposedly.

A large sum of Musk’s wealth comes from Tesla, but how exactly does he and his company make money? When taking a closer look at Tesla’s growth, it’s honestly surprising that the car company is at the size it is today.

Compared to General Motors, which had sold over 250,000 cars that year, Tesla sold only 1/63th of what GM did. In fact, Tesla lost $2.9 billion in its first 10 years of existence, so how does Tesla, and Musk, earn their money? 

Here, we begin to understand how Musk makes his money. According to a Linkedin, in an article authored by a process and manufacturing engineer at Crystal Fountains, Tesla gains its revenue by hyping up the company to attract investors who are driven by the allure of futuristic Tesla products. Musk plays a large part in this role. By portraying himself as a technological genius with high minded goals and sights set on space and the future, Musk is able to entice wealthy investors with his ideas of colonizing Mars or creating the car of the future.

This leads to Tesla’s stocks rising, of which Musk owns 17% as the largest shareholder of the company. Weinberg further elaborates on the allure of Musk and Tesla. When Tesla introduced autopilot, the media and the market became obsessed with it, not because it was autopilot, but because it was Tesla autopilot. This hype revolving around Tesla products leads to a growth in investors, which leads to a rise in Tesla’s stock, which then leads to profits in Musk’s wallet, culminating in his massive sums of wealth. 

This pattern isn’t only related to Tesla, it’s also related to Musk’s other corporations; SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company all follow this pattern of lackluster products alleviated by lofty minded investors who raise Tesla’s stock. When combining the profits of all his companies, it becomes clear how Musk made $33.8 billion in a day, through his ever-so-often “comedic” tweets and big words, he’s able to swoon a large portion of his audiences into believing what he’s doing is revolutionizing the world.

As a result, he’s able to make billions of dollars in a day through investors, without that much work either. And through Musk, the idea that the wealthy work less yet earn more than the poor is reinforced. Not only does he work less strenuously, he also works less, with enough time in his work hours to tweet every couple hours or so. Clearly, Musk isn’t working very hard, but he still gets a lot of money.

By examining the income of billionaires, popular sources of passive income, working hours of the working class, and Musk’s “job,” we can only come to one conclusion: the notion that working harder makes you more money is completely and utterly a fabricated lie designed to make working class Americans labor more for less so their bosses make more.

When the wealthy are making millions of dollars in a single week, sometimes from the comfort of their home, and the working class are working long hours across multiple jobs, dedicating sweat, blood, and tears to their labor with hardly any sizable reward, it’s time to ask: does your hard work really matter?