So, you’ve made it. All that boot shining, hand shaking, back slapping, golf ball whacking, cigar chomping, scotch swirling and regulation tap dancing has landed you in the top-of-the-ladder penthouse. You’re a billionaire. Your paycheck spews zeroes and commas.
You’ve got houses in your three favorite cities – all tastefully decorated but decked out with just enough bling to let folks know you got dollah billz. There’s the ski lodge (or two), beach house (or two), plus the private jet, luxury boxes, a closet full of tailored suits (your shoe closet is larger than a London double decker) and a garage polluted with fancy cars of all makes and eras – if you’re into that sort of thing – and maybe a strategically placed side villa (or two) scattered about even your wife isn’t in on. Basically, you’re sitting on a throne of greens you can’t hope to spend. You simply can’t physically swipe your debit card fast enough.
So, who are you? Let’s say you’re Steve Jobs. You like to dress yourself in jeans and turtlenecks to show the huddled masses you’re grounded in their everyman petri dish – either that or your consumed with the Saturday Night Live “Sprockets” sketch. In the past year you’ve watched your company’s stock price rocket north of 400, you’ve cranked up the p.r. machine to super genius, you’ve got everybody starting sentences with lower case i’s, and if you feel like taking the day off, there’s no boss or H.R. flack counting up your sick days to give you grief. Life’s good!
Then, one morning you lift your head off your 800-thread-count Egyptian silk sheets – or maybe you’re in the shower rinsing the Italian-designer conditioner from your hair – and you think, “You know, i could probably do something really worthwhile will all those dusty billions. i wouldn’t just dump it into some Madoff-esque pyramid charity, but, hell, i could change some lives – maybe even shape a generation.” But, if you’re Steve Jobs, your answer to that sophomoric palaver is, “Hells no. i needs my money. Besides, people who donate more than 0 percent of their income to charity are so totally Carnegie i can’t bear it.”
So –. Wait: 0 percent? Zero? Yes: zero. According to Forbes, the amount of money Steve Jobs gave away to charity in 2008, when his net worth was estimated at a very un-Saudi-sheik-like pedestrian $5.7 billion (and when Apple’s stock value was almost half what it is today), was a steaming pile of squadoosh. Nothing. This guy probably turns his lights off and lies low on Halloween so he doesn’t have to dish out candy – free candy – to those be-sheeted riff-raff.
But, hey, don’t blame Steve. Is it really his fault that the government has been floating him all these extra Benjamins every year since 2001? There are just too many of them now. What are you supposed to do with them all? I don’t know. See? It gets confusing.
Besides, what can poor Steve – one lonely multi billionaire – do to stem the gusher of this government largesse? You can’t tell the government to stop giving you money, can you? If they want to shovel more cash into your Cayman Islands’ account, who are you to stop them? You’re just one man against the machine.
So, relax, Steve. Take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not the only billionaire miser Scrooge-ing away his back-up bullion in his sock drawer (Yahoo’s Jerry Yang and Dell’s Michael Dell doled out a paltry 4 and 7 percent, respectively. Maybe it’s a computer virus?).
And, who knows? Maybe you can take it with you! Wouldn’t that be something? Gated communities and McMansions and private putting greens in heaven (or whatever afterlife elevator level Jobs and his miserly ilk will be exiting)! Almost makes you want to line up for a shot on the upcoming new Fox smash, “Lives of the Rich and Tight Fisted.” Wait: is there an iPhonePadPodMac app for that?
Jeremy Kehoe is a playwright whose staged work includes “Car Play: She & Him”, “Killing Russell Crowe”, “Ready, Aim, You’re Fired”, “A Few Good PB&Js” and “Banana Intervention”. Jeremy has had multiple stage readings and workshop productions of plays in Los Angeles and New York. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild and Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights, and a former newspaper editor and reporter, where he earned awards from the NAACP and the New England Press Association.