A Billion Dollars Is So Much More Than You Think

It’s been a while since I posted on here, and mostly that’s because I haven’t had the headspace for anything longer than a Twitter rant (you can, of course, go follow me over at @schadenford for those). But with Howard Schulz potentially running for president in the most entitled way humanly imaginable, I wanted to share a few of my favourite descriptions of just how much money a billionaire has.

Most people think of a million dollars as a lot of money, and it is. With a million dollars, you can retire in most parts of America today, regardless of your age. If you invest only in index funds—nothing fancy, nothing high risk—you can live a comfortable, middle class life off the interest alone (which would, by the way, be a lot more than I’ve ever made in a year). A million dollars is what you save up if you put away roughly $1200 every month for thirty years and average a very healthy 5% rate of compound interest on every cent. That’s $14,400 that you earn but do not spend for thirty years, over and above the cost of: rent (or a mortgage if you’re lucky), food, utilities, fun, servicing student debt, paying off student debt, taking on more debt if you have kids, and so on. A million dollars is a lot of money.

The mistake, when people consider a billion dollars, is that they think in linear scales. They (roughly) think a billion is as much more than a million as a million is more than they have. And while that’s relatively true—if you’ve got $1000—it’s not the way we think about it. A billion is proportionately more than a million the way a million is proportionately more than a thousand. But the way your brain thinks about it is different. Honestly, you probably feel like a million dollars is a million more than you have, and a billion dollars is that much again. When you imagine a billion dollars, you’re probably imagining something a lot closer to two million dollars than a thousand million dollars.

So here to explain are some of my favourite thought exercises to understand just how much a billion dollars really is.

Exhibit A: A billion is so, so much more than a million. A million seconds is roughly twelve days. A billion seconds is 31.7 years. Imagine not having something you like for twelve days. Chocolate maybe. Your favourite ramen. Beer. Democracy. Now imagine the difference between that, and not having it for thirty one point seven years. Getting the picture?

Exhibit B: A billion dollars is more than you can spend in a lifetime. If you have a billion dollars, and you never earn a single cent of interest (ha!), you’ll still be able to spend $30,000 every single day of your life without running out of money. That’s just shy of the $31,000 and change that’s the US median yearly income every single day for ninety years.

Exhibit C: A billion dollars is more than enough to continue to be rich by every definition for every generation since Jesus of Nazareth purportedly walked the Earth. If you had a billion dollars on The Day Jesus Was Born™, and you spent $1350 every. single. day. since then, you would still have almost six million dollars today. Two thousand and nineteen years later. To save that up over thirty years you’d need to be putting away $86,400 every year (at 5% monthly compounded interest). You’d need to be saving almost three times the US median yearly income for thirty years just to save up as much pocket change as you’d have left after spending $1350 every day (over $490,000 a year!) for over two thousand years.

Exhibit D: It is literally impossible to save up a billion dollars. Remember how I said if you saved up $14,400 a year for thirty years you’d have a million dollars (if you manage 5% compound interest)? If you saved up $50,000 a year (without interest) you’d have a million after twenty years. At that rate it would only take you twenty thousand years to save up a billion dollars. For reference, that’s four times longer than all of recorded history. That’s over eighty three times longer than the US dollar has even EXISTED.

All of this is just to say the following: a billion dollars is an utterly unimaginable sum of money. At the rates at which we value labour, a human being cannot earn a billion dollars. They cannot accumulate a billion dollars through any amount of hard work, because if you get $60,000 a year for the very hard work of teaching, or $35,000 for the very hard work of collecting garbage 40 hours a week, or you get $60,000 for the very hard work of building the infrastructure we all use and live in, that’s the value of hard work, somewhere in that ballpark. You literally cannot work more or harder or better enough to earn the difference between that and a billion dollars through work, you can only extract it from the economy at the expense of undervalued labour.

The very existence of billionaires is proof positive that something is deeply broken in the way our society assigns value to things.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some work to do.

Signed: The Remixologist.

Serving Misogyny

To find out that menstruation is apparently the one aspect of femininity that is “too far” is disappointing on both a personal and an artistic level, because it shows the multiple ways in which Drag Race is not willing to expand boundaries as far as we thought.

 

I’m a big Drag Race fan, though I’ve missed a few seasons due to my lack of cable. (Damn my millennial spirit.) But I try to somewhat keep up with things via blogs and fansites, so I was pleased to hear that one of my all-time faves, Manila Luzon, was going to be on the All Stars series. And then my love grew so large that it nearly actually strangled me when I learned that she had planned to wear this outfit on the show:

 

 

Look at this. Look at it. This is goddamn fantastic. It acknowledges and normalizes periods at the same time it looks amazing. I freaking adore this look.

But you may have noticed that I wrote “planned to.” Manila Luzon did not actually get to wear this outfit on national television, because, as she explained in an Instagram post, RuPaul and the producers thought the look was in “bad taste.”

Now, for completely unrelated reasons, I’m going to show you a few of the looks that have been allowed on Drag Race over the years:

 

For those of you playing WTF bingo, that is, in order: nearly-naked Ziggy Stardust, naked with cardboard censoring bars, gagged BDSM, a “Carrie getting covered in pig’s blood” costume, some kind of nose-job and lip-job costume (?), an outfit with an accessorized oxygen tank (??), a “tribute” to the “Indian” from the Village People (???), pregnancy as a costume (?!), and a horror show I can only assume was meant to be a rotting corpse costume (?!!).

So to be clear, RuPaul and the producers are okay with nudity or near nudity (to the point that pixelation has to be involved,) allusions to BDSM, cultural appropriation, pregnancy and unhealthy beauty standards. They’re even really okay with fake blood in other contexts. And I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with those things (except for the unhealthy beauty standards and cultural appropriation. Please do not waist train, everyone. It is bad for you. Cultural appropriation is also bad for you and should not happen.) So it’s pretty clear that the show has a fairly high bar for “bad taste,” and in other contexts is totally okay with both blood and cisgender female bodily functions, like pregnancy. But a really gorgeous look that normalizes menstruation while still being amazing is too far?

I’ve talked before on the old blog about the stigma against menstruation. (I actually talked about it a lot).

Long story short, as a society we seem to be almost completely incapable of discussing menstruation in a healthy way, avoid punishing girls or women for having periods, or even show blood or say the word “period” in a commercial for menstrual products. (If your menstrual blood is ever blue, please double check that your uterus has not been filled with antifreeze or windshield fluid.) At the same time that young women are sexualized and seen as breeding objects, we stigmatize this biological corollary to puberty and fertility.

Manila also mentions this stigma in her post about the look. In her post she explains, “I was really looking forward to wearing this gown that I think celebrates a perfectly normal human experience! Many of my fans are young women who may feel pressured by society to be embarrassed by periods. It’s empowering to teach young women about their bodies, encourage them to celebrate them AND to question people who tell them not to. My goal with this look was to normalize menstruation by looking sick’ning even if I was on my period!”

 

 

Fellow Drag Race alum Willam showed support for Manila and also advocated for the normalization of menstruation, while at the same time calling herself out for doing things on the show in worse taste than a menstruation dress. Willam might be my id.

This incident is really upsetting and saddening, partly because one of the things I like best about Drag Race is the ways that it discusses and expands concepts of “femininity.” A lot of the cultural advances that we’ve made in dance, fashion, and makeup come from the world of drag. (The Kardashians can thank drag queens for their contouring. Is it kontouring if a Kardashian does it? These are the questions that keep me up at night.) Drag can be a reflection of many cisgender women’s experiences, or a funhouse mirror that exaggerates these experiences. And for many women, menstruation is one of those experiences. To find out that menstruation is apparently the one aspect of femininity that is “too far” is disappointing on both a personal and an artistic level, because it shows the multiple ways in which Drag Race is not willing to expand boundaries as far as we thought.

Signed: Feminist Fury.

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Featured image is of Manila Luzon in a dress featuring a stylized used menstrual pad on the front.