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Earlier this month, John Russell, who goes by the username @heyjohnrussell on TikTok, uploaded a video in which he explained why, if you have $2m in the US, “you’re kind of poor” in comparison to billionaires such as Jeff Bezos.
To prove his claim, Russell created a graph, on which each square was worth $5bn, and on which individuals with zero dollars were on the bottom, while Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest person, was written on the top line of the chart to illustrate his $190bn.
After indicating most Americans are at the zero net worth line, Russell drew a line slightly above to indicate where the “one per cent starts” at a minimum of $4.5m net worth.
Russell then drew another line to indicate Kanye West’s net worth on the graph at $6.5bn, with the line still very near the bottom of the chart, before pointing out that most famous people don’t have the same wealth as the rapper.
“Most famous people are less rich than Kanye,” Russell said, giving the examples of Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, Floyd Mayweather, Lebron James, Kylie Jenner, Mark Cuban and “that guy from the Wolf of Wall Street in real life”.
Continuing, Russell added another line slightly higher up the chart and added: “And, every politician that you’ve ever heard of, except for Michael Bloomberg, who at $55bn, is much closer to having no money at all than he is to having Jeff money.”
The clip sees Russell move on to billionaires at “a whole other level,” including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, with a net worth of $180bn, which places him at a line near the top of the graph, and tech founders Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg with net worths of $132bn, who are illustrated much lower but still way above the middle of the graph.
Russell then explained that 99 per cent of Americans are located in the small space between zero net worth and the one per cent, while “17m Americans are below zero with a negative net worth”.
According to the TikTok user, he raised the topic because of how it relates to the idea of “taxing the rich,” with Russell noting that when he says it, he does not mean taxing those that make up the one per cent.
“Your life here is a lot different than somebody’s life down here,” Russell continued as he pointed to the points on the graph indicating zero net worth and below zero net worth. However, he then claimed “we are all poor compared to right here” as he gestured to the lines on the graph indicating billionaires Bloomberg, Gates, Zuckerberg, Musk and Bezos.
He concluded the video explaining that, if Americans vote together, we can “rebuild the country and make the super-rich pay for it”.
In the week since he uploaded the video, it has been viewed more than 4.2m times on TikTok, where many people have praised Russell for the illustration, and where it has sparked a conversation about the wealth disparities in the US.
“It’s difficult for people to comprehend how vast the wealth gap is. Kudos for this,” one person commented, while another said: “Wow this puts a lot into perspective.”
Others found the idea that the one per cent should not be taxed as “rich” but rather that it should apply to those who make much more confusing, with someone else writing: “So we’ll tax three people?”
The conversation also continued on Twitter, where the video has been viewed an additional 1m times, with another person explaining that they understood the concept, but that it would be hard to implement, as they wondered “how do we avoid those people just leaving and taking their money with them so they don’t have to pay for anyone else?”
“If you can find a way cool but doesn’t seem plausible and they’d exercise every loophole,” they continued. “Even if you take every dme that these super rich have, which is unfeasible, you still don’t pay off the national debt.”
One viewer also acknowledged that relative wealth in the US has to be discussed in relation to the rest of the world.
“If we’re using ‘relatively’ then most Americans would be ‘relatively’ wealthy as it relates to the rest of the world and about $1m per year earnings puts you in the top 1 per cent globally. You’re rich. Unless you just ignore the rest of the world in your ‘wealth’ perspective,” they wrote.
There were also those who defended the super-rich, with some viewers claiming that a wealth gap is inevitable due to capitalism.
“That’s capitalism. It’s their money. If you don’t like the rich being rich, don’t buy their products and services. Easy as that,” one person wrote.