Dan Rattiner's Stories

Magic: When a Person Makes $1 Billion, a Gong Should Sound & That’s That

"Billionaire” becomes a prefix, like “Doctor” or “Bonacker” or “Philanthropist.”

There’s something magical about a person’s having a billion dollars. It’s like when you get to a billion, you don’t have to worry anymore. Just don’t let it go back under a billion.

This thought occurred to me the other day when I heard something about the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactures OxyContin. The family is worth, by some estimates, more than $13 billion. Now everybody’s suing the company. And New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating whether family members quietly sent a billion dollars via wire transfer to offshore accounts so they wouldn’t have to personally suffer as much financially as a result of the lawsuits.

A billion? Really, that’s all you need.

We here in the Hamptons, of course, have our share of billionaires. When you get be a billionaire, from the media perspective, the word “billionaire” becomes a prefix, like “Doctor” or “Bonacker” or “Philanthropist.”

Michael Bloomberg, for example, was Mayor of New York City for 12 years, but the media calls him Billionaire Mike Bloomberg. The same is true with David Koch, who passed away in August. They buried Billionaire David Koch, not Industrialist David Koch.

The truth is that it is very hard to spend a billion dollars. You wake up in the morning and you put your pants on one leg at a time like everybody else. How much can a pair of pants cost? Well, I’ll have a pair woven with gold. Doesn’t even make a dent. You only have 24 hours in a day. You could change pants every hour and it still wouldn’t make a dent.

Having half a billion, on the other hand, well, there are things that could make a dent. Having a 20-room mansion on 50 acres on the ocean could make a dent. A big hundred-foot yacht could make a dent. Over a billion, though, no dent.

I should note that taxes no longer make a dent over a billion. Once upon a time they did. During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt raised taxes until the top tax rate for the very wealthiest stood at 75%. The wealthy still got very rich. It dropped under JFK, and then came Ronald Reagan, whose policies slashed the top tax rate to 28.4%. It’s about that today.

But that’s another story.

Today’s story is to suggest that in this land of opportunity, let’s consider that when you get to a billion, they sound the gong. You’ve won.

And leave it at that.

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