The person earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 isn't going out to eat at restaurants. They're not taking piano lessons. They're not going to the gym or the yoga studio. They're not sending mom flowers on Mother's day. What good is this person in the economy? If you raise it to $15 an hour, they're doing all of those things.
The thing I've learned most about poverty is how expensive it is to be poor. It's super easy to pay rent every month if you earn enough to pay rent and have a decent job. It's super hard to pay rent if you need a coupon from the state and then need to go find an apartment that will accept that coupon and only that coupon.
Amazon didn't create any jobs. Amazon probably destroyed a million jobs in our economy.
I think the idea that giant profitable corporations should pay their workers enough so that they don't need food stamps – since when is that left-wing? How did that become 'leftie?' That doesn't seem leftie to me. That seems common sense.
When you have a tax system in which most of the exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.
Like most plutocrats, I, too, am a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, cofounded or funded over 30 companies across a range of industries. I was the first non-family investor in Amazon.com. I cofounded a company called aQuantive that we sold to Microsoft for 6.4 billion dollars. My friends and I, we own a bank.
In software, it's easy to understand what people want, and it's hard to build. Internet stuff is super easy to build, but it's hard to know what people want.
We rich people have been falsely persuaded by our schooling and the affirmation of society, and have convinced ourselves, that we are the main job creators. It's simply not true.
I'm not the smartest guy you've ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I'm not technical at all – I can't write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship.
All human endeavor, all human civilization, is the act of solving collective action problems. Should we put out our own fires, or should we have a fire department? Should we build roads, or should we hack our way through the woods from one factory to another?
There is no earthly reason why Walmart and McDonald's and Walgreens and these other giant, profitable institutions should have one worker in need of public assistance. It's ridiculous.
People want to think of economics as a natural science, like physics, with the comforting reliability of simple-to-understand theories like F=MA. Unfortunately, it isn't. Economics is a social science, and the so-called theories are really social and moral constructs.
I think the people who end up being extraordinarily successful – it's been my observation – tend to care enormously about status, particularly business people, right? Because the only point of money, you know, the only reason to have a 300-foot-long boat is because they're bigger than 200-foot-long boats.
The thing about a real economy is that it actually is like the game of Monopoly in the sense that when one person has all the money, the game is over. And in a game of Monopoly, of course, that's quite charming, but in a real economy, it's much more problematic.
We plutocrats need to get this trickle-down economics thing behind us: this idea that the better we do, the better everyone else will do. It's not true. How could it be? I earn 1,000 times the median wage, but I do not buy 1,000 times as much stuff, do I?
Tech innovation is something societies have to pursue as vigorously as they can. We have to innovate civically and socially at the same rate; otherwise, you create unfortunate disruptions, and that's where you have people opposing technological innovations.
Once America's CEOs get back to the business of growing their companies rather than growing their share prices, shareholder value will take care of itself, and all Americans will share in the higher wages and other benefits of a renewed era of economic growth.
I have a 15-year-old boy, and we are about to give him car keys, which seems like an act of insanity when you know what you know about 15-year-old boy behavior. But in 2018, we'll have self-driving cars, and it will be so much better. My son may be the last generation of kids who learns to drive.
A lot of people think that persuasion is all about values and aligning values. I largely disagree. I think persuasion generally, and political persuasion more particularly, has much more to do with explaining in new ways and connecting dots in new ways than just invoking emotions and values.
If Jeff Bezos and I had started Amazon.com in a poverty-stricken corner of Africa, there would have been no job creation because there would be no people to buy the stuff from Amazon.com. The difference here is the American middle class, which is by every measure the most extraordinary economic achievement in the history of the world.
A thriving middle class is the source of growth in a technological, capitalist economy. Investing in the middle class is the most pro-business thing you can do.
One of the things that I think makes me successful is the way in which I collaborate with others. In my opinion, nothing great is ever the product of one mind. It's always a consequence of some sort of self-critical collaboration.
Most people believe, mistakenly, that wealth in a human society has something to do with money, but that's not true. Money is simply a medium of exchange. Prosperity in a human society is the accumulation of solutions to human problems that we create for ourselves.
We became enthralled with the view that wealth trickled down from the top and that if you poured money into rich people, sort of like an ingredient, prosperity and jobs would squirt out of them like donuts. And if you understand economies in the 19th-century way, that view is plausible, and I think a lot of people accepted it.
Economics is mostly how humans rationalize who gets what and why. It's how we instantiate our preferences about status, privileges, and power.
I have absolutely no rituals or routines other than I work obsessively and think constantly about my work, to the dismay and discomfort of everyone I employ. And my family.
Greed is a sin because humans are social creatures. And they simply cannot survive without the opposite of greed, which is cooperation.
The theory that if wages go up, employment goes down isn't a physical law like F=MA. It's a moral law, like 'Bedtime is 9:00 P.M.'
The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor.
If low taxes were the way that people like me created wealth, then we'd be starting our companies in the Congo or Somalia or Afghanistan, but we're not. We come to places where there are lots and lots of customers.
Government does create prosperity and growth by creating the conditions that allow both entrepreneurs and their customers to thrive; balancing the power of capitalists like me and workers isn't bad for capitalism – it's essential to it.
The most powerful forces in economics are not numbers or facts. They are prejudices and preferences. No amount of evidence will ever change the degree to which many of the rich and powerful prefer themselves to be richer and more powerful and others poorer and weaker.
During Seattle's successful campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage, our opponents would sometimes roll their eyes and snort, 'If $15 is so good, why not $50?' It was a straw man argument: Nobody was proposing a $50 minimum wage; it would have been too high, and we said so.
The truth is that all civic and social change is friction. Politics is friction. The only way you can bend the arc of history is to create that kind of friction, which is something that makes most people incredibly uncomfortable but which, for whatever reason, because of my upbringing or because of my genetics, is something that doesn't bug me.
The only really expensive thing in our family budget, frankly, is private air travel.
I'm not the world's best philosopher. But I am one of the world's best strategists. I will put my strategic abilities against anybody on Earth.
You see, we capitalists will never actually ask you to work overtime. I don't even track your hours. I just make it clear that I trust you to get your job done in the time allotted. And then I hand you twice as much work as you can reasonably do in a 40-hour week.
It is true that rich people can spend more money than middle class people, but there's this upper limit on what we can spend. I drive a very nice car, but it's only one car. I don't own a thousand, even though I earn a thousand times the median wage. I have a few jackets, not a few thousand.
You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It's not if, it's when.
Prosperity in human society is misunderstood. The difference between a rich and poor society is the number of problems that society solves for its citizens. That means technological innovation is the source of all prosperity, but with every tech innovation, you also get disruption – ultimately, social and civic disruption.
The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics is not the claim that if the rich get richer, everyone is better off. It is the claim made by those who oppose any increase in the minimum wage that if the poor get richer, that will be bad for the economy. This is nonsense.
Rising inequality is toxic to growth. High levels of inequality exclude people – both as innovators and customers – diminishing both innovation and demand.
No matter how wealthy a few plutocrats get, we can never drive a great national economy. Only a thriving middle class can do that.
Diversity is America's most valuable resource. It is what makes us the most innovative nation on Earth.
In a sufficiently prosperous society where people specialize sufficiently, and where enough of the crappy work is done by machines, all work becomes art.
Business people do two things with their time fundamentally. The first is that they try to create sales, right? Revenue, key to business. But the other thing they devote their time to equally is cost containment. That is to say, how to not create jobs. Because the fewer jobs you can create for the revenue you create, the more profit you make.
The higher the unemployment rate, the more leverage I have to 'encourage' you to 'do what it takes' to keep your job. And so you work even more hours, pushing unemployment up and wages down. And that, my friends, is one of the little tricks that keeps you poor and me rich.
Middle-out economics rejects the old misconception that an economy is a perfectly efficient, mechanistic system and embraces the much more accurate idea of an economy as a complex ecosystem made up of real people who are dependent on one another.