A Real Human Being Actually Said This

[Content Note: Classism.]

Below, video of an exchange between Amanda Lang and Kevin O'Leary (a billionaire who is one of the featured investors on NBC's Shark Tank), from a CBC Television broadcast of The Lang and O'Leary Exchange, a Canadian business news television series (via):

Amanda Lang, a young thin white woman: The wealth, this according to Oxfam, of the world's 85 richest people is equal to the three and a half billion poorest people.

Kevin O'Leary, a middle-aged white man: It's fantastic. And this is a great thing because it inspires everybody—gets the motivation to look up to the one percent and say, "I wanna become one of those people. I'm gonna fight hard to get up to the top." This is fantastic news, and of course I applaud it.

Lang: [stares wordlessly at O'Leary]

O'Leary: What can be wrong with this?

Lang: Really?

O'Leary: Yes, really.

Lang: So, somebody living on—

O'Leary: I celebrate capitalism!

Lang: —a dollar a day in Africa is getting up in the morning and saying, "I'm gonna be Bill Gates."?

O'Leary: That's the motivation everybody needs!

Lang: The only thing between me and that guy is—

O'Leary: I'm not against charity—

Lang: —motivation? I just need to pull up my socks?

O'Leary: I am not—don't—

Lang: Oh wait—I don't have socks!

O'Leary: Look, don't tell me that you wanna redistribute wealth again. That's never gonna happen, okay?

Lang: All— You know what? You take a simple stat like this, which is neither good nor bad [sic], and it's just a fact—

O'Leary: It's a celebratory stat! I'm very excited about it. I'm— Wonderful to see it happen. I tell kids every day—


Lang: In case it comes up at a cocktail party—

O'Leary: No, no—Amanda, what's wrong with this statement...

Lang: One possible—one possible response to it—

O'Leary: If you work hard, you might be stinking rich one day.

Lang: We're talking about people in extreme, abject poverty. That's how you get three and a half billion in this category.

O'Leary; No, we're not! You were just talking about really rich people!

Lang: No. [blinks] Okay. Let me tell you later what you should say to this.
Now, O'Leary—for those who aren't familiar with his shtick—loves to say provocative shit like this to amuse himself. But don't mistake for a moment that because he delivers this classist garbage with a wry grin means he doesn't believe it. He believes it.

Or, rather more accurately: He knows it's colossal bullshit, but it's more amusing to him to elicit outrage by saying that extreme wealth inequality should be aspirational to the very poor than it is for him to have a serious discussion about how the sort of unregulated capitalism he has exploited to make himself a billionaire depends on a permanent global underclass.

Amusement at entrenched poverty is a luxury his wealth buys him, and which he clearly enjoys.

Kevin O'Leary is not a stupid fella. He knows how the world works. He isn't truly operating under the misconception that all it takes to get from living on $1 a day to billionaire is hard work. It's just a punchline to guys like him.

At least O'Leary has the mettle to let us see he thinks it's all just a big joke.

[Related Reading: Wealth Gap.]

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