So back in January, Jeffrey Green got pillored for saying during an interview in Davos, people shouldn’t spend money they don’t have. Even though the billionaire is self-made, came from a financially challenged family, worked his way through college and saved to start his own business when he was in his early twenties, I suppose there is nothing we can learn from someone who is rags to riches anymore, particularly if the advice is not what we want to hear.
Recently The New York Times had a piece where Steve Balmer, the Microsoft billionaire, noted he flies by private jet to see games played by The Los Angeles Clippers, the NBA basketball team he bought for $2 billion. Now when it comes to the environment, there is no doubt each private jet flight burns “thousands of extra gallons of jet fuel that would not be burned if you flew commercial” as the paper published. Balmer explained his private jet usage, “Time is our most precious commodity, and there are conveniences wealth brings to essentially get your more time.”
Wealth being relative, Balmer is exactly correct. For the rest of us, it is also faster, more expensive and uses more gas to take our car rather than walking someplace or taking the bus for that matter. If our finances allow, and time constraints make it so, most of us hop in the car.
Back to the private aviation industry. In the U.S. alone, the industry employs over 1.2 million people and contributes 150 billion to the economy. In places like Los Angeles, Van Nuys Airport, used only for private aviation supports 12,300 jobs, generates over $700 million revenue into the community and pays over $80 million in state and local taxes.
Now true, the quotes I was referring to about wasting gas weren’t from a reporter of The New York Times. Even worse, they were from a letter to the editor the paper published which appears in full below:
Re “Speaking Loudly, Carrying a Big Wallet,” April 22: The Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer justifies his use of a private jet to commute to his basketball team’s games with the statement “Time is our most precious commodity, and there are conveniences that wealth brings to essentially get you more time.” No, Steve, a habitable planet is our most precious commodity. Using your wealth to put an extra airplane in the air, exhausting the result of burning thousands of extra gallons of jet fuel that would not be burned if you flew commercial, is not a convenience; it’s selfish and shortsighted.
– DON ALLEN, Carlisle, Mass.
Using its valuable real estate to forward a misguided hypothesis that Balmer’s actions are somehow going to lead to the end of earth as we know it is just, well, irresponsible and not fair to Balmer or the many who make their living and pay their bills working in private aviation. It’s hard to imagine that the gray lady is short on letters to the editor, so why choose something so wacky? If one wonders why many of the Super Rich try to put a protective shell around the themselves, look no further than the way much of the media portrays them.