Billionaires Are Asking Us For Funding?

Elliot Hilden, contributor

Celebrities exploiting their fans is nothing new in the world, but recently the concept has come back kicking and screaming with the way the devastating wildfires in Maui, Hawaii were handled by certain stars. On Aug. 31, Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson posted a video to Winfrey’s Instagram account announcing the “People’s Fund of Maui,” a donation-based fund designed to aid those impacted by the wildfires. The fund would send residents of Maui a monthly stipend if they are at least eighteen years of age and lost their primary residence in the fires. In the video, they asked their followers to donate and spoke about how they had kicked off the donations with $10 million. 

This announcement was met with a fair amount of criticism, due to Winfrey and Johnson donating less than 0.5% of their combined net worth which is valued at nearly $3 billion, according to Insider. Many of their fans wanted to know why they were asking people who are already living paycheck to paycheck instead of asking other celebrities or donating more to the cause. Neither of them has made any statement on the matter, but as of now Winfrey’s Instagram comments have been turned off.  

With Johnson being one of the highest-paid actors in the world and Winfrey being the richest talk show host, I think it’s strange that they felt it was appropriate to ask their fans for money when they could just as easily pay for it themselves. Winfrey owns over 1,000 acres of land across the Hawaiian islands and has not made any effort to give that up to aid those displaced in the fires, which I believe is especially harmful. With one of the eligibility requirements to receive money from the “People’s Fund of Maui” being that they have lost their residence, I believe that Winfrey could do more to help by giving up some of the land she owns to give those impacted a temporary home. 

Furthermore, the “People’s Fund of Maui” places their monthly payments at $1,200. According to Expatistan, the current cost of living for a single person in Maui is estimated to be $4,430, meaning that these monthly allowances don’t even make up for half of the cost of living, considering the fact that these people are also now homeless. While I do believe that any help is better than no help, and that this fund is meant to do good and aid the less fortunate, there are many factors that make it difficult to support the exploitation that Winfrey and Johnson are participating in. It’s unfair that celebrities ask their fans to give money that they may not have, which leads to guilt that they can’t do more, while the celebrities are being praised for supporting a cause. I believe that it is the responsibility of those with more money to give what they can when they can, and it is unfortunate that so many choose not to.