Long Reads

A Million Dollars a Day

Aloe Blacc inadvertently takes on wealth inequality.

“A million dollars a day / I deserve it / A million dollars a day…” Aloe Blacc first came to my attention in med school when the Ben E and Falki remix of his track “I Need a Dollar” slipped into a study playlist. As a result, when he released a new single in 2018, the ad and preview clip featured heavily in my Google Play Music stream. Titled “A Million Dollars a Day,” Aloe Blacc had clearly upped his financial aspirations in the interim. Hearing the phrase over and over again got me thinking about what that would look like.

Imagine we’re Aloe Blacc and we get our wish: one million dollars a day direct deposited into our bank account. That’s 366 million dollars a year (2020 is a leap year and we’re absolutely claiming that extra day), which is quite a lot of money. After all, the average male American high school graduate earns about $1.5 million in their lifetime, and that’s only one and a half Aloe Blacc days (if you click through the link, you will also notice a substantial gender gap, with women of equivalent education making only 0.8 million).

“Go to college,” they said, “you’ll earn more.” You do, by about a million lifetime bucks. Throw on a graduate degree and that’s worth another 500k. That gets us to around $3 million, which, by the way, is the average lifetime earning of a doctor in primary care (and is substantially less than lifetime earnings of more narrow specialties—think about that when you hear people crying about “doctor shortages”).​1​ After about a week of Aloe Blacc time, we’ll have passed the lifetime earnings of subspecialty physicians, too. So much for all that training.

Let’s say we save every dollar from these daily deposits, and let’s also say that we’re using one of Mitt Romney’s tax havens to keep from contributing any of it to the common good. It will still take us three years to get to one billion dollars (2.73 to be more precise). “A million dollars a day,” and we still have to save all of it for longer than I’ve been in residency to get to a billion.

At the time of this writing, Jeff Bezos has one hundred and eighty-seven billion dollars. $187 billion.

Think about that. With an average American life expectancy of 78 years, it would take six and a half lifetimes of Aloe Blacc making one million dollars a day to catch up to Bezos. And there are quite a few more “small timers” hoarding tens to hundreds of billions behind him. You know, a mere 2-3 lifetimes’ worth of making a million dollars a day.

This level of wealth inequality is revolting.

  1. 1.
    Leigh J, Tancredi D, Jerant A, Romano P, Kravitz R. Lifetime earnings for physicians across specialties. Med Care. 2012;50(12):1093-1101. doi:10.1097/MLR.0b013e318268ac0c