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Taylor Swift Fans Claim She's The First Ethical Billionaire & That's Why So Many People Don't Like Her

Photo: Tinseltown / Shutterstock; Benscripps / CanvaPro
Taylor Swift in front of a money background.

Taylor Swift hasn’t been able to escape headlines over the past year, and with the recent news of her billionaire milestone, many fans and critics alike are taking to social media to discuss much more than her pop stardom. They're debating the ethicality of her wealth. 

When we picture a billionaire, it’s difficult to not immediately think of the “tech trinity” — Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos — a “mega-billionaire” trio that has amassed more wealth than over 60% of the world. They’re the picture of wealth behind the infamous saying: “The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer.”

However, what about billionaires in the entertainment industry? Are people like Oprah, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift exceptions to the rule? Swifties think so. They've labeled Swift the “first ethical billionaire” in a world of corruption and capitalistic greed. 

Taylor Swift fans think her status as an 'ethical billionaire' is why she's so widely criticized.

Stars like Dolly Parton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Celine Dion are the epitome of “rags to riches.” They may be close to the same tax bracket as Musk and Bezos, but with very different origin stories, it's impossible to compare them.

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Swifties argue something similar. Despite holding more wealth than the poorest communities in our nation, Swift’s earnings were built ethically, according to her fans. Not only is it difficult to find any kind of outright exploitation from Swift’s accumulation of wealth, but any hint of it is outshadowed by media coverage of her “incredible generosity.”  ​​

With millions publically donated to charity and outspoken political campaigns, is it possible that Swift can redefine the narrative of mass wealth in our country? 

The short answer is no. However, Swifties believe her generosity and public expenditures make it difficult for capitalist powers, influential media organizations, and corrupt politicians to like her.

Fans argue Swift’s ‘life-changing’ employee bonuses, Eras Tour staff salaries, and consistent charitable donations give her an ‘ethical pass’ to being a billionaire. 

Back in August, headlines were flooded with the news that Swift gave “life-changing” bonuses to her Eras Tour truck drivers in envelopes sealed with $100,000 checks and handwritten notes from Swift herself. 

   

   

With so much discourse about the exploitation of staff and immoral wages within the celebrity world, Swift surely shook up many people’s opinions with her selflessness. Alongside her truck drivers, Swift reportedly gave bonuses to all of her tour’s teams — amassing over $55 million in total.

Public reports of donations like Swift’s $1 million to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee after devastating tornadoes are what keeps her public image of generosity alive. Despite joking that her career is similar to “a small business,” Swift continues to spread wealth in seemingly huge ways. 

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However, her public financial kindness is far from “justification” in the grand scheme of things. And to the dismay of many Swifties, her “billionaire status” raises many more red flags than it does green ones. 

Despite Swifties' claims, many argue there's no way to be an 'ethical billionaire' since the mass accumulation of wealth is inherently immoral. 

Swift’s label, Universal Music Group (UMG), recently in the news for their removal of songs from TikTok, is the marketing arm behind Swift’s wide variety of merchandise. From Eras Tour swag to re-released album clothing, their company, Bravado, handles development and distribution. 

   

   

While many speculate that Swift’s merchandise is unethically manufactured in Honduras, her collaboration with UMG seems to dispel these rumors. In their “Modern Slavery Statement” from 2023, UMG holds that they’re adamant about “preventing slavery, human trafficking,” and other unethical labor forms within their distribution centers. 

While many forgive Swift for her seemingly “detached” role in the merchandising process, others hold her accountable. “Taylor is a good role model… but her merch roll-outs can be ‘fast fashion-ish’,” one Reddit contributor said. “I don’t trust those ‘modern slavery statements.’ Artists like Billie Eilish and Lorde seem to be more involved in making sustainable and ethical merch. Taylor seems to be using polyester and labels made in low-wage countries — I find the lack of transparency alarming.” 

   

   

Outside of the widely controversial merch debate, many take a more general stance on the argument against “ethical billionaires,” saying it’s just not feasible.

“While some billionaires participate in philanthropy and donate to charitable causes, their contributions do not forgive the immorality of their wealth,” Inés Ventura from the San Francisco Foghorn wrote. “The sums they donate is relatively minuscule compared to their overall net worth.” 

   

   

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Newsweek reported on data released by the recently deleted Instagram account, Taylor Swift's Jets, that Swift’s air travel alone allegedly produced over 138 tons of CO2 emissions in just three months. “Swift’s carbon emissions are extreme and are polluting the atmosphere,” Leah Thomas told BBC Travel. “Carbon emissions are one of the leading causes of the climate crisis.” 

Despite many fans and organizations supporting Swift, pointing to other industries contributing to the climate crisis, many can’t help but acknowledge the concerns, “The wealthier you are, the easier it is to be sustainable,” Thomas continued, “It’s OK to hold celebrities to higher standards… sustainability is accessible to them.” 

Taylor Swift does have the power, influence, and wealth to make significant social and economic change. 

It’s not inherently Taylor Swift’s responsibility to spend vast amounts of money helping the less fortunate or advocating for communities with no platform, but the power she has to do so is indisputable. Even if Swift spent millions a day for the next 10 years, she wouldn’t come close to losing her spot in the top 0.1% of Americans whose income lies closer to $3 million a year. 

Taylor Swift Fans Claim She's An Ethical Billionaire And That's Why She's DislikedPhoto: Tinseltown / Shutterstock

At the end of the day, it’s an unfortunate yet undeniable reality that many of our nation’s billionaires hold the power to transform our world. Despite inherently corrupt means of accumulating their wealth, they now hold the power to shift politics, transform marginalized communities, and cure our nation’s struggles with poverty, homelessness, hunger, and injustice. 

Not even in ways that significantly alter their comfort. According to the director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme, David Beasley, just 2% of Elon Musk’s wealth could solve world hunger. We might not be able to visualize what a billion dollars looks like, but we can surely conceptualize the kind of impact just 2% of his wealth would make. 

Nobody is asking Taylor to silently give away the entirety of her wealth or to spend every waking moment writing checks, but many are urging her to acknowledge the ways her financial status is hurting others. Whether she understands it or not. 

It’s unfortunate that her legacy might be overshadowed by her incredible wealth, but as many would agree, nobody deserves to be a billionaire, not even Swift herself. 

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Zayda Slabbekoorn is a news and entertainment writer at YourTango focusing on pop culture analysis and human interest stories.