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The Time I confronted Rich DeVos on being a billionaire

February 11, 2019

A new report was just released showing that the richest 0.00025 percent of the American population now owns more wealth than the 150 million adults in the bottom 60 percent.

The report comes from the National Bureau of Economic Research and was authored by Gabriel Zucman. 

The wealth gap in the US has been growing in recent decades and the top 400 richest people, those featured in the annual Forbes 400 report, are continuing to amass disgustingly large amounts of wealth. There are over 500 billionaires in the US alone and several of them live in West Michigan, including the Meijer and DeVos families.

I have written a great deal about the wealth of these two families, particularly the DeVos family. However, I have never shared a story about the time that I confront Rich DeVos about his wealth at a book signing in 2004.

The Grand Rapids Press had run an article about DeVos’ new book entitled, How to Be Like Rich DeVos: Succeeding with Integrity in Business and Life. The article that the Press ran had a picture of Michael Jordan, Mother Theresa and Jesus, but the picture of DeVos was larger than the rest of them. The article also mentioned that DeVos would be at a book signing at Schuler Books on 28th Street, so some of us decided to go.

When we arrived at the bookstore, people had already lined up to get a copy of the book signed by the Amway co-founder. A friend of mine and I decided to grab other books to get signed. My friend grabbed the book Robbing Us Blind: The Return of the Bush Gang and the Robbing of America and I grabbed a leather-bound copy of the King James Bible.

We decided to stand in line by not right next to each other, so as not give ourselves away since people may have recognized us. My friend greeted DeVos first, who was puzzled by the book title that my friend wanted him to sign. DeVos said, “yeah, I guess some people can be too greedy,” and signed the book anyway. We later auctioned the book off for a fundraiser.

When I finally got to the table, I hand DeVos the bible I had brought up and he said, “You want me to sign your bible,” and I said, “sure, why not.” He began to sign it and I said I saw the article in the GR Press that had you picture, along with Jesus, Michael Jordan and Mother Theresa. I ask him, “how did you feel about having a larger picture than Jesus?” DeVos said, “I did think it was a little strange, but it was out of my hands.” He went back to signing the bible and then I asked him, “So, what do you think about that gospel quote, which says that it is harder for a man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven than it is for a camel to go through an eye of a needle.” DeVos was getting ready to respond, when his body guard, a rather large man, grabbed my arm and said, “that’s enough,” and pulled me away from the table.

Those who are billionaires are engaging in unjust and criminal behavior, especially while so many are suffering from lack of healthy food, health care, housing and other basic human rights. For more on the history and politics of the DeVos Family, see our DeVos Family Reader.

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