The Good Billionaire: Philantrocapitalism

This is Section B of IWNSPTB XI: The Good Billionaire.

“Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim.”

Former British Prime Minister Clement Attlee

The Grayzone reports, “Bill Gates has no reason to crave money. This is a common response to claims that Gates’ philanthropy isn’t motivated solely by the kindness of his heart. But despite these frequent characterizations of Gates ‘giving away’ his fortune, his net worth has actually doubled in the last two decades.” Despite being presented as a warm-hearted philanthropist, dedicated to giving away his entire fortune to needy causes, Gates’ fortune has increased forty percent – at least 31 billion dollars – in 3 years.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is the largest private foundation on Earth, reporting over 51 billion dollars in assets at the end of 2019. Dr Vandana Shiva says that “The World Bank and the IMF look like midgets in front of the Gates Foundation, in terms of power and influence.” The Nation found that BMGF’s 50 billion dollar endowment generated 28.5 billion in investment income while only giving away 23.5 billion. Corbett asserts that the “foundation is not structured as a charitable endeavour.”

Using a private, philanthropic foundation to insulate immense wealth, repair tarnished public images and generate hero personas is not new. Nearly a hundred years ago, the U.S. supreme court dissolved John D. Rockefeller’s illegal oil monopoly. Two years later, he formed The Rockefeller Foundation to accomplish just those things: dodge taxes, maintain control over excessive wealth and generate good public relations (PR). Rockefeller knew that to gain the adoration of the public, he had to appear to give them what they want: money. Gates improves upon that model. The Rockefeller and Gates foundations have collaborated numerous times since. William H. Gates II, Bill Gates’ father, names the Rockefellers as sources of inspiration in his autobiography.

A study recently showed how foundations use donor-advised funds (DAF) to keep charitable donations within the donor’s control; they never lose wealth by giving.

Derrick Broze writes, “While some might argue that Bill Gates’ scheme is brilliant – donate your fortune by forming a foundation which can give tax-deductible donations to companies you partly own and reap profits while avoiding taxes – it is allowing him to hide his money in a myriad of ways. It has almost become impossible to track every donation, investment, or other partnership.” Broze, quoting The Nation says, “it is difficult to ignore the occasions where their charitable activities seem to serve mainly private interests, including theirs—supporting the schools their children attend, the companies their foundation partly owns, and the special interest groups that defend wealthy Americans—while generating billions of dollars in tax savings.”

Rob Larson writes, “Billionaire-funded philanthropy is a public-relations scam. But Bill Gates and his foundation are the perfect picture of why this model of billionaire philanthropy is so flawed. Gates’s foundation was originally cooked up as a feel-good gloss to cover up his shredded reputation during Microsoft’s antitrust trial, putting him in the long tradition of obscenely rich people using the occasional generous gift to try justifying their enormous wealth and power.”

Professor McGoey, author of No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, says, “Philanthropy can and is being used deliberately to divert attention away from different forms of economic exploitation that underpin global inequality today.” Gates’ wealth is called “extraordinarily anti-democratic”; it grants one rich man veto power over decisions and directions of organizations that should be collectively made by the highest representatives of the world’s population.

Alan Macloed says, “If we are to move towards a better society, the philanthropy of the super-wealthy must be scrutinized, as all too often, what appears to be a generous gift is actually a calculated action intended to increase their power, image or influence.”

The next section is Buying the Media.

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