Editor's Notes

The Giving Pledge makes me want to throw up
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tredmond@sfbg.com

I suppose I should be thrilled that 40 of the richest people in the United States have agreed to give away half their money before they die. Actually, it kind of makes me sick.

The concept is called the Giving Pledge, and Bill Gates and Warren Buffet started it. The two have been on the phones this summer, dialing up other really, really rich people and asking them to sign on. I've got nothing against Gates and Buffet (well, Gates has always been into world domination, so that's a problem, but Buffet seems a decent sort for a billionaire). In fact, Buffet has promised to give away 99 percent of his $47 billion, which would leave him and his heirs with just a paltry $470 million.

Even that much money fits into New York Mayor (and billionaire) Michael Bloomberg's entirely accurate statement: "The reality of great wealth is that you can't spend it and you can't take it with you."

That's the thing: You can't spend that much money, and you can't take it with you, and the United States used to be the kind of country that disdained inherited monarchy. Bloomberg says he wants his kids to have to work for a living, which is nice, although even after he gives away half his wealth, none of them are likely to miss any meals or have trouble paying the rent. His children, and their children, and their children, will all be able to afford to go to good schools and colleges, even if the public education system in America completely collapses for lack of adequate funding.

The irony is that, for the most part, these exceptionally rich people who feel so good about giving their money to charities of their choosing (which then honor them with awards and testimonials and dinners) oppose the notion of raising taxes on high incomes.

The problem with charity is that it won't ever really reduce the gap between the rich and the poor in this country. The only way you do that is with aggressive, effective government action: by taxing the great wealth when it comes in (as income) and when it goes out (as estates) — and then, through a democratic process involving elected representatives, deciding where the money should go.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is wonderful, I guess, but it won't provide mental health care for homeless people in San Francisco. That's a government job. It also won't ensure that every kid in America gets quality preschool, good teachers, schools that aren't falling apart, and access to a college education. That's what we pay taxes for.

But wait a minute. There's never enough money for these things, because we keep cutting taxes on the rich. Instead, these guys can give money to their own pet projects — and pay no taxes at all. It's charity! It's a tax write-off!

I wanna throw up.

Comments

You state "[they]oppose the notion of raising taxes on high incomes." Since when? Both Gates and Buffet are on the record as saying we should increase taxes on the rich.
Are you willing to give away 1/2 the award given to you by the courts? If not do we get to call you out about where that money goes?

Posted by Chris Pratt on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 5:32 pm

What will reduce the gap is jobs.

That paragraph there is very telling about your philosophy.

This worship of the state is very interesting considering all the bitching about the wrong choices made through "a democratic process involving elected representatives, deciding where the money should go."

The people voted, and those elected representatives decided to spend billions on a ridiculous war, and you want to give them more and more, taking money out of the economy that creates jobs to pay for the war.

Yes yes, I know, everyone but progressives vote wrong and are too stupid to see what the government should be doing with that money they rake in.

Remember when the left was anti-establishment? It seems so long ago now, but now that they have had a taste of being the establishment they are worse than any antidesestablishmentarianist.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 7:04 pm

Alexander Cockburn summed it up well recently:
He wrote:
“Conspicuous good works are always a feature of Depression, the rich zealous to purchase moral insurance…."

[btw: San Francisco (and the world) would save heaps of money and get better computers if they dumped Windows (and Macs for that matter) for Linux.]

Posted by Robert B. Livingston on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 10:27 am

I am fascinated by you editorial relative to charity money versus tax money. It is utterly hypocritical to see all these fat cats willing to give to charity while they dodge taxation. Rich people, do your duty by paying the proper tax this country needs to fix schools, hospitals, Public Transit, pay the police, protect our treasured National and State Park, Clean our sewage system, have strong U.S. Agencies that could protect us from harm, etc., but don't hide behind charity.

Posted by nafiss griffis on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 8:38 pm