I heard on the BBC radio news a couple of days ago that 40 US billionaires (a billion dollars consists of $1,000,000 x 1000,) have signed an agreement to donate half their fortune to charity.
Some have put their thumb print to the agreement with the understanding that half their money for worthy causes will ONLY be passed on after they die.
The billionaires call this agreement The Giving Pledge, an initiative led by Bill Gates, owner of Microsoft software and Warren Buffett, an investor and industrialist. Between the two of them, they possess around 90 billion dollars.
Are we supposed to be impressed with the gesture of these 40 billionaires?
I regard it as a rather cheap public relations exercise following public criticism of the obscenely rich and shameless as more and more citizens experience debts, unemployment, mortgage failures and daily hardships.
I find it hard to conceive that these billionaires are engaged in giving at all. I cannot perceive this pledge as any kind of dana (the practice of generosity).
As far as I can see, billionaires and multi-millionaires have made their billions through 15 primary means.
In Alphabetical Order
- Avoiding challenging capitalism and our brutal economic system. As primary beneficiaries, the billionaires remain determined to uphold and exploit the market economy for their own ends while clinging to as much of their wealth and power as possible.
- Avoiding paying US federal taxes and income taxes or delaying strategies thus stopping money from huge profits from reaching the poor.
- Dragging their heels on meaningful change to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.
- Failing to protect workers from health damaging methods of production.
- Avoiding or offering minimum compensation for those who suffer in their factories or in the region of their factories.
- Lobbying intensely the USA and other government to ensure minimum regulation so tycoons keep control over the market on their terms.
- Not taking into account small companies with small staff who are not agressively ambitious like themselves.
- Overcharging on their product and services through market domination.
- Persuading charities and foundations – that these billionaires support – to buy their products and services.
10. Placing immense pressure on employees to achieve targets, forcing efficiency methods to maximise profits with all the stress due to such pressure.
11. Producing goods that damage people and environment and engaging in corrupt practices.
12. Swallowing up other smaller businesses to ensure minimum competition and a virtual monopoly.
13. Undermining unions who safeguard workers rights and encouraging market speculation costing livelihoods and lives.
14. Using corporate money given to charity to gain exemption from paying taxes through massive tax breaks.
15. Wanting the voluntary sector to do more. This will allow an even lower taxation on the rich to pay for necessary public services.
All major change towards a just society with genuine values has always come from groups of disenfranchised people. The super rich, who control the media, have always resisted real change.
Are these billionaires with their mega homes, private planes, yachts, fleets of cars, art collections and jewelry really engaged in giving or is it self titillation in the feel good factor in creating foundations in their name?
I believe the billionaires are simply giving back a little of the money they took from working people. This privileged elite remain determined to hang onto most of their wealth. Western governments are afraid to challenge the super rich and market speculators.
Research shows that those on modest incomes including poor citizens give much more in terms of donations relative to their means. Such people will often dig deep into their pockets. They don’t feel the need to make grandiose public statements about what they give to support others. The super rich are merely returning a little of their excessive profits.
Let us pledge to protest about the wealth of the super rich.