It was announced recently that billionaire investor Warren Buffet would give some $31 billion of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation already worth some $21 billion thus more than doubling its endowment to around $52 billion, the biggest act of charity of all time. At around the same time it was announced that Bill Gates would transition from Microsoft to devote more time to running his foundation - that is to giving his money away. These are events worthy of more notice than they received. The Gates Foundation is devoting its efforts to curing disease in Africa among the world's poorest peoples and to educational efforts in the US. As the world's largest foundation by far and with the large assets at its disposal, it can bring considerable power to bear on any problem it wishes to tackle.
Isn't it interesting that the world's two richest men have decided to use their wealth in helping the poor thus identifying themselves as liberals. Has any praise been heaped on these men by the President or any members of the Bush Administration. Hardly. Why? Because these two gentlemen are traitors to their class. The idea that anyone would want to use their fortune to help the poor instead of contributing to conservative causes, aggrandizing themselves personally or merely giving lip service to helping the poor, is simply not on the conservative agenda. Why isn't Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell stepping forward to praise these gentlemen as the outstanding Christians they are. Jesus said if you help "the least of these my brethren, it's as if you've helped me." Surely Jesus would approve of these gentlemens' acts and intentions although neither of them is overtly religious. If they have a religion, they certainly don't wear it on their sleeve. Jesus would have approved of that also.
Doesn't it also set an example for the wealthy, and throw down the gauntlet daring others to follow in their footsteps? What about governments who have the economic power to do the same kinds of things the Gates Foundation is doing with private money but don't, preferring to spend money instead on militarism while gutting social programs designed to help the poor?
USA’s aid, in terms of percentage of their GNP has almost always been lower than any other industrialized nation in the world, though paradoxically since 2000, their dollar amount has been the highest. (Only since 2004 have they moved up from last place, by one.)
This is a challenge to all wealthy and powerful persons the world over to do something of a peaceful nature to make the world a better place instead of the stingy, crumbs from the table approach of American conservatism. You'd think they'd be praising Gates and Buffet and using them as examples that private charity not government spending is the way to solve the world's problems. However, Gates and Buffet have now defined themselves as liberals so no self-respecting conservative wants to go near the implications of their acts which represent the economic equivalent of a well-placed bomb.
I have blogged before and also here about the Fortune 500 list of the world's wealthiest. Well, these guys represent numbers 1 and 2. With an endowment greater than the GDPs of many small countries, and high-powered leadership at the helm, the Gates Foundation will be in a position to contribute greatly to the amelioration of the world's ills. It would be interesting to compare their budget to the budget of the Peace Corps, the government agency devoted to the same kind of activities. The budget for the Peace Corps for FY 2006 is a paltry $318.8 million. With a $50 billion endowment yielding a 5% return, the Gates Foundation should have at least $2.5 billion a year to devote to humanitarian causes. This is a few orders of magnitude greater than the budget for the Peace Corps. Over half the budget of the World Health Organization (WHO) comes from private sources such as the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations.
In FY 2005 the US gave approximately $27.5 billion in foreign aid. The total foreign aid proposal of the Bush Administration for FY 2006 amounts to a mere five percent of what Bush is requesting for the Pentagon. As in previous years, Israel and Egypt are the biggest bilateral recipients under the request, accounting for nearly five billion dollars in aid between them. Of the nearly three billion dollars earmarked for Israel, most is for military credits. This militaristic aid will come largely at the expense of humanitarian and development assistance. Much of US foreign aid is self-serving involving credits for military equipment which benefits US Corporations who sell the equipment.
We should be grateful that there are a few decent, intelligent, rich and capable individuals who feel some sense of moral obligation to help those less fortunate than themselves. Most of the moral acts these days are coming not from government officials but from private individuals like the Gates' and Warren Buffet.