17 June 2010

It is easier for a camel to go 
through the eye of a needle, 
than for a rich man to enter
into the kingdom of God.
   - Bible (Mark 10:25), King James version 

When it comes to the really, really rich, I guess there's no limit to the weirdness.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are now of the opinion that the world in general, and the human condition in particular, could be vastly improved if only billionaires would agree to give away 50% of their amassed wealth. They've been contacting billionaires around the country, holding secret dinners in New York City, and putting up simple, elegant web pages that state the main message--"let the money go." NPR ran the story, which is worth reading for the sheer audacity and chutzpah of the proposition.

Mr. Gates has come a very long way since the days when he was driven to crush his competitors through any possible means. He also built a 50,000 square foot fortress for himself up in Washington.
He was all about being Kublai Khan back then, and his "stately pleasure dome" now annually generates the county where he lives nearly $1,000,000 in property taxes. He surrounded himself with minions who tended to his every need, and he behaved as if for him, the rules didn't apply. And you know what? They didn't. People seem to have forgotten the early Gates, how he got his money, now that he's prepared to dole it out to the less fortunate.

I don't know about your current economic situation, but mine hovers just slightly above "dire" and "straits." Nobody's knocking my door down to offer me a job, and all the doors I've been knocking on hoping for an opening are locked tight. I'm daily reading foreclosure notices in my town's newspaper, and seeing young men in my neighborhood tending their yards on weekdays makes my stomach churn. They're doing that because they haven't got anything else to do with their time, and they're not yet ready to go crazy.

Something about the Gates/Buffett challenge to the billionaires feels fraudulent and self-congratulatory to me. If they really want to help, they need to make it easier for the grass-cutting young man to get a job that sustains him and his family. They need to put more emphasis on giving people the tools they need to survive in this world. And of course, they need probably need to do something that will prevent anyone from ever being able in the future to amass such fortunes as they have.

I don't have the inclination to feel either admiration or sympathy for the billionaires and this latest venture. Believe me, there are people and animals suffering up and down the Louisiana coast who need all the help they can get.

Excuse me. I need to go mail another check to the relief effort.


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