Thursday, August 12, 2010

Something I'll never have to worry about

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet say billionaires should give away half their money:
On Wednesday, the Giving Pledge -- a movement spearheaded by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates -- revealed the names of 40 individuals and families who are taking up the challenge to give away at least half of their net worth during their lifetime or at death. Along with a commitment, the philanthropists all posted a letter explaining why they were taking the plunge. Analyzing their remarks offers a rare glimpse into the minds of the richest of the rich: how they view their fortunes and where they think their money should go after they die.

The most common philosophy: That a life of monetary excess can be an empty life if the wealth does nothing to advance a greater cause.

This seems pretty neat right? And I certainly don't disagree with the rich donating their money to charity.

And right now, with the economy the way it is (and state governments hemorrhaging money and Congress fighting over how to pay for unemployment extenstions) it's certainly not a bad idea for the wealthy to be donating their money (and it's certainly good PR).

But I tend to agree with Peter Wilby of the Guardian (via):

Salute Buffett who says his children won't inherit "a significant proportion" of his wealth. The filthy rich, or some of them, have shown they have a heart.

But let's be clear. Money paid to charity is exempt from tax; the US treasury already loses at least $40bn (£25bn) a year from tax breaks for donations. So billionaires, not the democratically elected and (at least theoretically) accountable representatives of the people, get to decide on the good causes.


we should welcome the Gates-Buffett initiative and applaud those who have joined it. Generous, public-spirited billionaires are preferable to mean ones. But remember that two-thirds of US corporations contrive to pay no federal income tax at all and that transfer pricing alone – a legal device, used, for instance, by Ellison's Oracle Corp, that converts sales in one country to profits in another where tax liabilities are low – deprives the US treasury of $60bn annually. Such sums, which pile more taxes on the poor and reduce funds for government projects that advance the public good, dwarf what the 40 billionaires propose to give away.

If the rich really wish to create a better world, they can sign another pledge: to pay their taxes on time and in full; to stop lobbying against taxation and regulation; to avoid creating monopolies; to give their employees better wages, pensions, job protection and working conditions; to make goods and use production methods that don't kill or maim or damage the environment or make people ill. When they put their names to that, there will be occasion not just for applause but for street parties.

Exactly. With the government trying to figure out how to pay for school teachers, cops and firefighters (and their pensions) and California looking to (gasp!) legalize pot, the billionaires could help a lot by just paying their taxes. (I dunno, if these guys can afford to give away have their money, I'm pretty sure they can afford higher taxes).

I know, it's weird. But taxes pay for stuff. Like bridges (remember that bridge that collapsed in Minnesota? There's 756 more that received the same grade) and libraries and schools and a whole bunch of things that are important. Unfortunately, we seem to be going the other way.

And sure, it's easy for me to say "hey, just tax the rich" but ya know what? They're fucking rich. Tax them at 90% and they're still be way richer than myself. They can still be rich and we can have pensions for teachers.



LargeBill said...

It isn't about taxing the rich. You can only tax them 90% once (maybe twice for Gates and Buffett) and then they are no longer rich. Reality is there are not enough rich people to tax to fund unlimited government. There are legitimate purposes of government and we need a sensible taxation system to fund the legitimate role of government. There are no easy fixes, but first step is to have the proper functions of government controlled by the right level. Some things make sense for the centralized federal government and many do not. Each state or municipality can not have their own military. Individual cities or districts can run their own schools. Our federal government has increased its reach and grown to the point where what should be considered major expenditures seem minor in comparison. Once Congress starts throwing billions and trillions around, thousands and millions seem trivial. The last couple years we've heard terms like "Too big to fail." Truth is many companies (and governments) become "Too big to succeed."

Ben said...

so if companies have become 'too big to succeed' isn't it then the responsibility of government to come in and break 'em up (trust busting!) or regulate?

I also disagree, you can tax rich people more (certainly more than we are now, pre-Bush tax cuts or even pre-Reagan wouldn't kill us). Sure, 90% is too much. But we seem to have money for unlimited war (and now we're pumping $$ towards the border with more patrols and drones(?!?)) but we can't figure out how to pay for teacher pensions. (Meanwhile, Billionaires are telling each other to donate half their money).