Monday Nov 19

Back Story: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Jeff Bezos of Amazon, the Washington Post, and trips to the moon, is now the richest man on the planet. He and his wife this week announced that they were going to put $2 billion into a foundation to deal with homelessness and other issues. Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, who used to be the richest guy in the world, continually tells us how much good he is doing in trying to eradicate specific diseases in Africa and elsewhere. Mark Zuckerman and his wife pledged a gazillion dollars, but weirdly put a pile of money in a limited liability corporation so that they could make do-good “investments,” although they styled it all as philanthropy.

Drummond Pike earlier in this issue illustrates how a lot of this “doing well by doing good” scam is really working as community foundations and financial mega-funds all become gigantic tax dodges for sudden tech riches. They are ostensibly operating in the guise of charity but controlling their funds supposedly less at arms’ length than at the tip of their fingers in the dark maze of exploited IRS rulings and codependent fund and foundation executives.

Pike is exposing one piece of the puzzle, while Anand Giridharadas in Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World unmasks the whole tribe from the inside out. Giridharadas minces no words. The “elite charade” is a shell game where we are supposed to look at what the rich are claiming to do with their patented “do no evil” change the world branding and mush-mouthed sloganeering so that we miss the fact that we are being diverted from fully engaging the issues of gross inequality. They talk change while resisting it at every turn. They know best, and part of what they know best is how much they want to keep their horde, even as the gap becomes enormous between rich and poor. Winners Take All hits the enablers as hard as the hoarders including the foundations, politicians, policy shops, and NGOs that are willing to mold themselves and their mission in the ways that the moneyed direct.

Does it matter?

In excruciating data-driven detail that the techsters would have trouble refuting, the scientists and researchers, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, in The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, argue that the inequality that the wealthy have wrought is literally killing us. Their title may be about stronger societies, but the book in chapter after chapter details their research establishing that in every measure (health, education, longevity, gender relations, etc, etc, etc) those countries that are more unequal, like the Unites States and the individual states in the union, are in worse shape that the countries that are more equal.

I read both of these books coming in and out of Paraguay, one of the poorest and most unequal countries in South America while meeting with
many who were striving mightily to do good while avoiding the issues of land distribution, tax unfairness, and devastating inequality. On landing
in the United States, I read without surprise that the Trump tax reform by, for, and about the rich had not increased workers’ wages or repatriated company profits or led to more investment by company’s in their businesses health and prospects but rather had led to more buybacks and investor payouts.

Inequality is the wolf at our door, everywhere we go, yet few anywhere are making this the issue, and many of the wolves are running in packs and roaming around in sheep’s clothing in this “elite charade.”

If we’re going to deal with the ravages of inequality, sooner or later all of these paper moons and castles they are building in the sky for us have to be called pulled down and put in proper order.

We have to focus more clearly, if we are not to be fooled completely.

It can’t be just about them. It has to be all about us.

Wade Rathke is the Chief Organizer of ACORN International, Founder and Chief Organizer of ACORN (1970-2008), and Founder and Chief Organizer of Local 100, United Labor Unions (ULU).

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