Monday, June 26, 2006

Hearts of gold

Investment guru, and one of my personal heroes, Warren Buffett plans to give away most of the $44 billion dollar fortune he has amassed over the years. He will give the biggest chunk of his money to the world's largest charitable organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Gates Foundation got its start in 1994 and has focused much of its efforts on global health, backing the development, testing, manufacturing and delivery of vaccines for diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and acute diarrhea that kill millions of children in developing countries every year. Without the $5.88 billion the foundation has given to global health projects, experts have said, many drug companies would have had no financial incentive to devote resources to those vaccines.

The other charities that Mr. Buffett will divide about $6 billion in stock among are the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which is named after Mr. Buffett's wife and emphasizes family planning, abortion rights and anti-nuclear proliferation issues; the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which is named after and run by one of Mr. Buffett's two sons and focuses on environmental and conservation issues; the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, which is named after and run by Mr. Buffett's daughter and supports educational opportunities for low-income children; and the NoVo Foundation, which is run by Mr. Buffett's other son, Peter Buffett, and has focused on education and human rights.

I think this purely altruistic act sets a golden example in a time when Republicans can think of nothing more than keeping as much of their wealth as possible. Bush's tax cuts seek to do away with the estate or "death" tax. Warren believes that this is a very bad idea. He has openly said that it gives an unfair advantage to people; simply based on what womb they come out of. These are important words from the second richest man in the world. It is amazing, and a real blessing, that the two richest men in the world are smart enough to know that money isn’t everything. Both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have shown themselves to be highly intelligent and compassionate men.

Credit must be extended to both of their wives. Melinda Gates has long been involved in philanthropic initiatives. Warren’s wife Susan, who passed away in 2004, was said to have encouraged Warren to follow a similar charitable path.

These two men have totally inspired me. When I win the $45 million dollar NY Lotto this Wednesday, I have decided to give away the lion's share to the needy. However, I have a flair for the dramatic. Therefore, I will hire 100 black helicopters to air lift and drop supplies on various African villages, while we blast Wagner’s "Ride of the Walküre" from loud speakers affixed to the choppers.

I love the smell of charity in the morning. Smells like victory.



Blogger grumpygirl said...

these super wealthy people should decide to be patrons of the arts... and support those of us who are trying to be artists while we try to pay our mortgages.

i'm just saying.

as for estate taxes, a lot of it's pretty moot for anyone with a lawyer good enough to shelter your $$ properly. (however, none of this eases the guilt of those the $$ was bequethed to, as i remember crying the words, "my home was bought by dead people" at the closing of my apartment.)

12:59 AM  
Blogger Peter Matthes said...

I worry financially about the people that don't have a pot to piss in. Certainly more than people who want to make one.

1:12 AM  
Blogger KleoPatra said...

Can i have some of their money? Pleeeeeeeeeease. Just a liiiiiiiiiiiittle bit...

Seriously, this was cool to read. I wasn't aware of how philanthropic some of these types of folk are. Good stuff, Peter.


By the way, what happened to your little voting post a couple weeks ago where we get to say why we like you... I voted for the cute dawg in your avatar...

2:45 AM  
Blogger dusty said...

Yep, I was happily surprised by Warren's contribution to Billly's philanthropic makes this the biggest philanthropic effort in the entire world..and that it comes from the top two richest is a major slap in the face of those fun-loving Repubes..but my bet is they will miss the point..they are concentrating on flag burning and gay marriage.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Tanya Kristine said...

taht and warren buffet...what the hell is going on in this sworld!~!

wish i was registered as a non-profit.

12:18 PM  
Blogger grumpygirl said...

touche, peter. but you might want to get your facts straight: the first million dollars of a person's estate is tax free, so the estate tax really isn't affecting anyone who doesn't have a pot to piss in.

12:53 PM  
Blogger grumpygirl said...

AND i'm not going to apologize for the fact that half my family died within a 6-week period.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Peter Matthes said...

I do have my facts straight.

Under Bush’s current tax cut plan the following will be true for the estate (death) tax in the coming years.

-In 2002 – 2005 The first $1,000,000 is tax free

-From 2006 – 2008 the first $2,000,000 is tax free

-In 2009 – That number goes up to $3,500,000

-In 2010, you pay no estate tax whatsoever, no matter how large your estate.

-In 2011, the estate tax will go back to roughly %55.

Unless, he finds a Republican who will extend this idea of tax cuts when he is no longer in office. Republicans would also like to do away with the dividend and capitol gains taxes in the future.

My comment about “pots to piss in” relates only to money given to charity by individuals like Buffett. It has nothing to do with the estate tax.

However, we can discuss Bush’s tax plan for the estate tax. People smarter than me, tell me that this eight-year plan will cost the government over 1,000,000,000,000 ($1 trillion) in tax revenue. That is money which could have gone to roads, schools … and yes … endowments for the arts.

2:43 PM  
Blogger george said...

Well, not to be too cynical, chances are that the supplies you hypothetically airlift into Africa wouldn't land in the right hands, just like Buffetts' and Gates' donations. As honourable as their intentions are, it is sadly the modern equivalent of "let them eat cake".

Money doesn't solve all problems...but it does help nonetheless. On the African continent, money - if divied up indiscriminately - compounds problems caused by greed, corruption, and exploitation by warlords. So these altruistic gesture are exactly that...mere gesture.

I would not go as far as saying that it alleviates the collective guilt of both Gates and Buffett for having amassed an absurd fortune. But you don't make tens of billions of dollars without profiting off of the plight of others, however indirectly. Maybe late in life, you feel the need to make a statement...will it change things? Hopefully it does; chances are it will not.

3:28 PM  
Blogger the fourth person said...

i saw the headline.i thought they were talkin' "jimmy" buffet.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Peter Matthes said...

Everybody likes cake ... or is it pie?

I forgot to mention Plan "B" which will be put in place along side dramatic black helicopter Plan "A".

Plan "B" will be to send out death squads to kill each and every warlord currently in Africa. This will most certainly include the current ones who are covertly backed by the US government.

However, we will start with Joseph Kory. He is the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.

That's right bitch ... we're coming for you!

4:02 PM  
Blogger grumpygirl said...

it's not my job (or, my grandfather's job) etc., to fund the arts.

if a people are bequethed $$, they should get that $$. some of which has had tax already paid on it.

if you'd like to talk about where our tax dollars go, that's a whole other conversation we'd likely agree upon. but i don't think the wealthiest people should be legally obligated to support the rest of us. morally, yes. legally? not so much.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Peter Matthes said...

You're right. The arts should be funded by drug money.

Don't worry Alyssa. No one is going to touch your money.

As you pointed out, the estate tax only applies to money over a certain amount. As you also pointed out, some money can be legally sheltered.

To say that $2,000,000+ tax-free and everything else taxed is unfair is just plain greedy.

One of the theoretical ideals in this country is that anyone can make it. It's the rags to riches dream that this country supposedly affords people. Most people know this is bullshit. However, it might be nice to level the playing field just a bit, so hard work and intelligence decides who gets the golden ring.

One of the many reasons for the disparity of wealth in this country is because rich men (and women) leave vast fortunes to their idiot sons (and daughters).

The only time this estate tax policy is possibly unfair is for farmers or small business owners. In those cases, the value of the large equipment can force sales, which can in turn ruin a family built business.

7:16 PM  
Blogger george said...

From an article on

Ocampo - ICC Chief Prosecutor - said that "Kony was abducting girls to offer them as rewards to his commanders."

Yeah, he looks like a worthy target of any potential death squad. Just as long as you don't send the suicide squad - of Monty Python fame.

12:36 AM  

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