Because I did not have my head stuck in a hole, I heard this interview on Fresh Air - with journalist Jane Mayer, who published an article in the current issue of The New Yorker on the two billionaire brothers funding the alleged grassroots "tea party" movement.
The article itself had me in half a mind to boycott products like Dixie cups and clothing made with Lycra - two products in the holdings of the Koch brothers. I mean, why should "my" money become diverted to their causes, which ultimately serve their own interests?
Frank Rich, in his column today, commented:
The New Yorker article stirred up the right, too. Some of Mayer’s blogging detractors unwittingly upheld the premise of her article (titled “Covert Operations”) by conceding that they have been Koch grantees. None of them found any factual errors in her 10,000 words. Many of them tried to change the subject to George Soros, the billionaire backer of liberal causes. But Soros is a publicity hound who is transparent about where he shovels his money. And like many liberals — selflessly or foolishly, depending on your point of view — he supports causes that are unrelated to his business interests and that, if anything, raise his taxes.
Which caused StraightMan to declare that the so-called Giving Pledge among billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates really might not be such a great idea after all. (For more on this, I now have Ralph Nader's novel, Only the Super Rich Can Save Us! on my to-read list.) Do we want to - can we - trust them to give to the causes that matter most to most people? The "right" causes and not the "right-wing" causes?
(I admit my own partiality. OK?)
For the thoughtful billionaire who wants to do good, but is not certain how to do it, StraightMan proposes a solution: Pledge to give more in taxes, which will go to public works like universal pre-K and school nutrition programs and universal health coverage and infrastructure.
True, you will not receive all the adulation given to the Buffett-and-Gates gang, but you need not defer the good you will do until you pass on - which means you also might reap some rewards, like healthy and skilled employees, which contribute to your bottom line. Win-win!
Here is another take, from Slate, on how to "fix" the Giving Pledge.
Given how the summer went, I dread the coming season of mid-term elections.