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  • Writer's pictureSona Chaturvedi

Billionaire Philanthropy is a Scam

Photo Credit: Getty Images. The Koch Brothers.

“The truth is if you've had money your entire life, even if you despise're only truly comfortable around other people who have it and despise it.

This is a line from The Talented Mr. Ripley, a film about a poor con-artist who wants so badly to be wealthy that he literally kills for it. At the beginning of the movie, he befriends a wealthy woman who admits to him she needs but loathes her family’s wealth, while he pretends to understand what that means. The film, although fiction, interestingly juxtaposes the relationship that wealthy and not-so-wealthy individuals have with money. In the real world, we hear a lot about the one percent, the ultra-rich elite who seem to be accumulating huge amounts of wealth, even during the pandemic, while the rest of us are left with scraps.

According to Chuck Collins, the heir to the Oscar Mayer fortune and a self-proclaimed upper-class traitor, we are “drifting toward an oligarchy or a hereditary aristocracy of wealth.”

This type of income inequality is threatening to destroy the American experiment in representative democracy, because the only people who will be represented by politicians will be the super-rich. The moneyed elite already owns most GOP politicians, who themselves are also quite wealthy.

How do they justify it? The new-money crowd talks about how hard they worked to achieve such massive fortunes. The old-money crowd views their riches as a birthright. Some people just bathe in it unapologetically, wantonly throwing their wealth in everyone else’s face all over their social-media platforms.

Many become philanthropists. But is it really philanthropy or is it public relations? Are they just trying to control us by telling us what’s important?

People have different opinions on the topic.

Hasan Minhaj, a comedian and social commentator, says it matters how the wealthy are giving their money away and what purpose their charity serves. He maintains there is a system of financial tools and products in place that the rich benefit from, from tax write-offs to various loopholes. Anand Giridharadas hypothesizes the ultra-wealthy are causing the problems in the first place, and then they try to appear as saviors when they breeze in to “fix it.” This merry-go-round perpetuates itself on a continuous loop.

Billionaires like the Koch Brothers claim to help people. Charles Koch laughably wrote a book entitled Believe in People about creating value for everyone. Believe In People -- If you don’t believe in people, what do you believe in?

Many will point to the shining examples of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Warren Buffett, both of whom have famously been quite charitable. However, if you look under the hood, when wealthy people are charitable, it quite often benefits them somehow. “Despite society’s urgent needs, big donors don’t tend to address them. Generally speaking, the rich give to things that help themselves and their social standing, like giving to their alma maters, hospitals and mainstream art institutions. If a donor or foundation really wants to move the needle on social issues, they must do more to support grassroots organizations,” says Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

In America, countless people hold down 2 to 3 jobs, earning subsistence-level wages, just to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the wealthy earn even more money. This mythical American dream of working hard to get ahead is so far out of reach for so many, it makes one wonder what the pitfalls of socialism might really be. Would it be that bad?

The lie that capitalism is the antithesis of socialism should be dispelled. The wealthy are playing a diabolical game of pitting Americans against each other, causing the problems they pretend to solve, and preaching to us that they are kind. After all, with all that money they could be doing as they wish, but they choose to help society. At least, that’s how they see themselves.

No one played that card more than Donald Trump and his sycophants. They pushed the untruth that he could have been making millions, but he wanted to give all that up and become president to “fix” America’s problems. But he never actually gave up his business interests. He only used the presidency for his own profit. That racket continues today in the name of fundraising for his “comeback.”

His supporters fell for it then, and they still believe it to this day. They most likely always will.

If this falsity isn’t addressed, we are doomed to become an oligarchy. America’s problems can’t be solved by billionaires simply “giving back.” The system that created them in the first place must change.

Truthfully, who cares if there are some self-hating wealthy people out there who loathe or feel bad about their vast wealth, as the wealthy woman in The Talented Mr. Ripley. They still have all that money, and the system is rigged in their favor.

Victor Hugo wrote, “the paradise of the rich is made out of the hell of the poor.”

There’s nothing in it for them to help us. If there ever was, they forget it long ago.

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