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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/21/10

Billionaire Baloney

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Message Tom Aiken
"I'm not a paranoid deranged millionaire, goddamnit. I'm a billionaire." - Howard Hughes

Warren Buffet, in conjunction with Bill Gates and a host of their billionaire familiars, recently announced, with what he must have felt amounted to deity-like largesse in this under-funded era, that he and the other party/parties aforementioned were hereby forking over half of their empires to charity come last call.

The announcement was made with embarrassingly calculated humility as the demi-gods preened and posed for the cameras. But there was an undercurrent to the proclamation, an ill wind, the unexpected promise of gifts pleading the question "What are they afraid of?"

Think about it: the whole situation almost feels like a joke -- Q: "How do you know you're growing up?" A: "The school bully tries to buy you off." These guys aren't stupid, you know -- it's all too obvious slight-of-hand upping the ante (as it were) now that we're surreptitiously sharpening our pitchforks. Somebody like Ted Turner made his fortune sniffing at the horizon... and these days the horizon smells decidedly Gaulish.

So they're going to bribe us, huh? Well, sorta.

First of all, each individual involved has enough money to cover the lifetime expenses of any given generation residing in any given small city near you. That established, you've got to bet all the disposition of funds and/or properties crap has been hammered out way in advance. These characters aren't called billionaires for nothing.

Okay, so far, so suspicious, right? Then, like a light bulb popping vibrant over your (self-reference here) decidedly numb skull, you realize these clowns are going to get full tax deductions on these "gifts," essentially cranking it downwards so the balance sheet reads more like they covered their real tax burden last year, and that's about it.

Christened "The Giving Pledge" and peopled with the likes of not only Buffet and Gates but also T. Boone Pickens, David Rockefeller and Portland's "Business Wire" king Lorry I. Lokey (who smarmily summed up the public face of the project -- "I remember saying to my mother that we can't afford that. But she said we have to share with others. I learned to share from that") these paragons want us to know they care regardless of line specific write-offs. And they plan to keep reminding us of this comforting lie at every possible juncture.

Now, in service of this, who might the likely recipients of such landed altruism be? You thinking maybe your neighborhood association is going to see some of this lucre? Not likely.

Buffet, as this entire circus seems to operate under his imprimatur, and his particular charitable interests best illustrate where, exactly, all this loot seems destined. Mr. Buffet, a man who's Lincoln Towne Car just fetched $75,000 at auction, likes rescuing animals, funds GLIDE and has a stake in something called "The James Redford Institute For Transplant Awareness." All well and good, right? Uh...

Warren Buffet is missing the point. They all are. Make-A-Wish Foundation? How about I make a wish that you pay my mortgage this month? More to the point, how about I make a wish you help save the 45,000 victims who die each year because they lack health insurance, the one in four kids eating courtesy of government programs, the 99ers off the rolls and into their cars... or worse. Yeah, puppies abandoned in a field are a bad thing, Warren. So are people.

It's all such self-congratulatory baloney that the stomach can't but help turn, if only a touch. One can almost admire an ambulatory moral quandary like California's governor maybe Meg Whitman -- who's rejected the entire concept -- her intransigence. Because, basically, the "Giving Project" is a crock.

If this bunch is serious shouldn't they just take half their fortunes and dump it right into Social Security -- you know, just for the heck of it? How about foregoing those fancy tax exemptions for the rest of their luxurious waking days? Maybe plow a bunch of that treasure into the Food Stamp Prog... oh, wait, that's socialism. I know, "ante-up" with a million jobs. Oops, not cost effective, I guess. Frankly, considering the pilferage extent, they ought to be handing out stacks of bills from open cars.

Judging from the feedback on sites (and not all to my way of thinking either, thanks) used in relation to this piece it might be an idea that's time has come. Too rich to notice, Buffet and his crew view "us" as "them" and it's not a personal notation. No matter how many name-ridden monuments to himself Andrew Carnegie bequeathed, he still used Henry Clay Frick to put down the Homestead Rebellion, an atrocity all the libraries in creation can't buy him out of. Oh, they can paint it over. But they still can't make it go away.

It's always amusing to watch the well-to-do at church on Sundays, their vestments hardly suggesting vows of poverty, as they cherry-pick their way through Scripture, glossing over the parts where Jesus talks about money. But what we might see as confidence might actually read as fear, fear that the 30+ year run of Reaganism is screeching to a halt and the proles ain't got squat and they're hungry, hungry for scenes of vengeance -- scores of the hierarchy, hands manacled behind their backs, off to join Bernie Maddof in rich man's Hell.

Hey, I like it.

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Tom Aiken is a writer based in Austin, Texas. He has written for numerous publications including The Village Voice, Heavy Metal amd M'Zine (RIP). Mr. Aiken also has a spanking new blog -- AikenLand -- for publication of his more unpublishable work. (more...)
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