(This is an archive written by the late Leslie Centanni. April, 2005) Payday comes for most people twice a month, and frankly it never seems soon enough. We sift through the pile of bills looking for the most overdue, most critical to pay.. AFTER we buy some groceries and put gas in the car. Rent isn't optional, but the long distance bill is. Heat isn't optional, but cable TV is. And so it goes, sometimes for years, in the life of a working stiff known as the "average American."
We listen to the politicians babble about what needs to be fixed, and leaders of industry carp about the falling dollar. But on Friday 1/28, 776 million of'em found their way into the pocket of the world's second wealthiest man, Warren Buffett. Now I don't hold his big wallet against him, because frankly it's guys like him and Bill Gates that hire guys like me. Everyone needs a job, and they provide plenty of those. But what I do take exception to is their gloom and doom vocalizations about the state of the American economy, even as they get richer.
If I were to come to work and announce over a loudspeaker my discontent with the current state of my salary, I'd be out of a job before the morning coffee stopped brewing. Warren and Bill go to work and announce over a loudspeaker (via a press conference) their discontent with the U.S. dollar, and everyone lauds their prophetic brilliance. Mr. Buffett says, "I'm having a hard time finding things to buy, if that says anything about the market." Then Bill laments, "The ol' dollar, it's gonna go down." Warren tells us China is a potential "change agent" for the next two decades, adding "it's phenomenal.. a brand new form of capitalism". All this while Chinese Central Bank Advisor Yongding is telling the world, "The U.S. is the root cause of global imbalances."
Now I'm no financial expert, and there's no danger of anyone making me one any time soon. But I do know the last thing I want to hear is a bunch of fat cats grousing about the state of the American sawbuck. Another billionaire who manages to find a microphone wherever he goes and whine loudly into it is George Soros. Depending on the observer, he is either confident or arrogant, genius or fool. But he recently admitted he indulges his "messianic fantasies" through charitable giving. Here is a man who thinks Alan Greenspan "lost credibility" by "helping Bush" when he cut interest rates. He absolves himself of responsibility for his irrational funding of candidate Kerry as just a case of losing because their guy didn't offer a "credible and coherent alternative" to Bush. By attempting to influence a presidential elections, Soros indeed proved he won't be shy in his efforts to use "philanthropic" means through which to play God.
Nonetheless, here's an intriguing aspect to consider regarding the life of the very wealthy. To whom, and for what reasons, do they give their charity dollars?
Does charitable giving actually translate into feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for widows and children? Or are philanthropic foundations serving as cloistered icons through which the wealthy attempt to manipulate social change? The dig for answers revealed a disturbing trend among billionaire givers. There are the obvious public relations-type charity gestures, and there are sincere, heartfelt charitable donations to worthy causes. But there are also funding and investment donations and activities designated as "charitable" yet are in truth and deed nothing of the kind. Presumptive pioneers have created institutions the sole purpose of exacting far-reaching, long-lasting societal changes in the lives of us all. Some in fact are going to far as to attempt to engineer and recreate our world in their image.
It wasn't hard to find information about corporate philanthropy, and the world's richest citizens. In fact, it would appear that billionaires, indeed even mere millionaires, suffer from a rather weighty condition known as "the burden of wealth." It's such a reprehensible encumbrance that they won't leave huge amounts of money to their kids, ostensibly to "save them" from a fate worse than poverty. As a collective group, the ratio of their giving compared to their worth is paltry. This isn't to deride what is honestly given to help others, just to provide a point of reference as compared to the average guy. Billionaires also, of course, like to invest their money in or leave it to the foundations they've created.
So to the world's richest gentlemen: Next time you have your little billionaire's club meeting, please do the following:
Invite Oprah... she's one of you now, and might just be able to help you reach a better understanding of the meaning of true charity.
Think Social Security. If you want to make changes that are real and important, if you want to have a positive, lasting effect on society, and maybe even be remembered as true philanthropists, come up with the cash to fix this problem. There are billions of us who'd like to help, and we don't mind working for a living. We deserve just a little security at the end of our lives after having worked all our lives, just like you.
Think Medical Care. There's no way you can tell me this can't be fixed. Mr. Gates, if you spent less time doodling at meetings with world leaders, and start applying that superior brainpower to pulling together a funding institution for the hospitals, the problem would be solved before WindowsIX hit the shelves. Start calling on all those fancy friends of yours in the pharma industry, and tell them it's time to roll.
Consider missing and exploited children, children sold into slavery or forced soldiering, inner city brown zones, military vets with lifelong rehab needs, prisoner education, our incarcerated youth, or alternative fuel sources. Giving your money to concert halls, art foundations, your cat, or some strange media fund that dips in and out of our personal lives, isn't the way true charity will be realized.
You can do with your money as you wish, but take a little advice from a hard-working, average American girl who knows the meaning of life. Some of you are in your 70's or 80's now. ROll up your sleeves, put a smile on your face, face the fact that we're all in the same boat, and start slogging with the rest of us as if your life depended on it. Because if you aren't willing to go through the worst of life's storms with those of us on the lower decks, you may find nothing but crowded lifeboats when the ship goes down.
Get real, get busy, or get out of the way.