Faux Generosity: How Bill Gates Bought His Power and Influence

Last month Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates surpassed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to once again become the world’s richest individual, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Buoyed by an enormous 48 percent increase in Microsoft’s share price this year, Gates has retaken the title he last held in 2017.

That outcome is partially owed to the whims of Donald J. Trump. Microsoft recently surprisingly defeated Amazon’s bid for an extremely lucrative $10 billion Pentagon cloud computing contract that sees the company instantly become one of the world’s most important military and security contractors. This decision, Amazon alleges, was due to interference from the president who holds a personal grudge against Bezos, whose Washington Post has maintained a campaign of “resistance” against him.

Gates was also recently in the news attacking the wealth tax that Democratic presidential nomination candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed. “I’m all for super-progressive tax systems but when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over,” the Seattle native said. (For the record, he would still have over $6 billion).

In response, Warren was apologetic, asking for an opportunity to meet with Gates to explain how much he would pay under the plan. “I promise it’s not $100 billion,” she said. But Sanders has been far more forthright in his opposition to the super-wealthy, categorically stating, “billionaires should not exist.”…

Across the media, Gates is presented as one of the “good billionaires”: a warm-hearted philanthropist dedicated to giving away his entire fortune to needy causes. His charitable organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is the largest of its sort in the world, holding over $50 billion in assets. His insight and generosity are constantly emphasized in headlines, as the following examples demonstrate.

“Bill Gates: Philanthropist,” BBC, (2/1/10).

“Why Bill Gates Thinks Ending Polio Is Worth It,” NPR, (5/8/13).

“How Bill Gates aims to Clean Up the Planet,” The Guardian, (2/4/18).

“What Einstein and Bill Gates Teach Us About Time Travel,” NBC News, (5/10/17).

“Bill Gates And Other Billionaires Pledge To Take On Climate Change,” NPR, (11/30/15).

“Bill Gates on ending disease, saving lives: ‘Time is on our side,’” Al-Jazeera, (4/27/19).

“Bill Gates gives $4.6bn to charity in biggest donation since 2000,” The Guardian, (8/15/17).

There are a few problems with that narrative. Firstly, if Gates is so committed to giving his money away, why does he keep getting richer? This is not a trivial question: his net worth has increased from $75 billion in March 2016 to a staggering $106 billion today, according to Forbes Magazine, an over 40 percent increase in three years alone.

Lee Camp, a political comedian who covers topics like rampant inequality on his show, Redacted Tonighttold MintPress News:

It is a sickness of our system that billionaires even exist. The UN estimates it would take 30 billion dollars to end world hunger per year. Gates or Bezos could end world hunger for multiple years. We can’t even comprehend that level of wealth. It’s sociopathic. So I’m not saying Gates doesn’t do good things sometimes, but he should not be viewed as a hero. All billionaires should be viewed as sick in the head. They need mental health professionals to work on them before it’s too late for humankind.”

Linsey McGoey, Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex, UK, and author of No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropyis profoundly skeptical of philanthropy as a whole, claiming it can actually sometimes harm democracy in the long run: “Philanthropy can and is being used deliberately to divert attention away from different forms of economic exploitation that underpin global inequality today” she told MintPress News…


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