I heard a quote once that went something like this, “behind every great philanthropist is an equally great tragedy.” Unfortunately I could find neither the exact quote or the wise man who said it. Rush Limbaugh did a piece on large corporate giants Apple and Google and how they skillfully and legally avoid paying United States taxes on profits made overseas. Both Apple and Google have created a socially responsible public image while conducting their businesses in perhaps a way that might seem hypocritical to the jaded person.
“Earlier in this century, philanthropy often flowed from the wills of dead industrialists. In recent decades, it’s as likely to have come from a very alive business leader, entertainer, artist or sports star. The most effective of these patrons begin the process of giving by asking what they care about passionately.”
If you look in most any major city you will see monuments to the “great philanthropists” of the past. The names Frick, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Westinghouse, Mellon, Scaife, and Heinz. Many have existing foundations still distributing their gains. It is great that these industrial giants gave back to society, but that doesn’t change the carefully avoided history of how these philanthropists made the money that they gave away. With just a little digging you can find the darker history behind the fortunes. These “kindly” portrayed gentlemen happened to be ruthless businessmen. You might even call them capitalists.
Fast-forward many decades and you come upon the new “great philanthropists” of our time. In keeping with the times the new class contains many women, but does the theory of “great tragedy” hold true? Consider one of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates. Search “Microsoft” and “anti-trust” in any search engine and you’ll find hundreds of articles documenting the legal battles and “alleged” illegal and underhanded practices employed by Bill Gates’ company. How many competitors did Gates and company destroy; how much money did they make off of the backs of others; how many millions of dollars in fines have they paid? There is tragedy, but Bill and Melinda Gates are seen as great people for their philanthropy. Even with the vast fortune that they are giving away we should never lose sight of the source of their gains as they seem to publicly separate their public images from their corporate reality.
Fast-forward again to Google, Apple, General Electric, and Starbuck who foster a “social justice” image. Bloomberg reported that Google used tax loopholes to manage their money through the “double Irish” accounting/banking scheme to avoid $3.1 billion in taxes over the last three years. These accounting practices are legal and I am not suggesting that they not exploit them. You see I am a Capitalist. I do find it interesting and hypocritical that these companies scream “green” and “social justice” on television ads and web sites while doing everything they can to avoid paying for what they want us to fund. If you read the link above you will also note that General Electric (owner of NBC), Starbucks, and Johnson & Johnson lobbied heavily to maintain these tax loopholes. Why don’t they just declare that they are capitalists?
Have you ever heard of blood diamonds? Perhaps, like the efforts to avoid unscrupulous diamond merchants from benefiting from the blood of miners, we should have “blood philanthropy.” I am not against corporations. I just think that the obvious hypocrisy should be highlighted and scorned. I am a supporter of the replacement of ALL federal taxes with the FAIR TAX. I believe that we should take away all of the tax goodies that our elected officials dangle at their supporters to fund their bloated regimes in Washington. What Washington needs is a good dose of Vitamin D (provided by sunshine).