Thursday, August 5, 2010

Forty U.S. Billionaire Families Take Giving Pledge; Donate half of wealth to charity

Forty of the wealthiest families and individuals in the United States have committed to returning the majority of their wealth to charitable causes by taking the Giving Pledge. Warren Buffett announced the first group approximately six weeks after kicking off the long-term charitable project with Bill and Melinda Gates.

“We’ve really just started, but already we’ve had a terrific response,” said Warren Buffett, pledge co-founder and chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. “At its core, the Giving Pledge is about asking wealthy families to have important conversations about their wealth and how it will be used. We’re delighted that so many people are doing just that – and that so many have decided to not only take this pledge but also to commit to sums far greater than the 50% minimum level.” [BE: emphasis mine]

Wealthy supporters from throughout the country have come forward to join the pledge. A full list of those taking the pledge and personal pledge letters by many of these supporters outlining their commitment to give is available online at

The Giving Pledge is an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the wealthiest American families and individuals to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes. The pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract, and it does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations.

While this program is specifically focused on billionaires, the idea takes its inspiration from other efforts that encourage and recognize givers of all financial means and backgrounds.

A few statements from participants:
Bill and Melinda Gates: “We have been blessed with good fortune beyond our wildest
expectations, and we are profoundly grateful. But just as these gifts are great, so we feel
a great responsibility to use them well. That is why we are so pleased to join in making
an explicit commitment to the Giving Pledge.”

George Lucas: “My pledge is to the process; as long as I have the resources at my
disposal, I will seek to raise the bar for future generations of students of all ages. I am
dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education.”

Michael R. Bloomberg: “If you want to do something for your children and show how
much you love them, the single best thing – by far – is to support organizations that will
create a better world for them and their children. And by giving, we inspire others to give
of themselves, whether their money or their time.”


Suzan said...

Tell you what.

As nice as they hope you think that offer is . . . let's put their tax levels back to where they were before Rayguns started to lower them in the early 80's (which caused the massive deficits/debt we now have with no chance of paying off without this being done).

The estimate of economists is that this would correct that deficit problem in a hurry.

One more thing that would actually put us ahead of the game would be to get them to agree to let the Congress get rid of the limits on paying the Social Security tax on income (currently below $150K).

Now that would be a charitable gesture.

And you will never see that one either.

But don't hold your breath.

As much as they want you to think they are doing good things, they will never acquiesce to that.


Border Explorer said...

Thank you for contributing those well written and thoughtful points, Suzan! We have a long way to go to make capitalism work for all of us. And increasingly the system is gamed toward the wealthy with corporations freely able to influence elections and political leaders. Very discouraging!

One reason I liked the gesture these people made is because often I hear people shrug responsibility for world need. Peers tell me that generosity is the task of billionaires (who do not give)(so "why should I?). But the U.S. middle class is fabulously wealthy compared to the majority of the world.

The heartbreaking video of Pakistan flooding victims on last evening's news made me realize my own situation in comparison once again. But I digress. Thanks again! Loved your comment!

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

The question I have is what the contributions will be used for. Some funding I know of from major corporations only helps to send their products to poor countries, sometimes undercutting local efforts, especially in terms of sustainable agriculture.

The giving is important but will it be used to strengthen US companies' access to poor countries, will it promote policies that, though they may benefit the poor, benefit the rich in these countries and leave unjust structures intact?

These are very serious questions, reflecting the ideological use that aid has often been for.

Suzan said...

You're very welcome for the comments, but they are only the truth and not really my opinion.

My opinion of these billionaires is much worse. They bought the Congress (turning themselves from millionaires to billionaires in the last decade (and it started in the 80's under Rayguns but accelerated like a rocket recently)) and have turned our economy inside out, eviscerating unions, shipping good jobs overseas to be done by serfs who ship us back shit products, etc., etc., . . . .

Whatever they give to charity, please remember that they will receive quite a tax writeoff for that as well as all the others they have bought-and-paid members of Congress for.

Not really that admirable is it when you stop to understand that first they reduce us all to under class, and then they force us to pay higher taxes to make up for what they already stole?

Thanks for what you do to keep us informed.

Your friend,


Thanks again! Loved your comment!

Border Explorer said...

John, excellent reflections! And The Giving Pledge makes it clear that they are not directing where that money will go, leaving it up to the individual contributor. So, the giver is free to contribute at will and, as in the case of U.S. foreign aid, may give it in a self-serving manner.

Suzan, I'm sorry if my calling your contribution here a "comment" caused offense. I was using the word in the generic sense (c.f. top of this Blogger box says "Leave your comment"). I do not doubt the truth of what you say in the least. Thanks for contributing that important corrective to this post. Your friend, too. Billie

Amy said...

Awesome. A free individual should be able to donate his money, if that is their wish. It should be their choice.