The Problem With Billionaires Who Donate

In the last few weeks, I saw a Forbes article entitled “The Richest Man In The World Just Gave 98.5 Million Dollars To Help The Homeless” and I really felt the need to respond. It’s one of Forbes’ most-read articles as of late and a response is warranted since they’re so “obsessed” with it.

This type of headline naturally makes my eyes roll. According to Forbes, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ net-worth is $103.9 billion as of 2019. Generally, this net-worth is tied up in assets such as stocks, which means that it fluctuates vastly by billions of dollars.

For context, the median United States household has a net-worth of around $97,000, obviously varying due to race and ethnicity. Jeff Bezos donating $98.5 million would be like that median household donating $92 to charity. But again, this varies based on race and ethnicity. The median black household has a net-worth of $17,150; donating around $17 would be a more charitable act by percentage of net-worth. But they’d be paying taxes which Jeff Bezos somehow still avoids paying.

It’s not like we can say that Bezos’ donations are “for the greater good” either as these are clearly self-serving by nature. On December 14th, 2018, there was a strike at the Shakopee, Minnesota Amazon packing facility. Workers were protesting for better conditions. The day prior, Bezos donated $2.5 million to a local homeless shelter to garner positive media coverage in the area and stifle critical voices.

Yet, this doesn’t even begin to amass how unethical the company runs on a day-to-day basis. Amazon facilities have significantly high injury rates. It has lucrative contracts with ICE and has had a hand in designing software that tracks down undocumented people and deports them.

Back in June, Amazon offered a permanent job to a Department of Defense employee when it sought a $10 billion contract with the department, and nobody went to prison over these incredibly transparent attempts at corruption. They are also suing the department for not picking said $10 billion contract. Its products, such as the Amazon Ring, have attempted to use AI to make neighborhood watch lists for the police. They even had a $600 million deal with the CIA to develop tools used for surveillance, regime change, and war.

Amazon has given the green light to TV shows funded by the CIA that depicts the CIA engaging in regime change in Venezuela as though it was an admirable goal and not some disastrous campaign that resulted in thousands of people dying from sanctions and arms supplied by the US to groups that have lynched civilians.

Amazon has sold thousands of defective goods that were deemed unsafe by federal regulatory agencies, it has sold Neo-Nazi memorabilia, and right now it is letting millions of unsold products amount to giant heaps of garbage.

Bezos also owns the Washington Post and has an insurmountable conflict of interest presented in regard to the news. Moreover, Amazon has slashed healthcare benefits for its Whole Foods employees.

With regard to “charitable donations,” how do you define the term, ‘charitable’? In Mark Zuckerberg’s case, his “charitable” donations use an LLC, meaning that he can do anything he wants with that money, including investing it into for-profit ventures. To make matters worse, the money donated to private foundations is mostly untaxed, and these “big philanthropists” get a tax deduction in addition. Charitable tax deductions cost the US $70 billion per year, which is enough to fund the entire Department of Education.

Amazon, Jeff Bezos, the “Zuck,” Facebook, and that “billionaire culture” representing them is far from progressive. Forbes’ at-awe coverage of these billionaires, or even SNL’s praise of Bezos for being critical of Trump (if you can even call it that) diverts attention from the broader issues we face today.

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