That billionaire who paid off a graduating class's student loans also supports the hedge-fundie's favorite tax loophole

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/05/20/noblesse-oblige-not-enough.html

3 Likes

When I first heard this I was happy for those students but immediately suspicious. Seems like a well trod whitewashing technique. You can make all the billions you want in any unethical way, but throw a few million at a charity and now you’re the good guy. Nevermind that those millions are a tiny fraction of your wealth, you won’t miss it, and it doesn’t solve the larger societal issue. It’s a bandaid on a gushing infected wound. (Just my gut instinct suspicion here not based on knowledge of this particular donor)

17 Likes

Yes, no good deed shall go uncriticized.

5 Likes

Right, it needs to be this way. Because there is a default response, and the default response is not neutral, it is celebratory, it is feel-good, it is problem avoiding, it is root-cause avoiding, it is lazy, it is lazy. There is nothing you can do with your millions of dollars to make it at all ethical to have millions of dollars in the first place. Nothing.

21 Likes

The dude’s worth $5 billion, and the total price tag on this was $14 million. If he had $5,000 to his name, he would have just given the equivalent of $14 to charity, but changed literally hundreds of lives with that money.

This isn’t some grand gesture. It’s just evidence that billionaires are so beyond our comprehension of what wealthy is that them doing the equivalent of throwing pocket change at bums seems miraculously kind to us.

26 Likes

I hear all the kids that worked two jobs and paid their way through school are getting a nice pat on the back and a ‘Good job!’ sticker.

6 Likes

Yeah, kudos for doing a nice thing, but if we really want long-term solutions for our problems as a nation we need to rely on systems, not individuals.

18 Likes

Say what you will about the rules that allow him to pay less taxes than the rest of us, at least Mr. Smith puts some of his money where his mouth is and gives back to his community and to causes he believes in. Can’t say that of many other billionaires.

I met Robert Smith 2 years ago as he was the commencement speaker at my grad school graduation at University of Denver and he is an alumni of my former high school and fellow Denverite. His story is pretty remarkable and he’s one of the few that can truly claim to be self-made. His parents were school teachers and he tells the story about getting an internship at Bell Labs by pestering the program director every day for a shot at the job. From what I can gather, he is a tough son of bitch in business and wicked smart. Obviously he’s not the perfect role model but he’s not a super-villain either. Plenty of other plutocrats to criticize who do far more damage to society.

He’s given a lot to other charities beyond just the latest Morehouse event and contributed tens of millions to many causes for low income and African American programs and STEM education development. Agree that this is not a fix for the larger societal issues but he does his share.

15 Likes

its not so much as me saying this guy is bad. More like… like how people use gofundme to pay for their cancer treatment. It’s wonderful when it works and kudos to people who donate, but it’s not a societal solution. A few people are getting help while those not lucky or connected enough still lose. you know what I mean?

23 Likes
4 Likes

Edited to add:

Can’t say that of many other billionaires currently occupying the White House.

5 Likes

that likely applies to some of these morehouse students, many of whom were in debt by tens of thousands of dollars.

1 Like

Anyone got a link to a good summary of what this loophole is and how it works?

1 Like

You have to use scare quotes in that case for Individual 1.

And yeah, a nice and generous gesture, but personal charity can’t address the systemic problems (ones which his industry exploits).

4 Likes

Wait
What
We were expecting internally consistent principles AND actions?

…did I miss a memo?

1 Like

+1 on the Anand Giridharadas book shout out. Having rich people provide charity to the world is not a solution to our society’s problems that accords with democratic principles.

8 Likes

Well then, start a petition to ask him to take it back then, if it was such a bad thing to do.

I won’t even be sold on the individual until he actually pays off their debt. Talk is almost as cheap as your average billionaire.

3 Likes

Completely two unrelated issues:

  1. he did right by those students
  2. he wronged countless others
4 Likes

It makes it very clear that we’re bums too, by comparison