Peter Buffett looks at charity:
This weekend in an extraordinary opinion piece in the New York Times, The Charitable-Industrial Complex, Buffett’s son Peter, a musician, describes what he calls his journey as a philanthropist.
“As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few,” Buffett declares,” the more heroic it sounds to ‘give back.’ It’s what I would call ‘conscience laundering’—feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.”
in a book called Consumed, published a year after Warren Buffet turned over the bulk of his fortune to the Gates Foundation, political philosopher Benjamin Barber discusses the explosive growth of philanthropic giving as part of our society’s rush to privatization:
“First a privatizing ideology rationalizes restricting public goods and public assets of the kind that might allow the public as a whole to rescue from their distress their fellow citizens who are in jeopardy; then the same privatizing ideology celebrates the wealthy philanthropists made possible by the market’s inequalities who earnestly step in to spend some fragment of their market fortunes to do what the public can no longer do for itself. Better philanthropy than nothing, but far better than philanthropy is a democratic public capable of taking care of itself with its own pooled resources and its own prudent planning. The private philanthropist does for others in the larger public what they have not been enabled to do for themselves, as a public; democracy, on the other hand, empowers the public to take care of itself.” (131)
Building the political will to curb the power of private wealth also requires us to name the problem. Peter Buffet helps us here. He calls the spreading of philanthropic wealth as an act of charity, “philanthropic colonialism.”
In Philadelphia, a long-running education crisis is coming to a head.Many city teachers and students still don’t know where they’ll go to school in September, after the city laid off 4,000 employees — including almost 700 teachers — and closed 23 schools earlier this summer.
“The school officials were referring to this as ‘The Doomsday Budget,’” WHYY reporter Holly Otterbein told Here & Now. “It’s just a skeletal staff that remains.” The budget shortfall was caused by a number of factors, Otterbein said. Stimulus funding dried up, which resulted in less state funding to Philadelphia schools, and federal funding also decreased. Add to that rising pension costs.The budget cuts and school closures in Philadelphia are affecting even the most successful schools in the most affluent parts of the city.
Perhaps understandably, meetings on philanthropist-funded plans not going well:
About 75 people came to the first of six District meetings Monday night seeking public input on a new school report card to replace both the School Performance Index (SPI) and the school annual reports. The District has used these performance measures in decisions such as which schools to close and which to convert into charters.
But the sentiment in the meeting room at District headquarters was overwhelming: Please. Just forget about it.
A preliminary design for the new report card is due in late August from Tembo Consulting, whose founder and CEO, David Stewart, struggled to explain the process over a chorus of cross-examination and catcalls.
“You don’t need to be condescending in your comments,” Stewart told Alison McDowell, parent of a child at Masterman High School..
“We are being condescended to constantly,” replied Rebecca Poyourow, who has two children in Cook-Wissahickon Elementary.
Stewart said that no District funds will be used for the report card. The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation of Austin, Texas is footing the bill. But this appeared to make the parents even angrier.
“We’re using consultants to grade schools instead of spending more time fixing them,” said school activist Helen Gym.
Several saw the report card as little more than a thinly-veiled effort to use consultants to justify closing more schools or turning them over to charter operators.
Some parents said that with resources cut to the bone in the coming school year, many schools were almost destined to flunk on any new report card.
Do these gifts make anyone else feel we’re going to be paying for them one way or another, or am I just ungrateful and overly wary? I am ungrateful and wary, obviously, in general, but what about this specific area, the “gifts from billionaires that we didn’t ask for” area? I already know I don’t want a gift that comes with an undisclosed price attached. I call those sorts of exchanges “transactions” not “gifts” and I like to discuss the terms before I accept the offer.