According to Bloomberg News, French economist Thomas Piketty says that Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, told him he’doesn’t want to pay more taxes. This is not surprising. Why should Mr. Gates feel obligated to pay more taxes when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gives billions each year to causes ranging from global health to US education??It is a little surprising that Gates would also tell Piketty: “I love everything that’s in your book.” After all, Thomas Piketty’s much-discussed book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” recommends a wealth tax, which Gates is clearly against.
Thomas Piketty goes on to tell Bloomberg News that he thinks Gates believes he’s more efficient than the government, and that this may, in fact, be true some of the time. However, some don’t think Gates’ string-attached philanthropy style is what we need. Just consider how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation coerced the?Common Core Standards onto so many K-12 American students.
Michigan State University philanthropy and education policy expert, Sarah Reckhow, told The Washington Post that the?Gates Foundation’s approach to pushing the Common Core Standards was a deviation from standard philanthropic operations.?The Post also points out that the?University of Arkansas’ head of the Department of Education Reform, Jay P. Greene,?is no fan of the Gates Foundation’s insertion into?education policy.
Personally, I want to believe that the world’s richest individual?has entirely altruistic motivations for his philanthropic endeavors. While not surprising, knowing that he’s said he doesn’t want to pay more taxes is disconcerting. Then again, who hasn’t thought that they wouldn’t mind paying taxes, if only the money went toward the “right” things? The difference with Gates is that he can give money to causes?and choreograph?how the efforts to further those causes are carried out.
As the worlds’s richest man, and thus among the most powerful, Gates is?playing a dangerous?game, which threatens democracy. The inherent coercion associated with a super wealthy individual?preempts true cooperation toward solving our most pressing problems. Ultimately, no matter how altruistic his motives may be, his wealth may do nothing but get in the way of solid decision making. Are Americans to the point where we are willing to?hand over crucial decisions to a handful of the one-percenters? If not, I think it’s clear that we must follow Thomas Piketty’s advice and put higher taxes on wealth, and specifically, the precious capital gains that individuals like Gates hold so dearly.
Thomas Piketty?has brought about much-needed discussion about worldwide wealth distribution and solutions to the growing?problem. It’s now up to us all to?discuss, debate, and vote our way to a brighter future. Conversely,?we can allow apathy to win out?and turn our fate over to the 21st century aristocracy.