June 30, 2006

Schadenfreude Friday: All You Can Spend Buffett

Time to take a look at Buffett and Gates...but not in the way you might think.

from my friends at the Associated Press...

Warren Buffett's new philanthropic alliance with fellow billionaire Bill Gates won widespread praise this week, but anti-abortion activists did not join in, instead assailing the two donors for their longtime support of Planned Parenthood and international birth-control programs.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to which Buffett has pledged the bulk of his $44-billion fortune, devotes the vast majority of its funding to combating disease and poverty in developing countries. Less than 1 percent has gone to Planned Parenthood over the years. And the Gates Foundation does not permit its gifts to Planned Parenthood to be used for abortion services.

"The merger of Gates and Buffett may spell doom for the families of the developing world," said the Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, a Roman Catholic priest who is president of Human Life International.

Referring to Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi death camp doctor, Euteneuer said Buffett "will be known as the Dr. Mengele of philanthropy unless he repents."

I could turn this into a giant Vietnam conflict-like debate over the merits (or lack thereof) of the pro-choice movement but I won't. You probably know where I come down on that. Instead, let's look at it this way - sometimes you just have to take one for the team because it's the right thing to do. You choose your battles, armed with the knowledge that some battles are winnable, some are not, and some losses merely fuel the greater good.

Planned Parenthood - the real target of this "heavenly" wrath - has received $34 million from Gates' foundation. Out of the $10.5 billion he's doled out to date. Billions (with a big old b) of dollars have gone to fund education here and abroad, while bililions more have aided starving children and adults across throughout our own county and the third world. As much as I'd like one more reason to slam Gates (Why will my laptop not hibernate, Bill? Why? And don't get me started on my whole partitioning debacle, okay?) the world is better for his humanitarian efforts.

Too few people put their money where their mouths are. Agree or disagree, isn't it nice to see people try and use their vast fortunes to help? Instead of trading their 7000 square foot Beverly Hills estate for a 10,000 square foot monument to consumerism? Isn't the point here that these folks are trying, with all the resources they have, to change the world for the better? Yeah, let's bitch about it and see how many more feel the desire to step up to the plate.

And by the way, you freaks - save the Mengele comparisons for the ruthless dictators in Africa who are actually trying their hands at genocide, ethnic cleansing, and female genital mutilation. Yeah, the people who, through humanitarian efforts, Gates and Buffett are trying to combat.

Posted by Chris at June 30, 2006 07:08 AM

"Too few people put their money where their mouths are. Agree or disagree, isn't it nice to see people try and use their vast fortunes to help? Instead of trading their 7000 square foot Beverly Hills estate for a 10,000 square foot monument to consumerism? Isn't the point here that these folks are trying, with all the resources they have, to change the world for the better?"


I always feel a little warmer and happier inside when I hear of really, really rich people giving big donations to charities. I mean, sure, yeah, the publicity they get is probably a really huge factor in most cases (although not in all. There are some people who really just have more money than they need and want to do some good with it. A few footballers might want to try following example, but that's a rant for another day) - the fact is, these people COULD have kept all that money to themselves, or simply just wasted it on yet more stuff they don't need, but they HAVEN'T. They've GIVEN IT AWAY. To HELP people. To help people WHO NEED IT MORE THAN THEY DO, and sure it might not be to the cause of your choice, but the fact is they're bothering to do it.

Most people just don't bother.

You'd think that the people bitching would have the brain capacity to figure that out, wouldn't you?

Then again, considering that allowing people to have the choice as to whether or not leave themselves open to pregnancy (or in some cases birth) that may ruin not only the lives of the already living but the life of an innocent not in existence/unborn child has been dubbed as "doom for the families of the developing world" -

- maybe not.

Posted by: Alice at June 30, 2006 07:47 AM

True Charity goes un-announced and then does not become a target of criticism.

Posted by: Bill at June 30, 2006 07:59 AM

I totally agree with you - I really respect these guys for using all that money, that they could never spend in two lifetimes anyway, to help others. That's the point of being blessed with so much.

(Although, as an aside, I might be a little miffed if I were a child or grandchild of Buffet, because other than free higher education they get bubkes from him money-wise. That's a lot of money to not share with your offspring as well.)

Posted by: Jessie at June 30, 2006 08:29 AM

Hear Hear! That gives me one BIG reason to feel happy about the Microsoft purchases made to date by me. Some part of it, even if it is one trillionty billionth part of it, has gone to do good. Next time someone bitches about Microsoft(dont we all at some or the other point?), I shall point this out to them. Even when its me :)

Posted by: Dee at June 30, 2006 08:35 AM

Well put!

Posted by: molly at June 30, 2006 08:54 AM

I have to say, when first reading the title of this blog, I thought you were going to talk about Jimmy Buffett. I know a margarita would make me happy right about now (regardless if it's 8:54AM). But what these men are doing is much more than half of what celebrities do. Like already said, regardless of what they're giving to, they're doing it for a good cause. Maybe the cause isn't yours or mine, but making a difference is what matters here. Shame not every one can see it that way and must criticize such people b/c what they're giving towards isn't their views. I'm sure those are the people that don't or rarely give anything at all. Yes, please, don't give any birth control to people in Africa, that way they can have more babies and have more starving, AIDs ridden children that will never have a good life.

Posted by: Michelle at June 30, 2006 08:58 AM

Hear hear Chris. I think it is a great example to set.

Bill: I'm thinking when you are talking in billions of dollars there is no way to be charitable and not be noticed. These guys are trying to change the world, literally and I think we should be happy that they are doing this instead of being another Donald Trump.

Jessie: Seriously?? about the grandchildren? I would give a HELL of a lot to have had my education paid for or my daughter's for that matter. If I had a masters degree or a PhD and could go out and do the work I want to do instead of the work I have to do I would consider that a mighty blessing.

Not to be annoying (too late!) but I think these guys are really doing the right thing and we could all take a lesson in giving back to the world what we can. Even if it's not with money. Charity begins at home folks! ;)

Posted by: tulip at June 30, 2006 08:58 AM

Spreading some of those billions around doesn't sound bad to me. I understand he has a soft spot in his heart for libraries too.

Posted by: cas at June 30, 2006 09:22 AM


I'm not even going to get started, because I'll just rant and rant and rant.

Posted by: candace at June 30, 2006 10:04 AM

Here we have this self-made man who has chosen to give away most of his substantial wealth to help those in need and these "freaks" are comparing him to a Nazi death camp doctor. You know what Rev. Euteneuer, when you make billions of dollars you can donate them to any charity that you deem worthy, but don't criticize Warren Buffet for how he chooses to give his money away.

On a side note, I think Buffet's children will be fine. And I think it's admirable that he expects them to work for a living rather than living on handouts for the rest of their lives.

Posted by: Beth in StL at June 30, 2006 10:04 AM


Posted by: Sparkle Pants at June 30, 2006 10:14 AM

I'm sure he's enjoying the publicity, too, but the fact remains he's given Billions and Billions (/Sagan) of dollars to try to make the world better.

It's a good thing for people to have to make their own living. Look at all the heirs and heiresses out there acting like total wanks, because they've had everything handed to them. (*cough* Paris Hilton, Brandon Davis) If they get a top-drawer higher education, free? They can go on to make all the money they'll ever need.

I'm not even going to get started on the anti-birth-control movement, as it will just spike my blood pressure first thing in the morning.

But, Mengele? Really? I just can't even see how you make the leap from avoiding unplanned pregnancy to Nazi atrocities... I feel sorry for rational Catholics everywhere, with highly publicized wack-jobs like this guy "representing" them.

Posted by: Kate the Shrew at June 30, 2006 10:57 AM

What you said.

Posted by: Sue at June 30, 2006 11:15 AM

Another Friday where I agree with you completely and come away learnin' a little more than I already did. You are my sage ;)

Posted by: Kate at June 30, 2006 11:38 AM

I agree with you 100%, these people could just keep their money and walk away, but they don't...and thank God for that! I've discovered that there are some people who WILL find something to complain about no matter how trivial. Maybe they're just upset, because they didn't get any of the money.

Posted by: MrsJoseGoldbloom at June 30, 2006 11:42 AM

Oh, for the love of Pete.

Perhaps Mssrs Gates and Buffett should just give all their money to Rev. Euteneuer instead. Then it can be put to good use overturning Roe vs. Wade or campaigning for an anti-gay-marriage amendment. I'd hate to see all that money wasted on something petty.

Posted by: Julie at June 30, 2006 11:54 AM

Please send all donations in care of Jeff's darn blog. I will make sure they are distributed accordingly!

Posted by: Jeff A at June 30, 2006 11:58 AM

I agree. I happen to be a big Warren Buffet fan, and now that Melinda is getting her philanthropic hooks into bill, he's turning out to be not such a bad guy after all. Software bundling notwithstanding.

Posted by: melati at June 30, 2006 01:20 PM

Well said. I do love it when people give a ton of what they have back. They don't ahve to and it is wonderful to see someone trying to make a difference.

I will not even go into the repent or Mengela part, casue well..it is you blog and it would be a long ass comment. Plus it's a little heavy for a Friday morning. But I think you said it all well.

Posted by: Melissa at June 30, 2006 01:40 PM

This is completely off topic, but I picked So the Fish Said for my Perfect June Post award. :) The cutness was just too much to bear.

Posted by: Kestrel at June 30, 2006 01:50 PM

I say Ditto and very well said.

As for the Reverend - let me at him, I stand for everything he's against and I'm way tougher.

P.S. I'm a serious charity. I'm writing in with my bank account number.


Posted by: chantel at June 30, 2006 01:57 PM

Thank you!

Posted by: Lisa B at June 30, 2006 02:44 PM

Regarding Buffetts family losing out... He has been quoted as saying ''I'll leave my kids with enough money to do something, but not enough to do nothing.''
I respect his decision to not leave the world with another Paris Hilton.

As far as the Reverend is concerned, he should have been an abortion.

Posted by: jeff at June 30, 2006 03:55 PM

One thing I always find interesting, though, is that the Pro-Life movement is nearly always referred to as "anti-abortion" or "anti-choice", wheras its counterparts are "pro-choice". I wonder at this choice of words and the inherent media bias.
I disagree strongly with abortion, because I feel it's murder. I also strongly believe I am entitled to this belief, and to not be labeled as a freak because of it. I understand that the law is unlikely to be changed, but I would like to see people take it far more seriously. I don't think that a morning-after pill should be a light decision. I come near to understanding it in the case of abuse or rape, but those who use abortion as birth control instead of doing something about it beforehand with condoms or the pill make me very angry, as well as breaking my heart and quite literally making me cry.

Posted by: Heather at June 30, 2006 06:20 PM


You are just as entitled to your opinion as the next person. I'm glad you're clear on where you stand.

At times, people in the pro-life movement are referred to as anti-choice, and similarly - people in the pro-choice movement are referred to as anti-life and pro-murder. So, it does go both ways.

I have to take issue with your statement about people treating abortion lightly. I've never met anyone who took the decision to abort as anything less than gravely serious, regardless of how they found themselves in the situation. And I have spent time in a clinic where many women chose to take this course of action. I can tell you it's wasn't a big fun party. The stress and pain of the decision weighed heavily on each of us.

I think each side has members who are tolerant of the views and opinions of the other side. The reckless crusade of pro-life participants to do everything they can to cram THEIR choice down anyone else's throat is where my tolerance for them ends.

We differ in our views on the subject. I'm not forcing you to accept my view. I think it's wrong for someone else to try and force me to accept theirs.

I wouldn't call either one of us a freak because of it.

Posted by: Lily at June 30, 2006 06:44 PM

No arguments from me.

Posted by: wordgirl at June 30, 2006 07:55 PM

There's a big trend among the "enlightened wealthy" to NOT leave their estates to their children directly. The popular thinking being they've had every opportunity to get a good education and exposed to a well-rounded view of the world -- it's time for them to go out and build and "do good".

That said, there are many, many private family foundations being created through the death of this generation. There is something like tens of billions of dollars set to pass through estates / inheritance when this generation dies. The first time ever at a dollar amount this high.

Let's hope more good is done with it.

Posted by: Pammer at June 30, 2006 09:31 PM

Props for listening to the Black Keys. You're alright in my book!

Posted by: Chris at June 30, 2006 10:29 PM

ahhh! why, oh why do you write about the topics that fire me up so? at least it's private funds and they really don't have any control over the matter. what really irks me is when you hear about our own tax dollars being controlled by the bible knockers -- like all of the money that goes to "fight AIDS" in Africa but is withheld from clinics that offer abortions -- even if those abortions are to save the life of a mother or are given to women who are HIV positive. Think about that really... we're trying to stop AIDS but we'll prevent a woman with an HIV positive baby from terminating her pregnancy, thus perpetuating the disease. Even though abortions are perfectly legal in our country, and Africa!

Aaaaaah... don't even get me started. >_

Posted by: krystyn at July 1, 2006 01:10 AM


Posted by: kara at July 1, 2006 08:19 AM

Thankfully, people that are givers will not let others keep them from doing so.

I'm not a big fan of abortion, myself (and really, who is?) but Planned Parenthood does SO much more that, including keeping unwanted children from being conceived in the first place.

Speaking of people that everyone loves to hate (Bill Gates), I also have to admit to a deep admiration for Angelina Jolie.

Say what you will about her, the woman works her ass for the betterment of others. And her kids aren't pawned off on a nanny while she does it. They will have the best example set for them that is possible.

Posted by: Contrary at July 1, 2006 11:32 AM

Amen again.

Posted by: Heather at July 1, 2006 12:47 PM

Totally agree with you. I think it's a wonderful contribution to society that these people are making. The writer of the AP article might want to look at dictators like Robert Mugabe before they start criticising the wonderful philanthropy of the Gates and Buffet's of the world.

Posted by: E :) at July 1, 2006 06:40 PM

Wholeheartedly agreed with your post. When I read that article of Buffett and Gates getting slammed for their donation choices, I felt sick. I've had friends who worked for Planned Parenthood and it is so much more than "an evil satanic abortion clinic" that these guys are talking about. The amount of education that they provide, especially to teenagers, is invaluable.

Sure, these two rich giants get some publicity for their donations, and I can see how many people become skeptical, but at the same time, often it takes big names to bring about general public awareness to an issue. Had Bono not embarked on his crusade for the world to forgive Africa's debt, would any lay person in the West have any idea about what's happening there? Hell, not even just lay people, but members of our government?

Gates is pushing hard on issues like HIV awareness in places like India, where the disease is spreading rapidly but silently and still such a taboo topic that no one really wants to talk about it there. He acknowledges all the potential that India has, and can foresee the danger that a disease such as this can stoke instability to the country's (and thus the world's) economy and political stability, not to mention millions of peoples' livelihoods. Bringing such an issue to the forefront to the global stage (and more importantly, to high visibility within India itself) is commendable, not condemnable.

All that said, I'm still a despiser and long-suffering user of Windows and a plethora of other angst-inducing Microsoft products. The end.

Posted by: O at July 2, 2006 02:14 PM