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Billionaire bashing is a cheap shot

March 24, 2007

Re "A wealth of cheapskates," Current, March 18

Gregg Easterbrook's piece bashing billionaires for their stingy ways is good up to a point. He points out that most of the world's top billionaires give less than 1% of their net worth to charities every year, but he reserves special scorn for Bill Gates, who has given about one-third of his money -- $26.2 billion -- to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, calling it "crumbs from the table."

He compares Gates to Andrew Carnegie, who gave away 78% of his fortune in his lifetime, and to Warren Buffett, who has given most of his fortune to the Gates Foundation. But Gates is just 51, while Buffett is nearly 80; and Carnegie was a robber baron who ruthlessly accumulated his wealth for years before he started doling it out. Easterbrook's apparent vendetta against one of the world's most generous philanthropists is puzzling and not very charitable.

BERT BIGELOW

Orange

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There never seems to be a shortage of Easterbrooks in this world who love telling the rich what to do with their money. I'm not super-rich, or rich for that matter, but if Bill Gates, Arab sheiks or any person wants to hoard every dollar they have ever made, so what? It's their money. They earned it. Their employees pay billions of dollars for consumer goods and pay billions more in taxes. If Easterbrook wants to give away money, let him become super-rich, and then he can donate to his heart's content.

TIM LUCKETT

Rancho Cucamonga

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What worries me more than how much billionaires give away is how they made their money in the first place. Did they own or invest in companies that paid a decent wage and provided healthcare to workers? Did they rape the environment and pillage Third World countries? Billionaires practice the old "captains of industry" ethic -- making money hand over fist no matter who gets hurt, then turning around and funding their favorite charities. These billionaires should focus on providing good wages and benefits for their workers in the first place. This would cut down on their obscene and immoral profits.

SARI REZNICK

San Diego

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Rather than criticize the $51 billion given away by the super-rich, we should be grateful for every penny. If we want society to value giving, we should equally value wealth creation and provide incentives that reward hard work and production of value so that people will be left with something to give. Annual giving rates are a flawed measure of generosity. Most wealthy people have estate plans that defer giving until their deaths. Tallying up their planned future giving would be a more accurate measure of generosity. And those who earn their wealth don't hoard for power but believe they're the most responsible custodians to manage it during their lives. One thing's for sure, if we raise taxes more on the wealthy, you can count on voluntary charitable giving to go down, not up.

JOSHUA ROSSMAN

West Hollywood

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