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April 08, 2009


Well..hope this doesn't post I wasn't signed in. BUT..Thanks Terry...seems like so many so called liberals over at PPS equity have joined in the charter school mania...and have forgotten its originations...The business roundtable agenda of dismantling public schools...The reasons for choosing charter schools are always reasonable it seems, as long as one is only thinking of oneself and not the bigger picture. And UNION BUSTING is only one of the sought after effects.

You may disagree with Bill Gates' position on charter schools. That's fine. But it serves no purpose to disparage a person just because he is rich. On the contrary, you should be praising Gates for having now turned his full-time attention and most of his money to addressing social problems around the world.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private foundation in the world. Each year it donates more money to attacking such health problems as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other endemic diseases than does USAID and the World Health Foundaiton. The Foundation also provides millions of dollars each year for agricultural research, micro-finance, water hygiene and sanitation, and humanitarian relief for natural disasters. While some of his charity for U.S. education may be encouraging charter schools, more of it is going to provide computers for libraries and scholarships for needy students.

Many people, by the way, believe Bill Gates has a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome. As a champion of people overcoming abilities, you should be praising Gates for having overcome his.

As for throwing around terms like "Billionaire Boys Club," that's schoolyard stuff. Rise above it.

Gates avoids paying a significant amount of tax by giving to his own foundation, where he gets to direct where the money goes.

Part of that money -- the high profile part -- goes to "good" causes, but, as the LA Times reported, that high profile part is often returns on invests in industry that works at cross purposes with his charity work.

As a society, this brings up two fundamental questions. First, should there be limits on the amount of capital an individual can amass? And second, should somebody who has amassed a grotesquely disproportionate share of global capital be allowed, instead of paying taxes, to direct a small portion of his wealth at pet projects that do more to burnish his image than anything (especially when the counter-productive investments are factored in)?

My take is that accumulated wealth needs to be taxed at a very high rate, and that elected government should decide how to spend the money for the greater common good.

I know, pretty radical, huh? (And I used the word "grotesquely," too. I'm sure that makes my argument less palatable. But I don't give a shit.)

Let's see, Steve. If I get you right, you would ban all individual charitable contributions and make government responsible for everything that is now done by Goodwill, the Salvation Army, all churches, CARE, CRS, the Red Cross, and all other charities, as well as the Gates Foundation. Yah, I'd say that's pretty grotesque.

Oh, by the way, we're communicating through use of a Gates product. Is this product at cross purposes with his charities?

No, I wouldn't ban all charitable contributions. But I would tax the hell out of accumulated wealth and spend it on bolstering the social safety net. Which would help obviate the grotesque need for so much charity in the wealthiest country on earth.

By the way, I'm writing from a Linux machine running 100% free, open source software. Unless Microsoft bought Six Apart, Terry's blog is Gates free, too (though I think Six Apart, TypePad's parent company, does have a Microsoft board member on their board).

The fact that you may be reading this on Windows does not make me complicit in Microsoft's atrocities against computing. And trust me, as a technologist, Microsoft's atrocities are multitude. ;)

The "Billionaire's Boys Club" originated with Diane Ravitch, not me. Given the company Gates keeps --Eli Broad, et al-- the term seems entirely appropriate.

The problem isn't with charity. It's with using massive wealth to restructure public education in ways that are more congenial to a particular outlook, in this case, a market-based, neoliberal approach to running the nation's schools. Gates and friends use selective donations to reshape education in ways that promote choice, business-like efficiency, and test-based accountability.

In short, charity with strings attached isn't charity at all. It's meddling.

And by the way, Microsoft does suck. If I were as smart as Steve, I'd use Linux too. Although the operating system on my PC is Windows XP, I've avoided reliance on Micrsoft's Internet Explorer by downloading --for free-- Firefox. And it works just fine, thank you.

Steve, if you've never taken a tax deduction for a charitable contribution, you're allowed, barely, to throw stones. If you have, keep the stones in your pocket. And oh yes, when you give to charity, you choose the charity, right, so you are also "directing" where your money goes.

By the way, Gates can't be all bad. He plays bridge.

Any honest and sane analysis of the computer business would acknowledge the fact that the basic research necessary for Gates' billions was funded by public money. Our system is one of privatized profits for the rich (Gates) and socialized costs and risks for the rest of us.

Jesus flaming Christ, did someone say here on OlsonOnline that we should be praising Bill Gates for his philanthropic second career? Were you somehow not around for the Vicki Phillips years? Do you not know anything about the damage done by the corporate middleman "beneficiaries" of Gates money e.g. Ed Trust, E3, etc.? Are you completely innocent of the connection between corporatism and NCLB?

If you are a progressive, and if you believe in the values that are ordinarily espoused here, then the Gates Foundation is not your friend. Yes, it's a good thing that they're curing river blindness. Let's have them do more of that and less of the money enabled imposition of their business-driven, inhuman Taylorism-on-steroids agenda in public schools.

About education they know nothing. They believe they know a lot. They've got infinite money. And (with apologies to Battlestar Galactica) they have a plan.

Let the public schools be funded by taxes, not be starved and then forced to beg for corporate largess.

Its hard to decide which is more annoying, the self-interested unthinking liberalism of the Harry-Terry type posters or the faux rationalism of Craig's passive-aggressive centrism. Carry on boys. I'll come back every few months to see whether the discussion has moved beyond rigid ideological banter to a genuine discussion of ideas. To have that, someone is going to expose enough vulnerability to acknowledge that they don't know the answers.

I ain't no liberal.

Me, I'd rather be thought of as a "thoughtful" progressive.

I don't mind the "annoying" part so much. If you don't annoy anybody, you're probably not saying anything worth paying attention to.

Craig, if you claim to not see the difference between the hundred-or-so dollars a year I divert from the revenue stream to the hundreds of millions (billions?) Gates holds back, I think you're being disingenuous.

Our tax system used to be a lot more progressive. It's not any more. If we're serious about preserving modern civilization, we need to directly address the way the middle class is being squeezed by an extreme minority of the super rich.

Where's the evidence of legitimate value to civilization in letting Gates and his ilk play philanthropist instead of paying taxes? I've cited a good investigative series from the LA Times showing many ways it's counter-productive. Here in Portland, we've seen first-hand how it's counter-productive, even destructive to our schools serving poor and minority students, as Joe Hill points out.

The only way forward as a productive society is to narrow the income gap and bolster the social safety net. A good way to start is a wealth tax. Yes, this falls outside the realm of what we're allowed to talk about in polite society. (Almost sounds like -- gasp! -- class warfare!)

But think what we could do. I'd start with Medicare for all.

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