On CNN, Jeff Greenfield Laments Buffett's Gift to Gates, Blames Skewed Tax Cuts

June 29th, 2006 10:38 PM

One of the more interesting emerging stories in the world of American philanthropy is the dramatic growth of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, spurred this week by a massive donation by investor Warren Buffett. But MRC intern Chadd Clark found that on Monday's early edition of The Situation Room, CNN's Jeff Greenfield didn't see this as an occasion for lauding charity, but an occasion for chiding the wealthy for having too much, that there's too much income inequality. Greenfield even pushed the socialist notion that private charity shouldn't be relied on when the people should rely on the public sector:

It is real gee-whiz news when the second richest man in the world decides to give away the bulk of his fortune, most of it to a foundation run by the richest man in the world. But there is a bigger story here. It's about the massive accumulation of private wealth, the shift toward a less equal America/>/>, and the potential of what that wealth might do about it.  Warren Buffett and Bill Gates made it official today. Some $30 billion of Buffett's fortune will be transferred to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which already has more money than any foundation in America/>/>....

“But the Buffett-Gates news comes at a time when a little discussed issue in America/>/>, inequality, is gaining some traction. By one recent estimate, CEOs of U.S. corporations last year earned 262 times the pay of the average worker. Forty years ago, CEOs earned only 24 times as much as the average worker.  Other recent data show a marked increase inequality in recent decades. Today, nearly 43 percent of total income in America/>/> is going to the top 10 percent.

And more and more, public policy, especially tax cuts on incomes, dividends, and huge estates, are likely to skew that balance even more. What all this adds up to is an astonishing level of accumulated wealth. According to one study, somewhere between $45 trillion and $150 trillion dollars - that's trillion dollars  - will be transferred through inheritance over the next half century. So, in a time when the idea of using public resources to level the playing field has lost some political traction, the examples of Buffett and Gates suggest a major new role for philanthropy, dealing with such pressing public issues such as health, poverty, and education. The question, of course, is whether private generosity is what we should be relying on to deal with these issues, Wolf.”