Dollars that are donated to stop hunger, curb the spread of HIV/AIDS or teach young girls to read and write are often praised, especially by those who are doing the donating. But the reality is that the billions of dollars - $316 billion in 2012 - which are given away by large nonprofit, philanthropic organizations are doing very little to change the long-term structural issues that affect the people on the receiving end of the well-intentioned funds.
"If you're really talking about humanism, you're talking about an end to capitalism. You can't have both." Peter Buffett, musician, philanthropist and son of Warren Buffett, tells Laura Flanders, candidly, in this interview.
Dissent Magazine journalist Joanne Barkan writes that philanthropic organizations were set up legally and financially to last forever. They should be trying to put themselves out of business, says Buffett. Especially foundations that address the social ills of a society.
“You certainly don’t get up in the morning and say, how can I lose my job? And that’s what you should be doing.” Buffett says.
In an article written for The New York Times titled “The Charitable Industrial Complex” Buffett explains the situation this way: “As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.”
It’s time for philanthropy to be held accountable. Not only to the people they intend to help, but also to the public. When big philanthropic dollars come in, government feels less obliged to spend money towards issues like poverty, hunger, or education. At the same time, government's weakened when an affluent class parks its assets in tax shelters and deploys its huge wealth to push its own interests. Former GRITtv guests Peter Edelman and Scot Nakagawa say government needs to invest real resources in programs that create jobs, and end poverty.
“Isn’t government really the most important engine of this stuff and if the accumulation of wealth is at the cost of being able to fund government isn’t that where we really have to start?” Flanders asks. To hear Buffett's answer, watch the interview. And read the full transcript on Truthout.