Saturday, May 14, 2016

Charity Begins in the Castle

Charity Of, By and For the Rich: the Berggruen Philosophy Study Center

Just because they're the feral rich doesn't mean they lack ethics. Far from it. When they call themselves philanthrocapitalists, they are not kidding. They quite literally love their own capitalistic humanoid gene pools above all else.

Their philosophical conceit - that one simply cannot help the teeming masses without first giving precedence to oneself and to one's own class - is all too evident in Town and Country's latest annual list of the Top 50 Philanthropists.

Each plutocrat (or more likely, the designated PR flack) was asked to give a brief synopsis (their "Grand Plan") of his or her goals for humanity. Following is a sampling of the winning entries - with the usual gratuitous supplemental explanations in parentheses provided by your helpful Sardonickist:

Whitney Williams's Grand Plan - "To help the high-profile - Ben Affleck, Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, etc. - put their money and influence to seriously good use." (The serious good use is centered in extremely poor parts of Africa, which are in dire need of some good old fashioned high-profile corporate plunder investment. And this philanthrocapitalist should know: Whitney got her start as trip advisor to First Lady Hillary Clinton and later worked as finance chair for Clinton's first presidential campaign. )

Emily Tisch Sussman's Grand Plan - "Reduce gun violence, among other things, as campaign director at DC-based think tank Center for American Progress."  (Among the other things, presumably, is the election of the seriously high-profile Hillary Clinton, whose lobbyist-campaign adviser just happens to be the founder of the corporate-funded Center for American Progress. Emily's parents, donors to the Clintons, are part owners of the New York Giants football team.  Daddy founded the Loews Corporation, and Hubby is a private consultant to the Pentagon... among other things.)

John Steinbaugh's Grand Plan - "Stop deaths from hemorrhage among soldiers on battlefields through RevMedx's invention of the life-saving syringe." (Why have a grand plan to actually stop war when your company-slash-charity can also be the lucky winner of many a Pentagon contract for many an endless war? You can't get blood from a stone, after all. You still need human bodies.)

Jessica Seinfeld's Grand Plan - "Break the cycle of family poverty through the cookbook author's nonprofit Good+ Foundation." (No government-funded food stamp increases or jobs programs or wage increases for hungry poor families are needed as long as you have a wealthy comedian's wife to share her tips and tricks.  And just so you know, that cookbook she's selling to help poor moms feed their kids might be unoriginal, but it was not plagiarized. So shut up, all you haters and class enviers!)

Justin Rockefeller's Grand Plan - "Convince the wealthy not only to invest their money in a socially responsible manner, but to do it more effectively through the ImPact." (You can make a ton of money by slushing giving just a little of it away. Poor people are opportunities. Incidentally, Justin apparently is a real Rockefeller, unlike that con-man murderer Clark Rockefeller, who also convinced the wealthy to give him their money by way of class affinity fraud. Justin is redundantly described as both a venture capitalist and a Democratic activist. His daddy is former Senator Jay Rockefeller)

Bill Pulte's Grand Plan - "Rid Detroit of blight by tearing down houses and making room for safe communities." (Translation: buy up properties for pennies, evict tenants, tear down, gentrify, get rid of "black crime", re-sell to white people or rent back to evictees at a markup, ka-ching. Pulte is a private equity mogul, a/k/a Master of Creative Destruction. And wouldn't you know it, the brother of Mitt Romney  (the founder of vulture fund Bain Capital) just happens to serve on this "charity's" board. Double ka-ching!)

Deval Patrick's Grand Plan - "Prove that you can make money and do good at the same time by starting a new division of Bain Capital that focuses on investment opportunities that benefit society by still turning a profit." (It's a small world, after all. Patrick, like Romney, is a former governor of Massachusetts; they must have met on one of their revolving door trips.  Patrick also served on the board of subprime lender Ameriquest, which turned a profit by foreclosing on thousands of poor people's homes in Detroit and elsewhere.) 

Kim Fortunato's Grand Plan - "Reduce childhood obesity and hunger through Campbell Soup's  signature philanthropic program, Campbell's Healthy Communities." (One small serving of Campbell's Healthy Request soup contains more than half the daily recommended allowance of sodium. The company actually increased the salt in its products after an initial ballyhooed reduction depressed sales. Since the mega-charity, the American Heart Association. also added its healthy logo to the cans of salinated soup, both it and Campbell's were the subjects of a class action lawsuit, charging fraud.)

The Cucinelli Family's Grand Plan -"Prove that capitalism and humanism can co-exist through business and the Brunello and Federica Cucinelli Foundation..." (Never mind that capitalism is to humanism what cancer is to a body. In his native Umbria, Cucinelli, known as the King of Cashmere, reigns as a literal feudal overlord. In a real castle, no less, with real-live peasants toiling in the surrounding countryside to provide some co-existing ambience.)

Anida Kamadioli Costa's Grand Plan - "Ensure that an iconic brand puts its money where its mouth is on such issues as conservation through the Tiffany & Co. Foundation." (The issues apparently don't extend to Tiffany divesting from the part of its gem supply chain allegedly responsible for Middle Eastern massacres.)

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg's Grand Plan - "To give away 99% of their Facebook stock, currently worth $45 billion,  through numerous nonprofits like the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative." (As has been widely reported, this charitable endeavor is not only a tax dodge, it aims to supplant democratic programs, such as public education. The bulk of the excessive Facebook cash is parked in a Delaware LLC.)

Nicolas Berggruen's Grand Plan - "Create a space to shelter the world's elite thinkers in a peaceful yet intellectually fervid sanctuary for reflection and dialogue through the Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center." (Even rich thought leaders need charity and safe spaces. Berggruen was once known as the "homeless  billionaire" because he was reduced to living in his private jet after losing a third of his fortune in the Wall Street crash. But now he's opened his new lush California Zen paradise to such wealthy war-mongering luminaries as Tony Blair and Condi Rice, who can fervidly shelter in place for "Thing Long" bull sessions with their class peers.

It's one more example of charity literally beginning right in the home. Or, if not in an actual castle, at least in the second, fourth or eighth vacation home.

Now, this isn't to say that all 50 of the winning philanthropists showcased in Town & Country are as crass as the individuals and corporate persons I highlighted above. There still exist the usual rich people giving and raising money to study diseases which have personally afflicted them or their family members. There are the usual celebrities and their sincere pet causes. For example, Matt Damon modestly aims to provide clean water for the whole wide world, while Stephen Colbert is merely trying to humor regular people into donating supplies to public, not private, schools. There's no money or investment opportunity in it for them, other than the positive publicity and maybe a clever tax write-off of some sort.

So read more about the leisure class at your own leisure. You are guaranteed to be amazed and perhaps even inspired to add an updated chapter or two to Thorstein Veblen's landmark sociological study on the rich. Stung by accusations that they're a bunch of wealth-hoarding greedsters, the plutocrats have joined forces to create their own "Idle No More" movement. They're very busy conspicuously helping one another to aspire to help others to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. It's a hard knock life for sure... for the rich.

Pop quiz questions: What, if any, difference is there between conspicuous consumption and conspicuous giving? 

Is it uncharitable to ask whether we can actually afford rich people?


Anonymous said...

And in Nevada yesterday, a 12-hour convention which nullified the second tier of caucuses (the one Bernie won). A temporary rule was made at 9:30 am while people were still lined up outside. It was protested, the chair didn't allow a proper vote. She ended the convention without a proper vote (also against protocol), and the cops were called to control angry Sanders supporters while the rest of them snuck out. Bernie or Bust people are even more set about not ever voting for Clinton. If this is what can happen at a little state convention, Philadelphia is going to be off the charts.

The Democratic Party is in self-destruct mode.

Reluctant Democrat (for a little while longer)

Anonymous said...

A link with some videos:

Nothing about this is in the Las Vegas Sun today.


Ste-vo said...

And the pictures at the T & C website do not begin to do justice!

Ste-vo said...

Anonyomus, you wrote........ Philadelphia is going to be off the charts. I used to live there, Downtown, a few blocks from the Pennsylvania Convention Center where a few of the events will be held. I had recently moved from there in the spring of 2000, when the Republicans held their convention that infamous year. That one came off smoothly in comparison to what this one will be, I am sure.
I don't know what to think anymore, I don't.

Pearl said...

News Analysis NYtimes

Sorry, We Don’t Take Obamacare
The growing pains of the health care act are frustrating patients.

Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser:

Andy Vanderbilt said...

Stop the presses! Self-involved young careerists find love despite fashion mismatch:

Jay–Ottawa said...

If I may coin a phrase, "Charity begins at home."

In a backhanded response to "Town & Country," The New Congress of Fed Up Citizens has launched a counter publication with the name of "Shrinking Ghetto." It focuses on living conditions everywhere BUT castles in high end suburbias and exurbias. The publishers of Town & Country are getting nervous because its clientele, although fabulously rich, is diminishing to a readership approaching 0.01% of market share. Meanwhile, according to census data, Shrinking Ghetto's market share is nearing 99%.

Shrinking Ghetto also launched a Grand Plan competition. But it turned out to be an utter failure, at least by T&C standards. Shrinking Ghetto's editors had expected hundreds of bright ideas welling up from the turbulent masses. Instead, the replies, although many, boiled down to only four grand plans for the next administration:

1. Work out the details––whether by constitutional amendment, presidential fiat or truly scary demonstrations in the streets––to make all future elections government sponsored (i.e., no private or corporate money or favors can ever again be accepted by elected officials).

2. Pull back all American troops abroad and close down all foreign bases thereby vacated. Nix the ten year, trillion dollar effort to refurbish the nuclear weapons stockpile. Cut the Pentagon budget down by 10% per year until the peaceniks scream "Stop!" (twice). This will provide abundant funding for Item 4.

3. Resume enforcement of all civil and economic laws already on the books prior to 1999 (the year Glass-Steagall was repealed), with an option to push the date further back to 1980. This will also provide funding for Item 4.

4. Create a Full Employment Program (FEP) sponsored by the federal government with absolutely no big corporate involvement, the work to be limited to the repair of municipal, state and federal infrastructure. (Probably a twenty-year program.) The usual federal employment benefits (health insurance, vacations, etc.) will apply to all hired under the FEP.

Ste-vo said...

Andy Vanderbilt, thanks for the link to the wedding announcement. Over the last few months I have toyed with the idea of cancelling my subscription to the digital edition of the NYT. No home delivery in Vermont. But I can't. I can't. In another life, I lived in New Haven, CT and had home delivery of the paper - every day. I used to use those blue delivery bags to pick up dog poop when I walked Hester, my Golden Retriever. On Sundays, the first thing I did was read Frank Rich's column and then the wedding announcements - every Sunday that is what I did. I love to read them as they provide so much laughter, which brightens up my rather dismal view of the world. With everything else going to hell in a handbasket, as my grandmother used to say, it is good to know that there are people like them in the world. It is. I sleep well at night.