Bill Gates v Liz Warren

November 7, 2019

Bill Gates recent interview has drawn some fire. Relevant passages come between about 3:00 and 8:00, above.

Maybe Bill thinks he’s just being cagey, but even giving the slightest scintilla of air to the idea he might vote for Trump undercuts everything he claims to believe in.

Heated:

By refusing to partake in political giving, Gates severely undermines his own climate philanthropy

In his interview yesterday, Gates was trying to make the case for billionaires as a force for social good in an age of massive and increasing income inequality.

But what he wound up doing was providing more evidence that billionaires cannot be depended on to drive the rapid societal change necessary to avoid irreversible climate catastrophe.

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Gates has given a lot of money and devoted a lot of time toward helping solve the climate crisis, which he rightly calls “one of the toughest challenges facing the world.” He is leading a $1 billion clean energy venture fund. His $40 billion foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has focused in on climate adaptation. Gates is also funding lots of research into new battery technologies and other technological solutions, including solar geoengineering. (Climate activists largely see geoengineering as a potentially dangerous band-aid solution that avoids having to tackle the real problem: the fossil fuel-powered economy.)

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Gates thus likely considers himself a climate activist. And yet, he refuses to say whether he would vote for a presidential candidate with an extensive plan to fight the climate crisis over a candidate who denies the crisis even exists. And he is refusing to do this partly because he doesn’t like the climate candidate’s wealth tax plan. Huh.

Gates clearly understands that the climate crisis is a huge problem. What he does not appear to understand is the rapid timeline on which the climate crisis needs to be tackled, and how Donald Trump’s re-election would fundamentally, unequivocally threaten the possibility of that timeline being achieved. As Dave Levitan wrote for The New Republic earlier this year:

2020 isn’t literally the last chance to save humanity, but four more years of Trump undoubtedly shrinks our chances to ensure a future safe from catastrophe. U.S. emissions likely wouldn’t reduce at the necessary pace, and the lack of leadership on the international stage could cause countries to decelerate their own energy transitions. The planet wouldn’t be doomed quite yet, but it would be closer to doom than ever before.

In other words, every year a climate denier runs the government, Gates’ millions in collective investments toward climate solutions become less effective and less meaningful.

On Wednesday, Gates said he avoids political donations because he believes they are undemocratic. He does not like the system we have now, where billionaires and corporations can have outsized influence on the U.S. electoral system.

Well guess what buddy: join the club. But unless you’re spending all your money to help change that system—which you’re not—you’re just allowing climate-denying billionaires to continue to have unmatched power over politics. If you are worth $100 billion, and you aren’t using a large chunk of that to clamp down on the immense power of climate-denying money in politics because you’re worried about your own wealth, you aren’t a climate activist. I’ll leave it to others to decide what to call you instead.

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@mattyglesias

The fact that each random billionaire’s thoughts on Elizabeth Warren is a news story is itself a powerful demonstration of the disproportionate political influence of the very rich.

7 Responses to “Bill Gates v Liz Warren”

  1. doldrom Says:

    Billionaires are not sitting on B$100. They control that amount of assets. In order to spend any of it, they need to sell their stocks/bonds to someone else, which would mean somebody else is now sitting on it. It also means you cannot generate income by selling all of it, since every asset must be held by somebody.

    The problem is not that these people are too wealthy. The assets will continue to exist no matter who is sitting on them. The problems is that the control and disposition of those assets is determined by a tiny part of the population that is not elected. Instead, they control who is elected. This means that all policy is skewed to serve the interests of a tiny part of the population. Their policy is always to increase their control and the amount of assets under their control. It is not to grow the economy or any number of other ends. Their personal spending is only a tiny proportion of the revenue and income streams those assets yield.

    Of course, billionaires always say they worked very hard. This may be true, but throughout history, the people who work the hardest (slaves, lowly soldiers, manual laborers) have received the least income: the game is to achieve a position where you do not have to be outside moving bricks and boxes.

    But the discussion should not be about how wealthy certain people are, but about the political implications of such concentration of power and decision-making, and how different the incentives in the broader economy are because of it. That is, whose country is it actually?


  2. Honestly,this is just the same old bs Gates has always said. Almost 20 years ago he published an op ed in The Seattle Times which was jaw dropping in its flip condescending,patronizing attitude towards the working poor. He LECK-CHOORS all the ingrates how they can’t expect to start out their working life making $40,000 a year (a couple years later he updates the amount to 50 thou-I guess because of inflation). No Bill,they just want to have a f***ing wage they can live on. Maybe you and Melinda can drop 40 or 50 thou on a weekend shopping spree in NYC or gay Paree and not notice it at all (I think the phrase is chump change), but hey,some serfs struggle just to have a roof over their head. And at least,here in Seattle people like you are making that struggle an everyday nightmare with their tearing down affordable housing.

    The story of him being a self made billionnaire is nothing but pr. He grew up on Mercer Island,a very rich suburb out in Lake Washington to the east of us. His mommy was a CEO of a major NW corporation and pops was a partner in Vogel and Gates, one of Seattle’s premiere law firms back in the day ( when I worked as an operator I received lots of international call requests from them). The dude never wanted for anything.

    • jfon Says:

      Give us a break. I somehow doubt that Bill and Melinda spend much time on ‘shopping sprees in NYC or gay Paris’. Balzac wrote that ‘behind every great fortune is a great crime.’ Techheads grouse about Windows and what Microsoft did to their competitors, but I don’t think any crimes Gates might have committed are on a par with Rockefeller’s union busting, or for that matter, Trump stiffing his contractors and pawing his beauty contestants. Gates is not leaving his fortune to his kids, he doesn’t believe in money running the government, and he’s probably spent more on helping poor countries, and for research on climate solutions, than most governments.

  3. jfon Says:

    Give us a break. I somehow doubt that Bill and Melinda spend much time on ‘shopping sprees in NYC or gay Paris’. Balzac wrote that ‘behind every great fortune is a great crime.’ Techheads grouse about Windows and what Microsoft did to their competitors, but I don’t think any crimes Gates might have committed are on a par with Rockefeller’s union busting, or for that matter, Trump stiffing his contractors and pawing his beauty contestants. Gates is not leaving his fortune to his kids, he doesn’t believe in money running the government, and he’s probably spent more on helping poor countries, and for research on climate solutions, than most governments.


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