Unless you’re holding out on me and happen to be one of the wealthier folks on the planet (in which case fair play), it’s unlikely you or I, or most Americans let alone humans, will ever possess anywhere remotely close to two billion dollars across the entire duration of our lifetime.
Yet, in the wake of a barrage of bad publicity from seemingly every front, Amazon’s maligned CEO, and far and away richest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos is donating the substantial sum to a new ‘Day One Fund’ Charitable Organization. And while details on what exactly this organization will do with such a war chest are still murky, Bezos has been adamant it will, “use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon. Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession,” adding that in the context of his charity, “The child will be the customer.”
As far as we can tell from available information the chief aims of the organization will be combating the rampant homelessness we’re facing, particularly in the Seattle area near and dear to the Amazon corporation, as well as a foray into solving America’s education debacles starting with a preschool building initiative.
But while the contribution can’t be disregarded, it screams self-interest over altruism and, frankly, isn’t very impressive considering the donor.
Now there’s certainly no requirement to be altruistic in American capitalism, that’s the point of altruism, so it would be absurd to act as if Bezos didn’t do any good donating a sum greater than the budget of some countries. But it would be intellectually dishonest to ignore the economic and political realities that make the gesture… less than heartwarming.
The timing of the grand public gift is far from coincidental as Bezos is currently besieged from all sides. Bernie Sanders and the left are coming at him with the publicity stunt BEZOS bill, something that surprisingly resonates with Trump and the right’s assaults based on nebulous tax practices, with the President publicly accusing Amazon to be cheating the American taxpayers.
If that weren’t enough Bezos is also facing harsh scrutiny from inside the wire as former and current employees claims of brutal working conditions and paltry compensation multiply and attract the ire of labor interests. With such a view from the battlements, it’s not surprising the global magnate is trying to soften his image to the American people at large.
However, it appears his opponents are having none of it.
Senator Sanders and his allies immediately retorted that the best gesture Amazon could make was to pay their employees a living wage. The general sentiment of being unimpressed seems to be echoed by most as many on all sides are quick to illuminate the facts that point to this being hollow popularity mongering, as opposed to genuine altruism.
Bezos, who has faced scrutiny for years for a lack of major charitable contributions, is the richest man in the world with $163 billion to his name. That makes the two billion dollars a minuscule 1.3% of Bezos’ fortune. To put that in perspective to the average American household (worth roughly $90,000) this would feel like about a thousand bucks to me or you. While that’s still money being donated to charity, and thus ‘doing good’ its unlikely Bezos will even notice its missing, as he raked in $63 Billion of that just this year alone and doesn’t look to be slowing down.
I don’t profess to be the most religious of men, but I am familiar with ‘The poor widows offering’. In this biblical tale, Jesus teaches what altruism truly means; holding a paltry donation of 2 coppers from a destitute woman as far more meaningful than the luxurious gifts given with great pomp by the temple’s rich patrons.
It seems America doesn’t need to be zealously Christian to apply such wisdom to the owner of one of only two trillion-dollar global companies. Regarding Bezos’ temple offerings, America at large seems unmoved, and with good reason.