Podcast / Start Making Sense / Jan 4, 2024

Reasons for Hope in 2024; Plus the Bill Gates Problem

On this episode of the Start Making Sense podcast, John Nichols previews politics for this year, while Tim Schwab talks about Big Philanthropy.

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Reasons for Hope in 2024: John Nichols, plus the Bill Gates Problem | Start Making Sense with Jon Wiener
byThe Nation Magazine

Hope is different from optimism – it’s an embrace of uncertainty, and a basis for action. The polls look bad for Joe Biden, but Democrats’ chances are much brighter in the House, and perhaps the Senate. John Nichols talks about reasons for hope in 2024, starting in the tipping point state of 2020, Wisconsin.

Also: Bill Gates is now the 6th richest man in the world, with 104 billion dollars. He’s spent the last 20 years giving away some of his money–the Gates Foundation gave away $7 billion in 2022. But with the money comes a host of problems. Tim Schwab will explain; his new book has a great title: “The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire.”

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Bill Gates

Bill Gates speaks at the 2019 New York Times Dealbook.

(Mike Cohen / Getty Images)

Hope is different from optimism: It’s an embrace of uncertainty, and a basis for action. The polls look bad for Joe Biden, but the Democrats’ chances are much brighter in the House, and perhaps the Senate, too. This week, John Nichols gives us some reasons to have hope in 2024, starting with the tipping point state of 2020—Wisconsin.

Also on this episode: Bill Gates is now the sixth-richest man in the world, with $104 billion to his name. He’s spent the last 20 years giving away some of his money—the Gates Foundation gave away $7 billion in 2022. But with that money comes a host of problems. Tim Schwab, author of The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire, comes on the podcast to discuss.

Jon Wiener: From The Nation Magazine, this is Start Making Sense. I’m Jon Wiener. Later in the show: Bill Gates is now the sixth richest man in the world with $104 billion. He spent the last 20 years giving away some of that money. The Gates Foundation gave away $7 billion in 2022, but with that money comes a host of problems. Tim Schwab will explain his new book has the great title, The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire.
But first, our reasons for hope in 2024. That’s coming up in a minute.
[BREAK]
A lot of our friends are feeling pessimistic about Biden winning reelection, but we have reasons for hope about American politics in 2024. For that, we turn to John Nichols. Of course, he’s national affairs correspondent for The Nation. He’s written, co-written, or edited more than a dozen books. The latest, co-authored by Bernie Sanders, has the wonderful title It’s Okay to Be Angry About Capitalism. It’s a New York Times bestseller. We reached him today, not in Madison, but in Philadelphia. John, welcome back. 

John Nichols: Jon, I greet you from the city of the nation’s founding. 

JW: Okay! Looking at politics in 2024, the first fact everybody knows is that Joe Biden’s polls are not good. In fact, they’re not as bad as a lot of pundits have been saying, but they’re not good. We’ll get to that in a minute. Nevertheless, we have hope for many reasons, which is what we want to talk about today. And I want to emphasize here that hope is different from optimism. Rebecca Solnit has a wonderful book about this, it’s called Hope in the Dark. Optimism, she points out, is based on the idea that you know what is going to happen in the future. Pessimism is based on the same kind of certainty about the future.
Hope is different. It’s based on the idea that we know the future is uncertain. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we do know that things change. We know that we’ve been surprised in the past. Hope is, and I’m quoting Rebecca Solnit here, “the embrace of uncertainty and it’s more accurate and more useful than optimism or pessimism because it leads to energy for action today.” So let’s start with those polls that everyone is so pessimistic about. How would you describe Biden’s polls at this point? 

JN: Well, first off, I think any discussion that begins with Rebecca Solnit is a good one. Back in November, we got a New York Times poll of six battleground states, and it showed Biden losing five of those battleground states, and then it was in combination with a series of new national polls, almost all of which showed Biden losing. So you looked at all this in early November and there was a collective panic attack. Everybody was like, oh, Biden can’t win. You even had big deal people like David Axelrod, the Obama political strategist saying, boy, this guy really ought to rethink. What nobody noticed was within a week or so, there were other polls from battleground states, which showed Biden no longer losing, but ahead. And so what I did was I tracked the polling from November to now, from that very dark moment for a lot of progressives, a lot of Democrats, to the current moment of the last 10 polls published before the end of 2023, three of them showed Joe Biden winning.
Two of them showed Joe Biden and Donald Trump tied, and five of them, Trump was ahead. Don’t deny that, but it was within the margin of error. When you looked at that pattern of polling, what you came away with is the fundamental reality that we are headed into a 2024 presidential race that is going to be close, it’s going to be competitive, we’re a divided country, but the notion that Joe Biden is destined to lose that race is actually quite inaccurate. The polling itself tells you differently. And also the pattern of polling, which frankly has been improved somewhat for Biden and especially as improving somewhat in some of the key states, not a cause for optimism, I don’t think, but a cause for hope if you happen to be a Biden backer. 

JW: To find hope, we need to look beyond the current presidential polls at what’s happening in states. You have just told us about this. One of the greatest sources of hope in 2024 is the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Wisconsin was the tipping point state in 2020, the state where Biden won by the smallest margin. It also is the state with the most dynamic and best organized Democratic party. I understand that 2024 is the culmination of a four-year effort by the Wisconsin Democratic Party at what they call hyper local organizing, that there are 275 local neighborhood action teams in Wisconsin from the Democratic Party and 71 county party organizations. Let’s talk about hyper local organizing and how it might keep Wisconsin Democratic in the November presidential election. 

JN: During last year in 2023 at The Nation, we did a huge profile of Ben Wikler, who is the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. He’s a young chairman. He’s in his early forties, and yet he’s proven to be sort of a definitional figure as regards the modern vision for the Democratic Party, which is the Democratic party that recognizes it’s got to be urban and rural. It’s got to reach out to people of all backgrounds. It’s got to have a strategy for students, strategy for young adults, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And so when you do that, you do get into a hyper local, hyper focused organizing. And here’s two notable things. Number one, when I told you about that New York Times polling at the start of November that freaked everybody out. There were six battleground states. Biden was losing in five of them. He was winning in one of them, Wisconsin.
And so what that tells you is that even when things get difficult for a Democratic presidential candidate, for instance nationally, if you’re doing the right kind of organizing on the ground, you can come up with a new way to organize, to get people to the polls, to maximize the promise of democracy. And that’s something that you’ve seen in Wisconsin. It is a four-year strategy. In fact, it’s actually in fairness, I would say even a seven-year strategy. It goes back to around 2017. Wisconsin was shocked, as was Michigan and as was Pennsylvania. When those states went to Donald Trump in 2016, people were like how did that happen? And so in Wisconsin, immediately there was an effort to start to organize. Since 2017 in Wisconsin of 20 statewide races, Democrats have won 17 of them, either Democrats or Progressive candidates running a nonpartisan races.
So it’s essentially one of the biggest winning streaks in the country. And in that pattern, they have flipped control of the governorship, flipped control of the Attorney General’s office, flipped control of the state Supreme Court. It’s really quite a remarkable pattern. And of course, at the heart of that was the shift in the 2020 election, Wisconsin flipping from Trump in 16 to Biden in 20, and obviously the hope going forward on the part of the Wisconsin Democrats that in 2024 they will continue this pattern. 

JW: Another area of uncertainty, and thus hope is the House of Representatives. The Democrats nearly held it in 2022, which was a big surprise given the historic patterns that the incumbent of the White House always loses his first midterm. So it was a huge achievement and a big surprise and a reason for hope that they might be able to retake the house in 2024. After 2022, they were only five votes short of a majority. We now have the expulsion of George Santos opening up a competitive district on Long Island. Lauren Boebert has abandoned her swing district for a safe Republican district giving the Democrats a chance there. Gerrymandering has eliminated some Democratic seats in, I know in North Carolina, but redistricting has created new Democratic districts in Alabama and Louisiana. We may get more in New York state, we may get more in Wisconsin eventually. So control of the house next year is uncertain. Is that a fair statement? 

JN: It’s uncertain, but probably more likely Democratic than likely Republican, which is a kind of incredible situation. Part of it relates to those redistricting figures that you’re pointing to. Usually redistricting locks things in after the census, right? And that would’ve been the 2020 census. So 2022 would’ve been fate, right? That would’ve been the point at which you knew your maps. But in many cases, the Republicans drew such extreme and such radically gerrymandered maps that they’d been thrown out by the courts either for reasons of civil rights concerns in Alabama and some southern states. They literally were under representing Black voters in congressional districts, or in other states like New York, just the mess that they made of the maps there and so a court has thrown it out, and there’s a chance in New York, you could actually have five or six seats flipped to the Democrats there, which is incredible.
There’s a decent chance you flip one or two in Illinois, there’s an outside chance to flip one or two in Wisconsin. And so that pattern is indeed very, very positive for the Democrats. They’ve got trouble in North Carolina and maybe a little bit in Florida, so it’s not perfect, but here’s the twist on it. Biden runs a strong campaign, a mobilizing campaign that gets people out. And obviously that’s going to be the goal. A lot of the patterns are right for the Democrats to take the House of Representatives. And it is notable, you did list the fact that George Santos is giving out. He’s gone. That Boebert seat has gone bad.
It’s also notable that Kevin McCarthy in the classic go down with the ship fashion. He quit. They bumped him out as Speaker of the House instead of saying, like Nancy Pelosi did: “Well, I’m not the speaker anymore, but I’m going to stick around and fight for my party.”  Kevin McCarthy’s like: ‘Well, this ship’s sinking. I’m out of here.’ All those things are significant factors.
And I’ll give you one other thing. Historically, Harry Truman, when he ran for president in 1948, had an uphill race. It was a very difficult time. He didn’t really run against his opponent, Thomas Dewey. He ran against the Republican Congress. He ran against especially the House of Representatives and referred to it as the “Do Nothing Congress.” And not only did Truman win that election, he also flipped the house by such a wide margin, and the Senate went good as well, that they ended up after the 1948 election doubling the minimum wage or almost doubling the minimum wage.
So there is this chaos in the House of Representatives right now, and if Democrats figure out how to talk about that chaos, that inability to govern, the fact that they’re throwing their speakers out and fighting with each other all the time and wasting immense amount of time on trying to impeach Joe Biden because he’s the father of Hunter Biden, rather than trying to govern in any way, it shouldn’t be that hard to run against this Congress. And frankly, if they do, I think Democrats have a very good chance of taking the House of Representatives. 

JW: Another reason for hope is that voters will have a lot more motivation in November in some key swing states than just Joe Biden, referenda are likely to bring out more voters and new voters in several swing states. In Arizona, Progressives are working on getting an abortion rights referendum on the November ballot in Ohio, progressives are working on getting a small-D democratic initiative on the ballot, automatic voter registration, same-Day registration, other protections for voting rights. And in Ohio, there’s also a campaign to qualify, a second referendum to create a new independent redistricting commission in a heavily gerrymandered state. I think those referenda are a great cause for hope. What do you think? 

JN: Absolutely. The reality is that polling tells us, and you can trust polling on this, I think because it’s so consistent in its patterns, polling tells us that people don’t like either party very much. Republicans don’t particularly like the Republican Party all that much. The Democrats don’t like the Democratic Party all that much, but they do like issues. They care about certain goals and certain ideals and the most powerful one, and we have our nation honor roll coming out in a week or so, and one of the things we honor is young voters and voters as regards to abortion rights. And it’s an incredible political reality that since the Dobbs decision in 2022, we have seen a shift in how people vote, how they turn out. And it’s now, it appears to be pretty locked in because it didn’t just hold in 2022, it held in election after election in 2023.
And not just in liberal states, but in states like Kentucky and Ohio, abortion rights proved to be an incredibly powerful issue. And so putting it on the ballot in a state like Arizona, which is very closely divided, very competitive, that’s huge. And where you put it on the ballot in other states, it’s going to be a very big deal. So that’s one element of it.
And there are other referendums on very popular issues like legalizing marijuana, like free and fair elections, and a host of other areas that they motivate, and they bring people to the polls. That’s important, Jon, because one of the things that we have to be honest about is that Joe Biden’s going to be top of the ticket. I think Biden’s actually a pretty impressive guy in a lot of ways. He’s got a lot of things to be said for him, but he’s just not one of those presidents which people get excited about where people are passionate about him in the way they maybe were about FDR or in the way they maybe were about Ronald Reagan in another –
And so for Biden, he is going to have to run an issue-driven reelection campaign. And one of those issues will be that he’s not Donald Trump, of course, but one of the biggest issues I think will be abortion rights and simply saying, look, if I’m Joe Biden saying maybe you don’t like everything I’ve done, maybe you don’t like my stand on Israel-Palestine. Maybe you don’t like my stand on a host of other issues, yet there is this overarching issue of abortion rights. Where do you stand on that? Where do you stand on immigration, on education, a host of other issues, be it in a referendum or be it in the focus of a campaign. If Biden and the Democrats run a deeply issue-oriented campaign and they find smart ways to talk about it, to pull away from the personalities, move toward a host of issues that mobilize voters, especially young voters, talk about cause for hope. Yes, that is a major cause for hope, and the referendums are a part of that. 

JW: One last cause for hope, not just for 2024, but for our long-term future: young people, the mobilization of young people. There was an interesting piece by Nate Cohn in The New York Times, young voters as the new swing voters. He says, the voters poised to decide the election look very different from the swing voters of lore. They are disproportionately young, Black and Hispanic, and what do young people care about these days? They are very concerned about climate, their future. They care about social justice as you’ve said. They care about abortion rights and they’re going to keep caring about these things not only in November, but for years to come. This could be the future of Progressive victories in America, not just in 2024, but for a while afterwards. 

JN: Oh, I think it definitely can be. Young voters are driven by a set of values, and they’re also driven by a sense of urgency. They want things to happen. Can young voters become frustrated? Yes, they can, and that’s appropriate. I’m glad if they’re frustrated, I’m glad if they’re impassioned and they want to push harder, and I’m glad if they hold political figures to account. And so this becomes a complexity for the Democrats. It’s something to understand. For instance, on the issue of Gaza, there are many, many young voters who are furious with Joe Biden on that issue. Democrats can’t deny it, they can’t avoid it. They should also be thinking about a host of other issues where they are in sync with young voters and trying to deepen those connections. You mentioned abortion rights. That’s a key one. Education, affordability of education, student debt, all sorts of things. Very, very important.
Let me add one more to your list. One of the issues that so far Democrats have not done enough to pick up, and that is labor rights, polling shows. Now stop for a second, John, and take this in 88 percent, 88 percent of young people favor unions and labor rights over corporations and corporate power, 88 percent. You can’t get that number for anything. That means Jon, that young Republicans and young Democrats, young liberals, young conservatives, basically 9 out of every 10 young people you meet is excited about labor unions. And so for Democrats who are on the side of labor, generally not as much as they should, sometimes running against Republicans, who in case of people like Nikki Haley, literally militantly anti-labor. I’m telling you, Jon, you want to find an issue to run on? Run on the promise that if Democrats take the White House, the House, and the Senate, that their first action will be to blow out all these barriers to organizing unions and to make it possible for people to have real control over their economic lives. For young voters, that’s an incredibly motivating issue. 

JW: Reasons for hope in 2024. John Nichols writes about politics for Thenation.com. Thank you, John. This was great. 

JN: Thank you Jon. And I will promise you that we will be talking again in 2024, and we will find continued reasons to be hopeful.
[BREAK]

Jon Wiener: Bill Gates is now the sixth-richest man in the world, with $104 billion. He spent the last 20 years giving away his money. That’s why in 2016, President Obama gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Gates Foundation gave away $7 billion in 2022. But there’s a problem with Bill Gates and his philanthropy. For that, we turn to Tim Schwab. He’s an investigative journalist based in Washington D.C., whose reporting on the Gates Foundation has been featured in the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation and has received an Izzy Award and a Deadline Club Award. His new book has a great title: The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire. Tim Schwab, welcome back.

Tim Schwab: Thank you so much for having me, Jon.

JW: Elon Musk spends his billions on space travel. The Koch brothers spent their billions on Republican candidates. Bill Gates spends his money, he says, on reducing inequality across the globe. The biggest single expenditure of the Gates Foundation has had the goal of eradicating polio, $830 million in 2022 alone. Public health experts say there are more important problems.  Okay, but what’s wrong with trying to eradicate polio?

TS: Yeah, and this is the way that the Gates story gets reduced into a very simple narrative. You say, “Isn’t the Gates Foundation helping deliver hundreds of millions of vaccines? Isn’t the Gates Foundation saving millions of lives?” And it is, but only superficially. If that is the extent of your analysis, you’re failing to understand the counterfactuals, the opportunity costs, and the collateral damage. You’re not considering how many more lives we could save, how many more vaccines we could deliver if we organized public health in a more democratic manner – through a public process, through democratic decision-making in which an unelected billionaire in Seattle didn’t have outsized influence.

JW: Bill Gates has said his foundation has saved the lives of 122 million children over the past 25 years. This is mostly because of the vaccines they distribute. That’s a lot of kids. Where does that number come from?

TS: The numbers are questionable because they’re coming from research institutes funded by the Gates Foundation. But again, they’re also not considering questions like how many lives are being lost because of the Gates Foundation? For example, it’s dogmatic belief in the primacy of the private sector and their patent interests and the ability of, for example, large pharmaceutical companies to have vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics that could save lives, but they can’t reach the global poor because they can’t access them because they’re too expensive.

JW: That takes us to the COVID pandemic, the COVID vaccines and the amazing achievement of the quick development of those vaccines that stopped the pandemic. The Gates Foundation is one of the heroes of that story, partly because they’ve had so much experience with vaccines over the past decades. In many ways, he, it is reported did more than the World Health Organization to promote the development of the successful vaccines. But you say there’s a problem there too.

TS: Yeah. The pandemic really in many ways was the ultimate referendum on the Gates Foundation’s model of change. It promised that it could work with and through the pharmaceutical industry, that it had decades of experience working with vaccines. It had the network, the expertise, that capacity, that it could make sure that the global poor were not put at the end of the line. That the poorest most vulnerable people in the world would have equity, equitable access to vaccines. That model instead presided over vaccine apartheid. The poorest and the most vulnerable people still remained at the back of the line.
And it’s important to note that there was a powerful alternative on the table, which was that many poor nations around the world and many public health experts had proposed waiving patents, compelling large pharmaceutical companies to share the vaccine technology, to get every capable manufacturing facility in the world up and running, churning out numbers of vaccines that could more easily get into the arms of the global poor. As that alternative gathered steam, Bill Gates became one of the most potent public apologists and defenders for the patent rights of the pharmaceutical industry. And of course, this ideological, this dogmatic position, it goes back to his days at Microsoft. This is a company that he founded and led for decades. It’s a company whose revenues and profits turn on the same intellectual property and patent and copyright concerns as the pharmaceutical companies with which the Gates Foundation today works.

JW: And what about the World Health Organization? How come Gates was more prominent than the World Health Organization in the pandemic?

TS: The Gates Foundation today has become one of the largest funders of the World Health Organization, which is part of the United Nations. So that fact alone, it bears scrutiny and it’s cause for concern that a private actor, a private foundation, a private billionaire in Seattle, could have so much influence over the WHO. Gates’s generous funding, if you want to term it that way, that helps shape what the WHO works on and what it doesn’t work on. So while we expected the WHO to play this critical central role in the pandemic response, especially for poor people, the Gates Foundation was right there at the WHO working with the WHO and helping lead and organize the response.

JW: Another area that the Gates Foundation focuses on is public education in the United States where one of his biggest projects is something called the Common Core State Standards. What’s that about?

TS: Bill Gates and a number of other educational reformers thought it made sense to create a common set of educational standards in all 50 states across the nation. And on the face of it, it’s kind of an irresistible proposition. It makes perfect sense. Why shouldn’t there be common standards across states? The problem is – well, the problems are myriad, but one of them is, why is it up to Bill Gates and his private foundation to bankroll and organize how this happens? So the foundation put a great deal of time, energy, and money into creating these new standards. They ended up being very controversial. Many states have abandoned them, jettisoned them, or reframed them, but importantly, these Common Core educational standards did not improve education. And you can look across the foundation’s decades of work, the billions of dollars it’s put into public education in the United States, mostly aimed at four school districts. And across the board you see failure after failure after failure. Common Core is one, but you could look at any number of other areas in which it works.

JW: But can you really blame the Gates Foundation for trying?

TS: Its work in education and in many other areas has not only failed, but it’s hurting the very people it claims to help. You have teachers who are being told by the Gates Foundation and other school reformers that they don’t know how to do their job and/or should be fired. You have students who don’t have confidence or losing morale because they don’t do good on the standardized tests that Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation loves. You have parents who are beset by this message that their schools are in disarray and chaos and that they need to be radically reformed by the Gates Foundation and other reformers. So there is a lot of collateral damage and opportunity cost that gets missed there in that analysis.

JW: Bill Gates not only tries to eradicate diseases, especially in Africa, not only tries to improve public education in the United States. You say his money also floods into universities, think tanks, newsrooms, and advocacy groups. What exactly is the problem there?

TS: Many, perhaps most major news outlets today have some kind of financial tie to the Gates Foundation. Either their newsrooms are accepting funding from the Gates Foundation, or there’s a columnist there who has outside employment at a Gates-funded organization. What all this does again, is it allows the foundation to shape the narrative around its work. It allows it, I think, to minimize criticism of the foundation as well. In the field of public health, researchers have coined the term the Bill Chill to describe the chilling effect in which so many people are funded by the Gates Foundation, that they’re afraid to bite the hand that feeds them.

JW: Which of the media companies get money from the Gates Foundation and what are they being paid to do?

TS: So the Gates Foundation gives widely to news outlets more than $300 million in charitable donations to journalism, and it’s to many of the outlets that we read every day. It goes to The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, BBC, Al Jazeera. ProPublica at one point took funding from the Gates Foundation. There’s columnists at The New York Times and The Washington Post who write about the Gates Foundation who have worked for outside entities funded by the Gates Foundation. It’s very difficult to find a news organization that’s completely independent of the foundation. And I do think that is one reason why the news media hasn’t been tougher on the Gates Foundation. I don’t think it’s the only reason, but I do think it is one reason.

JW: The biggest surprise to me in your research was your discovery that the Gates Foundation has given billions to private profit-making companies. I guess the pharmaceuticals are at the top of the list here, and I guess also the media companies you’re talking about, but how can private profit-making corporations receive tax-deductible charitable contributions? That doesn’t seem right.

TS: You’re right it doesn’t seem right, and I’m not sure that it is right. I mean, I think it is perfectly legal, but I think we are long overdue to reconsider the rules and regulations governing private foundations. So today, the foundation operates seamlessly with the private sector, with private for-profit companies. It’s making charitable donations to them. It’s providing money, seed money to create new startup companies. It’s sitting on the boards of directors of companies. When it makes financial engagements with companies, it puts a licensing claim on any technology produced with the Gates Foundation’s funding. So it’s able to exercise far-reaching financial influence over entire fields of private sector development.
Again, in these diseases where the foundation works like malaria and tuberculosis, these are areas where big pharmaceutical companies, they don’t see big profit margins selling drugs and vaccines to poor people. So there’s a market failure. So the Gates Foundation thinks it can come in with its market shaping activities to fill the gap, to help spur innovation and create new drugs and vaccines and innovation. Its track record of innovation hasn’t been very good. And notably, one thing I do in the book is I talk to private companies that have worked with the Gates Foundation, and they alleged an extraordinary array of what they consider to be abusive power by the foundation. That it has this power of the purse and it’s making financial engagements with different pharmaceutical companies in a way that may even be hurting innovation.

JW: Well, whatever you say about Bill Gates, a lot of people would say he’s spending his own money. So what right do we have to complain about that? But you say that our tax dollars subsidize Gates’s charitable empire. Please explain.

TS: It’s one of endless paradoxes and dirty little secrets that define the Gates Foundation today that billions or tens of billions of dollars from public funds, taxpayer monies flow into the Gates Foundation today. And this happens in a number of different ways. In the first instance, Bill and Melinda French Gates, they’re donating money from their private wealth to their private foundation. In doing so, they’re spared billions of dollars that they would otherwise pay in taxes. Once the money is sitting in the Gates Foundation’s bank account, today that has a $67 billion endowment, it’s invested in anything and everything. It generates billions of dollars a year in investment income, most years virtually tax-free. Another major tax benefit.
Thirdly, the Gates Foundation organizes much of its charitable work around very large public-private partnerships in which the Gates Foundation creates the seed money to start the organization. It sits on the board of directors. It often gets its allies and surrogates on the board of directors as well, but then most of the money it fundraises from rich nations. Tens of billions of dollars from aid budgets from rich nations are going into the – to subsidize and support these massive public-private partnerships that are some of the Gates Foundation’s biggest projects. So all of this is a very clear trigger for accountability.
If Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation are using our money, we should have some checks and balances over how it’s used. We should have a basic level of transparency. Or we should stop subsidizing, stop all the tax benefits. Does Bill Gates, one of the richest guys in the world, need any tax benefits or any subsidies? If he wants to spend his own money, that’s one thing. But if he’s spending our money, the questions of accountability take on a different tenor.

JW: You can read all about it in the new book by Tim Schwab, “The Bill Gates Problem.” Tim, thanks for this book, and thanks for talking with us today.

TS: Thank you so much, and thanks to The Nation for being such a big supporter of my work all these years.

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Our Failing President, and Our Right-Wing Court | Start Making Sense
byThe Nation Magazine

On this episode of Start Making Sense, John Nichols on Biden, and David Cole on the Court’s big 6-3 decisions. Biden’s efforts to renew his candidacy are “risk-averse, uninspired, and dangerously misguided” – that’s what John Nichols says, as we review the efforts to persuade him to drop out of the race.

Also: During the Supreme Court term that just ended, the conservative majority granted new constitutional rights to hedge fund managers, big business—and Donald Trump. David Cole explains the shocking decisions that have transformed our government.

Finally, Jane McAlevey died Sunday–she was The Nation's strikes correspondent, and one of our best.

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