SECRET LIVES OF THE VERY RICH

With the country battling a recession fueled by scams and stupidity, do we have to put up with elitism too? Apparently some of our biggest benefactors along with the media—mainstream and otherwise—think so.

How else do you explain the skimpy journalistic follow-up of a top secret meeting involving some of the wealthiest, most influential people in America? Let the name-dropping begin.

Conceived by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, this gilded get-together was hosted by David Rockefeller on May 5 at his home on the Rockefeller University campus in New York. Among other financial heavyweights present were Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner, George Soros, Peter G. Peterson, Eli Broad and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Their secret was safe until, begorra, IrishCentral.com broke the story on May 18. What, you might justifiably ask, is an IrishCentral? It bills itself as “the first-ever Irish global website.” That’s who. The site was launched on March 15 of this year, and thank goodness. Without IrishCentral we might never have learned about The Meeting. Not that we’ve learned much anyway.

However, we are assured that collectively those who made the guest list popped for $72.5 billion in charitable donations since 1996. That’s straight from a May 20 Chronicle of Philanthropy press release acknowledging that the meeting occurred. A release issued two days after IrishCentral scooped everyone.

It quoted Patricia Q. Stonesifer, a coordinator of the meeting, who observed “an enormous amount of enthusiasm and excitement around their giving,” which was “a very big part of what they were there for.” Ms. Stonesifer added that the members of the group plan to continue talking to each other.

A couple of other platitudes round out the only publicly-released account of what transpired at a meeting of America’s most prominent philanthropists—a chosen few whose decisions and opinions affect millions of their fellow citizens along with untold millions of others throughout the world.

And we are left with a not-quite-official meeting report which reveals the stunning information that these good Samaritans are (1) enthusiastic and excited about giving, and (2) still on speaking terms.

Come on, Bill! We’re the people who buy your software, sometimes whether we need it or not. Yo, Eli! A lot of us are living in homes built by the company you once owned—in tracts that stretch from Southern California to Paris. Listen up, Warren!  You’ve got a helluva lot of gecko-lovers out there wondering and worrying about what went on in New York last May.

One way or another, a sizeable chunk of planet Earth will be touched directly by what you intend to do—or not do—with billions of dollars presumably earmarked for good works. It’s not unreasonable to ask at least for a general rundown on what was discussed at your hush-hush conclave.  

The record shows you’ve done tremendous good in the world. And without question you deserve our deepest thanks. But why pull rank now by going secret at a time when it’s so easy to think the worst of people who are traditionally among those we trust and admire most?

Think Madoff, Mozilo, AIG’s greedy gang and GM’s managerial morons to name a few. We do. They played “I’ve Got a Secret” with the lives of many of us who tragically lost the game.

That’s not your style. Let’s hope it never will be. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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