Say hello to Jeff Bezos the philanthropist! The rest of us will continue to pay our taxes | Marine Hyde


HI’m thrilled to wake up yesterday and read that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had donated $100 million to Dolly Parton’s charitable efforts, at his own “Courage and Civility” event. (Sarcastic air quotes: my own.) The very many reports of this act have suggested that it was a truly incredible sum from the world’s second richest man, who – according to recent estimates – s is getting richer by about $205 million a day.

Anyway, once I got off the ceiling, I took care of the government tax calculator. If you’re on the average median salary in the UK – and you pay your taxes – your take-home pay is £72 a day. On the one hand, Jeff’s benevolence would be the equivalent of donating £34.56 to charity. Have you ever donated thirty-four books to charity? Do you pay your taxes? If so, you are in fact more generous than Jeff Bezos, who, being famous, avoids almost all of his own. And yet, where is YOUR news story splashing across all the good media in the world? Where is YOUR TV interview? Why doesn’t anyone call you a “philanthropist”?

We’ll get to the obvious answers to these questions soon, but for now, let’s look at the hype around these so-called Courage and Civility Awards. And yes, this title makes it sound like Jeff just demanded that a warehouse worker bring him two harmless abstract names that weren’t copyrighted. In fact, Bezos announced the initiative last year, shortly after stepping off his little space rocket, perhaps sensing planetary disdain for the kind of guy who could go weightless for four minutes but didn’t know not how to treat its workers properly.

Anyway, the Courage and Civility awards are now a reality. And alongside Sunday’s scrubbed ceremony and his attempt to build on the lifelong selflessness and extraordinary charitable service of HRH Dolly Parton, Bezos granted an exclusive meet and greet with CNN. First impressions? Jeff interviews like a chat tool and looks like the most uncompromising and least reserved 58-year-old Vin Diesel lookalike in your area. Having long refused to sign the Giving Pledge – a pledge made by many of the world’s wealthiest people to donate most of their wealth to charitable causes – Bezos announced that he intends to give “ the majority” of his money during his lifetime, according to CNN. And yet, does he intend to do so? His answer – “Yes, I do” – seems somewhat vague and short on details.

Dolly Parton at the 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Los Angeles in November 2022. Photography: Christopher Polk/Variety/Getty Images

But taking Jeff at his word, I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say: BIG FRICKING DEAL. Most people give away a significant amount of their money over their lifetime, through a little something we call the tax system. I say! Where is our red carpet gala? I’ll tell you what, next time our paychecks come in, why don’t we all do our hair and put on a black tie or a big old dress and gracefully make our way down a red carpet saying “You’re welcome!” for the cameras.

According to what Bezos told CNN, philanthropy “is really hard.” It certainly seems to be for him. Remember he was only dragged kicking and screaming at the game of shit, having spent years racking up billions before he was finally pointed out that not having a kind of philanthropic arm seemed pretty catastrophic. In 2017, Bezos asked Twitter users for ideas on how to help the world “in the here and now,” before embarking on a genuinely committed agenda of ignoring every one who suggested paying his workers right. and contribute to a fair tax.

A year later, he actually uttered the words, “The only way I can see to deploy so many financial resources is to convert my Amazon earnings into space travel.” It was the same year that Amazon helped remove a Seattle tax on big business to ease the homelessness crisis, by threatening to pull back a huge construction project. Business and technology commentator Scott Galloway call Bezos “the mother of all welfare queens” for the vast benefits he has reaped from public money and the tax breaks he pursues and demands without remorse.

But of course Jeff is the kind of widely acclaimed visionary who just doesn’t have the vision to realize that the number one way to help is to pay people a fair wage and shell out your taxes like an ordinary person – and not by showing up to hand out “charity” after the event like some bastard god of the purse strings. Sadly, he is one of that specific class of billionaires who believe they should be allowed to mortgage nearly 100% of their vast wealth in any direction they wish, because the treasurers of the world are just minions, and they know better than anyone how to spend it.

So yes, for Bezos, philanthropy “is really difficult”. What he fact – falselanthropy – is much, much easier. Moving billions to nonprofits you control, effectively giving yourself tax breaks, buying media in one of the seediest tricks possible: these things, of course, are much easier. What’s hard to fathom is why on earth we continue to accept this obvious bullshit from some of the most selfish people in the world. The poor give a far greater proportion of their money to charity than the rich. I don’t mean to be rude, but what’s brave about letting Jeff Bezos pretend otherwise?

  • Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist

  • A year in Westminster with John Crace, Marina Hyde and Armando Iannucci
    Join John Crace, Marina Hyde and Armando Iannucci for a look back at another chaotic year at Westminster, live at Kings Place in London or via live stream.
    Wednesday, December 7, 2022, 7:00-8:15 p.m. GMT, book your tickets here

  • What just happened?! by Marina Hyde (Guardian Faber, £16). To support the Guardian and the Observer, order your copy from Delivery charges may apply


Comments are closed.