The Richest Man in the World Explains How to Save the Planet

BillGates2012Bill Gates really wants to do good things, but there are plenty of people who think he has a hidden and possibly nefarious agenda. He opens up for Rolling Stone, in this segment speaking about income inequality:

RS: Let’s talk about income inequality, which economist Paul Krugman and others have written a lot about. As a person who’s at the very top of the one percent, do you see this as one of the great issues of our time?

BG: Well, now you’re getting into sort of complicated issues. In general, on taxation-type things, you’d think of me as a Democrat. That is, when tax rates are below, say, 50 percent, I believe there often is room for additional taxation. And I’ve been very upfront on the need to increase estate taxes. Particularly given the medical obligations that the state is taking on and the costs that those have over time. You can’t have a rigid view that all new taxes are evil. Yes, they have negative effects, but I’m like Krugman in that if you expect the state to do these things, they are going to cost money.

Should the state be playing a greater role in helping people at the lowest end of the income scale? Poverty today looks very different than poverty in the past. The real thing you want to look at is consumption and use that as a metric and say, “Have you been worried about having enough to eat? Do you have enough warmth, shelter? Do you think of yourself as having a place to go?” The poor are better off than they were before, even though they’re still in the bottom group in terms of income.

The way we help the poor out today [is also a problem]. You have Section 8 housing, food stamps, fuel programs, very complex medical programs. It’s all high-overhead, capricious, not well-designed. Its ability to distinguish between somebody who has family that could take care of them versus someone who’s really out on their own is not very good, either. It’s a totally gameable system – not everybody games it, but lots of people do. Why aren’t the technocrats taking the poverty programs, looking at them as a whole, and then redesigning them? Well, they are afraid that if they do, their funding is going to be cut back, so they defend the thing that is absolutely horrific. Just look at low-cost housing and the various forms, the wait lists, things like that.

When we get things right, it benefits the entire world. The world’s governments don’t copy everything we do. They see some things we do – like the way we run our postal service, or Puerto Rico – are just wrong. But they look to us for so many things. And we can do better.

RS: In the past, you have sounded cynical about the role that government can play in solving complex problems like health care or reforming anti-poverty policies.

BG: Not cynicism. You have to have a certain realism that government is a pretty­ blunt instrument and without the constant attention of highly qualified people with the right metrics, it will fall into not doing things very well. The U.S. government in general is one of the better governments in the world. It’s the best in many, many respects. Lack of corruption, for instance, and a reasonable justice system.

If I could wave a wand and fix one thing, it’d be political deadlock, the education system or health care costs. One of those three, I don’t know which. But I see governments in very poor countries that can’t even get teachers to show up. So in countries like that, how can you get very basic things to work? That’s something I spend a lot of time on. And these things are all solvable…

[continues at Rolling Stone]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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26 Comments on "The Richest Man in the World Explains How to Save the Planet"

  1. weelittlepeople | Mar 14, 2014 at 9:24 am |

    I don’t doubt his willingness to help, but odd fact is, if he’s giving away billions of his money, why is he again on top of Forbe’s riches billionaires?

    • Ha…ha…ha…but just in case you are serious, you really should read some books, beginning with Ferdinand Lundberg’s classic, The Rich and the Super-Rich. And persue that great populist from Texas, the Honorable Rep. Wright Patman’s (deceased) work, circa 1967 or 1968, on how the super-rich hide their ownership and wealth in their foundations and trusts.
      If all those foundations were actually giving away their monies, we’d all be living in paradise today.

  2. Spasmodius | Mar 14, 2014 at 9:34 am |

    I wonder how much of his billions he’s saved by cutting his own hair?

    • Rhoid Rager | Mar 14, 2014 at 10:34 am |

      I cut my own hair for over 10 years. It’s a noble task.

      • Thurlow Weed | Mar 14, 2014 at 11:14 am |

        That Flowbee investment really paid off, I see.

        • Rhoid Rager | Mar 14, 2014 at 11:27 am |

          Being an expatriat and a non-watcher of North American TV for over 5 years I had to look up that reference. What an ingeniuous piece of Chinese-slave-labor-manufactured crap!
          I used regular old electric shears to buzz my hair down to the scalp for over 10 years. Now I am growing out a pony tail in mourning of a recent event. Long hair suits me more. I bare a resemblance to Thor when I wear it down.

    • Actually, I believe his wife, Melinda, creator of the poorest selling GUI of all time (I think it was called uncle ralph or uncle hal or some crap like that) cuts it, and does the very same pathetic job she did when she was coding at Micro$oft.

  3. Simon Valentine | Mar 14, 2014 at 9:43 am |

    “Lack of corruption, for instance, and a reasonable justice system.”
    how (self) patriotic.

    clearly another person who does not look at events wide for what they are, instead requesting that others do so. job pushing? “But I see governments in very poor countries that can’t even get teachers to show up.” so, the goverment makes the teachers? knows who is a teacher? sends someone to pick the teachers? yeah, right. be more stupid please moron. ‘american’s are the weirdest people in the world’ doesn’t even cut enough cake to take events into consideration. maybe Cortana will save the world Mr Gates. *hack hack*

    what do you make of the 13 stars on the us Olympic team flag?

    • Rhoid Rager | Mar 14, 2014 at 10:55 am |

      It’s to induce a global triskaldekaphobia regarding colonialism and the 13 original colonies of Beelzebub’s earthly vomitus on the east coast of turtle island. For the world to feel the same torment of the Cherokee, Chicksaw, Choctaw requires unflinching belief in the natural vileness of all things human. This is both an impossibility and an inevitable consequence. So be it.

      • Simon Valentine | Mar 14, 2014 at 12:47 pm |

        for thirty years i question
        for thirty years i prepare

        the truth of the universe has been obstructed
        oblivion shmivion blah blah blah clava thessara infinitas
        … now, which roach strain do i want this time

  4. Thurlow Weed | Mar 14, 2014 at 9:48 am |

    This interview is a waltz between two lovers. Gates belongs in prison for all the economic inequality his Microsoft business plan helped produce for millions of pc users and the world economy. But, that was back then, so let’s forget it and instead bathe in his aura as wealthy and wise elder statesman of megamoney in the era of Clintonian re-ascendancy.

  5. barf

  6. The US government is one of the better governments in the world.!! Really. What planet do you go to sleep on Bill?

    • Damien Quinn | Mar 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm |

      Bill Gates doesn’t sleep, he automatically reboots in order to apply necessary updates.

    • BuzzCoastin | Mar 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm |

      what he meant was
      among a gang of cutthroat theives
      der homeland is less cutthroat
      his privileges came from der homelands gruberment
      for him
      what’s not to like?

  7. Damien Quinn | Mar 14, 2014 at 12:32 pm |

    RS:So Bill, lets talk about income inequality
    BG: I think that some of those poor people don’t actually need their food stamps, the bureauchumps could probably stop more of them collecting food stamps but they don’t want their funding cut.

  8. Reuben_the_Red | Mar 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm |

    Matt Taibbi brought the Rolling Stone some much-needed political credibility in recent years, but ultimately it’s just a corporate shill, fashion rag, selling a consumerist lifestyle to young impressionable minds. “Corporate Magazines Suck.”

  9. Liam_McGonagle | Mar 14, 2014 at 1:16 pm |

    The solution turns out to be something they’d never even considered: stop doin’ sh*t.

    The only thing that makes these horrors viable is this bizarre notion that a person has to constantly be doing sh*t. Even when they can’t find anything constructive to do, they insist on doing sh*t.

    Save the planet: Just. Mellow. Out.

    • Gjallarbru | Mar 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm |

      Your statement is the best on this thread. There is an incessant need to do, and very little intent to just be. But that is just because of Western culture. From what I see of the few ancient tribes still in existence, sometime the individuals just are. We “modern” homosapiens have lost that ability.

    • Or, in cases of PTSD, just practice mindfulness meditation for a few years.

  10. Hmmm….The Gates Foundation, together with the Rockefeller Foundation, long pushing and promoting the adoption of Monsanto’s GMOs throughout Africa, America and Europe.

    Hmmm….The Gates Foundation investing and promoting the privatization of public education in America.

    Hmmm….The Gates Foundation’s indirect financing of private militias in Africa to ensure the steady supply of coltan.

    Hmmm….The Micro$oft Story: copying Gary Kildall’s CP/M (which they paid a $1 billion out-of-court settlement some years back to the holders of the rights to Kildall’s Dr Dos OS) and calling it DOS, from which, thanks to Bill Gates’ mother’s sitting on several boards with the then-CEO of IBM, they were handed the greatest licensing deal in history, and with the financing from Gates’ uncle, who was then VP at First Interstate Bank, and then years of reverse engineering everything into various M$ operating systems, and then . . . .

    Yeah, I guess there are those of us out here who are skeptics, when it comes to one of America’s greatest jobs offshorers……

  11. How did the rich get super rich while the rest of us are struggling just to keep from drowning?

    Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It Paperback – Bargain Price
    by Lawrence Lessig

  12. Apathesis | Mar 15, 2014 at 8:11 am |

    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spends tons of money a year making sure African males have their foreskin removed as if that really prevents AIDS being spread.

    I think educating the men that raping virgins actually spreads the disease rather than cures it would have a far more beneficial effect. But then again, does that make Bill as much money?

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