Rall Stays Off the Bandwagon Praising Gates and Buffett

By: E&P Staff

Newspaper editorial writers have been among the many people cheering Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for giving so much of their money to worthy causes.

But Ted Rall, in a column today on a Universal Press Syndicate site, said Gates and Buffett in some ways are worse than disgraced Enron executive Kenneth Lay.

“Compared to the world’s two richest men … Lay was small potatoes,” wrote Rall, who’s also a Universal editorial cartoonist and United Media consultant. “So why are we praising them, and kicking Lay while he’s down — six feet down?”

Rall said Lay “stole $43.5 million.” But the columnist added that Buffett and Gates are “worth $44 billion and $50 billion, respectively, according to Forbes. … Buffett and Gates may not have broken any laws — although, in Gates’ case, the Clinton-era Justice Department thought he’d cheated millions of American consumers by violating anti-trust laws — but it’s hard to see how their billions are more ethically legit than Lay’s misbegotten millions.

“Sorry, but ‘working hard’ doesn’t cut it. I don’t care if you stay late at the office every night, work weekends and holidays, or you never go on vacation. It doesn’t matter how smart, imaginative, or lucky you are. It just isn’t possible to EARN $44 billion in a single lifetime. Not honestly, anyway.

“Gates and Buffett have created a lot of pain and misery on their way to ‘earning’ their combined $94 billion. … Gates scammed his dough the old-fashioned way: overcharging his customers and underpaying his employees. Somewhere along the way to accumulating $50 billion, doesn’t it occur to a guy that he could charge a little less than $200 for buggy, instantly obsolete, software? Or that it’s time for a company-wide raise? He could even hire (gasp) unionized American workers instead of building plants in the Third World and relying on the slave labor of prison inmates!

“It’s harder to draw a direct line between Buffett’s convoluted arbitrage machinations and the reduced incomes of thousands of other people, but anyone who has been downsized by a shareholder-terrorized managing board has experienced the impoverishing of the workers whose employers he targets.”

Rall concluded: “Consider a burglar who boosts your TV and then, thinking better of it, donates it to an orphanage. His act of generosity beats the alternative — keeping it for himself. But you’d probably prefer that he’d returned it to you, or better yet, never stolen it at all.”

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