Article in Dissent magazine explains how today’s billionaires are succeeding in corrupting public policy by setting up tax-exempt foundations that do what the 0.001% believes is best.
A century ago, when the first ‘charitable’ foundations were set up by Andrew Carnegie, Rockefeller, and others, there was a lot more scrutiny and distrust of the very rich. As a result, there were some very serious regulations that were enacted to keep them in line. Not all of the results of those foundations were good: one Carnegie branch advocated racist ideas like eugenics and sterilization of those deemed ‘inferior’, and racist immigration quotas. (On the other hand, the Carnegie Institution of Washington funded a tremendous amount of basic scientific research — by getting out of the way of the scientists themselves.)
These days, foundations set up by people like the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, and the Walton family are doing their best to destroy public education, and the media — which is owned by the same class of people — fawns all over their ideas. The billionaires think they know how to solve everything, and they pay ‘experts’ to produce bogus studies that parrot the billionaire’s party line, and then they subsidize the media to promote what they believe.
Of course, in the field of education, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any of the billionaire-led initiatives are producing any positive results at all, even using their own yardsticks. Unless the real purpose of those initiatives is to destroy the American public school system and resegregate it as it used to be prior to Brown v Board of Education, or worse.
From the start, the mega-foundations provoked hostility across the political spectrum. To their many detractors, they looked like centers of plutocratic power that threatened democratic governance. Setting up do-good corporations, critics said, was merely a ploy to secure the wealth and clean up the reputations of business moguls who amassed fortunes during the Gilded Age. Consider the reaction to John D. Rockefeller’s initial request for a charter from the U.S. Senate (he eventually received one from New York State):
In spite of his close ties to big business, Progressive presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt opposed the effort, claiming that “no amount of charity in spending such fortunes [as Rockefeller’s] can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them.” The conservative Republican candidate, William Howard Taft denounced the effort as “a bill to incorporate Mr. Rockefeller.” Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, sneered that “the one thing that the world would gratefully accept from Mr. Rockefeller now would be the establishment of a great endowment of research and education to help other people see in time how they can keep from being like him.”*