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Monday, March 30, 2020

Calling All Billionaires: Time to Step Up!

I suggest a moratorium on billionaire-bashing for the next six months, as a way of encouraging them to step up to the pandemic, speedily and creatively.

They are already doing some things, as this Atlantic survey recounts. For instance, to quote from the Atlantic essay, “Bloomberg Philanthropies has launched two initiatives. One will, beginning this week, convene top officials and public-health experts from cities around the country in virtual gatherings for up-to-date virus information and crisis coaching. The other is a $40 million project to combat the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa.”

“The Gates Foundation,” to choose another obvious example, “is targeting its money toward detection, isolation, and treatment efforts as well as to research toward a vaccine and possible treatments. It’s also offering technical assistance to government agencies working on a vaccine and directing funds to curb the local outbreak in the Greater Seattle region.”

But many are deflecting requests, saying these new needs, particularly for medical equipment, are not part of their philanthropic mission. Maybe now is the time for all good billionaires to come to the aid of their country?

Seattle is both rich in the super-rich and in research medical institutions like Gates, the Hutch, U.W., and Children’s. Seems that one of the leading billionaires should orchestrate this effort.

As for local arts organizations, reeling from the closures, perhaps someone such as McKenzie Bezos, a writer, could organize a relief fund for loans and grants. A good idea from Denver is one from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, which is giving amounts equal to 10% of current grants, free of the usual red tape and reporting obligations. A few phone calls might line up several local foundations to take a similar pledge, with an organizing wealthy individual kicking it off with a personal pledge.

Seattle has a knack for growing families of enormous wealth. Now’s a good time to get some public yield from this crop. And a good time to get some of these internationally-focused foundations a bit more intentional about the locals.

Feel free to forward this idea to that great big mansion just down the street!

David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and Crosscut.com. His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.

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