Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ken Griffin's generous gift...

...of $150 million to Harvard has me thinking. Specifically, is this how philanthropy is supposed to work?

According to Forbes, Griffin is worth about $5.2 billion. That's a lot of money. But Harvard's endowment is estimated to be about $32.7 billion. That's more than six times as much. (And it doesn't even take into account Harvard's other assets such as real estate, etc.)

So Griffin donated money to an entity that is (at least) six times as rich as he is. And he got a tax write-off for doing so!

Or looked at another way, if you had a net worth of about $100,000 (which would make you very comfortable), how would you feel about donating money to your brother, who's worth $600,000?

Would that make sense? Isn't charity supposed to be about giving to those who are less fortunate, i. e., poorer, than you? It's not about taking pity on someone more fortunate than you, is it? (Maybe Harvard should be giving Mr. Griffin money.)

And is this how the tax system is supposed to work? Rich people get a break on their taxes for giving money to even richer entities?

Maybe this is an argument for higher taxes on the rich. I know, I know: a free-market guy like Ken Griffin probably feels that he knows better than anyone else how to spend his money. But would the federal government give $150 million of his taxes to one of the richest institutions in the world? I kind of doubt it.

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