Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"A Rich Guy Gives...

...a Ton of Money to a Rich Institution that Mainly Serves the Children of the Rich."

Couldn't that have been the headline for a story in the Arts section of the Times today, "Stephen A. Schwarzman Gives $150 Million for Yale Cultural Hub"?

Yale, among other assets, has an endowment of $23.9 billion. Yes, that's with a "B." From the piece (my emphasis):

Now with a gift of $150 million, one of the largest ever made to a cultural center, Mr. Schwarzman plans to transform Commons and its attached buildings into a performing arts center and hub along the lines of the Kennedy Center in Washington — on whose board he served for six years.

The plan, announced on Monday, will be drawn up in part by Michael M. Kaiser, the former Kennedy Center president. It will incorporate existing performance spaces, namely Woolsey Hall, the 2,650-seat auditorium built alongside Commons and Memorial Hall as part of a complex designed by Carrère and Hastings to celebrate Yale’s bicentennial in 1901.

But the complex, to be called the Schwarzman Center, will also have new halls for theater, music, lectures and readings, to be built beneath and on the upper floors of the existing buildings, and new programming featuring major performing artists and groups whose events will be open to the public.

With the addition of the center, Mr. Salovey said, he imagines that students walking around campus at night looking for something to do will almost always find it.

“You should be able to say, ‘I bet there’s something going on at the Schwarzman Center,’ ” Mr. Salovey said, “even if you have no idea what it is.”

Is this sort of giving unusual? Hardly:

As an act of philanthropy, Mr. Schwarzman’s gift trumps the $100 million he gave to the New York Public Library in 2008 (the Fifth Avenue flagship building that now bears his name). David H. Koch, the oil-and-gas billionaire, and David Geffen, the entertainment mogul, have also made recent $100 million naming donations to upgrade performing arts spaces at Lincoln Center — Mr. Koch to finance a renovation of the New York State Theater in 2008 and Mr. Geffen this year to underwrite an overhaul of Avery Fisher Hall.

In a related piece in Bloomberg this morning, Bill Gross, the co-founder of PIMCO, just can't get over his own generosity:

The bond investor has already given away as much as $700 million and eventually will donate his remaining $2 billion fortune, a figure that’s “staggering, even to me,” Gross said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

Now, I guess I should be grateful for billionaires like this. After all, they could just hoard their cash, I suppose. (Or lobby Congress to abolish the estate tax altogether. Oh, wait, the Republicans just did that!)

But in this age of inequality, and after the recent events in Baltimore have turned our attention to the less fortunate, are examples like this just another argument for higher taxes on the rich? At the risk of sounding like some 1960s Marxist, do some people just have too much money? Should the government tax more of it and spend it on the common good, instead of on a bunch of rich kids at Yale?

Or is that just kooky talk?

(From World War II until 1964, a period of tremendous growth in America, top marginal individual tax rates rose above 90 percent, and the effective rate was at least 70 percent for the highest incomes.) 

P. S. Just saw this.

1 comment:

Ed Crotty said...

$150M is only just over 1% of his $13.3 Billion fortune. And the rich do mostly seem to give to the symphony, to exclusive private universities, to Art museums - to places where they and their friends go.