Not so long ago, Yale University received a $150 million gift. That looked like a lot until Harvard scooped up $400 million a few weeks later. Both gifts came from Wall Street speculators – Blackstone Group Founder and CEO Stephen Schwarzman and hedge fund executive John S Paulson. Paulson’s donation alone was more money than 98 percent of US colleges have in their endowments, critics pointed out. It shows just how far-reaching inequality has become they said. It also reveals a thing or two about what’s become of our democracy.
As economist Richard Wolff’s pointed out, with their charitable contributions Paulson and Schwarzman gave – in the first case to endow an engineering school and in the second to build an arts center (Yale’s third.) But the multi billionaires also took – from us – the general public, because under the law the two can use their gifts to their alma maters to pay less to Uncle Sam.
Wolff calculates Schwarzman will save upwards of $75 million –and Paulson way more. As a result, public coffers will be that much poorer.
Yale’s already the second richest college in the country. Harvard’s the first. The two elite colleges claim they serve everyone with their scholarship funds. But let's be serious. If as a society we wanted to diminish inequality and unequal access to quality education and opportunity – would we really chose to spend hundreds of millions more on private palaces while public schools cry out for libraries?
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Probably not, but then again, that’s what makes US capitalism special. We prioritize individual, not government decision making. Unlike those meddlesome socialist societies, we let the self, not the state decide our fate.
If such is the way things are, let’s at least tweak the terminology. After a century of anti-stuff, let’s call capitalism what it is: anti-socialism. It’s flat out anti-social and proud of it.
See more from this week's GRITtv episode in the video below: