Friday, June 30, 2006

Conservatives love philanthropy-- until they realize they can't control where the money goes.

You'd think everyone would be thrilled that two of the richest men in the world (in fact, according to the Fortune 500 list, perenially THE two richest men in the world), Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, have joined forces to become great philanthropists, giving away billions to universities, libraries and other institutions around the world. Liberals would be thrilled because of how much money these institutions would receive to further their mission for the common good, conservatives would be thrilled because of the ability to demonstrate how the super rich can give back (in stark contrast to, most notably, the selfish Wal-Mart heirs whose main concern of late has been lobbying Congress to try and get rid of inheritance taxes, presumably to prevent any of their money from ever being used for the common good so they can pass it on to the next generation of plutocrats; it might be noted by the way that Buffett and Gates' father both signed a letter a couple of years ago in favor of keeping the estate tax.) So everyone (at least those not named Walton) should be thrilled, right?

Well, not some anti-abortion priests. Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, a Roman Catholic priest who is president of Human Life International said that

[Buffett] "will be known as the Dr. Mengele of philanthropy unless he repents."

That statement is an absolute outrage. First of all, Dr. Mengele, who carried out hideous 'experiments' on concentration camp prisoners, was anything but a philanthropist. To compare Warren Buffett to Dr. Mengele is an insult to the survivors of his 'experiments' (yes, there are still some out there.) and marginalizes the crimes of one of the last century's most notorious criminals (probably the most evil of Hitler's henchmen to escape justice and die of natural causes.)

Secondly, Rev. Thomas is referring to money that Buffett has given to Planned Parenthood and birth control programs, and also money he donated in the 1990's specifically to fund clinical trials of the 'morning after' pill, RU-486, after misguided anti-abortion advocates thought they had prevented the trials by blocking Federal funding for them after Republicans took over Congress in 1994. They don't seem to have a problem with, for example, Domino's pizza founder Tom Monaghan giving generously to pro-life causes, so why should they be upset that Warren Buffett once chose to spend some of his money to pay for something that the Federal government didn't want to spend taxpayer money on? After all, isn't that the conservative ideal? Well, I guess not if it circumvents their circumvention.

Third, consider what Planned Parenthood is for. The name says it all. They teach family planning, birth control, and where necessary, that the morning after pill be available. All of which actually reduces the number of abortions! So by being angry about it, aren't Rev. Thomas and the others either showing that they haven't thought this all the way through, or else they are in effect admitting that it isn't about abortion at all, but about forcing 'wicked' women to 'pay' for their decision to have sex by becoming pregnant?

It's not just the Rev. Thomas either:

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, wrote a commentary this week holding the Buffetts partially responsible for the approval of RU-486 in 2000.

"Since then, approximately 500,000 American babies have been killed with RU-486," Perkins wrote. "Buffett's billions have the potential to do damage like this on a global scale."

I guess conservatives like philanthropy only as long as they can theorize about how it will replace government programs. But when it replaces the ones they actually wanted to can, then they go nuts.

And conservatives have a problem. Conservative billionaires either keep their money, or like the Wal-Mart heirs, invest it in lobbying big government. Liberal billionaires are mostly the philanthropists, which means that most of the money goes-- that's right, to liberal causes (conservatives who wanted to squeeze the budget reins to choke National Public Radio off the air or into compliance are still ticked off about Joan Kroc's bequest of $200 million in her will, which makes NPR pretty much immune to most of what they can do, at least through the end of the Bush administration.)

I can't wait until the Gates foundation starts upgrading internet access in their local school or library, and they can't shut it down just by pleading that people would rather have a tax cut, nor make funding contingent on a censorship agreement. Can't you hear the outcry already?

Cross-posted at Night Bird's Fountain.


brad4d said...

if we addressed desperation, there could be no abortion by choice.

Eli Blake said...

I'm not sure what you mean, Bradford.

I did a post a while back on a study showing that income level was directly related to abortion to income level. In particular, the incidence of abortion was statistically correlated income level and to the difference between the cost of abortion (about $500) vs. delivery ($2500 for a healthy delivery for a woman without health insurance, with complications raising the price exponentially more). That post is linked here.

Of course, economic desperation is one kind of desperation. Other kinds are the desperation of unplanned pregnancy (whether it is because of a mistake, the occasional failure of birth control, or the more frequent lack of education), or being in a relationship with an abusive spouse or boyfriend, or having abusive parents, or the desperation of being pregnant by rape or incest.

There are many things which can make women desperate. If you have ideas on how to address them, I'm all ears.

Anonymous said...

or else they are in effect admitting that it isn't about abortion at all, but about forcing 'wicked' women to 'pay' for their decision to have sex by becoming pregnant?

I've sometimes thought that myself. I hate to think that today some people still feel that way, but I am having more and more trouble getting over the massive contradiction of how anyone can be against birth control and also against abortion, unless they really are, as you suggest, trying to use pregnancy as a weapon to force women to all stay virginally pure until marriage.

Eli Blake said...


A posting by one of my blogger friends caused me to recall something she wrote once upon a time. Perhaps reading it, it will explain why there will always be a need to keep legal abortion as an option, because there will always be desperate people.

The post she wrote is entitled my time in jail.

Jack: Long time no see. Yeah, I've often considered that a contradiction too. And the excuse they use (goes something like, 'if you give kids a condom then they are more likely to have sex when they go out because they'll feel 'protected') is totally ridiculous because 1) it's not up to you to tell them not to, 2) even if they do, the sex itself harms nothing, and the condom still radically reduces the risks of both pregnancy and STD's, and 3)using that logic, the fact that I always wear a seatbelt makes me drive more recklessly because I know I'm 'protected.' Absolutely ridiculous but they still think that way.

Beth said...


I left my response on Night Bird's Fountain.

EAPrez said...

Catholics are opposed to birth control -other than the rhythm method, withdraw or abstension' which makes the funding of PPH even WORSE in the Catholic Leadership's eyes. However - this is a religious issue - and as far as I am concerned - outside of the church - they have no business shoving this down the throat of noncatholics. If they find it so offensive then they should be supporting programs such as this which make abortion a rarity - but because of their view on birth control they can't support anything other than abstension.
Funny how they are fast to express their outrage over this --- but I heard very few clergy out there speaking of the defeat of the minimum wage hike proposal last week - where is the outrage over that? Better the working poor should be doomed to continue that way by adding babies to the mix which will also be condemed to a life of poverty. Republican policies have made it more unlikely people in those situations will pull themselves out of it.

Eli Blake said...


Their failure to support a minimum wage hike is ironic in that poverty in some cases is a direct CAUSE of abortion.

If you look at my response earlier to bradford, you'd find a link to a post I did on that awhile back. A study confirmed what a lot of people suspected-- that many working poor women (who have incomes so they don't qualify for medicaid) have abortions because they don't have health insurance and the $500 cost for an abortion is less than the $2500 cost for a delivery room charge.