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This is a must-read article by Linsey McGoey in Jacobin magazine about the big foundations–especially Gates–and how they use their alms for for-profit companies and start-ups.
McGoey of the University of Essex has written a book on the influence wielded by Gates and other big philanthropies. It’s title: “No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy” (Verso).
“In 2010, the Gates Foundation offered $1.5 million to ABC News and a little over $1.1 million to NBC in 2011 “to support the national education summit.” The following year, the Gates Foundation gave another million to NBC, this time for the more vague purpose of “inform[ing] and engag[ing] communities.” Other for-profit media companies receiving Gates Foundation money in 2012 included Univision — a Spanish language broadcaster whose parent company, Univision Communications pulled in revenues of $2.6 billion in 2014.
“Traditionally, philanthropic grants to for-profits were rare, but this is no longer the case. The Gates Foundation has offered dozens of grants to for-profit companies around the world, including beneficiaries poised to profit from the Common Core standards…
“Indeed, the Gates Foundation makes similar donations all the time. Scholastic, a company that, like Pearson, is a for-profit education publisher, has received over $6 million in grant money from the foundation. A November 2011 grant of $4,463,541 was designed to support “teachers’ implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.”
“What’s not clear is why this counts as charity. Doesn’t Scholastic stand to gain from the expansion of textbook and testing materials accompanying the Common Core standards?”
She goes on to describe other for-profits that Gates has supported, such as Tutor.com.
“Indeed, numerous for-profit education start-ups are indebted to the foundation. Another example, BetterLesson Inc., billed as the “Facebook for educators,” circulates free online lesson plans to teachers but charges schools a service fee. It has received over $3.5 million in grant money from the Gates Foundation. BetterLesson may well prove to be a useful tool for teachers.
“But it also charges a premium for that service — a cost borne by taxpayer-funded public education institutions. At a time of growing anger over dwindling educational resources in public schools, at a time when extreme poverty is on the rise in the United States — does yet another tech start-up deserve Gates’ charity?….
“Contrary to the conventional wealth-creation narrative, large multinationals are increasingly assuming less financial risk when it comes to investing their own capital — even as they reap excessive financial rewards by exploiting subsidies from the public sector and philanthropic foundations. Companies like Mastercard are just as bullish and self-satisfied about the charity they receive as the charity they give away.
“But challenging the new corporate charity claimants will not, alone, mitigate the unrivalled power of large philanthropic funders to frame the terms of debate in the fields of education, health and global poverty or shape the policies of institutions such as the WHO.
“Over a century ago, when Andrew Carnegie published his first “Wealth” essay suggesting that private philanthropy would solve the problem of rich and poor, he was met with fierce rebuke. “I can conceive of no greater mistake,” commented William Jewett Tucker, a theologian who went on to become president of Dartmouth College, “than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice.”
“Today’s philanthrocrats share Carnegie’s gospel of wealth. To take back the mantle of justice and equality, the Left must delegitimize private foundations and refute the centrality of charity in solving the world’s most pressing problems.”