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Should more billionaires donate to charity?

March 11th, 2010
11:56 AM ET

Forbes magazine released its annual list of the world's richest people Wednesday, and for only the second time since 1995, Microsoft founder Bill Gates' name was not at the top.

This year, the title of "World's Richest" went to Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim, with a net worth of $53.5 billion.

But Slim's financial edge over Gates is, well, slim, at least by billionaire standards - just $500 million. A $1 increase in Microsoft shares, the compilers of the Forbes list noted at a press conference Wednesday, could send Gates' net worth ahead of Slim's.

Also, were it not for his extensive philanthropy, Gates would have a net worth in the ballpark of $80 billion, Forbes' Matthew Miller estimated.

Gates is the world's second richest person, with a net worth of $53 billion.

Since 2007, Bill Gates has donated an estimated $28 billion to charity and has set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fight world poverty and tackle global health issues.

Billionaires' total net worth around the world rose 50 percent to $3.6 trillion.

Not only are there more billionaires than last year, but the ones at the top are even richer than last year. The top 10 billionaires have a combined net worth of $342 billion, up from $254 billion in 2009, Forbes said.

We want to know what you think.

As billionaires around the world get richer, should more follow in the footsteps of Bill Gates and donate large sums of money to charitable organizations? How much of their personal wealth should they give away?

And please let us know from where you are writing.


Filed under:  General
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Al Moran

    They should be TAXED. They should be the only ones paying taxes, not the middle/working class but common sense and social justice is something not to be expected from humans.....

    March 11, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Reply
  2. Muhamamd

    Islam requires Muslims to donate whatever a Muslim has in excess of his/her ordinary needs. Unfortunately Muslims are not following Islam in its true spirit. Mr. Gates is doing a very good job but one can only pray, it really help him to get to the heavens. God willing he will choose right path.

    March 11, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  3. Suzanne

    For these guys – is the difference between say 2 billion and 20 billion really felt? Does the quality of their lives get better? I say there's probably no material difference. Just think of what could be done for the world if all those guys in the "teens and up" in billions pared down to just the odd billion or two. It's not as if they'd be in the poor house would they?

    March 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Reply
  4. Tim Kuntz

    Al
    First, most billionaires are not United States citizens. Of those, they have already paid their taxes. Net worth means what’s left after taxes are paid. Finally, if you taxed all billionaires and millionaires a second time on their assets you couldn't raise enough money to fund even one government program like the proposed health care program. Sorry, please continue to pay your taxes.

    March 11, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  5. Namik Guliyev

    Donation is a form of gratitude, I think. So it's purely up to each individual to decide on what the THANK YOU is worth.

    March 11, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  6. Jurgen R. Brul

    Hello CNN friends,

    Everybody may donate to Charity Intuitions,
    which are Monitored by
    the United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime (UNODC)!
    Otherwise money will go to Corrupted Dirty Rich Criminals!
    For More Information go to: http://www.unodc.org/

    Conclusion:
    In God we have Justice and
    In God we Trust!

    Advice
    Let us Now make our world
    a Better Healthier and Beautiful World
    for You and for Me!

    Greetings,
    Jurgen R. Brul
    Hometown: Paramaribo
    Country: Suriname
    Latin-American

    March 11, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  7. Yvette Cazobon

    It's their choice to donate or not to donate to charity, we live in a democracy. Most US citizens wealthy or not are very charitable, the disaster in Haiti is proof of the pudding. I feel we should have good faith in the 'billionaires' most of them give from the heart, as many of us lower class do too.

    March 11, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  8. Math

    Charities do great work, and people should continue to fund them, but one shot billion dollar donations are not going to change the world. The answers need to be systematic.

    March 11, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  9. Al Moran

    Hello Tim,

    I did economics so I'm aware of the term net. I'm very well of the situation in developing countries too and how (much?) they are taxed ...

    I was not having in mind the US ones neither the US taxes. It was a general comment and I was having in mind the mexican who is the first of the list, while most mexicans are forced to exile from their own country because of extreme poverty...It seems that Suzanne and I have a different point of view.

    March 11, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  10. Jeff

    Keep this in mind: billionaires are at the top because they know how to grow their assets. The bigger their assets get, the more philanthropic potential they have. So, before you go saying they should give "half their wealth" or "everything but a billion or two", consider the long term. To answer the question "how much should they donate" would require a careful balance between spending dollars that are useful now, and using those dollars to accumulate a bigger sum (or at least keep a steady value relative to inflation) so that donations can continue to be made for years to come.

    Of course, all this comes AFTER the fact that they have the (democratic) right to hold on to every penny. The question needs to be more specific. Is "should" reflective of our nation's governing policies, or a question of moral obligation?

    If it's moral obligation, I would say that the richest of the rich "should" take the difference between this year's and last year's sum total assets, keep enough to account for inflation so they have the same market value every year, and donate the rest of the year's returns to various philanthropies. Of course, this prospect would only apply once they reached a certain threshhold. This is because, if every person who reached $1B net worth applied the above method, no one would every grow past that $1B, and less money would be given away in the long run. Who decides the threshold? Not me.

    March 11, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  11. BaffaMustapha

    Unlucky People view life as a disappointment,when infact nobody here is supposed to suffer.'The Rich' -who is responsible- accumulates for a financial monster than giving out...no wounder why he is uncertain about all that he owns.

    March 11, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  12. EJ

    the difference between Carlos Slim and Gates is clear, the first one does not donates money, he keeps it all. Charging a lot for phone calls in Mexico then keeping all the money for himself which is why he should not be placed on the top Forbes richest man. The list should consider other facts like how much they are donating to make the world better, like Gates. Instead of promoting greed why not promote awareness of helping.

    March 11, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Reply
  13. bobby

    What amazes me is how personally I have struggled thru tough times and worked since I was 16. Had a family, assisted in there plights of struggle and was raped of 130k of my pension money by the theives in Washington and Wall st. and that hurts but thats not what irratates me. Its the companies that move jobs overseas and think we are stupid. You are trying to kill the SS system by doing this. You don't have to pay into ss system anymore mr. big business person. Plus the worker that lost his job is making less so he is paying less in ss. Then you have newt, dole, reagan passes its own law that allows the President to go get money out of the SS system and not pay it back. These people made you the money, the least you could do is pay it back. And after all my struggles if I just had $53k of my money back it would change my life forever........ And these folks don't even know what $53k is....... Shame. God will deal with you... Its called GREED.

    March 11, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  14. dania Alvarez

    God bless Mr. and Mrs. Gates.

    Helping the ones in need is a Christian obligation.

    March 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  15. Antonio Matta

    The more they get, the more they should give away.

    March 11, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Reply
  16. Reginald Tchume

    Solving the world's poverty can never come from charity or giving to the poor. Wealth and poverty are in the consciousness and thinking of the individual, and eradicating poverty will mean a complete overhaul of the belief system causing the poverty. Hence, may the rich set up wealth institutes for the poor to deal with the core beliefs of themselves.

    March 11, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Reply
  17. Joel Labow

    "We make a living by what we get...we make a life by what we give."

    Winston Churchill

    March 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  18. Frances Snead

    Every religion in the world demands caring for the poor, sick and needy. It is the obligation of the rich everywhere to help those less fortunate not only for religious and humanitarian reasons but to contribute to the economic growth and development of the country. Habitually poor people breed revolution and destruction.

    Millions of Mexico's poor have no land, no job prospects and no hope of improving their life, especially the native tribal people who have been subjegated by the Spanish for centuries. It is obscene to think one man has all that wealth at his disposal and would not assist his country and its people.

    March 11, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  19. Sean

    billionaires should donate whatever they feel like donating. If they dont want to donate then don't. Its not an obligation! Its THEIR MONEY! None of knows what their real situation is, none of us on here are qualified to decide to whom, what and how much someone else is supposed to donate. Instead worry about what YOU are doing! When you finally center yourself and stop fretting what others (rich or poor) are doing, take a month or so and read Atlas Shrugged and take a macro and micro economics class so at least you will have some idea what suppy and demand is.

    March 11, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  20. Joe

    Al Moran you sound like a communist. It is people like you that constantly want hand outs that are bringing this country to its knees.

    March 11, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Reply
  21. Jameson

    It's easy to look at these people and think, "Why aren't they doing more?" But giving is not something restricted for the wealthy (or in this case, the rediculously wealthy). How much did you drop on dinner for two last time you ate out? Do you need a flat screen TV? Do you need cable or TV at all? Do you need a car that's 'fancy' or would one that's 'reliable' work fine? Every person I've ever met (I'm no exception) could spend less on themselves and give more to reputable charities or people in their community they know to be in need. We have trouble distinguishing "needs" from "wants" and are under a spell of self-entitlement. Basically, the middle class is just as materialistic as the exceedingly wealthy (possibly more so since we are chasing after something we don't have, where as they've already attained it and discovered it's empty promises of fulfillment) and there's enough for you and I to do that we might be too busy to point fingers.

    March 11, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  22. Alex

    Billionaires should donate the vast majority of their personal wealth. Since much of these billionaire's "money" is tied to stocks which they can't really sell without their companies going down with them, it makes sense that people such as Bill Gates will still have extraordinary net-worth. But anything they don't need for a reasonable day to day and supporting their families should go to charity. The same goes for all people.

    March 11, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  23. Kris

    --> Al Morgan: Do you not realize that rich corporations and "rich" people provide most of the tax income that helps support the middle/lower classes. So if you want to tax them go ahead but dont expect many government programs or jobs to be thrown your way. Simple economics man.....Not to mention based on your animosity it would seem you feel unfair that you are such a hardworking American and those rich people aren't. Well, most millionaires and some billionaires came from entrepreneurship which constitutes the highest percent of business type in the market. I guarantee you those people have worked hard. This is not just true in America as many countries have successful hard working entrepreneurs. As far as donating to charity goes, if billionaires donate 10% of their income is it unfair to ask the same of you. After all it is the same proportion....I come from the middle class but I don't complain about my lack of a billion dollars because I realize that you have to work hard to get there.

    March 11, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  24. Z Man

    Hey as a normal broke ass American I would honestly say they should be able to do what ever they won't with there money because they earned it. It just motovates me to do better because they didn't get there money by doing nothing that went and got it

    March 11, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  25. Burt

    Um, can I have some?

    March 11, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  26. Warren

    AL

    All the billionaires and millionaires would leave this country if the government forced them to pay all the taxes. AL pay your taxes because you use roads just like Mr. Gates probably more than him actually because he flies. If you have children they need schools, if you have parents they need social security. Everyone is responsible in this country to make America a better place not just the super rich.

    March 11, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Reply
  27. Werner

    It is very easy see Malachi 3:10 in the Bible
    The answer is 10%
    God bless you all

    March 11, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Reply
  28. Warren

    I would much rather have the money be in the hands of Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gates than for them to be forced to give much of it to the government who cannot seem to spend money appropriately at all. Having these billionaires give there money to beuracratic agencies is a bad idea. These men are brilliant and put there money into American companies which grows are economy.

    March 11, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  29. Reginald Tchume

    These billionaires who give generously found the secret to keeping their wealth on a constant increase. By right of consciousness and the law of attraction, it is done to them as they do to others . . . and they receive generously whatever helps ease their lives and entrepreneurial endeavors. It is a good lesson for all, including the poor. No one should dictate how much they should give to charity; it's purely of choice. Wise choice!

    March 11, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  30. Yan

    Why should one be obligate to give away their money. Most rich people worked their ass off for their money. Anyway giving money to the poor may not be the best option. Look at the millions of American living under our welfare system; Many probability never worked a day in their life. Anyway our tax system is already very high compare to other countries. If we force rich people to give more money than they would just move into another country that don't require such a obligation.

    March 11, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Reply
  31. james, France

    I think billionaires should donate enormous sums of money to charity, and I do mean 'charity' and not 'freeloader'. I'm an idealist and I believe that to whom much is given or even of whomever earns infinitely more than he needs, much is expected. In a world where opportunity is astronomically unequal, having lots of money just for one's self while there are millions of people in the world living in poverty just doesn't make sense.

    March 11, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  32. Mandla L

    I believe that when you are wealthy, it is vital to help those that are less fortunate and especially those who are in toto destitude. While you are glorified for the wealth you have, it is also good to extend your helping hand to those who really need it the most.

    At the end it's their wealth and it's not an obligation to give off some of their wealth, it is one's choosing to give to charities (which it's good) or not to give (which it's regretably sad).

    South Africa
    Johannesburg

    March 11, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  33. Henry Daniels-Koch

    COMMUNISM!!
    people with more than 250,000 shud be taxed until they only hav 250,000.
    its not the poor peoples fault that they are poor.
    they grew up poor and had less opportunities and probably had krappy parents.
    and the rich probably grew up rich had opportunities and had parents who were inspiring and smart.

    March 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  34. jayteemee

    bill gates is more honourable....the rest of the other bigboys are struggling to be titled richest...i don't blame them thats my dream also

    March 11, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Reply
  35. Isaak

    They should donate as much or as little as THEY want to. Just like everyone else; its a personal choice.

    March 11, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  36. Eric Dillon

    Wow, the hatred of the rich: If you took EVERYTHING the Billionaires have and reduce them to dirt poverty with $0.01 in their bank accounts you could only fund the US Government for most, but not all, of one year.

    So, Henry Daniels-Koch and Al Moran: How do you propose that we fund our country for year two of your plan?

    Suzanne: The world would be much worse off with your plan. Simply shoveling money into a problem only makes the hole bigger and the whole smaller. Take a look at the TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS the US Government has spent in the "War on Poverty" and the fact we are worse off now than when we started. And $10,000,000,000,000. more in debt. We've spent money we don't have on programs that don't work but that we can't kill and now libtards like you and All and Henry think that if we could just have all the Billionaires give (or have confiscated) all they have (give or take a dollar or a billion) then all would be right with the world. Unfortunately history is NOT on your side.

    March 11, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Reply
  37. Sahari

    Instead of a list of 'the richest', let's make it an annual list of who gives the most (relative to assets).

    I'm a believer that those who have money are stewards only - so let's start taking a look at their stewardship.

    It's time to value and celebrate love in a real way, not just a pat-on- the- back, puff- piece-by-CNN, way.

    March 12, 2010 at 12:00 am | Reply
  38. John Gi.

    They "should" donate whatever they see fit. It's their money.

    The mob can ask for it, but it's immoral to take it.

    March 12, 2010 at 12:39 am | Reply
  39. Joe Shmoe

    I commend Bill and Melinda Gates on their incredible philanthropy, but I think that anyone, even a billionaire, should give whatever amount to charity that they think is right. Personally, if I had $50 billion dollars, I would give $45 billion away. $5 billion is still a huge amount of money and $45 billion could do tons of good in the world. But charity is not about publicity or making yourself feel good, it's about doing the right thing. The Jewish concept of tzedakah has the right idea: it is about being a righteous person, or a tzedek, not about giving because you have to or because it makes you feel good. The great Rabbi Rambam once made a "ladder of giving," and it showed the best 10 ways of giving charity. At the top was anonymously giving to others because it's the right thing to do.

    March 12, 2010 at 1:14 am | Reply
  40. Formosan

    More rich people should follow in the footsteps of Bill &Melinda Gates to donate 35% (like the Gates) or at least 10% of their wealth, to charities. Many rich people got rich at the expense of the public, for example, businesses kowtow to Chinese Government to do business there, but they in turn are helping to promote TOTALITARIANISM or FASCISM. American and European middle-class people take their freedom for granted. What goes around will come around. When you step into a dollar store or Walmart, you are helping to bring down your own living standard to that of the poor Chinese factory workers. The rich will become part of the totalitarianism because they always line up with governments.

    Formosa

    March 12, 2010 at 6:28 am | Reply
  41. Aigbi

    I believe billionaires have worked hard for their money and should not be taxed twice just because they are richer than the average person. Maybe a progressive system of taxation should be introduced and utilized by the government and in regards to billionaires being more involved in charity, of course most billionaires should be interested in well being of less privileged individuals, as our care for each other is what makes us human

    March 12, 2010 at 6:49 am | Reply
  42. Gozie

    GIVING is simply an ACT of LOVE. It is not exclusively left for the rich. The rich GIVE out of their riches while the not-so-rich GIVE out of whatever they have. By GIVING, we join hands together with GOD in solving the problems of this world and making it a better place.

    March 13, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Reply
  43. Joseph

    Yes they should prolong to donate to charities as they overcome some of our problems especially here in africa . Joseph here in africa

    March 14, 2010 at 8:23 am | Reply
  44. Daniel

    I feel that billionaires should give money to charities ,but to charities that don't have a bad record. Daniel in Ohio

    March 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  45. Reginald Tchume

    While it is more a blessing to give than to receive, may the spirit of charity ever continue and increase, but may it never fall short of the effort to help poor become wealthy as well. Just as Andrew Carnegie installed several public libraries to help the illiterate to become literate, so must our rich billionaires consider setting up "wealth clinics/institutes" in the developing regions of the world to instill wealth consciousness. One person becoming free from poverty makes the whole world one step richer.

    July 27, 2010 at 8:13 am | Reply
  46. David Fredericks

    The mostly poor and middle-class folks who do most of the world's work and who gave us modern science, technology, invention, philosophy, and modern medicine made it possible for the money-grubbers to accrue obcene wealth.

    Wealth inequality has been one of humankind’s most destabilizing and persistent problems. Having one guy in a mansion and five living out of a garbage can does not represent the ideal society.

    And those who proclaim Christianity as their guiding creed must square Jesus' words with their econonomic philosophy: Jesus admonished his followers to turn the other cheek and practice forgiveness, not to judge lest they be judged, to show great compassion for the poor, and especially when he admonishes the money changers and tells his followers to give up their belongings, abandon their families, and follow his religious movement. It was Jesus who said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

    October 3, 2010 at 2:40 am | Reply
    • john

      Unfortunately if wasn't for those money grubbers who thought of the idea of starting a company and employing those poor and middle-class folks, by going into hock for millions of dollars, hopefully surviving, but when they didn't where were the workers, just be thankfull that there are people like Bill Gates and his wife around helping to ease at least some poverty, instead of putting them down, and by the way i wonder how many times you have turned the other cheek.

      March 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm | Reply
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