Corporate philanthropy: The great American Fraud

On November 29th, our citizens were deluged with requests to select a worthy charitable cause that reflected their individual priorities, whatever the character and raison d’etre of that particular nonprofit entity.

In previous years our populace responded with great magnanimity to these solicitations. In fact of the approximately 376 billion dollars which was allocated to this sector of our economy in 2015 to enable these organizations to support their noble activities and provide the spectrum of services to their client constituencies. more than two-thirds of this amount was provided by personal contributions, and the balance by major corporations both public and private, that was funneled primarily through the foundation vehicles which reside within the structure of these  gargantuan for profit entities.

Approximately two-thirds of this amount was provided by personal contributions, and the balance by major corporations both public and private, that was funneled primarily through the foundation vehicles which reside within the structure of these  gargantuan for profit entities.

However, though these sums are enormous they achieve precious little as it relates to the diminution of poverty, inequality, racism, social injustice, and the significant mitigation of other pathologies, that in some tragically substantial quantitative regard continue to afflict our nation’s body politic.

Rather do these funds fuel the activities of hundreds of thousands of organizations in the United States which can be found on a mammoth spectrum of involvements, that reflect in very few instances significant ameliorative impact on their chosen field of well as numerous instances of activity which is mediocre in its palliative influence, and tragically substantial examples of organizations whose reverberations throughout our society are ineffective, and/or  have been created and sustained as monuments to the egos of enormously affluent and powerful members of our nation’s class of plutocrats.

The overwhelming majority of this  activity  is either minimal  in its palliative influence, or are  examples of organizations whose reverberations throughout our society are intrinsically ineffective, and/or  have been created and sustained as monuments to the egos of enormously affluent and powerful members of our nation’s class of plutocrats.

As the result of  this mode of distribution in which so many entities receive paltry donations, (with the exception of a minuscule number of nationally recognized organizations which receive multi-million dollar contributions) virtually nothing of any substance or consequence may be initiated other than the maintenance of the nonprofit’s current level of activity,  which is wholly insufficient to respond in any meaningful regard to the magnitude of need which its service population requires.

On occasion, various foundations will implement novel programs or policy initiatives which they will unveil as truly unique and prospectively efficacious modes of intervention, that contain the potential to significantly mitigate various manifestations of social blight and disease, which rarely achieves its goals and in those enormously infrequent instances when these innovations have succeeded, these endeavors do not receive the requisite resources to be implemented on a regional or national scale.

In some fundamental regard, these fiscal allocations support tens of thousands of middle-class  and upper – middle – class administrators who operate and supervise these agencies and organizations throughout the nation, and as a result the plutocrats who furnish these monetary resources can assert that through their magnanimous donations and the breadth and depth of their involvements and commitments, they are committed to the alleviation of the suffering which the stunted lives and potential of the poor among us experience on a daily basis.

These foundations and other philanthropic mechanisms rarely expend more than 5% of the total asset base of these organizations annually which their investment portfolios replenish, and yet it is these ludicrously anemic expenditures which  permits these institutions to maintain that their interest in rectifying our societies woes is perpetual and unceasing.

The  approximately 120 billion dollar donations from these corporate sources constitutes but 1% of the revenues which their commercial activities generated in 2015, i.e. 12 trillion dollars, and the primary motivation for their largesse are the  deductions which are provided by the IRS to companies who engage in this philanthropic activity, which in numerous instances reduces their indebtedness to the federal government by millions of dollars, annually.

Moreover, it is not simply the absurdly inadequate allocations which the previous sum represents, it is the fact that it is provided to literally hundreds of thousands of recipients, thus the potential to accomplish anything that is truly substantive or impactful is nonexistent.

Finally, beyond all other deficiencies from which the status quo suffers is the absence of a public declaration that the transcendent objective of much of the philanthropic activity in this nation is the eradication of poverty, and the consequent formulation and implementation of a national strategic plan that reflects this goal as the result of a maximally cost-efficient deployment of the approximately 375 billion dollars,  as opposed the  current allocations which fuels so much that is tangential, secondary in impact, and wastefully targeted.

When the pronouncements and declarations of the previous intent are forthcoming from this coterie of plutocrats, then will it be possible to ascribe to their motives the genuine desire and intent to transform this culture and create a society in which social justice is ascendant.

In the absence of a national campaign that unites the majority of our fellow Americans which demands that the nature of the majority of all charitable activity is some fundamental regard be devoted to this objective, nothing except the cosmetic tinkering and peripheral innovations of no cumulative consequence will transpire.

The organized philanthropic sector of this nation has existed for more than a half-century, allocating in concert with the individual American citizen trillions of dollars toward these undertakings and yet in this the concluding period of 2016, the objective of eradicating poverty and mitigating numerous social pathologies remains beyond our grasp and our capabilities.

What is responsible for this most tragic reality?  How is it possible that the expenditure of these gargantuan sums and the systematic deployment of tens of thousands of executives who are employed in these nonprofit organizations, and the millions of man hours they have devoted to these challenges and the expertise and experience which they cumulatively reflect, continue to co-exist in a country whose population of the impoverished and those whose lives are almost equally tenuous in a financial regard, dwarfs the numbers of our citizens who resided in these deplorable circumstances when in 1959 Michael Harrington is his magnum opus “The Other America” first discovered their existence?

These deplorable conditions exist because those who possess both the monetary resources and the political efficacy to abolish these conditions have absolutely no wish to do so.   Those who reside at the apogee of our culture wish to  perpetuate  a permanent underclass because it serves their purposes most efficiently.

Those who reside in the dungeons of impoverishment by their existence suppress wages, and are a reservoir from which their members who lack skills and credentials have no choice should they wish to generate any income, however anemic, are pressed into service to perform the most menial and unpleasant tasks in this society, and most tragically are grievously exploited in their grim and unsafe neighborhoods by  landlords and merchants who derive substantial incomes from the economic plight of those who comprise this nation’s impoverished.

Moreover, the urban ghettos in which they congregate when housing stocks are sufficiently degraded and become unfit for human habitation, are acquired at greatly reduced cost which then become candidates for  a process of gentrification, which inevitably leads to the construction of gleaming and elegant townhouses, condominiums, and rental apartments at prices which both displaces those who were living in these accommodations in squalor (primarily African-Americans), and spawns an influx of young Caucasian professionals whose incomes are multiples of the wages and salaries of those that inhabited these dwellings previously.

In addition, the various ethnic subcomponents of these populations of the dispossessed are fertile soil to incite conflict and enmity, and thus ensure that the antagonisms created among rural Caucasian enclaves, African-American denizens in urban ghettos, and their Hispanic counterparts, as well as those who comprise the populace of immigrants who have migrated to the United States illegally, and those whose religious beliefs such as those embracing the Muslim faith,  may be utilized to ensure that the political agendas of demagogues will emerge ascendant in national elections.

Thus, rather than transcending these spurious divisions and fraudulent quarrels that divide them and acknowledging their common plight, and creating powerful coalitions that bind them together in the pursuit of a society which is infinitely more just, in which the elites are compelled to reduce their dominion over so much of our nation’s economic and political instrumentalities, and remediate those afflictions and pathologies that cripple the lives of more than 60 million of our fellow citizens, we remain a bitterly divided country in which bipartisanship and compromise have all but evaporated, and as a result those who continue to prosper from these appalling circumstances are those whose names can be found among the Forbes 500 list of the wealthiest Americans and the minuscule  political coterie who serve their interests and are responsive to their demands.

In a subsequent post I shall provide an alternative to this scenario and delineate in a comprehensive and definitive manner what a “Humanistic Philanthropy” would embody and reflect, and precisely how this structure and process would accomplish both the eradication of poverty in the United States and simultaneously rectify and neutralize other social pathologies which currently afflict so many of us.


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