The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which, with an endowment north of $44 billion, is the world’s largest charitable organization, invests heavily in technological and medicinal advances in the developing world. Its grants have bankrolled firms that produce vaccines, implement sanitary waste systems, and improve Internet access.
But according to a new report from the U.K. advocacy group Global Justice Now, the foundation’s grants benefit the recipient companies more than the people they are supposed to be helping. It labeled the Gates Foundation’s approach as “a corporate merry-go-round where the (foundation) consistently acts in the interests of corporations.”
Global Justice Now said that the foundation, in part due to its grants to media organizations, is subject to very little scrutiny, allowing it to impact global agendas with little watchdog oversight. For its part, the Gates Foundation said that private companies often have more cutting-edge innovations than do governments or NGOs, so their investments help further technology for all.
The story is a reminder that charitable giving isn’t ubiquitously appreciated. When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced he and wife Priscilla Chan would donate 99 percent of their wealth, they were both lauded for their generosity and criticized for structuring the fund as an LLC. Many are applauding wealthy folks for vowing to donate so much of their fortunes, but scrutiny is inevitable when that sum stretches into the billions.
Seattle’s a (relative) bargain
Like many a tech hub, Seattle’s home prices are skyrocketing, but they’re still far below the preeminent tech hub — Silicon Valley.
According to Zillow economist Aaron Terrazas, that disparity is one reason Seattle prices will keep climbing. A Google employee, he explained, would have to pay around $1 million for a home near the company’s Mountain View headquarters. On the flipside, a home near Google’s Kirkland facilities costs about $530,000.
Terraza expects an influx of Silicon Valley folks to spill north in chase of similarly lucrative jobs in an area with a far smaller cost of living. So if a home’s for sale in your neighborhood, don’t be surprised if your new neighbors made the pilgrimage from the Bay Area.
Terrazas labeled the folks leaving Silicon Valley for the Seattle area “Silicon refugees.” His intent is understood, but the refugee title here is misused and inappropriate. The “refugees” Terrazas describes are leaving Silicon Valley to find a cheaper house. The refugees fleeing, say, Mosul are doing so to avoid becoming casualties in a horrendously violent war. Refugees by definition are forced from their homes due to conflict or disaster. It’s fine to be creative with language, but consider the consequences for those most affected by labels.
Our economy isn’t built on saving, people
Here’s how oil prices are supposed to affect the economy: When oil’s expensive, people spend more of their income on gasoline, diesel, plane tickets, and heating oil, which leaves less for everything else. When oil’s cheap, everybody wins because consumers spend more.
Oil’s dirt cheap right now, but if you’ve monitored the stock market at all, the inverse relationship described above hasn’t played out — as oil’s price fell below $27 a barrel, the stock market went with it. Why?
Two reasons: more oil is produced domestically, so the pain of drillers and refineries more acutely affects the U.S., and silly consumers are saving their money.
This is bad news, folks. America’s economy isn’t built on you having a rainy day fund. If you’re saving on gas, buy expensive meals. Splurge at Nordstrom. Max out those credit cards, it’s OK!
One crazy spending trend that is arising from cheap fuel is the resurgence of pickup truck and SUV sales. Because, c’mon, oil will never return to $100 a barrel.
Elsewhere on the Web
Atari will soon offer 100 classic titles on Valve’s Steam platform. Get ready to spend hours playing Asteroids and Missile Command.
Airbnb, in its quest to woo mayors across the U.S., divulged that its economic impact in the Seattle metro was $178 million from August 2014 to July 2015.
You’ve got to spend money to make money — right?
Despite the industry’s attempts to tell you otherwise, tech isn’t “a roiling sea of disruption” — it’s a ballgame controlled by Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook.