Charity begins at home
The first beneficiary of Warren Buffett’s largesse is not some poor developing country, but the world’s richest and most powerful nation: the United States. America’s reputation has had a rough ride these last few years. Much of this can obviously be chalked up to foreign policy decisions made by George W. Bush and the almost ...
The first beneficiary of Warren Buffett's largesse is not some poor developing country, but the world's richest and most powerful nation: the United States.
America’s reputation has had a rough ride these last few years. Much of this can obviously be chalked up to foreign policy decisions made by George W. Bush and the almost total absence of public diplomacy during his first term. But a lot of it was also the apparent discrediting of the US economic model. Enron, WorldCom, et al. seemed to demonstrate that corporate America was as corrupt as its critics alleged. Then Katrina “revealed” a country where the poor drowned while the rich fiddled. Combine all this with a justified sense that American social mobility is not what it once was and, for an increasingly large numbers of outsiders, the debate over the morality of American capitalism had been settled. Buffett’s actions have changed that verdict from guilty to non-proven.
I was in London when the Sage of Omaha made his announcement and I have never seen such positive coverage of the US in the British media in all my life. All of a sudden articles appeared saying ‘why aren’t our rich more like the American rich, this is the moral justification for American capitalism, look at how much private American citizens give away’ etc. Karen Hughes couldn’t have scripted it better.
All of which got me thinking that the Bush administration should think of a way to get some more mileage out of Buffett’s generosity. So, how about a presidential announcement that the administration will ask Congress for matching funding—calculated as $3 billion a year by people better at math than I—for the Millennium Challenge Account, an initiative that looks great on paper but suffers from under-funding. $3 billion sounds like, and is, a lot of money. Yet, to put the sum in perspective, the House of Representatives today voted to send $3.8 billion into outer space.
Even the president who pledged to put a man on the moon concluded “here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” So let’s get on with it.
More from Foreign Policy
Russians Are Unraveling Before Our Eyes
A wave of fresh humiliations has the Kremlin struggling to control the narrative.
A BRICS Currency Could Shake the Dollar’s Dominance
De-dollarization’s moment might finally be here.
Is Netflix’s ‘The Diplomat’ Factual or Farcical?
A former U.S. ambassador, an Iran expert, a Libya expert, and a former U.K. Conservative Party advisor weigh in.
The Battle for Eurasia
China, Russia, and their autocratic friends are leading another epic clash over the world’s largest landmass.