High Desert Sketches: If rich, ’tis the season to be jolly

This whole season of jolliness and gift-giving supposedly began when three wise men or kings or magi (depending on who’s telling the story) showed up at a stable and presented gifts to a poor newborn child. The exact date of the gifts and the condition of the stable, and the employment record of the so-called wise men has been debated for almost 2,000 years. The only thing that is certain is that the newborn and his parents were poor. As stated in Matthew 26:11, “For you always have the poor with you.”

According to the United States Census Bureau, 11.8% of the US population is living in poverty, which means they’re earning below $25,750 for a family of four, except in Alaska and Hawaii, where it’s $32,190 and $29,620, respectively. The poor are not created equally. To truly understand “the poor,” you have to look at the buying power, or regional price parities, and how much 100 dollars will buy in each state. Based on this buying power, you calculate how much a family of four actually needs to make to be at the poverty line. In New York State, it costs the poor $115.80 to buy the same commodities that a resident of Mississippi pays $85.70 for.

Remember that Matthew 26:11 – “For you always have the poor with you,” never mentions that the rich will always be with us too. Think of our modern “three wise men,” Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Their combined wealth is $295 billion, and it rises by the second. It must be noted that their combined wealth exceeds the combined wealth of more than 40 percent of the rest of us. We’re the ones who do not ask, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” We’re the ones who ask: “What glass?”

Our modern three wise men are no shirkers when it comes to spreading the jolly around. Jeff Bezos has donated $98.5 million to 32 organizations in 23 states that are helping homeless families. The gifts to each organization received ranges from $1.25 million to $5 million. The Amazon founder and CEO gave the money through his Bezos Day One Fund, which he announced in September 2018. At launch, Bezos pledged $2 billion to the fund, which has two areas of focus: funding the work of organizations who help homeless families, and creating Montessori-inspired preschools across the country. Bill and Melinda Gates have donated $35 billion since 1994. They donated $16 billion worth of Microsoft shares in 1999 and followed it up with another $5.1 billion a year later. The Gates Foundation has grown to become the world’s largest private charity, with $40.3 billion of funds before the latest gift. Gates’ three children have inherited their father’s philanthropic gene, and are reportedly happy to not be inheriting their father’s fortune. Recently, the Microsoft magnate said his children will inherit just $10 million each — equivalating to less than 1% of his fortune. Warren Buffett is donating roughly $3.6 billion of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock to five charities, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest contribution in Buffett’s plan to give away his fortune.

Google Dot Org is one of the ways that Google gives back to local, national and global communities. Each year, Google Dot Org donates $100,000,000 in grants, 80,000 volunteer hours and $1 billion in products. They provide seed funding for global entrepreneurs in developing countries, community grants, disaster relief, and much more. Additionally, Google provides grants to help boost traffic to nonprofits’ websites through a program called Google Ad Grants.

Tiny Tim would be so proud.