SYNDICATED COLUMN: Do Not Be Impressed by Mark Zuckerberg’s Phony Generosity

pt_1904_1111_o            CEO Mark Zuckerberg promises to give 99% of his Facebook shares to charity — eventually.

Exact phrasing: the stock, currently worth $45 billion, will be donated “during [he and his wife’s] lives.” He’s 31 and she’s 30, so actuarial tables being what they are, by approximately the year 2065.

If Facebook or the Internet or the earth still exist.

Whoop de doo.

I would be far more impressed if Facebook would put some money into the American economy. How? By hiring more workers — a lot more workers. Facebook’s market cap is $300 billion — almost ten times more than GM. GM has 216,000 employees. I’m not sure Facebook could find work for 2 million workers — but 12,000 is pathetic. They might start by hiring a few thousand 24-7 customer service reps so they could respond quickly when some antisocial pig posts your nude photo.

The part of the “ain’t Zuck nicephilanthropist suck-uppery that really has me annoyed is the “charity” bit.

Disclosure: I’m on record as being not at all into charity. If something is important enough to require funding — helping hurricane victims, sending doctors to war zones, poetry — it ought to be paid for by society as a whole, out of our taxes. We shouldn’t allow billionaires to aggregate enough wealth to billionaires in the first place. Partly, this is because it’s unfair. No one can work hard enough to earn one billion dollars. Also because it gives too much control to individuals at the expense of the 99.99% of everyone else.

Unfortunately, we await the revolution. So we still have billionaires running around pretending to be nice (as opposed to where they belong, hanging from a lamppost).

Even by our current dismal standards, however, Zuck is full of crap.

Point one: the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is not a charity. It’s a limited liability corporation (LLC) that, like any other company, can donate to actual charities but can also invest in for-profit companies.

Point two: this is all about control.

A donation to an independent, classic 501(c) charity can come with strings attached — the money is only for a children’s wing of the hospital, no adults — but it’s ultimately spent by the charity based on its directors’ decisions. Under the LLC structure Zuckerberg will maintain nearly dictatorial control over the funds he’s “donating” to “charity.”

It’s the difference between you giving a hundred bucks to the United Way, and taking a hundred bucks out of your wallet and dropping into a coffee can in your kitchen. Maybe the C-spot in the coffee can will go to the poor. Maybe not. It certainly isn’t accurate to claim you gave it to charity.

If Zuck wants a “gives 99% of his stock to charity” headline, he ought to earn it — by giving 99% of his stock to actual charities. Charities that aren’t named after him. Charities he doesn’t control.

“Zuckerberg To Maybe Eventually Do Things He Deems Good With Some Of His Fortune” would be more accurate.

The vagueness of the Zuckerbergs’ announcement highlights how little anyone should be impressed. “Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities,” they said.

Sound familiar?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 2000 with billions of dollars Microsoft extracted from American consumers via price gouging and gangster-style monopolistic tactics so ugly the feds almost broke up the company. The charity’s (it’s charted as a 501(c)) mission sounds remarkably similar to those of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: “Our foundation is teaming up with partners around the world to take on some tough challenges: extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries, and the failures of America’s education system.”

Which, right out of the gate, meant donating PCs to schools so that fewer kids would grow up using Macs.

If you’re a conservative who thinks government can’t do anything right, let me show you a charity that’s worse. The Gates Foundation wants to destroy teachers’ unions to take away their benefits and drive down their wages — hardly a way to attract the best and brightest young college graduates into the profession. And it has poured millions into the disastrous Common Core, which has created today’s “teach to the test” culture in public schools. Given Zuckerberg’s previous involvement in public schools, a $100 million fiasco in Newark, New Jersey that declared war on teachers, fetishized standardized testing and led to so many school closures that kids wound up walking miles through gang territory to new schools chosen for them by, really, an algorithm — it isn’t a stretch to guess that Chan Zuckerberg will look a lot like Bill and Melinda Gates.

I wouldn’t expect much — much good, anyway — from Zuckerberg on the poverty front, either. After all, Facebook is spreading poverty among American STEM workers by pushing Congress for more H1C visas for foreign workers hired by big tech companies to replace better-paid Americans. Odds are that, here too, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s approach will be similar to the Gateses.

Too young and too rich to have a clue — and the only people they know are over-privileged corporate pigs. How do you think this will turn out?

In 2010, for example, Bill and Melinda drew fire for subsidizing African projects by agribusiness conglomerates Cargill and Monsanto, both notorious for crushing small farmers, to the tune of $23 million. They’re way into sketchy genetically-modified foods. They wind up propping up authoritarian and dictatorial political regimes by focusing on technocratic short-term “quick fix” projects that don’t address the underlying causes of poverty (psst — capitalism). It’s a safe bet Zuck’s anti-poverty stuff will make more people poorer.

It’s Zuckerberg’s billions. He can do what he wants with his money. But let’s not make the mistake of calling him a charitable giver, much less a great guy.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)



  • While I agree about what society *should* do – it doesn’t, so rather than wait I’ll support “charities” today. Planned Parenthood & my local food bank, f’instance. (As well as some editorial cartoonists I could mention . . .)

    If Zuckerman can do some good with his wealth, that’s still doing some good regardless of whether I approve of his business model. It’s not like he’s going to wait until 2065 to start spending the money, and I do approve of his hit list. I’ll withhold judgement for awhile & see if he follows through.

    I approve of what Gates is *accomplishing* with his ill-gotten gains. A lot of his cash goes to overhead (read: crony’s salaries) but again, he is doing *some* good.

    Andrew Carnegie was likewise an asshole, and some have speculated that his philanthropy was a cynical move to ensure that his legacy wasn’t “asshole” But he did philanthopolize. (Is that a word? 😉

    • Edit: … *SOME* of what Gates is *accomplishing* with his money. Like Ted, I’m cynical of things like donating PCs, but he’s addressing AIDS and other diseases as well.

      Original version also noted that Gates is an asshole, which is why Carnegie was tagged as “likewise”

  • So Ted, what’s going on here is just an updated paraphrase of The Who … “Legacy upgrade meets the new tycoon philanthropists, same as what the old tycoon philanthropists accomplished ~”


    • Yeah those assholes should’ve kept their museums, libraries, and medical research funding to themselves!

  • Non-issue. Zuck is free to do with his money as he likes. There are many things that people might prefer him to do, but they are not him. It’s his choice how he wants to define himself or support the things that he feels are important to him, not you. There’s a lot of things that I would rather have him do, but I’m not him. If the things he does hurts other people, then we have our “demockcracy to deal with it. If the demockracy don’t work, then we have to focus on it first, not on “What I would do if I had that money.”

  • One direct result from tyrannically bloated bureaucratic government is obtusely wealthy oligarchs who can buy their way around taxpayer-slavery (by bribing the government to transfer their burden to the middle-class), and law-enforcement institutions that parody the absolute worst conduct of highway robbers and incorporated organized crime.

    How “American justice” transforms a constitutional republic into a cashless society.


  • OK – I’m not impressed or surprised. As far as “phony” – it’s only phony as far as the media keeps hyping it and describing it. I have seen what happens to people who come into large sums of money – whatever the source – and how it changes their perspective and actions. Like CrazyH, I hope that some of the “charity” finds its way to things that help people who need help.

  • Off the top of my head, this is the biggest reason Zuckerberg is fucking evil.

    • “Fucking evil”?! Wow, you are really a bit over the top here, Jack-Off with his head kind of evil? I don’t like Facebook either, but how does that make the man evil? Everyone has the choice to piss into the wind or not, but I’m not advocating it, or saying that it’s evil, it’s simply something you might want to think about before doing. 🙂

      • Yes. Thought police are evil. Particularly ones who are in league with politicians who want to rip children away from their parents for their opinions.

  • It is good estate planning. He can use this LLC & charity structured to shelter his wealth. As an example, he can put bunch of his facebook shares into Jackie O trust and name the LLC as the trustee. Or even better, he puts a lot of cash & stock in the LLC and then puts the LLC into a Jackie O trust. The beauty of the Jackie O trust is that the money can be returned to the heirs after 20 to 30 years without paying estate taxes.

    He can create a high power investment engine & political machine that can stay in his family for generations.

  • I talk about Facebook in my book “America is Not Broke!” in a way no one else is, as a plot of virtual “Land” that ought to be taxed according to the degree of use of it, just like a dense urban center.
    Facebook and other virtual monopolies employ very few people – Rall says it’s just 12,000 people, compared to GM’s nearly quarter million, but Facebook’s market cap is 10X GM’s. This is no accident. It comes about directly because Facebook essentially has a billion users working for free! If you can get free labor, even if much or most of that labor isn’t terribly efficient, of course, you’re going to make billions. And if you capture such a large segment of the population that other people come to your “city” just to be with them, and you can sell “space” in that city to advertisers, you’ll make even more.
    Imagine if an actual city was set up this way:
    The city planners hire some architects and builders to construct the city and then pay for just that. Then, they open the doors to whomever wants to live and work there, and while it’s true they don’t collect rent, they also don’t allow the workers and residents to make any money themselves. Instead, they recruit outside businesses to sell stuff to them. The residents and businesses actually in the city, meanwhile, either have to pay for additional services (in the case of the businesses), or they just exist to be sold to, in the case of the residents. Other income has to come to them from “outside somewhere.” Meanwhile, the city makes money and expands across the globe with new internet access, relatively cheaply. That’s the business model for Facebook.

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