It was announced yesterday that Bono’s $90 million dollar investment in Facebook will be worth $1 billion when the company goes public, which will make him the richest rockstar in the world by a margin of about $300 million. There is certainly nothing wrong with acquiring wealth, or even acquiring massive quantities of wealth; that is unless you are the face of the worldwide campaign against greed. For those few who don’t know, Bono is the artist/activist that has been endlessly lobbying Western governments to give their tax dollars to the Third World. On the face of it this appears to be a noble endeavor, but the facts reveal a dirty underbelly to his supposed “philanthropy.”
For one, Bono hasn’t exactly been leading by example. In 2007, Bono’s band, U2, transferred their music catalog to a tax-free jurisdiction in the Netherlands to avoid paying taxes. The move may explain his eagerness to get governments to give tax revenue away to other sovereign nations. After all, if you aren’t paying the bill, and you get credit for the donation, why not right? So while Bono was browbeating bankrupt Western nations into donating billions of tax dollars, he was also using the fame and goodwill he received from the numerous accolades bestowed on him such as being named Time’s Person of the Year, getting knighted, and even being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize to sell tax free records and songs. A group of activists planned on releasing a balloon saying, “U Pay Your Tax 2″ at a U2 concert in 2011, but before they could let it fly they were wrestled to the ground by Bono’s organizers who subsequently deflated their ballon and effectively censored their free speech. Bono has also praised China’s strict internet censorship laws because they protect the profits from the sale of his music.
It’s difficult to find any evidence that Bono has given much money to charity at all. There is something fundamentally wrong with a person who flies around the world in a private jet telling governments how stingy they are for not donating billions of tax dollars, while giving such a small percentage of his own net worth to charity. Bono’s infamous ONE campaign took in almost $15 million in 2008, but only gave $184k to charity. Meanwhile, $8 million went to executive and employee salaries.
The media continually showers these ultra rich businessmen and celebrities with high praise for donating tiny amounts of time or money to a cause. People have to understand that donations are all relative. If a billionaire gives a million, that is only .01% of their net worth. It isn’t much different than a person with $50,000 giving his favorite charity $500. In fact, it could be argued that the $500 donation is a far greater gesture on behalf of the poorer individual because that $500 will be missed, while the billionaire will not only not notice the million being gone, but he will probably take full advantage of the tax write off. In addition, the large donation usually brings benefits like prestige and power. In real terms though, the people with the most money have the most to be thankful for and therefore the most responsibility to give back to a system that has done well by them. People should start looking at charitable donations in terms of a percentage of net worth rather than nominal amounts when bestowing praise.