Letters to the Editor

July 27, 2010

An interesting idea for giving

To the editor:

I read with great interest about the recent article in Fortune Magazine about Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet urging their fellow billionaires to give away at least half of their fortunes during their lifetime or upon death. The article is entitled "The $600 billion challenge," and gets its name from the Forbes 400 richest Americans, whose net worth is estimated to be $1.2 trillion. If they gave away at least half, the total would be approximately $600 billion.

Total U.S. charitable giving in 2009 was approximately $304 billion and that includes individual, corporate and foundation giving. So giving away $600 billion would have an immediate and profound impact on the nonprofit community and the incredible challenges that face our country. Gates and Buffet have even come up with a Giving Pledge for their peers to use to publicly commit to this cause. I applaud their efforts and hope that many will accept the challenge.


But I ask, why stop at billionaires? Wealth is subjective, but I would argue that anyone whom I consider to be wealthy could give away 50 percent of it and still be wealthier than 99 percent of the world's population! How much is enough?

Granted, I am paid to ask people to be philanthropic so I am biased in this discussion. Maybe if I had $10 million, I might find it difficult to part with 50 percent of it. But the point is not about the money; it's about the attitude. At what point does someone realize just how blessed they are to have achieved surplus wealth and realize it's time to give back? Sadly, I don't think enough Americans ever reach that point.

On a local level, I feel that we are blessed in Washington County to have many people who are willing to give. The great leaders of our older generation have created a culture of philanthropy in Washington County that has consistently supported the needs of our nonprofit community. They have created a legacy that I hope the next generation and succeeding generations will follow. Now, if I can just get everyone up to that 50 percent level ...

Bradley N. Sell
Executive Director
Community Foundation of Washington County MD, Inc.

Make sure candidates talk specifics

To the editor:

Only three Washington County Commissioner candidates stood out for me - Kristin Aleshire, Bill McKinley and Jeff Cline.

Aleshire said he attends three to five functions a week. That is what I call listening. McKinley said he would like to see high employment levels and more careful management of tax dollars. I take him at his word. Cline espoused "living within your means when spending other people's money." I take him at his word.

Voters, let's do our homework. Elect candidates who are specific over those who think the issue requires "intense discussions" or "definitely needs to be addressed." Pass over mere politicians who say they want to hear your priorities. Real leaders not only tell you their priorities - unemployment, incentives to small business, promoting economic development, etc. - but specify how they are going to implement them.

It is up to us to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Tom Janus

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