Elon Musk, the wealthiest person in the world who happened to make $36 billion on Monday alone, could save 42 million people around the world from starvation with just 2% of his wealth, according to a global hunger expert at the United Nations. But Musk doesn’t even need to pony up a full 2% if he gets America’s other billionaires to pitch in with just a fraction of their wealth as well.
“The governments are tapped out. This is when the billionaires need to step up now on a one-time basis—$6 billion to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them. It’s not complicated,” UN executive director for the World Food Program, David Beasley, told CNN on Tuesday.
“I’m not asking them to do this every day, every week, every year,” Beasley continued. “We have a one-time crisis. We have a perfect storm of conflict, climate change, and covid.”
“I’ve got 43 nations with 42 million people in IPC level four,” Beasley said. “Just help me with them one time, that’s a $6 billion price tag.”
The IPC refers to the Integrated food security Phase Classification, a way to measure hunger in global populations: 1) minimal/none, 2) stressed, 3) crisis, 4) emergency, 5) catastrophe/famine. Level four is obviously an emergency situation for these people.
“I’m for people making money, but God knows I’m also for helping people who are in great need right now,” Beasley told CNN. “My God, people are dying out there.”
The 500 wealthiest Americans added $1.8 trillion to their hoarded wealth in 2020, but some of those same people have been paying even less than the average American when it comes to federal income taxes. Musk, for example, paid precisely $0 in federal income tax in 2018, according to ProPublica. And when he paid tax at all, like in 2015 and 2017, it was less than $70,000 each year.
What kind of charities does Musk actually donate his money to in a given year? Musk, like other billionaires such as Bill Gates, has his own charitable foundation, and also like Gates he uses it as a tax haven. News outlet Quartz conducted an analysis of Musk’s charitable giving in late 2020 and found Musk has given about $257 million to his own foundation, the Musk Foundation, an absolute pittance for someone who’s worth $289 billion.
So far, Musk has donated at least $257 million to the foundation, most of it Tesla stock. And its grants have increased in turn: Between 2016 and 2018, the Musk Foundation distributed $65 million, somewhat more than the minimum (5% of assets) the foundation must disburse annually to avoid IRS penalties. The foundation’s most recent filings (tax year 2017) show most of the contributions have gone to about 200 nonprofits focused on education, healthcare, community service, environment, and space.
And as Quartz explains, sending money to your own charity is a great way to actually grow wealth rather than hand it out:
Musk is following a strategy the ultra-wealthy in tech (and elsewhere) have pursued for years: create a donor-advised fund to do your giving. These are like checking accounts for wealthy donors where funds can grow tax-free and grants can be directed anonymously over time. Fidelity Charitable, now the wealthiest nonprofit in the US, calls this the “easiest and most tax-advantageous” way to give to charity. They’ve grown so big they’re now a new source of Wall Street profits.
Here’s a unique opportunity for guys like Musk and Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates to step up to the plate and literally save the lives of millions of people. All they need to do is hand over a tiny fraction of their wealth to people who are on the verge of starvation.
What do you say, fellas? Can you help humanity out? You don’t even need to give up on your masturbatory dreams of leaving the planet. You’ll have plenty of money left over for your escape plan, we promise. Just do this for us. It’s honestly the least you can do after the money you’ve raked in since the covid-19 pandemic began.