It was Jon Stewart that first made the reference. He called Bill Gates “Batman” to his face on his TV show. Why Batman?
I think he probably meant Bruce Wayne, Batman’s civilian identity: the eccentric millionaire industrialist, who is also a philanthropist, sworn to do good and serve a greater ideal of justice. Of course, the big-hearted Mr. Wayne dons his cape and mask to perform his good deeds as Batman, supported by his lavish budget and high tech tools that he himself has created for the purpose.
Is this perhaps a new vision of an “Action Hero,” where the very idea of action is transformed from the mastery of violence that is currently glorified in comic books and video games to a new type of technologically informed social and political action marked by non-violence and compassion?
This is a bit far fetched perhaps, but a lighthearted piece in Frugal Dad takes the idea out for a spin, suggesting that perhaps Bill Gates is better than a real world Batman, despite the fact that Batman locks up all those bad guys. The piece has a great infographic and is definitely worth checking out.
So what exactly has Bill gates done to deserve to be considered such a hero besides making a ton of money?
Well, for starters, he’s already given close to half (48%) of that money, some $28 billion away. But he’s not only generous. He’s also smart. He’s made sure that the money was used effectively enough to save 5,812,000 lives, so far. That’s roughly equivalent to the combined population of Los Angeles and Houston, the second and fourth largest cities in the US.
Most of that has been as the result of better healthcare to children internationally, where:
- 3.4 million have been saved from Hepatitis B
- 1.2 million saved from measles
- 0.56 million saved from HIB bacteria
- 0.47 saved from whooping cough
- 0.14 saved from yellow fever.
He is also closing in on the goal of total eradication of polio, where his foundation’s donations have saved an additional 30,000 children.
His group is also making significant inroads in the battle against malaria, which infects over 100 million people every year, and kills some 800,000 of them, mostly children in Africa.
Gates has joined the ranks of other great industrial-strength philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie, Warren Buffett, and John D. Rockefeller who gave away the equivalent of $6.5 billion, $30 billion and $11 billion in today’s dollars. Buffett has pledged to give away 99% of his $50 billion fortune, saying, “I want to give my kids enough so that they could feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.”
Buffett and Gates are close friends and Buffett has pledged stock worth roughly $36 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gates also started The Giving Pledge, an effort to get the wealthiest Americans to pledge at least half of their fortunes to charitable causes. So far, a number of individuals (shown with their wealth in billions) have joined the pledge including: Warren Buffett (50), Mark Zuckerberg (17), Paul Allen(13), George Lucas (3.2), Barron Hilton (2.5), David Rockefeller (2.2) and Ted Turner (1.8).
If the wealthiest 400 Americans all signed on, they would contribute some $600 billion, which is twice the amount given to charity each year in the entire country.
And I suspect that if the recently much-maligned top 1%, those more than 1.1 million households that are worth at least $9 million apiece, all signed on, there would be a lot less anger focused on them, not to mention, an awful lot of good that could potentially come from all of that giving.
RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water. Now available on Kindle.
Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.