The wealthiest 400 Americans are worth over $2 trillion. Together, it’s been reported they own as much wealth as the bottom half of American households combined.
While resentment towards the super rich grows, there may be a silver lining taking shape. It turns out a lot of those rich people are giving staggering sums of money away, in what is being called a golden age of philanthropy.
And this surge in generosity is not by accident. Much of it is the result of an ambitious and targeted campaign called “The Giving Pledge.” It was started by an influential trio: Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. We waited for the opportunity to get them together to learn more about their new club for billionaires. Membership comes with just two requirements: be worth at least a billion dollars and be willing to give half of that away.
Charlie Rose: Is it necessary to join the Giving Pledge that you promise 50 percent of your net worth?
Melinda Gates: Yes. In your lifetime or in your will.
Charlie Rose: Or in your will?
Warren Buffett: Right.
Charlie Rose: Are people shocked by that?
Warren Buffett: I don’t think so.
Melinda Gates: We’re asking them to be bold. We’re asking them to step out and to do something big. But a lot of them were already on their way there and just hadn’t put a numeric number behind it. And I think now also the Giving Pledge has gotten going, people know that’s the expectation.
Warren Buffett: And we don’t, we don’t, we don’t find a lot of people that say, “I want to join if it was 40 percent.”
Charlie Rose: Some may say I’m happy to give much more than 50.
Warren Buffett: Oh, most of them. Most. My guess is that a very significant percentage of our members, I mean, way over half are going to give a lot more than half.
That’s certainly true of the founders. The Gates have already committed to giving 95 percent of their wealth away. Warren Buffett – 99 percent.