Trillionaire. It's not even a word in spell check yet! The world's richest man, nonetheless, is on pace to become the first trillionaire in the world.
Currently, Bill Gates, at 61 years of age, is listed as Earth's wealthiest man with $75 billion earned. Renowned for his Microsoft innovations and legacy products, Gates stepped down in 2006 from full-time work at his software company. In the decade that's just passed, his fortune has grown 50 percent, or by $25 billion.
Bill Gates leads seven other billionaires in the global ranking posted by Oxfam, an international coalition of charitable organizations whose website pledges "to end the injustice of poverty." In its newly released report assessing poverty inequality, the eight men identified as having "as much wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world's population" are used as props of shame by the organization's leader.
The group's executive director, Winnie Byanyima, declared, "It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when one in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy."
A few facts are left out of this report. First, Gates is a most philanthropic businessmen, as evidenced by the $28 billion already contributed to the causes of poverty, clean water, mass vaccination programs and sustainable living to foster work. How do you include a donor who is so generous in the narrative of the obscenity of wealth?
Gates' wealth is a result of identifying an unmet need in a consumer market; it has created untold numbers of jobs; and he, according to my public school math, has given away more than 37 percent of his total earnings for the cause and benefit of others. Wealth and profit should not be accepted as dirty words.
Second, of the eight men referenced in the Oxfam report, each one built his financial empire based on his own work, innovation, more work, discipline, more work, fiscal risk, more work and leadership. It's not only shameful to insult and criticize those who've earned success through ingenuity, dedication, passion and the dignity of work; it's also wrong.
Finally, the answer to poverty is independent sustainability, not simply redistribution of wealth and resources. The very myopic approach in this organization's report negates a lesson we should all learn from the actions of Bill and his wife, Melinda Gates.
At his current earnings rate, Gates would become the first trillionaire in 25 years — when he's 86. However, he and his wife, Melinda, have already determined that their three children — Phoebe, 14, Rory, 17, and Jennifer, 20, will not receive all of the wealth in their inheritance.
"Our kids will receive a great education and some money so they are never going to be poorly off, but they'll go out and have their own career. It's not a favor to kids to have them have huge sums of wealth," Gates has explained previously.
Do you see the principles in those statements? Giving material wealth to individuals without a measure of merit and worth is detrimental. Success results from preparation, education and work, not a passing of resources from hands that have earned it to other hands that need or desire.
All agree that safety net programs to assist the disadvantaged are needed.
Instead of badgering and shaming those of accomplishment, however, let's instead model Bill Gates' approach: work, innovate, invest in community through generosity, and leave a legacy that personal productivity and accomplishment do serve others.
Robin Smith, a former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, owns Rivers Edge Alliance.