Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter this morning and it contains a huge slam at Trump and his policies. Here are some excerpts, followed by my comments:
"For decades the United States has been a leader in the fight against disease and poverty abroad. These efforts save lives. They also create U.S. jobs. And they make Americans more secure by making poor countries more stable and stopping disease outbreaks before they become pandemics. The world is not a safer place when more people are sick or hungry [but] President Trump proposed severe cuts to foreign aid."
"The America First worldview concerns me. It's not that the United States shouldn't look out for its people. The question is how best to do that. My view is that engaging with the world has proven over time to benefit everyone, including Americans, more than withdrawing does. Even if we measured everything the government did only by how much it helped American citizens, global engagement would still be a smart investment."
"The duties of the president of the United States is to role model American values in the world. I wish our president would treat people, and especially women, with more respect when he speaks and tweets. Equality is an important national principle. The sanctity of each individual, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, is part of our country's spirit. The president has a responsibility to set a good example and empower all Americans through his statements and his policies."
I've interviewed Gates (once) and Trump (twice) and have followed both of their careers quite closely. Since Gates tends to be soft-spoken and avuncular, it's quite clear to me that the criticisms he's levied above, despite their measured language, are full-on broadsides to the Trump agenda.
Beyond that Gates and Trump form an interesting contrast. Both are billionaires, both are baby boomers, and both have founded charitable organizations, but there the similarity ends.
Gates is a self-made billionaire with a distinctively upper middle class background; he became rich through innovation. Trump, by contrast, inherited millions and became rich by carrying on his father's business.
The Gates Foundation spends approximately $4.5 billion a year and by all accounts has had a huge positive impact on the world. By contrast, the Trump Foundation is in the process of shutting itself down after having been fined for making campaign contributions and admitting to self-dealing practices that benefit the Trump family and its businesses.
The Gates Foundation focuses on providing vaccines to the developing world and attempting to improve the quality of education in the U.S. Trump, by contrast, is an anti-vaxxer and his administration is actively seeking to reduce government funding for public education.
Gates has shown a particular interest and sympathy for Africa, where the Gates Foundation has literally saved millions of lives, mostly of children who otherwise would have died of preventable diseases. Trump, by contrast, recently characterized African countries as "sh*tholes" and is actively promoting policies specifically designed to keep black immigrants from legally entering the countries.
Finally, Gates is an avid reader and his hobby is collecting rare books, most notably the Codex Leicester, a manuscript penned by Leonardo da Vinci. According to numerous sources, Trump doesn't read books, much less collect them.
Considering the above, it's amazing that Gates has been so muted in his criticism of Trump and Trumpism. Until now, that is.
In any case, Gates and Trump represent two very different world views: one that's deeply encouraging to entrepreneurism and one that's deeply hostile.
Gates wants to expand knowledge and innovation wealth into the 21st century, while Trump promises to restore industries that prospered in the 20th century.
Gates's education initiatives are designed to foster innovation through diversity; Trump's education initiatives are designed to reestablish the past through white supremacy.
American enterpreneurism has long been on the wane and the Trump's tax policies, which push wealth higher up into the .1%, are only going to make the situation worse.
Given the split between high tech culture and Trump, I suspect it's only a matter of time before a bigger, better billionaire takes him down in an election.
I can't help but wonder how American entrepreneurism might be prospering were a true self-made billionaire, like Bill Gates, were sitting in the oval office.