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I wish I didn't know the name Elon Musk. But when someone buys so much cultural influence, it's tough to avoid hearing about how he shoots himself into space. His latest endeavor, buying Twitter for $44 billion, made me think about what we could do if he decided to throw as much pocket change toward children living in poverty. Considering that his recent Twitter purchase is roughly 17-percent of his wealth, he could make a matching donation to charity without missing any trips to the moon.
Six million children live in poverty in the U.S., so let's say that Musk donated the amount he spent on Twitter to these children. Each of them would get $7,333. We could invest it in state post-secondary education funds. Research shows when we give children even a modest fund for college, they develop the expectation that they may access higher education. Wouldn't that be an excellent investment for a billionaire who wants a new generation of educated and innovative workers?
But perhaps Musk would favor STEM summer camps for children in poverty. These camps could provide training to work in Musk's future endeavors in space, automobiles, and social media. This way, he could make sure that more minds are ready for the industries he leads—a win-win for kids and billionaires. The more expensive STEM camps start at about $500 per week. If Musk paid for a week of STEM camp for each child in poverty, he would still have $10 billion left over to help feed or house people (or launch several more Teslas into space).A Teacher's Plan for Elon Musk's $44 Billion Click To Tweet
I am definitely not arguing that billionaires should dictate what happens in higher education or summer camps, even if they donate enormous sums. Ideally, in our lifetime, billionaires will be taxed into being mere multi-millionaires, thus returning fortune to the public realm. But in the meantime, billionaires like Musk could peek at the philanthropy of other billionaires to make a greater impact. One role model might be Mackenzie Scott, who supports organizations that know the communities they work in well. Scott donated over $130 million to Communities in Schools. The organization seeks to help people graduate from high school and achieve in life. This is a mission the ultra-wealthy should share if they want people who will fuel the futures of their industries.
The seeds of future great innovations may shrivel in the weeds that are the stressors of childhood poverty. Meanwhile, unfortunately, billionaires are free to ignore their responsibilities to a democratic society in favor of making the galaxy their playground. So I propose we start appealing to their self-interest to help children, rather than simply suggesting that giving is good for the world. If the elite wealthy could see that investing in all children is investing in the future of their businesses, maybe they would donate more of their money. Perhaps that could sustain some of those six million children until we get humane economic policy to feed, house, and nourish each generation. It's at least less absurd of a concept than roadsters in space.
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