How To Really Piss Off Your Parents
October 3, 2019 9:44 AM   Subscribe

“There are so many myths and lies around the idea of meritocracy in this country. Even Trump’s whole, like, “I got a small loan.” I think we have this pervasive belief: If you work hard and you do the grind and you do the hustle, the American Dream is within reach for anyone. And what I’m trying to show from my stories is that so much of it is also due to systemic racism and who had access to what. Many of our members who are white have multigenerational wealth, because their parents or grandparents went to college on the GI Bill, or their ancestors had access to land ownership before any person of color was ever allowed access to land ownership.“ Meet the Rich Kids Who Want to Give Away All Their Money (Town & Country)
posted by The Whelk (27 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Related (and excellent) interview with Abigail Disney: What It’s Like to Grow Up With More Money Than You’ll Ever Spend
posted by Jaclyn at 9:58 AM on October 3, 2019 [9 favorites]

Contrasting this portion:
Sam Jacobs: It’s wild. I think we in RG think about risk on that level—something that feels like we have skin in the game.

T&C: Do you worry about passing on what you’ve inherited to, if you have kids, that generation? When I look at my two daughters, I’m like, “I want to be able to do all this stuff for them.”

SJ: That’s a really good question. If I’m doing this work in the right way, it will be clear to my kids and my partner, my family, that by moving this money into communities, it actually makes us more safe and more secure. I think of it as a trust fall into the movement.
with this:
Melissa Fetter: But kind of top-of-mind is that when young people have grown up without ever having ­wanted anything, it’s very easy, I think, to be overly optimistic and not realize how much it takes to achieve the baseline things of being able to have a comfortable home and put your kids in a good school, and give them experiences that you had as a child.

T&C: Yes.

MF: Right? And so part of me—and I think my husband will share this view—thinks, Don’t be so quick to give away what you have right now, because, yes, eventually you’re going to inherit more when we pass. But you just never know what’s going to come up in life.

T&C: I’ve got a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old. I’m looking into the barrel of a gun: How am I going to get these kids through college?

MF: Exactly.
is very telling, about who actually has faith in the notion of a society, equality, and democracy and who does not. And yet both the interviewer and Fetter are trying to paint the next generation as naive, when they are putting skin in the game to try and build a society where no one has to worry about hoarding money to put kids through college. If every wealthy family acted like these younger people did, and reinvested their funds back into society (through supporting things like higher taxes), the worries Fetter and the interviewer claim to have would no longer exist. But is that what they’re really afraid of? Or are they afraid of not being the “haves”?
posted by sallybrown at 10:03 AM on October 3, 2019 [24 favorites]

Meanwhile Town & Country serves me a pop-up ad saying “Do You Know Where Your Favorite Royals Shop?”
posted by sallybrown at 10:06 AM on October 3, 2019 [11 favorites]

These youngsters certainly bring out the love/hate relationship a lot of Americans have with the 1%, don't they? Especially the usual haters-in-the-comments-section.
posted by kozad at 10:44 AM on October 3, 2019

I know some people in RG are well meaning, but reading these conversations is actively painful and has only calcified my opinion of the group.
posted by corb at 10:52 AM on October 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

I strongly suspect I know who Sam Jacobs' grandparents are, and if I'm right, I suspect they're broadly supportive of his work on this. I am one of many people who can say I'm in a better place in life thanks to their generosity, and that my family has more ambitious philanthropic goals because we've taken their family's giving as our inspiration. I don't believe there should be billionaires, but while there are I prefer the Jacobs model to the Bezos model any day of the week.
posted by potrzebie at 11:01 AM on October 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

I know some people in RG are well meaning, but reading these conversations is actively painful and has only calcified my opinion of the group.

Corb, if you're up for it, I'd love to hear more about why (I am very sporadically involved and about to age out RG member).
posted by naoko at 11:06 AM on October 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

Sam Jacobs (cousin?/sister?) Sarah is using her share of the same trust to get involved in politics at the other end of the spectrum, running for congress, for the second time.

The Jacobs name is all over the classic signs of rich people philanthropy, Jacob's School of Engineering at UC San Diego, Jacobs theatre complex at the La Jolla Playhouse, and Jacobs music stores at San Diego Symphony.
posted by CostcoCultist at 11:15 AM on October 3, 2019

I think the average life expectancy of working class people is declining, as it’s getting longer for wealthy people. That’s a redistribution of not just of wealth but of life—of literal life force from the lower classes to the upper class. So I guess I would call this current moment a violent revolution.
Yeah. The everyday violence of the system which extracts life from the poor to give it to the rich.
posted by clawsoon at 11:52 AM on October 3, 2019 [10 favorites]

Potrzebie, I didnt see you comment on preview, but I think it's clear that Sam is grandson ofIrwin Jacobs. Per the wikipedia's article Irwin Jacobs is a signer of the giving pledge, and has given away hundreds of millions to educational and arts organizations. However MIT is not lifting many folks out of poverty or working for systematic change. And the symphony and theatre is mostly enjoyed by other wealthy white people. Still better than the Bezos alternative of giving almost nothing.
posted by CostcoCultist at 12:17 PM on October 3, 2019

billy bragg version, relevant lines:
For though they offer us concessions,
Change will not come from above!
traditional british translation, relevant lines:
No saviour from on high delivers,
No faith have we in prince or peer.
Our own right hand the chains must shiver,
Chains of hatred, greed and fear.
charles kerr translation, relevant lines:
We want no condescending saviors
To rule us from a judgment hall;
We workers ask not for their favors;
Let us consult for all.
To make the thief disgorge his booty
To free the spirit from its cell,
We must ourselves decide our duty,
We must decide, and do it well.
in summary:

yes it is nice when the thieves give back our money, and we should encourage them to do so, but the world won't be fixed until we take what is ours with our own hands instead of waiting for the thieves to gift it back to us.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:43 PM on October 3, 2019 [11 favorites]

Yeah, I guess - this still seems very performative to me as well. If rich people sincerely want to get rid of their money and give to people that have less, there are a lot of ways to make a lot of small gifts that would be more spread out, but they tend not to do that because it's not big and flashy and they don't get to feel good about doing it in the same way as they do when they're performatively purging themselves of their money and insisting that they have to give it to people who are more marginalized than them in this big splashy way. And large gifts of money destroy grassroots organizations. I've seen it time and again. It distorts the normal funding sources that can be expected and always, always, impacts the organization and their focus and how to build collective power.

If you want to do good in the world with a huge amount of money, buy debt and forgive it, don't do it in a showy way, don't say "I, Richy McGee, am doing this", don't contact the newspapers, don't have a club and announce it proudly at your club. Just do it, and don't get any credit from anyone at doing it, and live your life.
posted by corb at 12:51 PM on October 3, 2019 [19 favorites]

But if you do it secretly no one else can get inspired by your actions and do the same.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:23 PM on October 3, 2019 [10 favorites]

I am 100% in favor of people doing important, good actions and then getting loud social approval for what they did. I think people who do good actions "deserve" to be rewarded with pride and respect from others, insofar as anyone deserves anything.

If you think they are doing a bad job allocating their money (e.g. donating too much to organizations who can't deal with it) then that seems like a mostly separate criticism. But I didn't see evidence of that in this article, at least.
posted by value of information at 2:00 PM on October 3, 2019 [9 favorites]

I looked into my local (state) chapter of RG, and it's very small (looks like fewer than ten people) but, according to their blog posts, they seem to be very conscious of putting their efforts and money into situations that will get the most good--which means they're proactive about communication with community stakeholders and with leveraging their privilege and networks to maximize the impact (aka hitting up their family and friends for money). It looks like this is being done the right way.

And, for what it's worth, I am wealth/privilege-adjacent and I've never heard of this group before today. I'm sure it's different if you live in New York, but they don't seem too flashy to me. I wish they'd be more flashy and encourage (or pressure) their peers into giving.
posted by witchen at 2:14 PM on October 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

Thanks, corb. I have a lot of internal debates about the extent to which being public about this stuff is just self-aggrandizement versus if it might encourage other people with means to do better. Finding RG (incidentally, I think it was through a comment jessamyn made on this here website) has meant a lot to me because it helped me to shed some scarcity thinking and work on the "trust fall" mindset described in the article, start conversations with my family (rich families are spectacularly avoidant about talking about money) and give more and to more radical organizations. But putting "hey, other rich people, here's some ideas on being a bit less of an asshole" out there into the world is probably inherently a little obnoxious, given that the actual audience it reaches is a broader one. I appreciate your candid response.
posted by naoko at 2:24 PM on October 3, 2019 [7 favorites]

Even setting aside the debate about optics/PR, I appreciate that they specifically give it to organizations/communities to allocate themselves, and I think that it's a better approach than doing individual low-level acts; much like the most cost-effective way to allocate funds to aid people in poverty is to just give them the cash, they know what they need better than you do.
posted by NMcCoy at 3:06 PM on October 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

@failinghuman: My dad moved to London 40 years ago with only the money in his pocket and a dream. Now at the age of seventy five he has a house, a car and a comfortable pension. This just goes to show what can be achieved if you work hard and you lived in London 40 years ago.
posted by fullerine at 3:55 PM on October 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

i am not impressed by rich people who try to atone for their sins by ridding themselves of their money.

i am, though, slightly impressed by rich people who try to atone for their sins by going full-on patty hearst
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:31 PM on October 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'm all for the performative splashy giving. I think people who have a ton of money and aren't giving it away should feel like shit about it, and I think one way for that to happen is for other rich people to be widely recognized as philanthropists.

I mean I'd rather we taxed wealth at punitive rates but if I can't have that I'd rather have rich people loudly giving away millions of dollars where other rich people can see them do it, than quietly buying politicians or just sitting on their piles of money.
posted by potrzebie at 5:37 PM on October 3, 2019 [10 favorites]

I looked into starting an Australian chapter, after attending a couple of meetings when I lived in the US specifically for POC. I'm in a weird boat class and money wise - my family is def top 10% in Malaysia (especially as property owners and my dad being ex-CEO) and I grew up in that kinda lifestyle (Crazy Rich Asians isn't that far off). But it's not a particularly strong currency, and in Aussie or US terms we're more middle class. The added complication is that stable living-wage employment has been excruciatingly difficult for me to gain despite my best efforts, so I end up living on a combo of family support + unstable freelance income + Patreon, but the family support is very controlled - they've got money but they want it spent their way. I get a small allowance, just enough to cover my living expenses, and try to give away as much as I can.

That entire complicated story still puts me as class-privileged - regardless of my own personal cash flow and relatively low income, the fact that I survive on family money makes me upper class. Hell, we're about to buy my first house as a form of inheritance (and would not accept any other use for that money, even "let me live on it for like 20 years"). And there's a whole other layer with race and immigration status too - the expectation of "everyone must have an education and a home even if it means working through your chemo treatment to earn money", restrictions on access to scholarships/social security/jobs/local prices as an immigrant meaning everything's just extra expensive so you gotta account for that, how much of racism of xenophobia can you mitigate with class privilege and how much does class privilege actually make it worse ("your people shouldn't be doing better than us").

From what I understand of RG and organisations like these, they're not aiming for flashy attention-grabbing donations. It's a lot about working with local community and figuring out what kind of resources they need and being in service to those communities.
posted by divabat at 7:34 PM on October 3, 2019 [10 favorites]

I'm reminded of a Dave Barry gag (this is from a million years ago, when he was still mildly amusing):
Socially prominent people are very fond of disease, because it gives them a chance to have these really elaborate charity functions, and the newspaper headlines say 'EVENING IN PARIS BALL RAISES MONEY TO FIGHT GOUT' instead of 'RICH PEOPLE AMUSE THEMSELVES'.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:30 PM on October 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

Socially prominent people are very fond of disease

I'm trying to sit with people's comments in this thread and not argue every point that makes me feel defensive, but gout galas are extremely not the kind of thing RG does. Here's a presentation RG uses that talks about both how much to give and how to decide where to give - it pretty much boils down to giving to organizations that work for systemic social change and are led by members of the community they represent. Holly (quoted in the article and whom I know a bit) has a blog post with similar tips here. A large chunk of the money I (and a lot of the other RGers I know) have given away since joining RG has been through the North Star Fund in New York, which only makes grants for community organizing. Also, RG is all about rich people paying higher taxes, including wealth taxes.
posted by naoko at 5:52 AM on October 4, 2019 [10 favorites]

You never see these people "philanthropists" lobbying for tax reform tho....
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 5:53 AM on October 4, 2019

You never see these people "philanthropists" lobbying for tax reform tho....

Other than the last link in the comment directly above yours?
posted by sallybrown at 5:56 AM on October 4, 2019 [12 favorites]

As an aged-out former RG member, I second @naoko's comments about RG members not doing this work to be flashy, and the work not being about diseases or other common feel-good philanthropic causes. My local RG chapter in DC was quite active in local tax reform work.

As a member, my main issue with RG was all the exhausting emotional labor of checking in during calls and tripping over individual unresolved guilt. That said, I haven't been connected to the org or its work at all since before the current presidential administration, and I am glad to see this still going strong. It's easy to hate on rich people, especially the morally reprehensible ones; RG members tend to be earnest and maybe a little passive-aggressive at times, but overall, I do think RG does important and good work.

Happy to talk individually with any MeFites who want to know more about RG.
posted by wicked_sassy at 8:13 AM on October 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

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