Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Olin vs. Soros: A comparison

There was a bit of cheery news for liberals this weekend. The John M. Olin Foundation is closing its doors later this summer.

Why is this good news? Because it has been one of the biggest benefactors for right-wing causes for the past 30 years. Here is how the NYTimes article summarizes the Olin Foundation’s impact on the conservative movement:

Without it, the Federalist Society might not exist, nor its network of 35,000 conservative lawyers. Economic analysis might hold less sway in American courts. The premier idea factories of the right, from the Hoover Institution to the Heritage Foundation, would have lost millions of dollars in core support. And some classics of the conservative canon would have lost their financier, including Allan Bloom's lament of academic decline and Charles Murray's attacks on welfare.

John Olin was a manufacturing magnate who made his fortune selling ammunition to the military during World War II. For that I guess we can laud him. However, before his death he decided to funnel the remainder of his fortune into a foundation to support right-wing causes. The article says he was motivated to do this after armed students took over a building at his alma mater, Cornell University, in 1969.
So thanks to some radical hippies whose idiotic efforts resulted in zero change to the nation’s capitalistic structure, this right-wing millionaire dumped $145 million into his new foundation - which subsequently grew to $380 million thanks in large part to the Clinton Boom years - and was used to fuel the rise of numerous right-wing think tanks and foundations such as The Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, The Manhattan Institute, The Federalist Society, The CATO Institute, The Hoover Institution, etc., etc.

What I find most ironic is that while the right-wing has had this extremely benevolent benefactor for the past 30 years dumping truckloads of money into their pet causes - along with the Sarah Scaife Foundation in Pittsburgh, the Smith Richardson Foundation in Westport, Conn., the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, and Joseph Coors in Colorado, and so forth - they still act like whiny little children whenever someone like George Soros comes along and donates a measly $15 million toward liberal causes.

Here is what Soros did
that excited so much venom and hatred from the far right:

(He committed) $3 million over three years to an anti-Bush policy shop headed by ex-Clintonite John Podesta. He followed up with a $10 million grant to launch America Coming Together, a get-out-the-vote effort to help the Democratic presidential campaign. Next he promised $2.5 million to MoveOn.org, (a liberal advocacy group.)

So that is $15.5 million versus $145 million (or $380 million thanks to the Clinton Boom years). And yet if you listen to the rightwingers you might think Soros was dominating the ideological philanthropy efforts to the point that the scale has been sharply tilted to the left. Such is hardly the case.

To be fair, Soros is actually a much more prolific giver than Olin ever was. The difference is that while Olin targeted all of his money towards the narrow focus of promoting right-wing intellectual efforts, Soros has generously opened his wallet to support humanitarian causes as diverse as promoting democracy efforts in Russia to funding affordable housing projects in South Africa.
Just take a look at some of the things that Soros has spent his money on these past years:

$115 million after the fall of the Soviet Union to support Russian science. About $50 million went for stipends to scientists who had lost government support; the aim was to reduce the temptation to use their talents for destructive purposes.

$250 million in 2001 to found and endow Central European University; its main campus is in Budapest, Hungary.

$100 million to free education in the former Soviet Union from Marxist-Leninist dogma by buying new textbooks, training teachers and operating libraries.

$12 million to promote high school debate programs in the USA (1998-present).

$30 million to divide large public high schools in New York City into smaller, more manageable schools.

$13 million (with an additional $37 million commitment) to finance affordable housing and building projects for poor South Africans, most of whom previously lived in shantytowns.

$110 million over the past decade to Step by Step, an early childhood development program in 29 countries.

$200 million to promote peace, tolerance, reconciliation and democracy in southeastern Europe and to strengthen the rule of law and independent news media in that region.

$50 million in 1992 for humanitarian aid to the besieged Bosnian city of Sarajevo, including construction of a municipal water-filtration system and the restoration of electric power to the city's hospitals.

$50 million to the Emma Lazarus Fund to combat unfair treatment of, and discrimination against, legal immigrants in the USA (1996-2000).

$125 million to the After School Corporation for after-school programs (1997-present).

You might think for all this conservatives would be out building monuments to this guy and naming airports after him. Instead, he is vilified by the right because he had the audacity to go up against their Dear Leader, the estimable George W.
Such is the steel-trap closed mind mentality of what passes for conservatism these days.

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