Anand Giridharadas @AnandWrites @TIME editor at large. Author of @WinnersTakeAll, THE TRUE AMERICAN, & INDIA CALLING. MSNBC political analyst. @PriyaParker's man. Father. Rhymes with "almond." Mar. 12, 2019 3 min read

This story of how rich people schemed and broke the law to get kids into college is a perfect capsule of America now. 

Meritocracy isn't really a thing to begin with, because rich parents can so easily transmit to children the ingredients it takes to succeed in "meritocracy."

Nonetheless, a bunch of rich parents conclude that their kids can't even succeed in rigged meritocracy.

And so what do they do? Arrange to further rig things by tampering with the most seemingly objective indicators of talent -- exams and athletic ability.

Now it gets better. To achieve this, they need to bribe people -- exam administrators, coaches, and others.

And you can't just Venmo them. That's where charitable foundations come in.

So these fat cats make donations to a charitable foundation.

Which will somehow redirect the money toward the bribes.

So think about what that means.

When rich people make these charitable donations, they get to claim a tax deduction, first of all.

And the nonprofit receiving the bribe-bound money is tax-exempt.

So you and I and your uncle Felix are all paying higher taxes to make up for the shortfall from these exemptions.

So they're trying to cut in line, getting kids spots they don't deserve at university, spots that could have otherwise gone to talented poor people without money or connections. And they are taking those spots by pretending to be charitable, in a way that costs all of us money.

Some of that charity-turned-bribes winds its way to private universities that are also tax-exempt.

Think about it. In recent years, roughly half of graduates at some of these schools went into consulting or finance. Stanford has educated much of Silicon Valley.

But tax exempt.

To recap, rich people take slots that could've gone to poor kids. They do so by donating to fake charity, thus costing taxpayers money. Some of the bribes go to universities that don't have to pay taxes on that income because they claim, dubiously, to serve the public above all.

Many of the parents were probably very generous. Lori Loughlin apparently took part in this silent auction and gala dinner to honor "courageous canines," for example.

But of course generosity isn't a substitute for justice.

Felicity Huffman is also no slouch when it comes to generosity. Look at this plethora of organizations she reportedly helps, according to @looktothestars.

But here's the trouble with our super-rich rigging the world by daylight and giving back by moonlight. You often end up working against yourself.

One of Huffman's listed charities is A Day Made Better. It rewards inspirational teachers.

But what's the point of rewarding teachers for giving students a chance if they don't actually have a chance because you're bribing a college to give your kid a slot instead of them?

She also reportedly gives to Free Arts, a wonderful program that "empowers underserved youth through art and mentoring programs to develop their creativity, confidence, and skills to succeed."

But are they being equipped to succeed against systems rigged for the donors' kids?

So next time you hear a rich person on a panel somewhere explaining that it's better for them to give their money away than to have the government spend it, take it with a grain of salt.

Ask why it is that so many of them prefer charity to taxes.

They prefer making the world better privately because giving is so often the wingman of taking. Generosity is so often the wingman of injustice. “Changing the world” is so often the wingman of rigging the system.

And as we head into a Democratic primary, remember this: Many of these people were probably Democrats.

Good Democrats. Passionate about climate. Maybe drive Priuses. Save the animals. Save Africa. Save earth.

But they are gilded liberals who use giving's aura to guard and keep.

They were the kind of liberals who want to change the world as long as that doesn't mean their world having to change.

Much of what appears to be reform in our time is in fact the defense of stasis.

These are in fact conservatives who fly stealth under the shield of liberalism.

You can follow @AnandWrites.


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