Ted Turner isn't the only billionaire moving down on the Forbes list. Eli Broad has made $6 billion building homes and selling insurance, but he's now "only" the 42nd richest person in America. Broad has given away more than $2 billion to education charities, art museums and bio-medical research. He told me that there's a difference between charity and philanthropy:
"I wouldn't call it charity," he said. "I'd call it philanthropy there's a difference. Charity, you just write checks. We try to create things that didn't exist before."
And charity is more efficient than government, he says, because when we are spending our own money, we stop spending when a project doesn't work.
"We look for results," said Broad. "If the results don't come in year two or three, we stop and look for other things that are going to be productive."
Broad's philanthropy appears to dwarf the gifts of many much richer people. It's their money, and they can spend it as they choose, but with so much need in the world, don't the rich have a moral obligation to give to others? Aren't you selfish if you spend all those billions money on yachts?
Dan Duncan, who is worth $7.5 billion, was on BusinessWeek's list of the most generous philanthropists. Still, he has only given away two percent of his net worth, which I suggest to him sounds "cheap."
Duncan answers, "If that was all that I ever wanted to give away, I would agree 100 percent, [but] if you're one of the gifted people that can actually make more money, people receiving it are better off if you keep it to get a lot more later on."
This excuse may sound self-serving, but it is actually very solid reasoning. If you are skilled at building companies, your talents may be wasted if you devote yourself to charity.
James Goodnight is worth $4.5 billion. He gives millions to some charities, but he is not on the list of most generous philanthropists. When I ask him, "Shouldn't you give more?" He answers, "I think I give enough."
Some of the richest Americans say they don't give because they can't trust that charities will use the money wisely. But Eli Broad still believes in the power of giving back, and hopes that he's setting an example for others:
"I hope that they'll want to emulate what I and others on the top of that list are doing. And I, I hope if they do it, they feel pretty good about it."
This report originally aired on December 1st, 2006.