Giving When It Hurts
Our annual Philanthropy Special Report (Nov. 25) looked at how the downturn is prompting some wealthy Americans to give more and others to pull back. Readers responded strongly, especially to our ranking of the biggest givers. Some cited causes they felt these philanthropists had overlooked: services for the homeless, disabled, and veterans, for instance. Others wondered why more rich celebrities and athletes didn't make it onto the most-generous list. —Aili McConnon
Whatever happened to charity? On the list of biggest givers, I couldn't find mentions of funding for poor, homeless, or starving people, even though they number in the millions. There were a few references to "humanitarian causes," but most of the donations went to education, the environment, the arts, and so on. These are noble causes, but they should be a distant second to people in need.
SUN CITY, ARIZ.
It was interesting—and sad—to note that of the 50 top American philanthropists, not one included disabilities among his or her causes. Why aren't these donors more interested in helping people who can't see, hear, or walk?
It was appalling to see a glaring omission on the list: support for the tens of thousands of returning veterans, including those whose injuries will burden them for the remainder of their lives. American businesses display, yet again, their lack of priorities in failing to pay back the people who enabled them to accumulate such wealth in the first place.
These folks restore my faith in humanity. I commend them for their integrity, foresight, and courage in tackling some of the toughest problems we face. And I encourage those with lesser fortunes to follow the example. Investing in our human capital (our people) is the way to achieve true national security.
Screen name: Catherine Dorr
Bailing Out Cerberus, and Peterson's Billions
Regarding "What Have You Done to My Company?" (In Depth, Dec. 8), about the bankruptcy of Mervyn's Stores: Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm I consider largely responsible for the demise of Mervyn's, is now pandering to Congress in an effort to get taxpayer dollars—including mine—to bail out Chrysler. That is a particular aggravation to me.
Mervin Morris Founder, Mervyn's Stores
Having worked for La Quinta Inns & Suites before its purchase by the Blackstone Group (BX), I know all too well that many private equity firms buy companies to strip them and resell their assets. I was one of many who got walking papers within two days of the deal's closing.
It's ironic that in the same issue you write about [Blackstone co-founder] Pete Peterson and his great philanthropy. Where do you think he got his billions?
A Financial Sector That Won't Become a Casualty
About "A 'Guaranty' May Not Insure Much" (Personal Business, Dec. 1): Stock price declines typically reflect the perception of a company's growth potential, not an insurer's claims-paying ability.
Similarly, ratings downgrades do not necessarily indicate that a company is in danger of failing. If state regulators find an insurer is in trouble, they take corrective actions to protect policyholders. The life insurance industry has not experienced the types of troubles other financial-services industries have. The cause of AIG's (AIG) woes was at the holding-company level; the life insurance unit remains its prized possession. Despite the challenges of today's financial turmoil, the health of insurance companies is not so grim. Major life insurers as a group are likely to end 2008 with three times the capital they're required to have to absorb losses.
President & CEO
American Council of Life Insurers