How Do You Spend $1.5 Billion a Year?

All this talk about spending $1.5 billion extra a year has got me thinking. How do you spend that kind of money? With Warren Buffett's gi-normous gift, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will have to find a way. Now, they're in familiar territory because their charity does spend about $1.3 billion a year. The difference is, now they'll have to spend more than twice that amount. That's not a extra couple of million to spread around. They'll have to spend more than $2.8 billion a year. Buffett said he doesn't want his money sitting around. That kind of money though is almost twice the size of the entire budget of the Drug Enforcement Administration, it's half the budget of the entire FBI, and they've got thousands and thousands of people toiling away in these giant gray stone buildings here trying to spend it.

On the foundation's Web site, you can see where a lot of their money goes. Much of it is really big stuff... world health, solving poverty in the poorest nations, fighting the spread of AIDS in Africa. Just a few weeks ago, they donated almost $30 million on schools in this country and another $28 million to help poor countries reduce the deaths from cervical cancer. But there's also some little stuff. They gave the United Way of King County in Seattle 2,000 bucks. They gave the West Florida Regional Library $33,000 to upgrade their public computers this year. They also gave $950 to some organization in Seattle called the "Hate Free Zone."

A donation of $950 isn't going to help them spend $2.8 billion. So I decided to call the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and ask how they're going to do it. Problem is, no one's answering the media line. It keeps going to voicemail. Must be a busy day. But there is a note here. "If you have an urgent deadline and require immediate assistance, you can page us... Our pager system is for urgent, imminent-deadline requests only." Hmm. Is this an urgent, imminent-deadline request? I think so.

OK, a friendly woman working for the paging answering service says someone will call as soon as possible to let us know. I'll keep you posted on the answer to this very pressing question as soon as I get one.

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