Billionaire philanthropy is working as it’s intended to

Nearly half of voters surveyed in a new poll approve of how rich people donate their money. Plus: LinkedIn embraces the creative class and big news from the White House.

I spent the morning poring over a new poll conducted by Vox and Data for Progress on what Americans really think about billionaires during the pandemic. The complete findings are worth your time, but here are a few top-line data points to consider: 72 percent of voters polled across racial, partisan, socioeconomic and other demographic groups say it was unfair that billionaires got wealthier during the pandemic. Only 23 percent of those polled said they consider billionaires to be good role models for the country but 82 percent say they agree that people should be allowed to become billionaires. Personally, I was stunned to discover that 45 percent of Black Americans said they had much more positive feelings about billionaires than did members of racial subgroups — mostly because of the 614 US billionaires from 2020, only seven were Black. (I reached out to Data for Progress for further insight and analysis and will fill you in if they get back to me.)

Another interesting data point: Nearly half of voters say they agree when asked whether billionaires do a good job of giving away their money through philanthropy. 47 percent say they agree when asked whether billionaires do a good job at giving away their money through philanthropy while just 28 percent said billionaires are a threat to democracy. But a little over half think raising taxes is a better fix for the country’s problems during the pandemic as opposed to seeking more charity from the wealthy and six in ten say they feel billionaires had too much political influence in the 2020 election.

The immediate takeaway is billionaire philanthropy is working as it’s intended to. The perception is that billionaires are extraordinarily benevolent in their giving, but the reality is that the highest earners donated record lows in 2020. And new research suggests that “elite philanthropy” — generosity from those who became rich through entrepreneurship, either by starting a new business or expanding an inherited one — is self-serving. The truth though is this type of giving is flagrantly transactional. The research suggests where billionaires donate their money is shaped by where they can have the most local, national and international influence not how many vulnerable lives their charity can meaningfully improve. But as long as public opinion is on the side of the billionaire philanthropists, then they have us right where they want us: Distracted by the illusion of their grand altruism.


OK, I see you LinkedIn 👀

As Morning Brew’s Toby Howell tweeted this afternoon: “It has been a truly monumental day for the creator economy.” Celeb video-sharing app Cameo just earned itself a $1-billion valuation. Substack, the company that provides the tech for The Supercreator, just raised $65 million to invest in its writer community. Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA Top Shot, announced a $305-million star-studded investment from athletes and celebrities including Stefon Diggs, Ashton Kutcher, Shawn Mendes and Will Smith. Spotify acquired Clubhouse rival Locker Room and Unsplash, which supplies a lot of the imagery you see in the daily newsletter, was acquired by photo powerhouse Getty Images.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn generated some buzz of its own with its announcement of a slew of new creator-friendly features. The app introduced “creator mode,” which enables users to show off their areas of expertise and be discovered by users. It also launched a permanent version of its stories product that’s designed to provide a “quick peek at your personality.” LinkedIn’s chief product officer Tomer Cohen said the feature is a response to the nearly 80 percent of hiring managers who view video as an important tool for evaluating candidates. Similar to Instagram, profiles with video cover stories will surface an orange ring around their photo and the video will auto-play within the frame. (Support for captioning is coming soon too, according to the company.) Additionally, LinkedIn will enable all of its users to add pronouns to the top of their profiles in an effort to demonstrate inclusion and serve recruiters and job seekers who say that knowing a candidate’s preferred pronouns is an important part of the hiring process. And in another nod to existing social apps, users can change the “connect” button on top of their page to a “follow” button to boost engagement and add hashtags to their profiles for topics specific to their interests.

The new features’ goal is to position LinkedIn as a destination for training and education, professional development, networking and news — not just job-hunting and hiring. And I’m actually impressed with how the app is embracing the creative class as a legitimate community worthy of a suite of tools to attract clients and customers. Now we’ll have to see if these updates will translate into growth for the company and value for its users.


Big news from the White House

President Joe Biden announced plans to nominate 11 judges to the federal courts, many of whom would break monumental barriers. The nominees include three Black women and, if confirmed, could result in the first Muslim federal judge in US history, the first AAPI woman to serve on the D.C. District Court and the first woman of color as a federal judge in Maryland.

Much of the attention is focused on D.C. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who would replace former D.C. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland, the current US attorney general. During the 2020 campaign, President Biden said he would nominate the country’s first Black female justice and the D.C. Circuit Court is considered a stepping stone to the Supreme Court; Jackson was a former clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest justice on the highest court. “This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” President Biden said in a statement. “Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong.”

History aside, these nominations could have sweeping political implications too. Donald T**** enjoys broad popular support among Republicans due to how he prioritized the judiciary: During his single term in office, T**** nominated 274 individuals to federal judgeships and made 245 judicial appointments. In four years, he appointed 54 federal appellate judges, one shy of the 55 President Obama appointed in twice as much time. This effort flipped several appeals courts from a majority of Democratic appointees to a majority of Republican. And Mitch McConnell has made reshaping the federal judiciary in his image a priority since Democrats blocked Ronald Reagan’s controversial nomination of Robert Bork in 1987. Biden’s presidency could go a long way to rebalance the highest courts towards the interests of the country’s majority.


Read All About It

Allie Volpe at GQ on half-vaccinated couples:

Over the past year, various domestic inequities have come to the fore. From mothers shouldering a large share of parenting to one partner taking on the bulk of household chores, our year of intimate cohabitation created ample opportunity for rifts and resentments to form. The staggered approach to vaccination gave rise to another chasm in relationships: The half-vaccinated couple. Whether based on status as an essential employee, designation in an earlier priority group, or pure luck, when one partner gets the jab, after the initial elation subsides, the other can feel left behind.

Venus Williams as told to Liam Freeman at Vogue on gender equality:

When women are doing well, the family does well and so does the economy—we all win. Studies prove that the gender pay gap hits women of color hardest. As an African-American woman, to know how hard we have to fight to show we’re human beings with a heart that beats just like everybody else; to know what it’s like to face biases based on gender and race is why I’m so passionate about campaigning for equality across the board.

Katie Heaney at The Cut on post-pandemic boundary setting:

If there’s any silver lining to our pandemic year — and that’s a big if — psychologists say it was all the time it gave us for self-reflection. “Times of stress can be times of great learning,” says Jeremy Nobel, founder of the Foundation for Art and Healing and faculty member at Harvard Medical School. Crisis compels us to reevaluate the way we organize our lives, he says, including our routines, our rituals, and, yes, our boundaries. Most of us have, by now, ideas about how we might return to something better than “normal” life, and the tricky part now is applying those principles to real, unpredictable life. Nobel compares the challenge to Goldilocks’s: setting too few boundaries is a problem, but so is setting too many; the latter, he explains, is a common stress-management tactic — a way to exert control over a situation that is largely outside it.

Nick Troiano at The Atlantic on why party primaries must go:

This is the “primary problem” in the U.S. political system today: A small minority of Americans decide the significant majority of our elections in partisan primaries that disenfranchise voters, distort representation, and fuel extremism––on both the left and, most acutely (at present), the right. The primary problem helps explain the stunning incongruity between Congress’s average 20 percent approval rating and its more than 90 percent reelection rate: There is a disconnect between what it takes to govern and what it takes to get reelected.

Maura Brannigan at Fashionista on creator merch:

Do creators have a lot to gain, monetarily speaking, from dropping crewnecks emblazoned with their side profile the moment they start growing an audience? Yes, in that some funds are better than no funds at all. Many fledgling creators tend to work with third-party companies under the agreement of a 50-50 revenue share wherein the producer in question does the majority of the work, including printing, packaging and shipping, while the creator reaps half of the profits. It's a good gig for creators who consider merch a short-term investment in a long and prosperous online future. After all, everyone joins TikTok with zero followers. You have to start somewhere.

Russell Brandom at The Verge on Amazon, the emerging face of American inequality:

This month, a new book lays out the same story at a grander scale. Written by ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis, Fulfillment is less about Amazon’s business than the social dislocation left in its wake, pairing Amazon’s rise to power with the struggles of a cardboard packer in Dayton or a small office supply store in El Paso. Many of the figures in the book aren’t even officially Amazon employees, instead working for contractors or selling on the company’s marketplace. Still, the overall message is clear: Amazon is growing rich and powerful off of these people’s work, while they scramble just to stay alive.


Michael’s Pick

Divine Elements digital print by Chandler Elise ($50): “If you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hands,” says the artist of this gorgeous print that encourages us to tap into our innate creativity.