The chancellor of the University of California San Francisco was concerned about getting masks and supplies for the university’s hospital, all his sources had dried up. So he called Mark Benioff, the billionaire founder of Salesforce who had previously donated $100 million to the hospital. Marc Benioff, then called upon the people he knew, and the NYT story details how what he did created a chain reaction of other wealthy people willing to contribute. He called someone at Alibaba in China, and as he continued in his search for masks, PPEs and the like he ended up enlisting the help of people at Fed-Ex, Walmart, Apple, other Silicon Valley moguls like Jack Dorsey of Twitter, who pledged $1 billion and even Bono. Along the way they met obstacles and solved them so that they ended up with all the masks and protective equipment needed for the hospital. In fact, they ended up with more than they needed and New York benefited and now other hospitals are benefiting too.
It’s a great story in many ways and yet it does seem it is something federal agencies and/or members of the coronavirus taskforce could have done and done on an even larger scale. But more than that, Mr. Benioff for all his largesse did not take the initiative, he responded when called, which granted is commendable. Then there are the other billionaires, whose behavior in responding to Mr. Benioff is also commendable, but still who did not act on their own. And while the story makes us feel good, I am nevertheless left thinking of all the billionaires who not only did not personally initiate a response to this crisis, but who still have to participate—despite the fact that many of them have increased their wealth as a result of the pandemic.