I have spent a lot of time and energy creating excuses for not donating money. My college has billions in its endowment already. Public television would be better if it competed in the marketplace. Cholera vaccines distract from the real problem of Haitian sanitation. Everyone else at the table will probably overtip the server.
But I don't have to do much thinking to say no to politicians. If I want to improve society, I'm better off giving money to a homeless shelter than funding some negative ad about how Mitt Romney is really rich, hates dogs and keeps changing his mind about everything except his insane, demonic hatred of cute puppies, which he drags behind his Cadillac like empty cans on a just married car. Man, I really want to produce a negative ad. I've also got an idea for one in which President Obama flies from the Oval Office on a Muslim prayer mat to a Bolshevik meeting in his birthplace, which, it turns out, is called Notamerica. As we pan back, we will see that it is a country that eats dogs.
Thanks to the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, people can now give unlimited money to super PACs, meaning there might be a record $8 billion spent on this election, which is enough money, if you do the math, to make me an $8 billionaire. We could probably find other great things to do with this money, like improving education or veterans' benefits, though I really think we should give serious consideration to the $8 billionaire idea.
So I was surprised when Bill Maher--a person so rational, he once advised me to date shorter women because there are more hot ones available--gave $1 million to Priorities USA Action, which is a pro-Obama super PAC and not, as the name would imply, a hip-hop clothing store in the Ginza. Though Maher had already pledged the money at the end of his stand-up special CrazyStupidPolitics, which he streamed on Yahoo!, I called him to try to talk him out of it anyway. I figured it takes a few extra days for one of those giant checks to clear.
I told Maher I was pretty sure $1 million would be better spent on charities he supports, such as PETA, NORML and tiny hot chicks. Maher disagreed. "This is the biggest cause there is. Every cause is subsumed by what happens in Washington," he said. "If you think we can solve the environment with everyone recycling, you're crazy," he added. "It's like saying World War II could have been won by everyone saving tin. The government also had to make tanks." I know liberals say the government is awesome, but I also know that liberals don't believe that so deeply that they're donating $1 million oversize checks to the IRS.
I got a very similar argument when I e-mailed Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks' CEO, to ask why he gave $2 million to Priorities USA Action. He said, "I'm certain as much good will come from the re-election of President Obama as could come from all the gifts I could possibly give to charities." I fear Katzenberg didn't get the subtext of my question, which was, Will you hire me to do script rewrites?