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Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and the billionaire challenge

In winning over 38 billionaires to pledging half their wealth to charity, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates also set a better climate in the political debate over ending the Bush tax cuts on the rich.

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America’s superwealthy are being hit up hard for their money on two fronts this year – for charity and for higher taxes. At the least, these new appeals may serve as a reminder for everyone in how best to give back to society.

One front is a gentle arm-twisting campaign by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to persuade fellow billionaires to commit half of their wealth to good causes. In just a few short weeks, the two men have won over 38 of those listed on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans to make that pledge.

About half of those asked have so far said yes, often saying they see their giving as an investment in society. Their names range from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. In all, they have a combined net worth of more than $200 billion.

But money for charity isn’t the main point. As Mr. Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway investments, said: “At its core, the Giving Pledge is about asking wealthy families to have important conversations about their wealth and how it will be used.”

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