Wailing, Wallowing, Whining
WHIMPERING TOM Poor ol’ Tom DeLay. He’s not really poor, but Tom is feeling poorly these days. DeLay is an enormously powerful politico, but says that he’s really a martyr, a victim of a vast liberal conspiracy out to get him because he’s a Christian visionary sent by God to set America right. As he recently blathered to a right-wing group, “This is exactly the issue that’s going on in America… attacks against the conservative movement, against me…. That whole syndicate that they have going on right now is for one purpose and one purpose only and that’s to destroy the conservative movement. I mean, they, they, this is a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in.” What a solipsistic whiner! DeLay is renowned as a vindictive, vituperative, nasty, brutish political boss. Now we learn that he’s also a pathetic crybaby. What has him crying is the fact that he’s been caught in one case after another of political corruption and rank hypocrisy. Now he’s wallowing in martyrdom, flailing at unseen enemies who, he insists, have nothing more important to do than to try to get poor ol’ Tom. The only one “getting Tom,” of course, is Tom. He laundered corrupt corporate money into Texas to rig congressional election districts to enhance his own political power, he has taken money in exchange for legislative favors, junketeered on the money of foreign agents, attempted to bribe another member of Congress, and canned the Republican chairman of the ethics committee who had the audacity to reprimand him three times in the past year. To help oust this whimpering, autocratic thug, go to www.ourfuture.org. CORPORATE CRIMINALS There’s a word for people who take money from others under false pretenses: criminal. But this word does not apply to corporate CEOs, even if they are guilty of the kind of flimflam that would send common hucksters to prison. Instead of bilking people in Ponzi schemes, some CEOs fleece investors by claiming to have achieved enormous profits in the previous year, when the company actually made much less or even suffered a loss. They cook the books to make the corporation’s performance (and theirs) look far better than it is, thus artificially jacking up the company’s stock price and duping investors into putting more money into the scam. The executives, who get rewarded for meeting profit goals, walk away with millions. Take William Wise, honcho of El Paso Corporation. In 2001, this energy giant reported a $93 million profit. Wise cashed in with a $3.4 million bonus plus $6 million in other incentive pay, on top of his $1.3 million regular salary. Two years later El Paso admitted that instead of making a $93 million profit that year, it actually had lost $447 million. This got Wise booted from his job, but what about that $10 million or so he looted from stockholders by falsely claiming to have made a profit? Not only has he avoided any prosecution, but he has not paid back a dime of his ill-gotten gain—nor has the corporation even asked for repayment. Wise is not alone in profiting, rather than being prosecuted, from this kind of high-class hucksterism. Time Warner, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Xerox, and Qwest are among the corporations that paid fat bonuses in the past couple of years to CEOs based on false claims of profits. They let the CEOs walk, they say, because they don’t want more bad publicity, or because they fear it’ll be too costly to sue the CEOs for repayment. Who says crime doesn’t pay? Crime in the suites pays nicely. REALITY CHECK The Bushites are pushing ferociously for quick passage of their scheme to privatize Social Security—backed by political front groups funded by the Wall Street interests that will make a killing if it passes. But the more people learn about it, the more they oppose it. One thing that Bush & Company hope you don’t learn is that other people have already experienced privatization. W. is presently hopping around the country promising a golden future with privatized retirement. But folks in several states here in America and in several countries have seen that future—and recoiled from it. Nebraska, West Virginia, Montana, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida have tried shifting their public employees into do-it-yourself, private retirement accounts, but the efforts failed. Once employees saw the plans, few took the bait. Those that did generally ended up with lower benefits than they would’ve gotten from the public system. Likewise, the rush to privatize pensions in Chile, England, and elsewhere has not ended happily. In Chile the government now has to pour billlions of dollars annually into the private system, for it can’t provide enough benefits to poor workers to assure even basic needs, and middle-class retirees find that hidden fees in the private accounts take as much as a third of the money they had put into them, leaving retirees with far less than they would’ve gotten under the public system. England’s 20-year run with its privatized system has produced fraudulent brokers, exorbitant fees, taxpayer bailouts, and the harsh reality that at least 75 percent of those with private accounts will not have enough in them at retirement time for “adequate pensions.” Before you buy the rhetoric, check the reality of experience. Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.