Freebies, Failures, and Delusions



You know what really makes me mad? Having to pay taxes on the free personal trips I take on my company’s corporate jet.

Oh … wait. We don’t have a corporate jet. Still, I empathize-as I’m sure you do-with fat cat CEOs of big corporations who are happy to get free personal use of the company airplane, but are furious when they have to pay taxes on the value of the rides. Our government, you see, counts free jet rides, company-paid country club dues, and other executive perks as compensation, which is taxable.

Luckily, corporate execs have devised a new perk with the appropriate name of “gross-up.” It means that rank-and-file shareholders pay the taxes that the honchos owe on their freebies. It’s a perk for receiving perks. See, in CEO-land, you can have your cake and eat it too!

Never mind that CEOs of major corporations average some $15 million in yearly pay. With that kind of cash, you’d think they could spring for their own tickets to Aspen or Paris, or at least cover their own tax obligations.

But no, these are the pampered princes of modern commerce, so the rules of personal responsibility don’t apply. A study by a watchdog group called The Corporate Library ( finds that 20 percent of major corporate chieftains are taxing their shareholders for this gross-up perk.


Poor Al-he’s all resumé, no job. And what a resumé he has: Harvard law school graduate, Republican political prodigy, Texas state supreme court justice at an early age, chief lawyer for the President of the United States, and then, to put the cherry on the political banana split, he became U.S. attorney general, America’s top lawyer. Yet now the guy might as well carry a cardboard sign at the intersection saying, “Will work for $600 an hour.”

Alberto Gonzales can’t get a job, while junior staffers from his own department are being snagged for high-paying, influence-peddling gigs in Washington. Having been forced to resign as attorney general, the Texan who flowered in the manure of George W’s corporate-financed rise to power has been putting out feelers to the very corporate law firms that fueled his rise. Alas, no takers. As one principal of a powerhouse Washington law firm gently said of Gonzales’s futile application, “I wouldn’t say rebuffed. I would say not taken up.”

Gonzales confused personal loyalty to the Bush regime with public responsibility. Legalize torture? He’d find a way. Use the Justice Department as a political hit squad? He was okay with that. Play the dummy before Congress? Count on Al.

Unfortunately, his tail-wagging loyalty to the Bushites caused Gonzales to be seen as, let’s say, less-than-truthful, even to Republican lawmakers. Plus, he’s facing possible criminal charges for his prevarications. So the special-interest law firms that once lionized him for his fealty to their agenda are now not returning his phone calls.

Mamas don’t let your boys or girls grow up to be political hacks. Their loyalty will not be rewarded.


Message to George W: Contact Earth if your spaceship ever comes near our planet.

We’ve known for quite a while that the president is way, way out there in his own happy orbit, drifting far beyond the gravitational pull of reality. But good grief, his recent declamation on the Great and Glorious Success of America’s Excellent Adventure in Iraq took the meaning of delusional to new heights.

On the fifth anniversary of his Iraq debacle, Bush traipsed over to the safe haven of the Pentagon to tell a captive audience that his invasion has been a “remarkable display of military effectiveness” and that his war policy has placed America on the brink of a great “strategic victory.” Hmmm. Four thousand Americans dead, thousands more maimed (and deprived of adequate care), a dollar cost reaching into the trillions, a broken society in Iraq, a gross stain on America’s reputation, an energized enemy that makes our country more vulnerable to terrorists, an exhausted U.S. military, an Iraqi army that can’t secure its own country, and an Iraqi government that’s dysfunctional and perpetually dependent on American largesse.

Way to go, George.

For the past few months, Bush has been claiming that his surge policy has worked, lessening the violence in Iraq. However, the explosion of new violence in recent weeks-including brazen attacks on the locked-down bunker known as the Green Zone-reveals that his claims were a sham. In fact, the temporary calm had nothing to do with Bush. Instead, it was due to a self-imposed, unilateral cease-fire by Muqtada al-Sadr, the powerful Shiite cleric.

Now, with new eruptions from al-Sadr’s Mahdi army, Bush’s talk of “strategic victory” is exposed as delusional and deadly silliness by a failed leader.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work-and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown-visit His newest book, with Susan DeMarco, is Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow.