Category Archives: The Class War

Bush “Commutes” Libby’s Sentence to Zero (2 Updates)

As predicted by almost everyone, including me, Scooter will not spend a single day in jail.

President Bush commuted the sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby yesterday, sparing Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff 2 1/2 years in prison after a federal appeals court had refused to let Libby remain free while he appeals his conviction for lying to federal investigators.

Bush, who for months had sidestepped calls from conservatives to come to Libby’s aid, broke his silence early yesterday evening, touching off an immediate uproar from Democrats who accused the White House of circumventing the rule of law to protect one of its own.

The president announced his decision in a written statement that laid out the factors he had weighed. Bush said he decided to “respect” the jury’s verdict that Libby was guilty of four felonies for lying about his role in the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity. But the president said Libby’s “exceptional public service” and prior lack of a criminal record led him to conclude that the 30-month sentence handed down by a judge last month was “excessive.”

“Excessive”. For protecting the people who blew an undercover agent’s status and career by lying and destroying evidence, 2 1/2 yrs – out in a year or so on parole – was “excessive”. And this from the man who laughed about signing death sentences in Texas – 152 of them – the leader of a so-called “law-and-order” party.

Zero jail time and two years’ probation for the man who covered up for traitors. I guess we know now that to Bush and the rest of the GOP, “law and order” is just the title of a tv show.

Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University who is an expert on federal criminal sentencing policies, said it is “hypocritical and appalling from a president whose Justice Department is always fighting” attempts by judges and lawmakers to lower the punishment called for under federal sentencing guidelines. Berman said Bush’s message amounted to “My friend Scooter shouldn’t have to serve 30 months in prison because I don’t want him to.”

That about sums it up.

Continue reading

Genarlow Wilson 4: Bond Hearing Canceled

Apparently Georgia wants to be Texas when it grows up. The sequence of events in the Genarlow Wilson travesty gets more nonsensical by the day.

  1. A Douglas County Superior Court judge throws out Wilson’s sentence and orders him released.
  2. The State AG, falsely claiming that he has no choice, holds up the release and files an appeal.
  3. In a transparent bid to lower the level of anger that is aimed at him for this action, he asks for the hearing process to be expedited so it can be held at the earliest possible date. That request is denied.
  4. A different Douglas County Superior Court judge then cancels the bond hearing altogether because, he says, Georgia law doesn’t allow child molesters out on bail.

Dr. Francys Johnson, the NAACP’s Southeast Regional Director, put it in a nutshell: “The NAACP is convinced that justice has taken a summer vacation in Georgia.”

Continue reading

Trickle-Down Economics: The 4th Conservative Failure

By the time David Stockman, Reagan’s budget czar, had become disillusioned with supply-side, “trickle-down” economics, the damage had already been done.

The magnitude of the fiscal wreckage and the severity of the economic dangers that resulted are too great to permit such an easy verdict. In the larger scheme of democratic fact and economic reality there lies a harsher judgment. In fact, it was the basic assumptions and fiscal architecture of the Reagan Revolution itself which first introduced the folly that now envelops our economic governance.

The Reagan Revolution was radical, imprudent, and arrogant. It defied the settled consensus of professional politicians and economists on its two central assumptions. It mistakenly presumed that a handful of ideologue were right and all the politicians were wrong about what the American people wanted from government.

File that under “No shit, Sherlock”. I could have told them that. In fact, I did. Anybody could have told them that who wasn’t blinded by the prospect of a trough of money they didn’t have to share with, say, their employees.

Trickle-down was a disaster for everyone in the country except the top 10% of “earners”, seeing as how they made damn sure “trickle” was the operative word. Although the 80’s were a productive and highly profitable time for Wall Street, the rest of us were struggling just to get by. The “trickle” was just that: a mean, tiny drip of the money-pot like a leak in your roof so small you might not notice it for years. The pool stayed at the top, so deep you could have set up a diving board.

The economy – for us ordinary folk, anyway – went so far into the tank after Reagan that Bush I lost his re-election bid due to so many people being out of work and him being so happy about it. They didn’t take kindly to his transparent joy in their financial misery. They threw him out and brought in a Democrat to clean up the mess because Poppy was so “out of touch” (the kindest possible interpretation they could have put on the way he protected the investor class at the expense of the rest of the country).

You’d think conservatives would have learned from all that but apparently not. Continue reading

Bush and Latin America 3: Promises, Promises

Junior’s trip to Latin America has taken a much different path than expected, at least by me. For one thing, the armored bubble in which he usually travels protected from any and all contact with the hoi-polloi has been replaced by personal appearances in “shanty neighborhoods” where he came face-to-face with actual poor people for what appears from his reaction to be the first time in his life.

For President Bush, the six-day voyage through Latin America that ended Wednesday proved to be unlike any of his previous foreign trips. It was one in which he tried ever so haltingly to escape the palaces and diplomatic salons long enough to see how people live and to emphasize that it matters to him.

The inspiration for the unusual itinerary was more about the vagaries of geopolitics than newfound curiosity, but the trip exposed the president to sights and sounds that he rarely encounters overseas. The rhetoric of security and terrorism that usually flavors his visits was replaced with discussion of “the human condition” and how to lift millions of neighbors out of deep, enduring poverty.

“We’re allies in the cause of social justice,” he told the Guatemalans. “The plight of the poor” has drawn U.S. concern, he explained in Uruguay. “We’re all members of God’s family,” he said in Brazil. “And when one of us hurts, we also hurt.”

Uh-huh. Pity he’s never been able to summon up the same empathy for the poor in his own country. But then, we don’t have a massive left-wing movement led by a Hugo Chavez.

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Bill Moyers’ Speech at the NCMR: The Media’s Plantation Mentality

Moyers, in a stunning speech at the National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis, rips our corporate media a new asshole in the process of explaining exactly how they’ve helped to to destroy American democracy. It’s a long speech – about an hour – but worth your time as CSI: Miami never has been and never will be, and since there isn’t much chance you’ll ever see it on tv, we present it here. Watch it now before they take it down.

“What we see from the couch is overwhelmingly a view from the top.”

(Via Blue Mass Group)

BTW, Moyers took the occasion to announce that he is a) working on a documentary about the media in the months leading up to the invasion called Buying the War, and b) he’s coming back with a new series of Bill Moyers’ Journal as of April. Good news indeed.

Part 1

Part 2

Question: How much responsibility do we bear for the sorry state of affairs Moyers describes?

The Bush Tax Cuts 2: Class Warfare

If you go by the amount of energy Bush has expended over the last 6 years doing the kind of presidential grunt-work it takes to launch an initiative and see it through to the end, then there’s only one issue he’s ever given a damn about because there’s only one issue he ever put himself out to pass: tax cuts. Our supremely disengaged Supreme Commander was fully engaged on that initiative for the one and only time in his career, including as Gov of Texas. He made phone calls, twisted arms, lobbied Congressional leaders, the whole bit – everything he never did before and hasn’t done since, not even over Iraq. This president prefers to give orders as if he were a monarch, handing down edicts and “signing statements” and “presidential findings” as if they were the same thing as law.

Of course, up to now he’s had a rubber-stamp Congress that pretty much did what it was told by Grand Vizier Rove and Vice-Monarch Cheney, but there were areas of disagreement – immigration reform, for instance – which were supposed to be “close to his heart” and with which the Republican Congress disagreed, yet he never lifted so much as a presidential pinky to change their minds (thus, no immigration reform).

So I think it’s fair to judge his success – or lack of it – by the single issue over a term-and-a-half in which he actually acted like a president rather than a king. How did he do? Did the tax cuts he fought so hard for really jump-start the economy and help the middle class as he promised they would?

Well, uh, no. To both. Continue reading

Wal-mart Xmas Parking Lot Survey 2: Yup

Well, it would seem that once again my thumbnail survey of local Wal-mart parking lots the week before Christmas has proved to be accurate. Continue reading

A Call From America

A couple of weeks ago, EJ Montini, columnist for the Arizona Republic got an anonymous phone call from a 43-year-old woman on the edge of tears. Both she and her husband had lost their jobs and in two months were going to lose their house.

“I’m calling in, and I’m promising myself not to cry,” says the woman on the phone. Even as she says this, however, her voice quivers. She often hesitates as she speaks, seemingly to compose herself.”You always write about things that are going on and the current events,” she continues. “I’m wondering, has anybody noticed in America all of us that are unemployed? I’m 43 years old, and I’ve been working since I was 16. My husband is 45. We’ve been married 22 years, and we’ve always worked. A year ago I lost my job. Six months ago his job was outsourced to India. We have three children, one that’s 18. We were going to try to help them get through college but, um . . . anyway, I was just wondering. There are so many of us and people don’t seem to notice what’s going on.

“I read the paper, and I don’t see a lot of people writing about it. And I know there’s a lot of them out there, because I talk to my friends every day that I used to work with, and there are no jobs.

“And, it just seems that somebody ought to write that a lot of jobs have gone overseas, and there’s no jobs in this country for people that have worked all their lives.

“And . . . I mean, yesterday I was on the phone looking around for shelters because we’ve got another two months before we’re going to get thrown out of our house, and we were part of that middle-class section there. This wasn’t . . . I mean I never thought this was supposed to happen to us. And, I know there’s a lot of people out there like us.

“So, anyway, if you need . . . if somebody would write and make the country aware that . . . I mean I feel invisible.”

I don’t know this woman any more than Montini does, but I know her voice and I know her pain like the back of my hand. I’ve known it for twenty years. That should make it easy to feel empathy with her, but in fact it doesn’t. It makes it harder.

I don’t mean to be cruel or unsympathetic. The noose is tightening around her family, the edge of the abyss is in sight, and I know exactly how that feels. But I am sitting on the other side of the fence, too. She feels invisible now but I and others like me have been invisible to her most of her adult life. She didn’t hear us when we chattered with cold after being thrown out of shelters in the 80’s. She didn’t see us huddling on the streets when automation made us redundant and globalization made us unnecessary. She didn’t call a newspaper columnist because our workplaces got relocated to Indonesia or when the corporations that employed us stole our pensions and left us with nothing. She probably voted for the people who allowed and even encouraged those actions because “it’s good for business” and she was employed so they didn’t affect her, anyway.

Am I being unfair? No, because she says this: “I’m wondering, has anybody noticed in America all of us that are unemployed?” And this: “I read the paper, and I don’t see a lot of people writing about it.” And this: “And . . . I mean, yesterday I was on the phone looking around for shelters because we’ve got another two months before we’re going to get thrown out of our house, and we were part of that middle-class section there. This wasn’t . . . I mean I never thought this was supposed to happen to us.” (emphasis added)

And part of me feels her frustration and fear and another part of me wants to say, “Where the hell have you been, lady? People have been writing about the effects of automation since the 50’s and globalization since the mid-80’s. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs, their homes, their futures just around the time you were getting married. How did you miss that? How could you ignore it?”

She could ignore it because it was just me and others like me. She could ignore it because it wasn’t happening to her and her group but to the unimportant, invisible underclass, and it was supposed to happen to us. Not to her, No, no, never to her. She looked to herself and those around her and she supported policies that were good for her and her friends, ignoring the effects of those policies on those of us outside her group. If we paid the price for her comfort, that was alright even if that price included our lives. We were invisible to her. She couldn’t see us, couldn’t hear us, couldn’t feel the destruction of our hopes or the despair of watching our lives shrink to little more than abject survival. It wasn’t important until it happened to her.

If it sounds like I’m angry, I’m not. I passed anger a good long time ago. There’s nothing unusual about this woman. There are millions just like her.

I once worked as an Organizer for a citizen’s group called Mass Fair Share (it no longer exists) which sent me to the city of Pittsfield in the Berkshires of western Mass. GE had shut down its Pittsfield plant after years of dumping PCB’s in the Housatonic River and burying them a few feet under the soil on their factory site and in empty lots on the west side of town where that site was. As a result, the water on the West Side was undrinkable and, closest to the dumping spots, unusable even for bathing or washing dishes because the contamination level was so high. But the contamination had not yet spread to the East Side of town where the water was still drinkable and people could use their wells. The poison was making its way through the aquifer, though, and our scientists figured that in about a year the East Side would be in the same shape (which in fact is about how long it took).

GE was refusing to contribute significantly to the clean-up. All they were willing to do was lay a few tons of loam over top of the dump-sites, after which they insisted those sites were safe. They even paid to build a playground on one of them to prove how safe it was. MFS was there to drum up community support for a demand that GE be held accountable for what it had done. This was in the early 80’s when the right-wing culture of Social Darwinism was just taking hold and hadn’t yet established itself as it did later.

The effect of our efforts was predictable; in hindsight, I should have known what was going to happen. But I was young and still somewhat idealistic and the danger was so close to them that I was sure they could see it. I was half right–on the West Side, we involved almost everyone in a series of meetings and petition drives; on the East Side, we had doors slammed in our faces, were called Communists and trouble-makers, and told to get lost. Meetings were attended by a handful, petitions went unsigned, and we were subject to threats and harassment whenever we were on the streets.

The difference that a mile–a mile!–made was so stark that even I couldn’t miss it. The East Side wasn’t interested because it hadn’t happened to them yet. Even though they had friends and family who had to drive miles every day to find and bring back a supply of fresh water, it didn’t matter. It hadn’t happened to them, and they wanted no part of a bunch of outside agitators who were stirring up feeling against an employer to which they still felt loyalty and which they hoped would one day come back to town.

There are those who say that the selfishness and tunnel-vision I’ve described is inherent in the beast, that humans have always been and will always be focused on their own narrow interests to the exclusion of everyone outside the tribe, that we will never change, that we aren’t capable of change.

Yet I have lived down here most of my life and seen over and again with my own eyes the generosity and sense of community in those who have the least to be generous with. There are people I don’t like who don’t like me, but when I was in trouble they did what they could to help me anyway, as I did when they were having a rough time. Sometimes it was as big as giving somebody a place to live when they didn’t have one; sometimes it was as small as giving a ride to someone who would otherwise be house-bound so she could do her laundry or get her groceries. If selfishness is inherent in the beast, so is the compassion that comes with the understanding that we need each other, that we’re all in this together and nobody’s getting out of here alive, no matter how extensive their material possessions.

In the last twenty years I have watched conservative wealth spend a lot of its money to spread the Gospel of Selfishness with great success. We learned to look down on the poor because “it’s their own fault.” We learned to look away from hunger, homelessness, and the massive unemployment that led to both because “it isn’t our responsibility.” We were content to close our eyes to corporate greed, theft, embezzlement, and their wholesale abrogation of a social contract that had been in place since WWII and provided us with protections and the solid middle-class to which this woman once belonged because “it doesn’t affect us.” We ignored the warnings all around us starting with studies done in the mid-80’s that the gap between rich and poor was widening and that the middle class was slowly being gutted, eaten away like a body infected with rampant, terminal cancer because we were still middle-class and “it’s never supposed to happen to us.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. I know that like I know the Earth revolves around the sun. I’ve seen the other side of humanity, the side that has some, the side that doesn’t want the poor to starve or the homeless to freeze, the side that doesn’t want poor kids to die because their parents can’t afford a doctor, the side that wants to see everybody with a decent job and the ability to feed, clothe, and house their families on at least a minimal level. I know that in their hearts, most people want that. But I don’t hear this being said in public much, and when it is the sayers are condemned as “bleeding hearts” or “liberal Loons” or “fruitcakes who don’t understand how the world really works.”

It is the ones who say this who don’t understand the way the world really works, and we have to stop listening to them. If this woman and the millions of others like her had fought the depredations and anti-democratic greed of the right-wing twenty years ago, she and her husband would not now be losing their home. If she and the others like her had dared to look around them only three years ago and identified with the first wave of people who lost everything to uncontrolled profit-taking, she and her husband might have fought it and not now be without jobs.

To her and the others like her, I say:

“Ma’am, it isn’t that no one is talking about this, it’s that you haven’t been able to hear them. You–WE–need to start listening to each other, seeing each other, talking to each other. There are more of us than there are of them but only if we include all the people we’ve ignored, all the people we’ve looked down our noses at, all the people we thought didn’t matter because they were ‘different’ from us, ‘less’ than us. They’re not different, they’re not less important. They’re in the same boat we are, and the boat is sinking. We can’t afford the luxury of looking the other way or designating certain others of us as ‘undesirable’. It is all of us or none of us, and sacrifices will have to be made.”

Maybe now she is ready to listen.

Hustling the Regs:The Real Conservative Game Plan

Conservatives have insisting for years that govt is too expensive, too top-heavy with regulations, too big, and too clumsy. They have run year-after-year on platforms promising to cut all that away and strip govt to what they consider its essentials: the military and promotion of corporate interests. All that is well-known. What is less well-known–so much so that you might as well call it un-known–is the responsibility they themselves have for doing exactly what they accuse liberals of doing: creating a bigger, more expensive, more insensitive govt weighed down with idiotic regulations.An example of this typical right-wing manipulation–or at least the first half of it–comes from todays AJC in an editorial on the so-called “Regulatory Reform Act that Republicans are proposing in the Georgia Senate.

Disingenuously titled the “Regulatory Reform Act,” SB 361 has overheated language that contends “unnecessary government regulation can smother the flame of small business and creativity.” Those lofty-sounding words are little more than a ruse to summarily weaken the oversight authority of every regulatory agency in the state.The bill seeks to set up a series of rulemaking boondoggles that would make Rube Goldberg proud. It would, for example, require the state’s Environmental Protection Division to conduct a cost-benefit analysis before advancing new rules for industries that affect the state’s natural resources

This is Part One of the conservative game: plant piles of new regulations onto govt agencies which will require lots of money and staff to implement. Part Two comes a few years later: Complain loudly that govt agencies are fat, slow bureaucracies with too many employees and too many regulations. Repeat as needed.

There’s nothing new about this. Yellow-dog Dixiecrats invented this approach the day after they knuckled under to LBJ and his Great Society programs. Led by Sen James Eastland of Mississippi, Republicans and Dixiecrats teamed up to lard Johnson’s bills with acres of means testing, ever-tightening eligibility requirements, caveats, conditions, and exemptions, all with incredibly complicated formulas designed to a) keep as many poor people off the roles as possible; b) give the opponents weapons with which they could excuse denying states the funds they were entitled to; and c) create the enormous Federal bureaucracy that would be necessary to implement all those complex formulas, a bureaucracy they could then run against as “bloated” and “excessive” and “wasteful.” They created a self-fulfilling prophecy, and then attacked it.

Johnson, a shrewd legislator who knew every trick in the book, was fully aware of what they were doing and said so in public. But with Southern Democrats lining up with Republicans and the majority coalition threatening to bury his bills if he didn’t agree to their “safeguards”, he had little choice. Something, he said in effect, was better than nothing, and he wrote afterward that he had been counting on being able to alleviate the worst abuses forced on him later on as the programs took effect. Unfortunately, Viet Nam started taking all his time and energy (the Tonkin Gulf incident was only a few months after the marathon session that saw most of the Great Society programs enacted) and he never got back to it.

Equally unfortunate, I don’t think even Johnson realized what the full effect of the volumes of riders added by conservatives was going to be–a massive Federal bureaucracy dedicated by law to severely undercutting the very result it had supposedly been created to promote. From the very beginning, the regulations attached to the GS laws by the coalition ensured that welfare programs would be incredibly expensive to run but have only a minimal effect on reducing poverty itself. Eastland, for instance, in one famous rider that he sponsored, ordered that women on welfare who tried to go back to school to better themselves would lose all their benefits, including food stamps, Section 8 housing subsidies, and their ADC (Aid to Dependent Children) health coverage. They would also, in many instances, be declared ineligible for Federal education loans and/or grants. IOW, you want an education, you’re on your own–we’re pulling the plug.

Then there was the infamous “husband clause” in which Federal assistance was cut drastically or eliminated outright from a single-parent family if the recipient married, even if the husband was unemployed and on some form of assistance himself. The effect of this rule–aimed almost exclusively at minority recipients–promulgated by the “family values” party was to break up tens of thousands of families living below the poverty line in neighborhoods all across America and deprive the minority community of the stability the two-parent families Pubs claim to be so fond of could bring to a fractured underclass. .

The word “hypocrisy” comes to mind immediately, doesn’t it?

These and other Draconian regulations combined to make certain that the poor would stay poor, tied to a subsistence-level existence in perpetuity. And we all know what happened then: the Pubs spent the next 25 years attacking “welfare queens” and the poor too “lazy” to better themselves. It was a double-blind, “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” system, and it worked like a charm. A Democrat was finally forced to sign legislation gutting the few protections and what little assistance the poor had left, and ordering them into menial, minimum-wage jobs with no future and not much present. Over 40 million people (some say the number is even higher than that) no longer have any health care at all, and most of them are people who would have qualified for some form of Medicaid before Clinton signed that landmark travesty of a bill.

All that’s happening in GA is that the right wing is adapting this old trick to a new goal: doing the same to every other govt program they dislike, ie, any govt service that helps people instead of the rich corporate donors on whom the right-wing depends for its existence. If they’re allowed to follow-through on their plan, we will see the final degradation of the middle class and the same two-tiered society boasted by Ancient Rome–plutocrats and plebes.

Most of you don’t have to guess which tier you’ll be in.

Stealing From Seniors

The NYT reports on the lastest trend in corporate theft: cutting back or eliminating the health benefits of retirees.

Employers have unleashed a new wave of cutbacks in company-paid health benefits for retirees, with a growing number of companies saying that retirees can retain coverage only if they are willing to bear the full cost themselves.Scores of companies in the last two years, including the telecommunications equipment giants Lucent Technologies and Alcatel and a big electric utility, TXU, have ended medical benefits for some or all of their retirees and instead offered to let them buy coverage through a group plan. This coverage is often more expensive than many retirees can afford.

Experts expect that the trend, driven by the fast-rising cost of health care, will continue, despite the billions of dollars that the government will distribute to companies that maintain retiree health coverage when the new Medicare drug benefit begins in two years. In contrast to pension financing, companies are not obligated to set aside funds to pay for retirees’ health benefits, and the health plans can usually be changed or terminated at the company’s choosing, with no appeal available to the retirees.

The costs can be a shock. According to surveys by benefits consultants, companies that offer health benefits to retirees typically have subsidized about 60 percent of the premium. Losing that support all at once can mean hundreds of dollars a month in unexpected costs.

Moreover, in dropping their subsidies, many companies push retirees into insurance pools that are separate from those of younger, healthier workers, executives said. That lowers the company’s costs for insuring its current workers, while raising the premiums charged to retirees even further.

James Norby, president of the National Retiree Legislative Network, an advocacy group that is urging Congress to strengthen legal protections for retired workers, said companies that charged for formerly covered benefits had found “a clever way of getting out of the contract they made to people who had been retired for 15 or 20 years.”

Not as outrageous as the pension-theft that was big during the first Bush Admin, but slimy and unethical just the same. For companies like Lucent and Alcatel that are in deep financial difficulties (Alcatel lost $$4.5B$$ last year) retrenching their health insurance profile may be unavoidable. Unfortunately, just as in the pension-theft years, corporations that are in NO financial difficulty will steal from their retirees’ benefits for no other reason than that they can get away with it.

TXU, the Texas (surprise surprise) utility corp mentioned in the article, has revenues of almost $$$9B$$$ and a net profit of nearly $$$3/4B$$$*, yet despite this financial health Chairman and CEO Earl Nye, whose salary (minus benefits and stock options) is slightly less than $$8M$$/yr, apparently feels no compunction about violating his company’s contract with its retirees and forcing them to pay up to $800/m for their own health insurance. I can promise you that Earl’s contract for company payment of his health benefits will be honored even though he could easily afford to pay for them himself.

Of course, Earl insists that the new policy is a Good Thing for the retirees (even though he, himself, won’t be taking advantage of it).

Employers that are shifting costs to their retirees often present the change as a benefit: although the company is no longer subsidizing coverage, premiums are usually lower than for individual policies, and the retirees do not have to worry about being rejected by insurers because of their age or prior health problems.

Since the company was paying for 60% of the cost before, how exactly is a 700% raise in the cost of a retiree’s premium a “benefit”?

Eloise Bolt, 56, who took early retirement in October 2002 from her job as an information technology project manager at TXU in Dallas, said that she was “really hurt and really angry” when her monthly insurance premium — which also covers her self-employed husband — soared from the $100 she had paid when she was working.According to Ms. Bolt, TXU said that the $100 represented 20 percent of the total premium, and that on retirement after 24 years with the company, she would be paying 60 percent. But instead of rising to $300 or so, as she had expected, her monthly premium jumped to $659, and rose to $725 this month, with a higher deductible.

“The math does not work out,” said Ms. Bolt, who abandoned her retirement plans and took a $9-an-hour job as a secretary to pay for the insurance.

So much for “retirement” and the legitimacy of corporate contracts. Bolt was lucky enough to find a job; many retirees in Bush’s job-losing “recovery” won’t be able to. Earl and his fat-cat buddies could care less. Their healthcare costs are covered and they won’t have to go back to work after they “retire” in order to pay for them. I bet Earl doesn’t lose so much as a single night’s sleep over what he’s done to Bolt and his other retirees, though he may have a bad moment or two because it got Bad Press. Earl doesn’t mind doing it, he’ll just mind if people know he’s doing it. See the difference?

Of course as you might have guessed, retirees aren’t the only ones being shafted on their health benefits. Earl has taken Junior’s “ownership” propaganda to heart.

When TXU trimmed its retiree benefits at the start of 2002, the company announced that all employees hired since Jan. 1 of that year would have to pay the full cost of health benefits when they retired. Like other companies, TXU — which has 12,000 employees and 8,000 retirees — is encouraging younger workers to save for their future health costs. TXU is promoting participation in the company’s 401(k) retirement plan. It matches employee contributions up to 6 percent of their salary.

Wow. 6 whole %. That’s what?, like $500/yr? How generous. “Your health is your problem,” Earl would say, if asked. “Not mine. We’re out of it.” TXU only cleared $$$750M$$$ last year. Obviously they can’t afford luxuries like employee health care. Hell, that’s a mere 100X Earl’s meager salary. Poor Earl.

In line with Junior’s radcon philosophy, Earl is simply shifting costs from his corp to his employees, putting the burden on them. And TXU employees should be aware that this move means that those promises about how Earl will let them piggyback onto a group plan to keep their premium costs down when they retire ain’t worth the paper they’re printed on. If Earl’s profits slip 1/10th%, they’ll be on their own, probably without warning.

*Note: The NYT article (by Milt Freudenheim) doesn’t bother to mention TXU’s profits. Apparently he didn’t think it was important that an extremely profitable company was stealing from its employees’ health care and violating its own contracts with them when it wasn’t financially necessary or even justifiable for it to do so. So what else is new?

Look for Junior Bush to do…NOTHING. As usual.

Why the Rich Are Bad for You

More From FITE

How do the mega rich harm the country?

Do their investments help the economy grow and provide more jobs?

To the contrary, a lot of their investments actually slow job growth. Quickly buying and selling billion dollar companies, for example, can instantly make fat profits, but it frequently leads to big layoffs and even to eventual bankruptcy as the new owners run the company only to extract instant profits. The huge size of their fortunes gives them opportunities not even available to the suburban millionaires to make gigantic big profits. Bessemer, an investment company reserved for the mega rich, claims a 6,000% return on investment over a decade by using investment opportunities available to only the mega rich.

So they don’t create the jobs we need?

No. Their fortunes have doubled and even tripled in the 1990s, but over the last 15 years they have far too often not invested in job creation. Since they control close to 40% of all investment, it’s a major reason why this economy hasn’t even provided enough jobs for new entrants into the labor force.

That’s important to remember when you realize that the official unemployment rate you hear about – nearly 6% – doesn’t include those who are too discouraged to look any more or the part-timers who need full-time jobs. If you compete these along with some other factors, the figure is about 14%. That figure comes from MIT economist Lester Thurow.

Which of their investments get the highest payback?

Their most profitable “investment” is buying up congressmen. The minimum price now is about $100,000. According to Kevin Phillips, the mega rich can earn as much as $30,000 for each dollar they invest in politicians.

There is a special group of 400 mega rich who are mostly in charge of this type of investment. New York Times tax journalist David Johnson calls them the political donor class because they do most of the buying. The $100,000 minimum price is pocket change for them because they make $175 million in a year. That would work out to $80,000 an hour if they worked a normal work week. (Actually, it’s much more. Johnson writes that the $175 million they declare on their tax forms is just the tip of the iceberg.)

This market in politicians has greatly heated up in the 1990s. An average of 125 people, or “lobbyists” for each congressman helps the political donor class to make these investments. Compare that to the 1960s when there were only 30 lobbyists per congressperson. Lobbying companies are now the largest private employers in our capital.

This is, of course, a market description of the campaign contribution fraud. We put it in market terms to provide an example that shows that the mega rich are far too often uniquely positioned to make their fat profits at our expense.