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The Tentacle


February 20, 2009

Haves vs. Have-Nots

Roy Meachum

Does no one now remember that the out-going Bush Administration extracted $700 billion to pour into banks? The Democrats had the numbers to block. They didn't. They recognized the nation was in financial crises. There were questions, of course. There should have been more.

 

We now know financial institutions used the money for their own purposes, not to make loans to consumers. Instead they swooped down on and purchased weaker competitors. And they continued to pay humongous bonuses even while taking taxpayers' bread; a news story the other day brings the point to mind.

 

Although celebrated in print, you may not know the chairman of General Electric announced he would decline his annual bonus. How much? $12 million. Understand, GE has not requested a single dime from the bailout stash. Jeffrey Immelt sought board approval last month to waive the millions due for the company's performance over the past several years, since he took over from Jack Welch.

 

Mr. Immelt allowed as how he would manage to get by on his salary. How much is that? Merely $3.4 million. Incidentally, the giant corporation that counts NBC among its possessions in its latest quarter showed a 40 percent decline.

 

You can imagine how people on the unemployment line feel about Jeff Immelt's "sacrifice." To put the best face on the announcement: he may have hoped to inspire other chief executives to follow. In the immediate wake, nobody has. Furthermore, I wonder why the chairman did not order other highly paid GE white collar employees to surrender their own bonuses.

 

You have noticed the stock market's virtual collapse when faced with the reality of the Obama-signed bill designed to create jobs for nine million people out of work. There's a simple explanation. You will not find substantial share-holders among the nine million; they are, generally speaking, "have-nots:" People in the economy's lower half.

 

Since they cannot expect a quick-fix for their ailing accounts, the "haves" have not lined up in Wall Street's hot-to-buy line. The bears have smothered the bulls. Why?

 

One reason could be George W. Bush's three-trillion-dollar-expenditure for the useless war still going on. That's three-thousand billions; not all entered in the Department of Defense's budget. The spending – much of it absorbed by bribes and shoddy work – fueled the post-9/11 splurge on executives' pay and golden parachutes. Men (and women, though less so) came to consider the inflated benefits as entitlements, arguing they earned it. How can any person feel the world "owes" him/her millions, thousands and thousands more than the average employee really earns?

 

Before the housing market collapsed, the republic was headed for another rebellion, led by the middle class. I'm talking about people who now pull in $250,000 annually. Their blood must boil when they read about the salaries and other benefits of not only the chairmen but other executives at the corporate level.

 

The previous administration's near-collapse was caused directly by decisions that ignited losses at home and abroad. We saw the same thing in Russia but didn't learn. The Soviet Union's 10-year Afghanistan adventure triggered the final failure of communism and a crop of ruble billionaires. And the government supposedly had more than adequate rules and inspectors; but that was under the old regime. My post-1989 trips let me see the damages in the fancy cars acquired in the new rich/now poor cycles.

 

We are witnessing "now poor" times, chiefly paid for by those currently out of work, while their bosses continue to rake in piles, and the out-of-power party plays petty politics. To borrow words to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy by attorney Joseph Welch:

 

"Have you (the GOP) no sense of decency?"

 



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