Hearts at Work
By Jim Tipton
Throw the Bums Out

     Historically at the heart of every true American is the belief in a system that works fairly to benefit everyone, a system I will call “Capitalism with a Conscience.” In recent years we have witnessed the accelerated move toward Phony Capitalism, really more akin to Communism and Fascism, where the producer is not rewarded and the wealthy few, in conspiracy with both the government and the legal system, manage to accumulate—totally without conscience, wealth beyond imagining, and far beyond any contributions they have made to the well-being of United States.
     It is this Phony Capitalism that allowed G. Richard Wagoner, CEO of General Motors, in 2007 alone to take out as personal compen­sation a total of $19,761,874 while the company itself reported a loss of $38.7 billion that same year. Now, as the company faces bankruptcy, G. Richard Wagoner continues to draw out millions personally.
     Back in 1978, a real “Capitalist with a Conscience” rescued the almost bankrupt Chrysler—this man was Lee Iacocca, who refused to draw a salary before he had returned Chrysler to profitability. Iacocca, incidentally, supported Bush in 2000, but shocked by the realities of the Bush adminis­tration, he changed his support to Kerry in 2004.
     Only a year ago Merrill Lynch brought in John Thain to turn the ailing company around after years of devastating losses (and huge lawsuits against it for various questionable practices). Merrill Lynch, facing bankruptcy earlier this fall, became a subsidiary of Bank of America. John Thain, hired less than one year earlier, walked away with $83,000,000 personally. That’s more than 1 1/2 million dollars a week he “earned” in those nine months he “worked” for Merrill Lynch.
     Phony Capitalists are takers, taking money from producers, from our own American workers, siphoning it from our own communities, from Third World countries, leaving us with now hundreds of billions that somehow must be “paid for” (because money is not simply created out of nothing regardless of what those stock-option manipulators try to put over on us). Our sweet country has simply been another treasure for Phony Capitalists to raid. The “Great Society,” the idea of “community,” is meaningless to Phony Capitalists. In 2007 the average Fortune 500 CEO personally earned $10.8 million in total compensation, 364 times the pay of the average American worker.
     In contrast, workers at the bottom rung received in 2007 the first minimum pay increase since the Clinton years, to $5.85, but factoring in inflation it is 7% below where it was a decade ago. CEO pay, factoring in inflation, in the past decade has increased 45%.
     In 2006 those top CEOs took in perks alone that averaged $438,432 per CEO, perks that included private company jets for personal travel, country club fees, and even money to cover the extra taxes due on some of their bonuses. A minimum wage worker would have to work 36 years just to earn the perks those executives received in 2006.
     These preposterous extremes are the products of Communism and Fascism masquerading as Capitalism. One could make many other comparisons to Commu­nism, particularly under Stalin, including deterioration of individual liberties this past eight years, prisoners “detained” without trial for almost eight years; illegal invasion of another country, massacre of 500,000 Iraqi men, women, and children. The Phony Capitalists, though, certainly must have posted Joseph Stalin’s words over their beds: “Mankind is divided into rich and poor, into property owners and exploited; and to abstract oneself from this fundamental division…means abstracting oneself from fundamental facts.” I, for one still believe in the American Dream even though it has temporarily turned into a nightmare.
     Responsible Republicans are realizing that the current President and Vice President have backed and profited from Phony, Crony Capitalism, and have also, in only eight years, almost bankrupted the country, creating more debt in those eight years than all other US Presidents combined.
     In May of 2007, Simon and Schuster published Lee Iacocca’s new book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone. In that book Iacocca writes, “Am I the only guy in this country who is fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say ‘stay the course.’ Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!”
     The figures I have used are from the report of the Institute for Policy Studies/United for a Fair Economy at www.ips-dc.org/reports/070829-executiveexcess.pdf.