CEOs Try to Shred the Safety Net While Pigging Out on Corporate Welfare
A gang of brazen CEOs has joined forces to promote economically disastrous and socially irresponsible austerity policies. Many of those same CEOs were bailed out by the American taxpayer after a Wall Street-driven financial crash. Instead of a thank-you, they are showing their appreciation in the form of a coordinated effort to rob Americans of hard-earned retirements, decent medical care and relief for the poorest.
Using the excuse of a phony, manufactured crisis known as the “fiscal cliff” – which isn’t a crisis at all, as economist James K. Galbraith has succinctly explained — they are gearing up to pull the wool over the public’s eyes by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The CEOs are part of the Fix the Debt campaign run by the Peter Peterson-backed Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, which plans to unleash tens of millions pushing for a deficit reduction deal that favors the rich.
You can be sure that many more CEOs in addition to the names on the list below sympathize with plans to shred the social safety net and enjoy windfall tax breaks. But these Scrooges are so bold as to publicly announce their desire to pick the pockets of fellow Americans while simultaneously pigging out at the corporate welfare trough. Multitasking!
A generation ago, an American CEO would think twice about announcing utter disregard not only for his neighbors and employees, but also for the economy, which can’t prosper when income is consistently redistributed upward (see Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality for more on that theme). But in the present culture — even after the Occupy Wall Street movement – these business barons feel perfectly comfortable trumpeting their desire to get richer at your expense.
Here’s a sample of the Fix the Debt CEO Council Hall of Shame. (Download the complete list at the organization’s Web site.)
1. Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, Goldman, Sachs & Co. Blankfein, infamous for describing his financial activities as “God’s work,” shared his attitude toward society with CBS news recently. He explained his keen desire to see Americans lowering their sights for the future. You really have to watch the interview to get the full flavor of Blankfein’s smug assurance that predation can be sold as concern for the nation’s well-being. In addition to trotting out several myths about Social Security’s design and functions, including the bogus notion that retirement age must be raised, he gives a pithy summary of what life is going to be like for the 99 percent:
“You’re going to have to do something, undoubtedly, to lower people’s expectations of what they’re going to get, the entitlements, and what people think they’re going to get, because you’re not going to get it.”
Not if Lloyd Blankfein has anything to do with it. He calls it managing expectations. Here’s another word: theft.
Since the financial crash, Blankfein’s company, Goldman Sachs, has received tens of billions of dollars in what the Economic Policy Journal describes as “direct and indirect succor from the Fed.” In sharp contrast to average Americans, when Goldman needed help in the 2008 crisis, a friendly Federal Reserve let Goldman turn into a commercial bank almost overnight, so it could go to the Fed for help 24/7.
2. Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO, General Electric Company. In 2011, President Obama welcomed outsourcing pioneer Jeffrey Immelt to his White House inner circle as chair of a newly created jobs council – a move that was a sharp slap in the face to American workers. Immelt returned the favor by dumping Obama in favor of Mitt Romney in the recent election.
Obviously, supporting disastrous financial deregulation, dodging taxes and helping to destroy American manufacturing has not satisfied Immelt. He’d like to add insult to injury by making sure that people who have been screwed by the reckless activities of short-sighted corporate titans like himself are left to starve in their golden years and go without medical care. And as for the poor, well, couldn’t they be just a little bit poorer? Immelt thinks that would be swell.