Ed Schultz did yeoman’s work over the past couple of weeks following up on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. As noted in the video above the perpetrator of the spill, BP, did all it could to avoid restitution for their damage. Instead of paying for the damage they caused, they sunk money into lies and propaganda through advertising. They also greased the skids with “campaign contributions” to politicians who have worked hard to get BP off and allow them to get drilling rights once more in the Gulf and in the Atlantic. All the while the American public saw the horror of BP’s negligence slowly morph on their TV screens into BP, a company that cares.
During 2012 Americans were able to learn a great deal about how vulture companies like Bain Capital, at one time headed by then candidate Mitt Romney, would take over companies and essentially strip them of any assets. Among those assets were pension funds that workers had planned to live on in their old age. In the case of Bain victim companies, pension funds would be raided and added to the payments Bain extracted from the company. Thus Bain got some huge checks, many lives were ruined (insignificant no doubt in the Bain way of thinking), and the American taxpayer gets a bill to make up some of the pension “raided” – stolen actually.
Since the pension funds were part of the compensation for work done by company employees every bit as important as their weekly pay, medical benefits and vacations, “raiding” the pension funds is simply a polite term for theft. Why laws were passed for legalizing this theft is simply unbelievable. Bain had a fairly structured way of taking their targeted companies apart and stealing the future from the companies employees was simply part of the plan.
What was good for Bain also appears to be good for governments. Last year we witnessed the dismantling of Detroit. Among the assets seized to pay Detroit’s debt were the pension funds. Funds that police and fire fighters and all sorts of municipal workers had planned to be there when their so-called “golden” years was gone. Some of these folks had worked for the city for as long as 40 years.
In New Jersey last week, Presidential wannabe Chris Christie was handed a judgment that said he must fully fund pension funds. When offered a plan that would raise taxes on the wealthy that would raise the money needed to fund the pension fund, Christie immediately rejected it.
In Illinois new Republican Governor Bruce Rauner wasted little time in going after public pensions. Even though most public pensions are part of a negotiated contract which we may assume are negotiated in good faith with access to viable fiscal projections. Seems like Rauner wants to unilaterally change the contract like so many of his Republican gubernatorial colleagues across the country have been doing. And of course while he can’t find money in the budget to pay legally mandated payments, he can find oodles of money to cut his own taxes and those of his rich buddies.
And let us not forget our governor for life Terry Branstad. While the pension story here in Iowa is good so far, we still have yet to hear anything on Branstad’s paying released employees last year with moneys that seemed to have been shifted illegally.
When I hear some politician, usually Republican, rail about this country being a nation of laws I just have to shake my head. “We are all equal in the eyes of the law” the old story goes. But there is hardly a person among us who can’t tell a story right off the top of their head of some well connected person who got a big break. Still waiting for one person to be arrested and tried for the financial meltdown in 2007 and 2008? So am I. Maybe at least a few real questions of those who led us into an illegal war in Iraq? Still waiting.
In some of the cases above, actions taken were made legal even though they are, to many, repugnant and unethical. When you have money and can buy some influence, you get favors. The reason I used so many stories of workers having their pensions, often pensions they contributed to, flat out stolen from them is to bring it home to the reader. Yes, they are just like you and me. If you think you have a good job with a solid company or a government pension awaiting your golden years don’t be surprised if you wake up one day to find all that money in the back pocket of some Wall Street hedge fund manager and you looking at working until you die.
And when some politician, particularly a Republican tells me they are a Christian, I think of Ghandi’s statement: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” If you claim to follow the Ten Commandments then do something to stop the unethical laws, stop the thievery, stop the discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or skin color. In short let the beliefs you profess actually guide you.
Oh – what’s this? Illinois Congress member Aaron Shock living the high life on the taxpayer’s dime and campaign funds? Que surprise? Hey just rub our noses in it knowing that enough campaign commercials and you will forget – you always do.