Men at Work

August 07, 2006 by susan

My husband thinks that liberals of my stripe don't "get" business, so before he gets his knickers in a knot, let me say that I may not get some of their operating principles, but I do understand that without business we don't have jobs and without jobs we have no economy and the trickle down of all that gets us to a living standard somewhere below Haiti's. But hey, no jobs, no immigration problem. Just kidding. That's for another time.

I also appreciate the scads of good business people who look out for their workers, keep sound environmental practices, contribute to their community in myriad ways. There are thousands of them out there, but they're not the ones I'm talking about here.

I'm talking about the headliners, the Ken Lays,the Richard Scrushys, the Dick Cheneys and the Woody Johnsons.

I'll just string out some dirty linen here; you can let it hang any way you like.

Soiled sheets:
Business Week reports that "securities class-action superstar" William Lerach is filing a class-action suit against Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton. Lerach, said by Business Week to be a big donor to Democratic causes, (quick, how many Democratic causes can you name? How many Republican ones?) mentions Cheney's name 170 times in the 183 page complaint. Even though the D'ick can't be named as a defendant due to the statute of limitations, the complaint accuses him of insider trading and misleading investors about Halliburton's asbestos liability, among other things. Lerach says he is looking forward to deposing Cheney personally. Cheney's lawyers say the charges are without merit.

Smelly shorts:
Nothing legally wrong here I suppose, and yet why do I get a whiff of the, um, deep-seated problem with American mega-business and American health care? Business Week, once again, reports that the "storied" investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (holders of the record $31.4 billion buyout of Nabisco described in the book and film Barbarians at the Gate) is about to beat its own record with a $33 billion bid to take over HCA, the nation's largest hospital chain. The other partners in the deal include the family of Sen. Bill Frist, whose father and brother founded HCA in 1968. Frist failed the whiff test himself last year when he dumped much of his HCA stock just a month before the stock took a tumble.

Stinky Undies:
A recent report from the Senate Permanent Investigations subcommittee detailed how the use of offshore tax havens by America's superrich has spun out of control. Cheating now equals about 7 cents out of each dollar paid by honest taxpayers -- an estimated $70 billion a year. There's a lot I don't get about business, like I said, but how can Robert Wood (Woody) Johnson IV, owner of the NY Jets football team and heir to the Johnson and Johnson health care fortune, or the Wyly brothers of Texas, the ninth largest contributors to Bush's 2000 campaign, legally stash their billions away in the Cayman Islands in order to avoid paying taxes? As Sen. Carl Levin wrote in the report, "I get incensed by people who use tax havens to not pay their taxes while the average guy has to pay his taxes because they are taken out of his pay before he gets it." Well, yeah. But as one of the attorneys involved in the deal wrote to a colleague, "Ain't capitalism great!" "Let's hope Woody's return doesn't get pulled for an audit!"

Sweaty T-shirts: Woody's lawyers needn't worry. According to the New York Times, the federal government is planning to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the IRS who audit tax returns of wealthiest Americans.

Skanky sweats: In case you missed this one, we'll take it straight from the AFL-CIO Working Families e-Activist Network. "In a repulsive political maneuver . . . the House linked a $2-an-hour increase in the minimum wage to tax breaks for multimillion dollar estates that will cost the U.S. Treasury some $750 billion'"forcing cuts in food and health care assistance for low-wage workers, as well as unemployment help. Increasing the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 would give some 6.6 million low-wage workers a much-needed $1,200 a year raise and would not cost taxpayers a dime. In contrast, the estate tax cut would exempt estates as large as $7 million'"permanently'"from the tax and lower taxes for even wealthier estates. The payoff? An average $1.4 million windfall for each of roughly 8,200 rich estates. And a $750 billion tab for taxpayers."

Ain't capitalism great?

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