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A Morally Untenable Corporate System; and Signing Off on Less Political Corruption

By Jim Hightower, Fri., June 3, 2011

A Morally Untenable Corporate System

This will seem like a fairy tale now, but not so long ago, it was actually possible for CEO pay to constitute "an embarrassment of riches."

How quaint. Today, the riches are massive, but the embarrassment gene seems to have been completely bred out of corporate chieftains. They have no shame at producing negative results and offing thousands of underlings, then wheeling in a front-end loader to haul their own pay to the bank. The head man at Estée Lauder, for example, recently cut 2,000 employees but grabbed a huge salary increase and new stock payments potentially worth more than $24 million.

Are there no adults to supervise these corporate playgrounds and teach such concepts as humility and sharing? Well, technically, the board of directors is supposed to provide corporate governance, including the setting of CEO pay. But who's on these boards? Mostly other members of the corporate brotherhood who want to keep executive pay levels rising. And, of course, the chiefs themselves sit on their boards, usually chairing them.

The tale of boardroom coziness between directors and the bosses they supposedly govern was vividly revealed in the Wall Street crash of 2008. Far from providing any reasonable restraints, few board members even questioned the casino games the banks were running, and fewer yet objected to giving reckless bankers billions of dollars in unwarranted bonuses.

Now after the collapse, what has changed? Nothing. One survey of nine of the big banks we taxpayers bailed out shows that two-thirds of their failed board members are still there, and, once again, they're shoveling inexplicably huge bonuses at the same old CEOs.

A system that enriches executive elites while crushing the middle class is worse than an embarrassment – it's morally untenable.

Signing Off on Less Political Corruption

Come on, Obama, do it! Stand up, stand tall, stand firm! Yes, you can!

The president is thinking about issuing an executive order that would mitigate some of the damage done to our democracy by the Supreme Court's dastardly Citizens United edict, which unleashes unlimited amounts of secret corporate cash to pervert America's elections. Obama's idea is simply to require that those corporations trying to get federal contracts disclose all of their campaign donations for the previous two years, including money they launder through such front groups as the national Chamber of Commerce.

This approach says to those giants sucking up billions of our tax dollars for endless war, privatization of public services, etc.: You're still free to shove trainloads of your shareholders' money into congressional and presidential races, but – hey, just tell the public how much you're giving and to whom.

Neat. It would be a clean, direct, and effective reform – so, of course, the corporate powers and their apologists are squealing like stuck pigs. Steven Law, a Bush-Cheney operative who is now both a Wall Street Journal editorialist and the head of a secret corporate money fund, recently decried the very idea of public disclosure of contractor campaign contributions: "When I was in the executive branch," he sniffed, "mixing politics with procurement was called corruption."

Yes, Steve, and y'all were corruption experts! Perhaps you've forgotten that we remember Halliburton, the Cheney-run corporation that helped put Bush in office and then was handed tens of billions in contracts, becoming the poster child of corrupt, no-bid procurement.

Come on, Obama, don't back down from these corporate sleazes – sign that disclosure order! If they're going to steal our elections, at least make them admit it.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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