The Hightower Report

The Ungodly Pensions of CEOs; and Drinking Liberally


THE UNGODLY PENSIONS OF CEOs

Corporate America is fast implementing a two-tiered retirement system: a platinum-level plan for the top executives – and a dirt-level plan for all of you riffraff below.

There's even a term for the platinum pensions reserved for the corporate elite: "Top Hat" plans, they're called. But while the CEOs are feathering their own nests with multimillion-dollar annual pension payments, they're working double-time to destroy the retirement nest eggs of millions of their rank-and-file workers.

Leading this pension-busting movement is the Business Roundtable, a lobbying front made up of the CEOs of America's 400 largest and richest corporations. The Roundtable wails that its members simply can no longer be expected to pay the middle-class pensions that they negotiated – supposedly in good faith – with workers. Roundtable members say workers must "take responsibility" for their own retirement accounts, rather than expecting the corporation to come through for them.

The Business Roundtable is also leading another mingy effort to downsize the "golden years" of America's working class. It has been an enthusiastic backer of George W.'s push to privatize our Social Security program. The top honcho of the Roundtable has grandly declared that its members will spend "what it takes" to switch Social Security to private pension accounts.

The CEOs want everyone's retirement to be at the mercy of the market … except theirs, of course. Consider such Roundtable members as Home Depot, IBM, Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, Prudential, and GE – the CEOs of these giants are to get corporate-guaranteed pension payments of more than $2 million a year.

The attitude of these CEOs is summed up by Exxon Mobil. Its executive suite at corporate headquarters is known as the "God Pod." To keep track of the hypocrisy of these false gods – and to help bring them down to Earth – go to www.paywatch.org.


DRINKING LIBERALLY

Why should politics be nothing but an interminable series of deadly serious, often-boring meetings?

I say we ought to "put the party back in politics," so people can have a good time while organizing, strategizing, and mobilizing to save the world. That's why I enthusiastically endorse a new political movement that's sweeping the country. It's called "Drinking Liberally" – a sort of saloon society for progressives. It offers a casual, fun, down-home way for ordinary folks to get together regularly and share political thoughts … while sharing a pitcher of beer.

This is as American as apple pie. Public houses were the "seed beds of the Revolution." Indeed, the founders shaped much of our Constitution's language by discussing their ideas over pints of ale in the taverns of Philadelphia. After all, saloons are egalitarian spaces – you share common ground at the bar and feel free to talk to strangers.

So, in 2003, a small group in New York City began to meet weekly at a local bar to hoist a few, get to know one another, and have free-flowing political discussions. Yes, they emphasize drinking responsibly, and they use designated drivers, but the idea is to be casual, enjoy each other, actually have conversations, learn, tell stories and jokes, vent, offer ideas, and just talk politics.

Thanks to the Internet and an organized push by this original group, there are now 160 chapters of Drinking Liberally, located in nearly every state. If you'd like to start your own, the group is happy to help you get it going. They'll have a 15-minute initial phone chat with you to bring you up to speed on steps to make your effort a success, and they'll offer ongoing support through their easy-to-use Web site – www.drinkingliberally.org.

To help build democracy one drink at a time in your own local watering hole, send an e-mail requesting help to info@drinkingliberally.org. Tell 'em Hightower sent you.

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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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

CEO pension plans, Business Roundtable, Drinking Liberally

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