The Hightower Report

Massey's Mess; and Not-So-Little Corporate Piggies

Massey's Mess

In March of last year, Massey Energy Corp.'s official record book for reporting unsafe conditions in its Upper Big Branch coal mine said flatly: "none observed." According to federal investigators, it turns out that this was a flat-out lie, and a few days later, Upper Big Branch exploded, killing 29 miners.

Indeed, investigators say that Massey's in-house "observers" had found safety problems – as they often did in this shoddily run, notoriously dangerous mine – but the corporation kept a dual set of books in order to mislead state and federal safety regulators. Massey's official record book, which coal giants must show to government inspectors, is filled with such rosy reports as "none observed," while the true dangers are recorded in a set of internal books that are sealed in the corporate closet.

However, thanks to the comprehensive, yearlong probe by the hundred-member team of federal mine safety investigators, Massey's internal reports are now out of the closet. The team's findings reveal not only an ugly safety record, but also a truly ugly corporate culture. The investigators concluded that Massey executives took premeditated, systematic steps to circumvent safety rules, including falsifying records and intimidating workers who tried to report hazards. The probe included interviews with 266 people – but, interestingly, 18 Massey honchos (including longtime CEO Don Blankenship) refused to be interviewed, invoking their right against self-incrimination.

This goes to the top, all the way to Massey's executive suite elites and board of directors, who profited from the deliberate safety shortcuts that killed those 29 men. It also goes to Congress, where corporate-protecting Republicans continue to block regulatory reforms that would stop the needless killing of miners. For information, contact West Virginia Watchdog at westvirginia.watchdog.org.

Not-So-Little Corporate Piggies

They're back. Citigroup, Coca-Cola, IBM, Merck & Co., and dozens of other major U.S. corporations are back in Washington – like hogs at the trough – demanding to be fed another tax boondoggle.

This is not the first pig-out for these oinkers. In 2005, having stashed huge profits in foreign countries and tax havens, the multinational giants came to Washington offering Congress a heck of a deal: We'll bring this money back to the U.S. and invest it here, creating beaucoup jobs, if you give us a sweetheart tax rate on our profits of only about 5%, rather than the usual 35% rate.

The Bushites and GOP Congress enthusiastically took the bait. Sure enough, $312 billion came home ... but instead of investing it in job creation, top executives and big shareholders simply put it in their pockets. Sixty percent of the boondoggle was gobbled up by only 15 of America's biggest multinationals – many of which actually shut down American plants, fired thousands of workers, and moved more of their production abroad. Merck, for example, brought nearly $16 billion home in October 2005, then announced a restructuring plan the next month to close U.S. plants and cut some 3,500 jobs. You could almost hear the executives chortle and say, "Thanks, suckers."

Well, look out, for a corporate lobbying front is working with Republican House leaders to sucker us again. The group, including such superrich computer giants as Apple, Dell, Google, and Intel, is pushing for what they call a "repatriation holiday." With a big stage wink, they promise to create jobs in exchange for that same, dandy, 5% tax deal.

What gross hoggishness! State and national budgets are being slashed – and these fat greedheads are trying to scam America with a tax holiday for themselves. To fight their greed, go to www.usuncut.org.

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

Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, corporate tax breaks

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