The Rich are Different


Once again the tidings of the season and the news from the news reminded one and all that it is better to be rich than to be poor. The week ended with news of the Cheneys’ tax refund and began with stories in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reminding us that the rich get richer and the rest don’t.

The Cheney news was that Dick and Lynne Cheney would be getting a $1.9 million tax refund because they had overpaid their estimated taxes. They were simply getting back their own money. Being slightly more money than many of my readers anticipate receiving in wages for the foreseeable future, to say nothing of tax refunds, it highlighted the difference between Dick and Lynne, and the rest of us. The refund has nothing to do with the pay Mr. Cheney got for being vice president, which is only $205,031, nor does it have anything to do with $211,465 of deferred compensation he received from Halliburton that a White House spokesman pointed out has nothing to do with Halliburton’s performance or earnings. It had to do with profits Mr. Cheney realized when he exercised stock options given him when he left Halliburton. The White House spokesman forgot to say those profits had something to do with Halliburton’s performance and earnings since they affect the stock price. (Halliburton and the Iraqis have been the principal beneficiaries of Mr. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Thanks to Mr. Bush’s post-war planning, Halliburton stock has proved to be worth more than Iraqi lives).

The Wall Street Journal depressed retired readers by pointing out in discouraging detail what many retirees had already discovered. A cutback in medical benefits promised upon retirement does not affect all retirees equally.

The United Auto Workers Union agreed with General Motors in 2005 that retirees should begin paying a portion of their health insurance premiums, a change that will cost retirees hundreds of dollars each year. Ron Gettelfinger, UAW president, admitted it was difficult to agree that retirees should begin paying for something they’d been getting for free but it was "a right decision to make in the long term." He was not, of course, referring to rich retirees. Their treatment was described in the Wall Street Journal story written by Ellen Schultz and Theo Francis.

The story showed that the more money a retired executive receives from the company in retirement, the more likely it is that the executive will not be asked to pay for health insurance. The less money a retired employee receives in retirement, the more likely it is that the employee will have to pay all or part of his or her health insurance premiums.

Northrop Gruman Corp. requires its vanilla flavored retirees to pay an ever increasing share of their health insurance premiums based on inflation whereas a select group of executives participate in a different program in which all cost increases based on inflation are paid by the company.

AT&T pays its top executives $100,000 annually for out of pocket health care costs before and after retirement. Commenting on this benefit a spokeswoman said that compared with other companies AT&T gives those who are not top executives "very good medical benefits". Not reported was how "very good medical benefits" for the humble employee compare with the benefits received by the more exalted.

At Northwest Airlines regular employees must work 23 years before they are eligible for retiree health insurance coverage beginning at age 55. It disappears when the employee qualifies for Medicare. The company’s top executives, in contrast, receive full health care coverage for life for themselves and their dependents after three years with the company.

The report on health benefits for the retired was not the only reminder that the rich get richer. On April 13 the New York Times described the retirement package received by Lee R. Raymond, chairman and chief executive of Exxon from 1993 to 2005. It was reportedly worth $398 million and included not only cash, stock options and stock but country club fees and other benefits. It was not clear whether Mr. Raymond had to pay for his own health insurance out of the $398 million. A follow-up story two days later reported that during the time Mr. Raymond led the company his average daily compensation was $144,573, somewhat more than many of his employees earn in a year.

There is something to be learned from the foregoing. In favoring tax cuts and other benefits for the rich, Mr. Bush is not demonstrating original thinking. He is reflecting the attitude towards money that the rich would say has made America great. The non-rich can simply envy as they wonder.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. Visit his website: http://hraos.com/


Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?