Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

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: Visit his website:



More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Qaddafi
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again
Anthony DiMaggio
Lesser Evil Voting and Prospects for a Progressive Third Party
Ramzy Baroud
The Many ‘Truths’ on Syria: How Our Rivalry Has Destroyed a Country
David Rosen
Was Bill Clinton the Most Sexist President?
Laura Carlsen
Plan Colombia, Permanent War and the No Vote
Aidan O'Brien
Mao: Monster or Model?