Column, 306 words

Shielding Wall Street from the Ravages of Bigotry

Perhaps Phil Gramm could run a telethon to support ex-executives shamed for their fat retirement packages.

Jim Hightower

Phil Gramm, the former right-wing senator from Texas, has surprised me.

I assumed he had zero charitable instincts. In office, he kept trying to kill safety net programs, such as food assistance: “We’re the only nation in the world where all our poor people are fat,” Gramm smirked back in 1981.

But the former lawmaker seems to have developed a new empathy for people who are demonized. Although he’s now a Wall Street operative, Gramm returned to Capitol Hill in July to express solidarity with victims of bigotry.

Wow. Was Gramm standing with Black Lives Matter and oppressed immigrants?

Not at all.

Phil Gramm and Mitch McConnell

McConnell Center/ Flickr

The Texan was testifying against a new rule requiring corporations to reveal the gap between their CEO’s pay and what their workers get. It’s “demagoguery,” Gramm grumped. Then he lurched into the abyss of absurdity by wailing that overpaid corporate chieftains are actually — get this — victims of public bigotry.

“The one form of bigotry that is still allowed in this country is bigotry against the successful,” the multimillionaire snarled.

To prove this bizarre claim, Gramm cited the specific case of his buddy, Ed Whiteacre, who retired as CEO of AT&T in 2007. The exec was widely condemned for grabbing a $158-million retirement package for himself as he went out the door.

Gramm practically wept as he related the sad story of Whiteacre’s heartache. The guy was actually underpaid, wailed Gramm: “If there’s ever been an exploited worker, he was exploited. It was an outrage!” This was odd, since the former senator had never previously expressed the slightest concern about exploited workers.

Perhaps Gramm could run a telethon to support ex-executives like Whiteacre, who suffer such soul-crushing bigotry. Please give till it hurts. And don’t laugh, for Phil really feels the pain of the rich.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower

  • Deanna Clark

    Why are CEOs paid so much? Because they are doing what they were hired to do. Nobody overpays a lousy plumber or a babysitter who starves and beats kids. One must assume that the controlling stockholders in these mega corporations are getting the bang for their bucks….however ugly the bang may look to us peons.

    • Deschutes Maple

      Speak for yourself, peon. You’re wrong on all counts: Germany actually has a law which puts a limit on the difference between what the top CEO gets and the lowest paid worker in a company. The reason for this is decency and fair distribution of profits–a concept utterly at odds to Americans (like you). Your assumption that CEOs deserve such high salaries because they make the ‘bang for their bucks’ is laughably misinformed. Look how well Ken Lay did for Enron. Richard Fuld of the also now gone Lehman Bros. is another example of a terrible CEO who ruined a company with illegal trading on Wall St. The list is endless.

      • Deanna Clark

        The CEOs of the big banks are doing as they are told by controlling stockholders. Decency and fairness went out the window around 1970. I assume failures and losses are also part of the master plans…but perhaps that’s too cynical. Sometimes it’s good to ask, though. Betting against your own investments is very common now.

    • DFinMOzarks

      NO country (none) outside the US has such a huge disparity in pay between CEO’s and the workers on the floor. It’s not even close to what we endure here. In some countries they have actually made it the law.

      How can you say they are worth it when many actually lead their companies to near ruin yet they still get massive golden parachutes despite their incompetence. Carly Fiorina being a good example. Despite her often repeated claims to the contrary, HP nearly went bankrupt on her watch yet she got a golden handshake somewhere between $80-$120 million when the board booted her out. At least that’s the reported net worth of this blustering Texan. HP didn’t do their due diligence research on her before giving her the top job and they suffered the consequences. She had been a failure at Lucent after dropping out of law school.

      • Deanna Clark

        What we call failure and mismanagement may be part of the gameplan to the actual owners. Back in the 1980s and 90s ruining a business was all in a good day’s work.

        • DFinMOzarks

          Good point if you are referring to other companies than the ones going under …and it hasn’t changed since then. Bain Capital (Mitt’s company) is proof of that. They’ve bought up many company’s, looted their assets and run them into bankruptcy.

  • allen801

    these rich scumbags should be thankful it hasn’t gotten bad enough that we drag them out of their mansions and throw them into the guillotine. It’s heading that way real god damn fast.

  • Deanna Clark

    We are peasants arguing in the streets…these powerful people know what they are doing and our Heavenly Father is already there at the end of it…this too shall pass.