The hypocrisy of Lloyd Blankfein, a Wall Street banker, and other corporate leaders who have inserted themselves into the debate over major tax and spending decisions under consideration in Congress is nothing short of repugnant. Blankfein's Goldman Sachs got billions from the federal government during the Wall Street bailouts, enabling him to hold a job that paid him $16.1 million in 2011, and now he wants the rest of us to take a pay cut -- now and in the future. Referring to Social Security, he told CBS, "You're going to have to do something, undoubtedly, to lower people's expectations of what they're going to get." That's a second-rate vision for a first world country, and we just voted for a lot better than that.
Blankfein is one of many Fortune 500 CEOs who joined together under the name "Fix the Debt," a campaign to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to address the federal deficit during the fiscal showdown. This group of more than 90 CEOs is pushing cuts to middle-class programs while shielding millionaires, billionaires and big corporations from tax increases.
Each of these executives has amassed retirement assets averaging more than $9.1 million, according to a report released today by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS). Of the more than 90 CEOs involved in Fix the Debt, 41 run companies with pension programs, but only two of those plans are fully funded, IPS said. It's the second impressive IPS report in the last week, and it lays bare the flagrant hypocrisy of these captains of finance and industry.
Today's IPS report outlines how these CEOs have bloated their personal golden parachutes with millions of dollars of company funds while shorting their employees' retirement plans by an astonishing $103 billion -- all while taking aim at government programs that benefit the sick and elderly. Many of the companies in the Fix the Debt campaign also make their profits from defense contracts and other federal government business.
In a Nov. 25 appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, a charter member of Fix the Debt, Honeywell CEO David Cote, said, "We have a significant problem with entitlements, Medicare and Medicaid in particular." This from a guy with retirement assets of more than $78 million. And, IPS points out, his company's employee pension plan is underfunded by $2.8 billion.
We should be talking about increasing retirement security for the middle class, not weakening it. The focus of the entire fiscal showdown should be about asking those who have the means to pay their fair share. For example, instead of raising the eligibility age for Social Security, as Blankfein proposes, why not increase the payroll tax that the wealthy pay for Social Security? Currently the payroll tax that finances this program doesn't apply to income over $110,000. That's unfair, and it doesn't make economic or policy sense.
As President Obama has made crystal clear, the first order of business must be ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
In the name of "fiscal responsibility" the self-interested CEOs animating Fix the Debt -- which, by the way, is led by 14 white men and only two women -- are pushing a deficit reduction plan that would lower taxes for corporations and the super-rich while slashing programs central to the middle class and those working their way into it. The Fix the Debt CEOs start with the assumption that poor, working and middle-class families should shoulder the bulk of the burden of deficit reduction. Meanwhile, none of the deficit hawks is talking about creating jobs and growing the U.S. economy.
The corporate executives literally have no idea how the rest of America lives. The median household income is $50,000 a year. A dozen Fix the Debt CEOs have the pension assets to generate payments of $110,000 a month for life if they retire at 65. It's outrageous and immoral for them to advocate for slashing middle-class programs while protecting the wealth of corporations and the rich executives who lead them.
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