2011-12-21 "Pity the 1%! Billionaires Bemoan Criticism by ‘Imbeciles’" by Adele Stan
It’s tough these days being a member of the top 1 percent, what with all the complaints about the widening income gap and tax breaks for billionaires, not to mention the demands of the 99 percent for a little accountability. “It feels lonely…,” said John A. Allison IV, former CEO of BB&T, one of the nation’s top 10 banks, to Bloomberg News [http://http//www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-20/bankers-join-billionaires-to-debunk-imbecile-attack-on-top-1-.html].
Or, as billionaire Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex Inc., so delicately put it, according to Bloomberg [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-20/bankers-join-billionaires-to-debunk-imbecile-attack-on-top-1-.html]:
“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.
Even Jamie Dimond, the J.P. Morgan Chase CEO who took home a cool $23 million last year, and John Paulson, the billionaire hedge fund manager, have publicly bemoaned their targeting by Occupy Wall Street and other detractors [http://blog.aflcio.org/2011/11/21/responsible-investors-group-backs-occupy-wall-street-goals/].
So what’s a lonely, nauseous billionaire to do? Organize!
Enter the so-called Job Creators Alliance (JCA), a sort of one-stop messaging operation, complete with a speakers bureau and media booking operation for those underappreciated fat cats. The group’s 17 featured business leaders say they aim to “shape the national agenda,” according to the JCA website.
Among the alliance’s founding members is Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, who still seems to need a little work on his messaging. Asked by Bloomberg reporter Max Abelson whether he he was concerned about becoming the target of protesters, Marcus replied [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-20/bankers-join-billionaires-to-debunk-imbecile-attack-on-top-1-.html]: "Who gives a crap about some imbecile? Are you kidding me?"
One of the burning issues on that agenda is the 1 percent’s disdain for a section of the Dodd-Frank bill that requires publicly-traded corporations to disclose the ratio between their CEO’s compensation and the median pay package given employees. BB&T’s Allison, who still sits on the bank’s board and is one of the 17 JCA-appointed spokes-billioniares for the 1 percent, complained to Bloomberg that the rule was “an attack on the very productive.”
This definition of productivity must include small business foreclosures [http://www.consumerwarningnetwork.com/2011/08/04/one-day-late-with-mortgage-payment-bbt-forecloses/] and employee layoffs [http://www.wral.com/business/story/4280363/]. BB&T, which took $3.1 billion in bailout funds (since repaid), announced this week that it was eliminating an unspecified number of positions, lending an Orwellian bent to his role in the purported Job Creators Alliance.
As we reported [http://blog.aflcio.org/2011/12/13/did-obscene-executive-pay-spark-the-financial-crisis/], excessive CEO pay is now seen as one of the key drivers of the housing bubble that led to the crashing of the economy in 2008. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted at a conference on the topic last week that the average CEO of the top 500 corporations listed by Standard & Poor’s now collects 343 times the amount in compensation as the median paycheck received by his or her workers.
Our scroll through the JCA website found several links to the billionaires Charles and David Koch, the anti-labor siblings who run Koch Industries [http://blog.aflcio.org/2011/08/03/right-wing-money-fuels-fight-against-wisconsin-recalls/#more-57171], the second-largest privately held company in the United States. Bernie Marcus’ business partner, Ken Langone, attended at least two of the brothers’ secret retreats for wealthy political donors, according to reporting by ThinkProgress [http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/01/30/141486/langone-cain-koch/].
Art Pope, one of the JCA 17, is vice chair of the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, which is chaired by David Koch. Pope also sits on the board of Americans For Prosperity, the foundation’s sibling organization [http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/10/10/111010fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=all].
Two JCA staff have Koch connections, as well. JCA President Jeanette Goodman and message team member Lee Habeeb previously worked for the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-wing, climate-change-denying think tank funded by the Kochs [http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/polluterwatch/koch-industries/national-center-for-policy-ana/].