First it was David Siegel, owner of Westgate Resorts, who told his employees they faced lay-offs if President Obama was re-elected. He has been joined in his attempts at vote influencing (aka voter intimidation) by a couple of big players.
Arthur Allen, chief executive of ASG Software Solutions sent the following e-mail to his employees on September 30:
“Many of you have been with ASG for over 5, 10, 15, and even 20 years. As you know, together, we have been able to keep ASG an independent company while still growing our revenues and customers. But I can tell you, if the US re-elects President Obama, our chances of staying independent are slim to none. I am already heavily involved in considering options that make our independence go away, and with that all of our lives would change forever. I believe that a new President and administration would give US citizens and the world the renewed confidence and optimism we all need to get the global economies started again and give ASG a chance to stay independent. If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don’t want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come…I am asking you to give us one more chance to stay independent by voting in a new President and administration on November 6th.”
Excuse me? How the hell will re-electing President Obama threaten the “independence” of ASG?
ASG Software Solutions was founded in 1986. It is an enterprise software company that specializes in software for financial and brokerage firms – you know, the guys who tanked the global economy. It has revenues of over $120 million a year. It is also privately held, meaning that according to the United States tax code, it is a “small business” and gets all the tax advantages that we think Congress is giving to real small businesses like the corner pizza parlor.
Any idea that the election of a new president would impact the global recession is dumber than dumb. All the indications are that Europe is going to be a very long time in recovering, which impacts our recovery, not the other way around. The austerity budgets adopted by conservative European governments or at the insistence of the Eurozone have created double-dip recessions and full-blown depressions. This truly was a global recession, even if it took six years for the impact to reach China. Just like the Great Depression, recovery is dependent upon international factors as well as national ones. Right now, our recovery may be slow, but we are experiencing a recovery, which is better than many of our trading partners.
And joining the ranks of the CEO intimidators is Koch Industries President Dave Robertson. He’s the daily nuts-and-bolts guy for the billionaire Koch brothers, whose combined net worth exceeds $50 billion and who use their spare cash to fund think tanks that are used to justify conservative positions, Republican campaigns like Scott Walker’s in Wisconsin, PACs and SuperPACs, and the Tea Party Express. Bowing down and kissing the Koch brothers feet is second only to signing Grover Norquist’s tax pledge as a pre-requisite for being a Republican these days.
Robertson didn’t bother with an e-mail hinting at dire consequences if we re-elect the President. He just sent out a “voter information packet” to the 45,000 employees of Koch’s Georgia Pacific subsidiary. Included was a letter from Robertson:
“While we are typically told before each Presidential election that it is important and historic, I believe the upcoming election will determine what kind of America future generations will inherit…If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gas prices, runaway inflation and other ills. This is true regardless of what your political affiliation might be….To help you engage in the political process, we have enclosed several items in this packet. For most of you, this includes information about voter registration deadlines and early voting options for your state. At the request of many employees, we have also provided a list of candidates in your state that have been supported by Koch companies or by the KOCHPAC, our employee political action committee…I want to emphasize two things about these lists. First, and most important, we believe any decision about which candidate to support is – as always – yours and yours alone, based on the factors that are most important to you. Second, we do not support candidates based on their political affiliation. We evaluate them based on who is the most market-based and willing to support economic freedom for the benefit of society as a whole….If you are concerned about our economy, our future and enhancing the quality of life for all Americans, then I encourage you to consider the principles of your candidates and not just their party affiliation. It is essential that we are all informed and educated voters. Our future depends on it.”
Don’t choose by party affiliation? Really? Ever heard of a Democrat supported by the Kochs? And the letter was blatant about it “candidates…that have been supported by Koch companies or by KOCHPAC..” And how about that KOCHPAC? The right wing goes nuts over labor unions working for Democrats, claiming that union members are forced pay into campaigns and work for candidates, but how is KOCHPAC funded? I once worked for a supermarket that intimidated all its employees to contribute to the United Way. Can you imagine the kind of intimidation Koch Industries is capable of?
Want to know how bad this President has been for the Koch brothers? In 2010, Forbes listed their individual net worth at $21.5 billion. In 2012, it is $31 billion. They have each seen their net worth rise by $9.5 billion – that’s BILLION DOLLARS. Did your net worth rise by 44% in the past two years? Most Americans saw their net worth, their wealth as measured in the homes they own and any stock portfolios they may have, shrink by 30% during the recession. Those of us who haven’t lost our homes, have mortgages larger than the current value of our houses, or homes that are barely hanging in where they were assessed five years ago. I’m one of the lucky ones, but I live in Vermont where home prices didn’t inflate the way they did in other parts of the country, so they didn’t lose value as much.
Even if this isn’t actual illegal voter intimidation through implication of lost jobs, it is still put before their employees a giant crock of right wing propaganda with no actual evidence to back it up.
What are the facts to go with the propaganda? “Costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies…” is part of the allegation that the President personally chose green energy companies to receive loans. “Put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses…” is in total opposition to what President Obama has been doing for over three years – directing the agencies of the Federal government to consolidate and streamline regulations, up-date to reflect new realities in industry, end redundancies with state regulations. This administration did not create 500 new regulations. They revised 500 to make them more business friendly. “Prevent or delay important new construction projects…” The Republicans have insisted that the Keystone Pipeline must cross the Oglala aquifer in Nebraska and will employ 20,000 people. TransCanada, which owns the pipeline, has no problem with moving its path to avoid the sensitive aquifer and currently runs tens of thousands of miles of pipeline in Canada and America with a total workforce of under 5,000 people. The 20,000 figure is supposed to reflect jobs in casting the pipe itself, but there is no guarantee that those jobs won’t go to Canadian firms, and in the construction, which is temporary only. The real delay in important construction projects has come from the Republicans, both at the Congressional level where they have refused to fund infrastructure projects and at the state level where governors directed stimulus funds into the general fund to plug their bloated budgets instead of into infrastructure. They have also blocked funding for repairing and replacing failing school buildings.
Technically, the United States ranks 46th for income disparity – the gap between the top 10% and the bottom 10%. But if you remove places like Saudi Arabia where the royal family owns everything and just concentrate on modern, industrialized, democratic republics we are 4th. Only three other countries have a greater gap between the top and the bottom earners. We have a situation right now where half the people in this country hold only 1.1% of the nation’s wealth while the top 1% hold 34.5% and the next 9% hold 40% of the nation’s wealth.
Another way to look at it is this – when you take all the wealth in America and divide it by the number of households, the average (mean) net worth is $498,800. But if you take all the nation’s wealth and find the point where half the people have above that line and half below it, the median falls to just $77,300. The median income has held steady around $50,000 a year for over a decade, while CEO salaries have just kept going up and up. On Forbes’ list of the top 500 CEO salaries, the top slot goes to John Hammergren of McKesson (a health care information tech company) with a yearly salary of $131.19 million a year, $285.02 million over five years. The bottom slot for paid CEOs (there are three who take no salary) is Richard Fairbanks of Capital One. He gets $160,000 this year, but $92.81 million over five years. How about the guy who runs WalMart for the Waltons? Michael Duke makes $23,150,000 a year. A typical sales associate makes minimum wage for less than 30 hours per week so that WalMart doesn’t have to provide access to health insurance. That means under $13,000 a year, 0.00056% of what the CEO is making.
Income disparity hinders economic recovery. Income disparity creates the climate that leads to revolutions. We’ve been lucky in America. We’ve never really had an economic revolution, but most revolutions are economy-driven. We had the good fortune in 1932 to have a Presidential candidate who realized that we were headed for a communist revolution unless he did some drastic wealth distribution. Roosevelt imbedded in American culture the understanding that a little bit of socialism saves a whole lot of capitalism. The current Republican party does not understand that, and by controlling the message through their equally overpaid media personalities, they have convinced a whole lot of people who have limited knowledge of history, civics and economics that some how, by some magic that even Harry Potter never dreamed of, the trickle-down theory of economics will create jobs and wealth for the bottom half when it has failed three times already.
We need one thing first – to take the American tax code out, pile those 72,000-page volumes on the Capital lawn and set fire to them. Then, we start from scratch – no deductions, no exclusions, no exemptions, no tax credits, no tax breaks, no loopholes (like calling Cargill a small business), no 2,000 page tax returns so a company pays no taxes, no separation of income into different rates for different sources, and no separation of Social Security and Medicare as “separate taxes” when they actually are not set aside except on the books. Just low rates, fair and equitable, starting with a rate equal to payroll taxes for the lowest incomes and working up from them until we are collecting enough revenue to eliminate the deficit.
And whether the right wing likes it or not, working with other industrial countries to reign in multinational corporations. Every nation is suffering from the way multinationals move their money from country to country and avoid paying taxes in all of them. A company like ExxonMobil can bounce money around faster than a hacker can bounce across IPs to avoid detection.
There is one piece of good news about these lying pieces of intimidation and job threats – in each company someone was pissed off enough to leak the messages to the press.