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Corporate CEO 'Extremists' Target Social Security, Medicare

'For the wealthy, pampered, and narcissistic CEOs of the Business Roundtable, sacrifice is always for someone else.'

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

CEOs from America's largest corporations—including its biggest banks, retailers, and insurance companies who helped drive the country into the worst recession in nearly a century— are now calling on Congress to punish the nation's working class and society's most vulnerable by advocating major changes to Social Security and Medicare in a new lobbying push that critics say reveal the cruelty and selfish nature of the country's corporate class.

President Barack Obama with former 3M Co. CEO James McNerney at a Business Roundtable Gathering in DC, Dec. 5 2012 (Reuters/Larry Downing) The Business Roundtable, comprised of more than 200 chief executives and some of the nation's wealthiest individuals, began lobbying DC lawmakers Wednesday in a press conference calling for major cuts to Social Security (including a raise in elgibility age to 70) and a new push to privatize Medicare. (Comment via DISQUS on the Business Roundtable's website here)

Critics of the group call the move a clear assault by the nation's wealthiest on the social safety net that protects millions of working people.

As Richard Eskow explains, the Business Roundtable itself was formed decades ago specifically to serve the interests of the "largest and most ruthless companies in America."

Calling the group 'extremist' by its very nature, Eskow argues convincingly that Wall Street malfeasance and health care profiteering by many of the companies represented by the Roundtable have caused tremendously more damage to the economy than either Social Security or Medicare.

"Social Security’s in much better fiscal shape than most corporate benefit plans," writes Escow, adding that "any long-term problems [the program] may have are driven by a) greater wealth inequity than even the most conservative economists could have imagined in 1983; and b) massive unemployment brought on by Wall Street greed."

'Our long-term deficits are driven by America’s runaway health care costs, which in turn are driven by our profit-driven system. It’s barely an exaggeration to say that if some of these companies and their competitors didn’t exist the Federal government might not have a deficit problem at all'
–RJ Eskow

"The idea that Social Security is unaffordable for future generations is nonsense," points out Pat Garofalo at Think Progess. "The program can pay full benefits for decades, and nearly full benefits after that, with literally no changes...It’s particularly galling for wealthy CEOs to call for raising the retirement age, as they are among those who will be least affected by the change."

The demands of the group mirror those of the recent 'Fix the Debt' campaign, which lobbied to "reduce corporate taxes and shift costs onto the poor and elderly," ahead of the so-called 'fiscal-cliff' talks in December.

The Roundtable CEOs intend to pitch their ideas in meetings with congressional and White House officials ahead of the next impending round of deficit negotiations. And, given the preferential treatment they receive by many corporate media outlets, the group is pushing its message loudly among a public worn out by repeated fiscal battles in Washington.

The truth, as many economists like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz point out, is that the US does not have a deficit problem that couldn't be easily fixed by addressing the rapid rise in healthcare costs.

As Eskow says:

As for Medicare, its cost problems are caused by for-profit health companies inflating medical costs. Think the Business Roundtable will mention that? Its members include the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Abbott Laboratories, the Tenet hospital system, Cardinal Health, ExpressScripts, CVS/Caremark and WellPoint.

Like hell it will.

Our long-term deficits are driven by America’s runaway health care costs, which in turn are driven by our profit-driven system. It’s barely an exaggeration to say that if some of these companies and their competitors didn’t exist the Federal government might not have a deficit problem at all.

Among the other 200 corporations, Roundtable members include American Express, AT&T, Bank of America, Bayer, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Dow Chemical Company, and JPMorgan.

"Average CEO pay for S&P 500 companies is nearly $13 million," Garofalo adds. "Recent increases in life expectancy have only benefited wealthier workers in non-physical jobs. Poorer workers doing physical labor have not seen the same gains and would be most hurt by an increase in the retirement age."

And as Eskow concludes: "for the wealthy, pampered, and narcissistic CEOs of the Business Roundtable, sacrifice is always for someone else."