Corporate Welfare

Isn’t it about time that American corporate leaders who lie, cheat, mislead, and defraud the public be held accountable? Wall Street was the high-water mark of corporate fraud, a fraud that government institutions let happen, hurting millions of investors, consumers, and workers – actually global citizens who trusted the banking industry and the government to keep them safe from common thieves in the financial industries.

Public officials, in effect, made it easy for Wall Street to exploit an unregulated financial system for their own gain. Then when they defrauded and nearly broke the system, government bailed them out and excused their corruption. In turn we were ignored and rebuked by the same corrupt executives taking bonuses while demeaning and belittling us, this while many of us were unemployed and stripped of our savings. This too was excused by elected government representatives.

Such a scenario has only emboldened corporate executives to continue the corrupt practices that public officials, including President Obama, overlooked with the excuse of protecting a tottering economic system. Thus none were ever held accountable.

With the continued propaganda of conservatism dominating all media and dispensing daily talking points, in effect, meant to be public lessons to convince citizenry that all can be rich, that poverty is a mark of weakness, that big government is evil, that private enterprise is all effective, and that criticizing the rich is the equivalent of envy, we are baptized – totally immersed in corporate thinking. The corporate mogul’s feeling of entitlement and supremacy grows as compromised leaders treat them with holy reverence, not daring to pluck out the growing legions of the corrupt.

Grossly overpaid (at $27 million in 2015) executives like Jamie Dimon, the JPMorgan Chase CEO, was often treated like royalty, especially by Republicans. In spite of government handouts of $25 billion in 2008 as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), he showed his humility and gratitude by overseeing and covering up a monstrous derivative loss of over $6 billion made by a JPMorgan London branch in 2012.

For the so-called “London Whale” violation of banking laws, JPMorgan was fined about $920 million. Incompetent executives like Dimon are still with us. Even after the debacle, Senate Republicans genuflected before him in unrelated hearings.

This permissive corporate climate that seems to treat greed and arrogance as achievement has accrued and compounded similar behavior in more corporate dens of the entitled. Martin Shkreli, called the Douchebag Pharma CEO in some quarters, took the outrage of greed to a new level. Getting control of the drug, Daraprim, used to treat AIDS and cancer, he upped its price from $13.50 a tablet to $750 overnight. To add insult to injury, he slighted all of us, considering us lowly, even demeaned and insulted questioning members of Congress, treating them like servants.

This breed of corporate monster has been elaborately created, and the creature sucks the life out of the less powerful, including the more vulnerable and the less prosperous, using the institutional tools built by their creators who spent billions of dollars building a ruthless conservative infrastructure. Thus the monster has grown, feeling omnipotent and untouchable.

One of the latest outrages was aired by Sixty Minutes last May and recently repeated on CBS. Kimberly Clark’s former subdivision, Halyard Health, sold defective Microcool gowns, used daily in the U.S. during surgeries and commercially recommended by Halyard during the Ebola epidemic. The gowns allowed “breakouts” (blood) onto arms during procedures and in some cases the sleeves fell off, according to former Halyard global strategic marketing director, Bernard Vezeau. A number of gown failures were reported in Africa and the United States.

Eagan Avenatti, a law firm suing the company and former parent Kimberly-Clark, maintained that the companies didn’t notify the public, the FDA or physicians about the alleged faulty products. The suit maintains that up to 77% of independently tested gowns failed quality tests. Like a cornered politician, Chris Lowery, the 2.1 million per year compensated Halyard Health CEO, repeatedly eluded and denied queries by Anderson Cooper about the allegations on Sixty Minutes.

All large corporations have been coddled and favored by government policy in the last several decades, but none as much as the health care industry.

A pharmaceutical industry that successfully lobbied a Republican Congress to pass a Medicare prescription drug program in 2003 which forbade Medicare to bargain for better prescription drug prices and made it illegal for patients to buy foreign drugs is still bilking all who are dependent on drugs, especially the more vulnerable and needy seniors.

Recently, after an Obama-negotiated cooling off period, Pharma put the screws to Obamacare patients, slowly, but often precipitously jacking up prescription prices where the opportunity arose. Though Obamacare closes the Medicare coverage gap, which by each midyear, forces many seniors to choose between food and prescription drugs, the so-called donut-hole doesn’t close until 2020.

But there are many examples to show how Congress works for lobbyists and special interests rather than us. Republicans in Congress speak of entitlements but fail to recognize how entitled large corporate interests and their rich executives are. In spite of the current progressive movement, it is doubtful that these entitlements will end any time soon. Thus “reprehensible” is a common reaction to the demonstrated greed of the entitled.

A current LA Times headline makes those of us who pay attention respond with exclamations of “duh”: “EpiPens’ price jumped more than 500%, and lawmakers want to know why.”

Perhaps, members of Congress are grossly delusional, are ignorant, or are totally dishonest – or maybe, all three.  EpiPens are injection devices used to ward off potentially fatal allergic reactions, thus have a life-or-death importance, especially for children. The price went from a two-dose package costing about $94 nine years ago to more than six times that last May.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to Mylan, the manufacturer, asking for more information on the price hikes. Grassley is such a historic prisoner of special interests that such a letter is at the height of deception and demagoguery.

Such outrages are too numerous to catalogue here, but they are sure to continue to get our attention as long as we have a dysfunctional Congress under the sway of corporate interests. Experience should show us that the party most under the influence of the rich is the Republican Party. Democrats are not innocents by any means, but if you follow the big money, it predominantly goes to the GOP, whose platform almost perfectly matches up with the desires of the rich.

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.