Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Warfare State

We've all heard the term, "welfare state", bandied about over the years. Mostly, it's conservatives' disdainful term for government-run programs whose primary aim is to help the poor and disadvantaged among us. Welfare is a dirty word to most on the right, even though it has proven to help millions of Americans get back on their feet.

Over the last several years, however, we've begun to see a new type of "state" emerge. But it has nothing to do with helping the poor. In fact, just the opposite. One might even refer to it as the "warfare state".

What is the warfare state?

Top U.S. executives in the oil and defense industry have been able to translate war and rising oil prices into bigger paychecks, according to a study released Wednesday.

Since the war on terror began, CEOs of the top 34 defense contractors have seen pay levels that are double the amounts they received during the four years leading up to the 9/11 attacks, according to the report from the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.

Rising oil prices have translated into a 50 percent increase in pay for chief executive officers at the nation's top 15 oil companies since 2004.

Last year, defense industry CEOs walked off with 44 times more pay than military generals with 20 years experience and 308 times more than Army privates, the study showed.

The report surveyed all publicly held U.S. corporations among the top 100 defense contractors that had at least 10 percent of revenues in defense. These 34 CEOs combined have pocketed almost a billion dollars since 9/11.

In the oil sector, executives are making nearly three times the pay of CEOs in comparably sized businesses, according to the study.

As one can see, the warfare state is one that takes money from the pockets of the poor and the middle class and puts it directly into the pockets of war profiteers. It's Robin Hood in reverse. Steal from the poor and give to the rich. And it's just plain wrong.

When our government leaders, many of whom have vast personal and family-related financial interests in the industries in question, implement policy that enriches such companies far beyond what most would consider to be a reasonable return, then something is drastically out of whack. Why should a large slice of the three dollars per gallon we pay at the pump and the tax dollars we send to the IRS funnel almost directly into the pockets of multi-millionaire executives?

In effect, this reverse welfare is draining the coffers of workaday Americans, most of whom can little afford it, and grossly enriching those who don't need it. Are the rank and file employees of these companies seeing much additional income? Very unlikely.

So the oil and defense companies continue to rack up record quarterly profits while most Americans sink further into debt. Is that the American way? I don't think so.

No. It's the newest state in the union. The Warfare State.


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