Class Warfare: Wall Street vs. Main Street

by Daniel Brandt
From NameBase NewsLine, No. 13, April-June 1996

Economist Lester Thurow was perplexed: "I think the only mystery is, why does it pop up now? Male wages have been falling for almost 25 years. Female wages have been falling for more than ten years. The mystery is, why are people getting concerned now as opposed to why didn't they get concerned five years ago?"

[Cartoon] This March 19 discussion on "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer" was one of several on the topic that aired on news programs during February and March. Newsweek did a cover story (26 February 1996) on killer CEOs who fire their workers, and are promptly rewarded by Wall Street when their executive stock options are suddenly worth millions. For its part, the New York Times ran a series about the declining fortunes of Main Street America (3-9 March 1996).

What a difference a few weeks makes. A bit earlier, on January 23, President Clinton proclaimed in his State of the Union message that the economy is "the healthiest it has been in three decades." Two weeks before, Lamar Alexander was campaigning in New Hampshire. A food industry worker asked him where all the jobs are going. "They're disappearing," Lamar replied. "Ten percent of us every year are going to be losing our jobs. That's just a fact, and we can't really stop that." Lamar's attitude was that everything is running smoothly where it counts, even if you lose your job; next question please.

It was Pat Buchanan's performance in the early primaries that placed America's 25-year secret on the table. Bob Dole said it best in New Hampshire: "I didn't realize that jobs and trade and what makes America work had become a big issue." What Dole meant was that had he known, he would have counterattacked earlier on behalf of his wealthy corporate backers.

After New Hampshire, the elites focused on killing the messenger who wouldn't let sleeping issues lie. It took about two weeks. Everyone knew what was coming -- especially Buchanan, who mentioned in his New Hampshire victory speech on February 20 that the fax machines were already churning: "We no longer have the element of surprise.... They're going to come after this campaign with everything they've got."

There was an eerie overnight calm while the elites factored in their New Hampshire miscalculation, rather like the calm before the slaughter of innocents by an overwhelming enemy force. Then all hell broke loose. No one expected it to be pretty.

Borrowing a favorite slur from the ADL, Bob Dole accused Buchanan of speaking in "code words" which convey racist and anti-Semitic messages. William Safire repeated his smug remark that Buchanan's convention speech in 1992 "sounded better in the original German." Sneering pundits branded Buchanan a "protectionist," someone with the bizarre belief that a throwback to "isolationism" is still possible in a competitive economy that has been "globalized" and "technologized."

The networks, with coiffured cunning, proved the pundits right with self-fulfilling prophecies. They proclaimed opinion polls showing that Buchanan was considered an "extremist" by some sixty percent of those who were asked. These were even broadcasted on election day during subsequent primaries, before voting booths were closed. (Years ago the networks abandoned the practice of announcing a winner while people were still voting. The problem was that this gave citizens the accurate impression that their votes don't matter. Now the networks commission crafty opinion polls instead, and present the predictable results as hard news.)

"Gosh, I don't know," mutters Joe Sixpack as he flicks off the network news and heads out to the voting booth after a hard day at work. "I think maybe Buchanan is an extremist. Better not throw away my vote on someone who can't beat Clinton." That's the intended response, and it's the response they get often enough to matter.

But something unusual has happened. The issue is on the table and the secret is out: the American middle class is vanishing at the same time that the rich are becoming an embarrassment. Noam Chomsky talks about the emerging "nanny state," while the John Birch Society analyzes the "ruling Establishment." Both are targeting the same people. If Mr. Sixpack still doesn't get it, his drinking buddy down the street is beginning to figure. Many among the great unwashed realize that the future of their children is vanishing before their eyes, even as they work harder to provide for it.

It's not difficult to finger the enemy. With the labor movement all but crushed during the Reagan era, replaced by deregulation and downsizing, the rich had nothing to fear from exposure and everything to gain from flattery. The media fawned over rich people as if they were kissing up to the boss -- which, of course, they were. With "lifestyles of the rich and famous" coming at the little guy from every direction, once the idea of class warfare is planted it eventually germinates. Even if it takes 25 years.

In 1970, dad was working 40 hours a week, mom was just getting into the labor force, and Junior sailed through college on scholarships, selecting any major he liked. As soon as Junior landed his first career job, he got married, bought a house, and raised 2.4 kids.

Today dad puts in more hours and doesn't dare demand compensation due to rumors of downsizing. Mom has been working full-time for years, while Junior flipped hamburgers and washed poodles throughout high school. College is essential for anyone who wants a future, so Junior graduated after $20,000 in student loans. He still can't find a decent job because he has no skills. Rents are high, and home prices are worse. He moves back in with mom and dad -- the so-called "boomerang effect."

Family health care now requires monthly contributions toward the company's reduced-coverage plan, Social Security will be bankrupt long before Junior is finished paying into it, dad's pension fund was raided during the 1980s, taxes are higher, the family credit cards are maxed out, and they have no savings. Their old cars are unreliable and repairs are expensive, but the sticker shock on a new one is worse.

Meanwhile, back at the yacht club, the rich are reeking. The only annoyance for them is that their friends might be getting richer even faster. In 1985 it took $150 million to make the Forbes 400 list; by 1995 you needed $340 million. In 1982 the Dow industrials were under 1000; now they are around 5700. Back in 1974, chief executives in America's largest corporations were paid about 35 times the pay of the average American worker. Today the ratio is 187 times the average. In Germany and Japan, the comparable ratio is 21 and 16.

In a March 11 speech to the Center for National Policy, David Obey (D-WI) pointed out that "the portion of wealth held by the top one percent in the U.S. has exploded from 22 percent in 1979 to about 42 percent today. We used to think of Great Britain, with its castles and peerages, as being the epitome of a class-based society. Today, we far surpass Britain in the disparity of income. That is economically disastrous and morally wrong."

Most Americans agree with Congressman Obey at a gut level, even without studying the figures. When the government announced that 705,000 new jobs were added in February, the stock market took the news hard, falling 171 points. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to discover that Wall Street's fortunes rise when Main Street's prospects fall. This class warfare is not waged on a level playing field, and no one gives odds to the little guy. A February poll by Wirthlin Worldwide found that 65 percent of Americans agree that the nation is "seriously off on the wrong track," and only 28 percent think that the country is "headed in the right direction."

The think tanks are a bit defensive about their trickle-down theories of the 1980s, which became the water torture of the 1990s. Despite some defections to integrity (Kevin Phillips, Michael Lind, and Edward Luttwak are most notable), the tanks are blowing smoke screens in an effort to confuse the issue. After all, they owe their salaries to Corporate America, which subsidizes the budgets of these elite institutions.

One tank tactic is to cite figures for average family income, which have remained essentially flat over the past two decades. But this is true only because during the 1980s, families sent more workers into the work force and they worked longer hours. Now they're running out of hours. Moreover, the rich are getting extremely rich, which is skewing the average. Since 1985, the decline in real wages for individuals has occurred more quickly during the two periods of rapid economic growth, so it's not simply a matter of a slow economy. Beginning in 1989, white- collar workers and college graduates took their lumps along with blue- collar workers. Up and down the educational ladder, both earning power and job security are rapidly diminishing.

One of the reasons for the decline of the middle class is the destruction of the union movement in America. It began in earnest when the FAA fired the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization strikers in 1981. This, along with the gutting of OSHA safety-regulation enforcement, sent a signal to bosses that the Reagan administration had declared open season on unions. Today union membership is less than 15 percent of all workers, while in the early 1980s it was about 25 percent. Well into the 1970s, unions conducted hundreds of major strikes a year. In 1995, there were 31.

From 1935-1980 it was almost unheard of for a company to hire permanent replacement workers during a strike. Since PATCO, thousands of union organizers have been illegally fired. In 1992, the conservative International Labor Organization called on the U.S. to conform to international standards on permanent replacement workers -- which only the U.S. and South Africa were violating. Even Pat Buchanan has finally broken with the Republican position on replacement workers, and has said that he will "take a look" at a labor-backed measure to ban companies from firing strikers.

Buchanan remains opposed to a hike in the minimum wage, however. More than half of Americans living below the official poverty level are from working households. The minimum wage earns $8,840 per year, but a family of four needs $15,580 to rise above the poverty level. This would require a rise in the minimum from $4.25 to $7.49, but currently legislation that will raise it only to $5.15 over a two-year period is stalled in Congress.

Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan has always opposed an increase in the minimum wage because it "increases unemployment and is not a very effective tool" to raise living standards. On February 20 he expanded on this thinking, and in a rare admission told Congress that "the sense of job insecurity is having a pronounced effect in damping labor costs." This is good for Wall Street. It means that workers rather than bosses are bearing the brunt of holding inflation in check, since wages comprise about two-thirds of consumer prices. Workers who fear layoffs are afraid to ask for raises; consequently the Fed can keep interest rates low without overheating the economy. Under these conditions Wall Street performs well, because investors and speculators need a stable dollar and easy money more than they need growth.

Middle class feelings of insecurity come not only from fears of downsizing, but also from underemployment and diminishing benefits. Four years ago Dan Quayle pointed to a help-wanted sign in the window of a California Burger King as evidence that the recession was ending. Most voters knew better. It's not just the 43 million jobs that have been erased since 1979, but the fact that most of those laid off cannot find another job that pays as well. Contingent (temporary or part-time) workers represented a quarter of the labor force in 1994. The elites call this "an improvement in the flexibility of labor markets."

Consumer installment debt increased a massive 30 percent from 1993 to 1995, which reflects both insecurity on the part of the consumer, as well as curious accounting practices that allow big banks to make more money by selling off this debt in the form of derivatives.

Benefits for all workers have taken a major hit in recent years. From 1982-1989, the number of companies that provide fully paid medical declined from 75 percent to 48 percent for individuals, and from 50 percent to 31 percent for families. In 1988, 93 percent of U.S. workers had a pension plan, but less than 28 percent of these were guaranteed pensions. On eight different occasions between 1983 and 1988, companies controlled by corporate raider Victor Posner tapped their employees' pension plans.

The cost of rent and home ownership have also contributed to middle-class insecurity. In 1967, the average monthly payment for a typical new home was 33 percent of average earnings for a worker. By 1995, the average payment was 57 percent of average earnings. Increases in rent follow the same pattern, and rent-control laws have disappeared in many cities that once had them. Property taxes keep increasing, except where voters have kept them artificially low -- in which case, other state and local taxes make up the difference, or public services such as education inevitably decline.

The cost of a college education has become legendary in the last 15 years, even though one in five people who graduated from college between 1984 and 1990 has a job that does not require a degree. The outlook for the next generation is especially bleak when the interest on the national debt is added to the taxes they must pay. As Lester Thurow pointed out, "If you look at young males 25 to 34 years of age, 32 percent of them cannot earn an above-poverty-line income. So we're telling one-third of the young males in America, 'You will never be able to support a family.'"

During the late 1960s, many criticized the "silent generation" of the 1950s, a generation that never questioned the sort of blind American patriotism that eventually resulted in the deaths of three million Vietnamese. Today we can appreciate a positive side to those quaint "Leave It to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" attitudes from the 1950s, in that this era in American history was held together by a substantial amount of social glue. Certain intangibles that we once took for granted seem important now that they're gone, from Boy Scouts to Sunday School to excellence in public education.

Due largely to the number of hours parents must work, the quality of family life has decreased. No time remains in their busy schedules to support schools and other local activities, and television has replaced child care. The loss of middle-class security in the last twenty years has meant the loss of many family and community values. This may be the most enduring loss of all.

Corporate defenders are quick to point out that foreign competition in a newly-globalized economy is the primary culprit. There is some truth to this, although it explains neither why profits of U.S. corporations are soaring, nor why the rich are getting richer. Common sense tells us that if America is getting squeezed by global competition, then we should all -- rich and poor -- be getting squeezed together.

This assumes, of course, that the elites still see themselves as Americans. It seems that patriotic noises come from their direction only when they need cannon fodder from the heartland to protect their markets. Even this requirement is becoming moot, as they hedge their bets by relying increasingly on the United Nations for muscle.

American elites in recent decades have globalized their interests out of greed, and at the expense of ordinary Americans. Our government held the door open for them, once the elites purchased the government through lobbying and campaign contributions. This is the familiar complaint, which no one even tries to deny, that Washington has been captured by special interests.

The new "America First" nationalism of Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot is one emerging response to this situation. This is not a throwback to the cowboy attitudes of LBJ and Nixon. It is isolationist rather than imperialist, a nationalism that is essentially defensive in nature. According to Buchanan, "I just think that a lot of modern corporate capitalists -- the managerial class basically -- has no loyalty to any country anymore, or any particular values other than the bottom line."

Buchanan is more of a threat to the elites than Ross Perot. To begin with, we must bracket Buchanan's role in supporting Nixon's megalomania, his politics during the 1980s, and his reluctance to leave the Republican Party. In no sense is Buchanan presented here as a viable alternative. But this discussion is about popular ideas, not about individual character or sincerity, and that makes Buchanan an interesting phenomenon.

At the level of pure ideology, the current Buchanan is substantially more radical than Ross Perot. Their "America First" protectionism is the same, but where Buchanan might use the words "ruling class," Perot uses words such as "abuse" and "corruption." Buchanan implies that there is a conflict of class interests, which must be addressed through a rebalance of power. Perot would rather overhaul than overthrow, suggesting a commonality of interests and no conflicts that cannot be handled through reform. The difference between these two is crucial, making Buchanan the larger threat even with fewer votes.

The protectionism of both Buchanan and Perot finds specific focus in trade issues such as outsourcing, factory relocation, NAFTA, GATT, and the Mexican bailout. Contrary to the way this issue is depicted by media pundits on the corporate payroll, it has nothing to do with "building a wall around America" or similar nonsense. Protectionism, says Noam Chomsky in a recent interview with David Barsamian, is as American as apple pie:

Alexander Hamilton is the one who invented the concept of infant industry protection and modern protectionism. The U.S. has always been a pioneer and a bastion of protectionism, which is why it's a rich, powerful country. Another slight secret of economic history, again well known to scholars, is that the free market policies have been an utter disaster. Anyone who is subjected to them got smashed, which is why the Third World looks the way it is. And every single developing society has radically violated those principles, the U.S. more than most. That's closely correlated with growth. If you look historically, protectionism is actually correlated with trade, even. The more protectionism, the more trade, for a simple reason: protectionism enhances growth, and growth enhances trade. These are truisms of economic history.

In his March 25 Nation column, Alexander Cockburn notes that only one column in the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal could be found in support of Buchanan's protectionism. This year Wal-Mart reported its first loss in 99 quarterly earnings reports; their customers haven't been buying the "luxury" items that are most profitable. Free trade, Cockburn suggests, is decimating the middle class to such an extent that companies are now laying off their own customers.

Journalist Robert Parry complains about the "well-to-do media elites that set the agendas on the weekend talk shows, before jetting off to give $30,000 speeches to corporate conventions. To the talking heads, from Cokie Roberts to George Will, there is almost a religious certainty about the benefits of free trade and free markets. Nothing can prompt a mocking put-down faster than a proposal that is called 'protectionist.'"

Thus a crucial issue of concern to the middle class has been decreed irrelevant by those who call themselves "journalists." No one who supports protectionism is advocating anything more than dealing with trade issues on a case-by-case basis for the mutual benefit of all parties. The irresponsibility of most journalists on this issue is one of the major scandals of the 1990s.

Protectionism is related to other labor issues. "Outsourcing" is the practice of eliminating entire classes of workers by subcontracting for components or services from companies with weaker or no unions and lower wages. Boeing Corporation wanted to sell planes in China, so several years ago China required Boeing to make portions of them in one of their factories. Now pieces of planes show up at the Boeing factory in huge crates marked with Chinese characters. The Chinese workers are paid about $50 per month.

Relocation of a factory, whether domestically for low-wage advantages, or across the Mexican border, or offshore, is even more drastic. Nike set up factories in South Korea some years ago, but when workers there started unionizing, they moved to Indonesia. Their sneakers cost $5.40 to make, and they sell them in the U.S. for $60 or more.

An implicit social contract between workers and corporations in the U.S., which was much in evidence from the Great Depression through the 1970s, has disappeared. Executives used to consider their employees as assets, but now they're seen as liabilities, and impediments to greater profits. In Europe and Japan, a stigma is still attached to corporations that downsize, while in the U.S., a corporation's stock climbs to new heights when layoffs are announced.

Wall Street passes the buck on the issue. They claim that tremendous performance pressure is exerted on corporations by institutional investors, who focus on short-term gains. This is because the moms and pops of America (31 percent of American households owned mutual funds in 1995) keep shifting their retirement savings from one mutual fund to another, in search of greater returns. The money managers of these funds are required to seek good returns, and to do this they make demands on corporations before investing in them.

Wall Street's reasoning might be more convincing if executives didn't hold many thousands of dollars, sometimes millions, in personal stock options that can be exercised profitably when the stock rises. In other words, corporate-killer executives are trying to blame the little guy for getting himself laid off, at the same time that these same executives are stuffing money into their pockets as a consequence of downsizing. It's not difficult to see why most observers reject this self-serving logic. It's true that more people own stock -- 51 million in 1992, up from 30 million in 1980. But as labor secretary Robert Reich stated on "Nightline" on February 14, ninety percent of the value in the stock market is still owned by ten percent of the population. The rhetoric from Wall Street is engineered to distort the issues; truth is the first casualty when so much is at stake.

Another example of distortion and double standards is seen in the debate over NAFTA. Congressional supporters claimed that 170,000 jobs would be created in the U.S. as a result of NAFTA. They based this on the assumption that every billion dollars in net exports creates 20,000 jobs. But in 1995 the U.S. had a trade deficit of at least $12 billion with Mexico, not a trade surplus, which suggests a loss of 240,000 jobs. Figures such as these rarely find their way into print; the bottom line on NAFTA, according to U.S. ambassador to Mexico James Jones, is that "overall it's been a great success." Meanwhile the border industries have increased 20 percent since NAFTA, and the wretched environmental conditions there have not improved. Workers on both sides of the border got shafted with NAFTA, while a handful of elites continue to make big money.

The nature of international capitalism has shifted significantly since Nixon announced in 1971 that the U.S. would no longer pay out gold for dollars in foreign exchange. This is known as the collapse of the Bretton Woods treaty, an arrangement that regulated international currency exchange since World War II, based on a dollar that was convertible to gold at $35 an ounce. Nixon had little choice: foreign institutions had amassed dollar claims that were double the gold reserves held by the U.S. for international convertibility. After two devaluations of the dollar, the gold standard was permanently abandoned in March 1973. Since then the international value of a dollar has fluctuated daily, rather like the price of a stock on Wall Street.

According to Cambridge University economist John Eatwell, prior to the collapse of Bretton Woods, about ninety percent of international currency transactions were long-term investment or trade, and about ten percent were speculative. Now the figures have reversed, and speculation accounts for ninety percent. Bond holders cannot tolerate inflation, and are forever chasing stable currencies. This appears to be a major factor in the decline of growth rates since the early 1970s.

Spearheading the speculative thrust are organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, GATT, Trilateral Commission, NAFTA, and now the World Trade Organization. These organizations front for elites in the Northern hemisphere. The IMF and World Bank dangle much-needed loans in front of developing countries, which are granted only after the country's bankers and politicians agree to follow certain free-market policies. This policy wish-list is drawn up by multinational corporations and speculators, and results in a shift of power away from the workers in these countries. The multinational elites who dictate these policies amount to a de facto world government. Sometimes they call themselves the "New World Order."

It is extremely rare to find an elitist who doesn't advocate free trade. If any of the 3,000 members of the Council on Foreign Relations, which includes many prominent journalists, question the wisdom of global free trade, we have yet to hear from them. One unlikely person who has spoken out against GATT is Franco-British billionaire Sir James Goldsmith. He points out in his book "Le Piege" that four billion people have suddenly entered the world economy, including China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and the former Soviet countries. Previously they were isolated by their political systems, or by low-tech communications, but now they're all trying to find jobs, and will work for extremely low wages:

We must start by rejecting the concept of global free trade and replacing it by regional free trade. That does not mean closing off the regions from trading with the rest of the world. It means that each region is free to decide whether to enter into bilateral agreements with other regions when it is to their mutual economic benefit. We must not just open our markets to any and every product whether or not it benefits our economy, destroys our employment, and destabilizes our society.

Goldsmith's primary concern is to protect Europe from the loss of jobs to offshore manufacturing, and he supports a gradual integration of Eastern Europe into the European Union. Similarly, he has no problems with NAFTA, which he sees as a move toward regional integration. But he worries that the twelve European Union countries will be only 4.5 percent of the world population in 30 years. "We have to rethink from top to bottom why we have elevated global free trade to the status of sacred cow, or moral dogma. It is a fatally flawed concept that will impoverish and destabilize the industrialized world while cruelly ravaging the Third World."

There are reasons other than the ones already discussed for the decline of the middle class. Some of these are the run-up of the American dollar between 1981-1985, the merger mania of the 1980s, deregulation in certain industries (permitting everything from junk bonds to the fleecing of Savings and Loans), the shift from corporate taxation to individual taxation, and the recent decrease in defense spending.

The only reasons you get from the media are the two that are officially approved for delivery by their public relations firms and media hacks -- global competition and the changing nature of technology. At best these are only a part of the picture, and at worst they're suspiciously convenient. If competition were as big of a problem as the executives and shareholders pretend, they wouldn't be laughing all the way to the bank with unprecedented profits. And if it were a simple matter of workers being replaced by machines, why aren't corporations doing more to retrain these workers?

The problem is more fundamental. The unchallenged assumption of our time is that people exist to serve the economy, but the economy does not exist to serve the people. Frequently the issue on the table today is whether corporate welfare programs (which cost taxpayers over $70 billion a year) and bailouts for elite Mexican-market speculators ought to be expanded. These days profit is privatized while costs are socialized; lots of luck trying to get the greatest good for the greatest number back on the agenda. It would mean a completely different approach to the issues.

When greed is rewarded to the extent that it is in today's America, appeals to conscience do not work. Historically, a shift of the magnitude that is needed now has required new players, and it's called a "revolution." This is not possible until after a near-total collapse of our system. Then new approaches might emerge on a decentralized basis, if at all.

The problem of the 1990s is this: a massive change in conventional wisdom has occurred over the last fifteen years, thanks to slick PR firms, media mandarins, spin doctors, and special-interest politicians. While many were celebrating the end of the "evil empire" and speculating about a "peace dividend," we failed to notice that the pundits, who dislike a vacuum, were getting restless. As we held open the door for the departing Cold War, someone slipped in a new set of assumptions. Today everyone seems to agree: our appointed task as the new century approaches is to worship the free market -- even if it's done at the expense of ordinary people everywhere.

Sidebar from NameBase NewsLine, No. 13, April-June 1996:

Beware of "empty-headed populism"

They call him "Chain Saw Al," or the "Corporate Shredder," and sometimes insiders talk about "Dunlapping" a company. Albert Dunlap, 58, is the dart board pin-up for critics of corporate downsizing, not to mention the 11,200 employees he axed from Scott Paper.

Jerry Chambliss worked in Scott's plant in Mobile, Alabama for 29 years before he was fired in August 1994. He can't find another job and has suffered a stroke. The family lives on Social Security payments of $12,000 a year and may have to sell their house. Emory Cole worked in the same plant for 37 years, and was fired four years before qualifying for a full pension from Scott.

Dunlap is proud of his record. The only one of fifty CEOs who would talk to Newsweek (26 February 1996) about corporate restructuring, Dunlap compares himself to a doctor who operates on a dying patient. The operation is painful -- Dunlap knows because he comes from a working- class family -- but letting the patient die would be worse. The problem, according to Dunlap, is that bloated U.S. corporations cannot compete in the global marketplace.

The problem for Dunlap's critics is his performance record during the time he operated on Scott Paper. Dunlap was named CEO of Scott in April 1994. Within months he and the three associates he brought with him began exploring the possibility of selling the company. He laid off 35 percent of the workforce, slashed the research and development budget in half, cut spending on staff training, and began demanding weekly volume forecasts from the marketing department instead of monthly reports. Many believe he was "hollowing out" the company. Shareholders were grateful -- over the next twelve months, Scott's stock more than doubled in price.

By October 1995, Scott's market share fell for paper towels, bathroom tissue, and facial tissue. But by then they were already in merger talks with Kimberly-Clark, and the sale was finalized in December. Dunlap walked away with $100 million for 20 months of work, including salary, bonuses, stock gains, a "noncompete payment" (a payment to preclude competing with the new owners), and other perks. His associates also did well for 18 months of work: Russell Kersh received $16.4 million, John Murtagh, the counsel, received $15.9 million, and Richard Nicolosi, the marketing chief, received $17.2 million.

This no-nonsense approach to class warfare impressed the Republican freshmen in the House. At their retreat in Baltimore on January 26, Dunlap was one of only two outsiders invited to speak. He advocated abolishing ten of the fourteen Cabinet departments, and privatizing much of what the government runs now: "Maybe Yellowstone should be run by Disney." About the federal shutdown, he remarked that "when you had the government down, you should have left it down."

On ABC's Nightline on February 14, Dunlap appeared with labor secretary Robert Reich. Dunlap insisted that it's the "moms and pops" of America who own Wall Street, and that the little guy should be grateful for any radical surgery that increases shareholder value. When Reich countered that ninety percent of the value of stocks on Wall Street is owned by ten percent of the population, Dunlap called this "rubbish."

Other executives are starting to stump for their cause. On March 18, Chrysler's chairman Robert J. Eaton defended Corporate America in a speech to the Economic Club of Detroit.

"It's open season on big business and CEOs," said Eaton. "This is old-fashioned, empty-headed, tub-thumping populism."

Eaton argued that companies should not be in business for the purpose of providing jobs or focusing on socially responsible issues, but properly- run firms will naturally contribute to their communities. As an example, Eaton said Chrysler will soon make $5 million in grants to arts groups in southeastern Michigan. "But nowhere in our strategic planning did we say 'take care of the arts.' We're able to do it only because we focused on a different priority -- financial success," Eaton said.

Last year Eaton received a $4.4 million compensation package, according to Chrysler's SEC filings. Incidentally, this is the same company that arm-twisted taxpayers into co-signing a $1.5 billion loan in 1979, and at the end of 1990 had a pension fund that showed a deficit of $3.6 billion.

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