Still Calling

The Corporation

Allyson Schwartz Was Exactly What I Said She Was

I’ve long been a critic of Allyson Schwartz and was quite happy that she had her ass handed to her in the PA gubernatorial primary last year. Not that I was entirely opposed to her candidacy: she had vacated her seat in Congress to run, which meant that whatever the result, it was going to be a win. As little as I care for her, she would have been light-years better than Corbett and would no longer be able to hurt ALL of America with her bad votes.

My problems with Schwartz are well known. For example, despite her efforts to present herself as a progressive, she was actually the head of Third Way, a coalition of corporate-friendly, Republican-lite Democrats. Think the Blue Dogs or the DLC.

In a move that could only be called “dunderheaded”, in the thick of the PA election, Schwartz voted to cut food stamps (aka SNAP) by more than $8 billion dollars. For 175,000 low- and moderate-income Pennsylvanians, that was $65 cut from their monthly grocery budget. Tom Corbett’s approach to food stamps was stingy enough (my food stamp benefits amount to a little more than $6.00/day, but even THAT coal-hearted drunk saw Schwartz’s vote for the clunker it was, and restored the funding she’d voted against.

But where Schwartz has earned her most angry critics is in the area of health care. Yeah, yeah: we all saw Schwartz flying her ACA freak flag during the campaign, but the truth has always been a lot more complicated. She was prepared to vote against cost controls that would have lowered Medicare costs (although she finally caved). She also signed on to repeal the medical device tax. And she introduced legislation that would have increased health care costs for consumers while giving her husband a tasty pay-raise.

So it was not surprising to learn that Schwartz has joined the “better Medicare Alliance as CEO and President. What do they do?

The Better Medicare Alliance’s raison d’etre is to widen the federal spigot of taxpayer dollars already gushing into the bank accounts of insurance companies that operate Medicare Advantage plans, those privately run alternatives to traditional Medicare.,,

Even though the Better Medicare Alliance lists several nonprofit organizations as allies on its website (and gives them equal billing to Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group), I recognized many of them — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation and the Healthcare Leadership Council — as groups ever ready to aid and abet the insurance industry.

As an industry executive, I worked with every one of them during the various campaigns we waged whenever a proposed law or regulation surfaced somewhere that might have hurt profits. Know this, though: while those organizations were willing to lend their names to give our front groups the appearance of being genuine coalitions, they expected us to kick in most if not all of the money to cover the front groups’ expenses.

So how can I be so sure the Better Medicare Alliance is a front group, aside from the mention of the usual suspects as allies? There are these other tell-tale signs: no listing of a physical address or phone number on its website; no mention of employees other than Schwartz; no board of directors (I wanted to know who actually hired Schwartz and who she answers to); no apparent way to reach anyone there other than through a generic email address.

So yes, Allyson was exactly what I said she was.

Letting the Mask Slip

Music for killers

They are who we thought they were:

(Reuters) – Oilfield service providers Baker Hughes Inc and Halliburton Co plan to cut thousands of jobs as drilling activity slows further due to a steep fall in crude oil prices…

The U.S. land rig count has fallen by 250 rigs, or about 15 percent, over the last 60 days, Halliburton Chief Executive Dave Lesar said on the call.

Halliburton and Baker Hughes derive about half of their revenue from North America, a region they expect to fare worse than the rest of the world in the oil slump.

In response to Schlumberger’s assertion that the company could gain market share as Halliburton and Baker Hughes integrate their operations, Lesar said the company would not “get distracted”.

“We’ve been through asbestos. We’ve been through Macondo, we’ve been through the Iraq war. We’re the execution company.”

If it’s true that a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth by accident, then Dave Lesar may have won the grand prize. Not only do we get three truths in this one -essentially accepting blame for some of the worst disasters of our time- Lesar also lets the mask slip, giving us a peek at the sociopathic nature behind so many corporations.

“We’ve been through asbestos“:

It’s time for yet another Halliburton story — but not the one you may be expecting. This isn’t about the endlessly scrutinized Iraq contracting business of the big energy services company that Dick Cheney ran before he became vice president. And it’s not about Halliburton’s profit-boosting accounting change during Cheney’s regime, or the scandals and problems currently affecting some of the firm’s far-flung projects.

Instead, let’s talk about Halliburton’s well-executed $5 billion escape from its asbestos problems, most of which Cheney created when he orchestrated Halliburton’s purchase of Dresser Industries in 1998…

Now that Halliburton has managed to extract itself from its asbestos liability by paying a ton of cash and stock to trusts that will compensate victims and their lawyers, we can get a handle on how much Dresser’s piece of the problem cost Halliburton. It turns out to be almost as much as Halliburton paid for the company.

“We’ve been through Macondo”:

Halliburton (HAL) has wrapped up most of its lingering liability for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill with a $1.1 billion settlement announced on Tuesday. The pact will resolve accusations that Halliburton’s cement work on the ill-fated Macondo well contributed to a disaster that killed 11 rig workers and spewed millions of barrels of crude into the gulf. It also offers important hints about where the four-year-old litigation storm centered on New Orleans is headed from here.

“We’ve been through the Iraq War“:

An analysis by the Financial Times reveals the extent to which both American and foreign companies have profited from the conflict – with the top 10 contractors securing business worth at least $72bn between them.
None has benefited more than KBR, once known as Kellogg Brown and Root. The controversial former subsidiary of Halliburton, which was once run by Dick Cheney, vice-president to George W. Bush, was awarded at least $39.5bn in federal contracts related to the Iraq war over the past decade.

That’s 300,000 asbestos claims. Incalculable damage to the Gulf of Mexico, including poisoning the seafood supply and destroying the livelihoods of thousands of Gulf Coast fishing communities. Nearly 5,000 dead Americans, countless dead Iraqis innocent of anything, and sowing never-ending chaos that has spread like wildfire in an already volatile region.

“We’re the execution company.” Yes, sir. You certainly are that.