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The ungodly pensions of corporate America

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By Jim Hightower

Corporate America is fast implementing a two-tiered retirement system: a platinum-level plan for the top executives -- and a dirt-level plan for all of you riff-raff below.

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There's even a term for the platinum pensions reserved for the corporate elite: "Top Hat" plans, they're called. But while the CEOs are feathering their own nests with multimillion-dollar annual pension payments, they're working double-time to destroy the retirement nest eggs of millions of their rank-and-file workers.

Leading this pension-busting movement is the Business Roundtable, a lobbying front made up of the CEOs of America's 400 largest and richest corporations. The Roundtable wails that its members simply can no longer be expected to pay the middle-class pensions that they negotiated - supposedly in good faith - with workers. Roundtable members say that workers must "take responsibility" for their own retirement accounts, rather than expecting the corporation to come through for them.

The Business Roundtable is also leading another mingy effort to downsize the "golden years" of America's working class. It has been an enthusiastic backer of President Bush's push to privatize our Social Security program. The top honcho of the Roundtable has grandly declared that its members "will spend what it takes" to switch Social Security to private pension accounts.

The CEOs want everyone's retirement to be at the mercy of the market... except theirs, of course. Consider such Roundtable members as Home Depot, IBM, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, Prudential, and GE - the CEOs of these giants are to get corporate-guaranteed pension payments of more than $2 million a year.

ExxonMobil sums up the attitude of these CEOs. Its executive suite at corporate headquarters is known as the "God Pod." To keep track of the hypocrisy of these false gods -- and to help bring them down to earth -- go to www.paywatch.org. --

Jim Hightower is the author of "Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time To Take It Back."

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