Leave South Mountain alone

Dear Editor:

Five years ago ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) told us they have to build the South Mountain Loop 202 above ground because "there is no other option in Phoenix."

The Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee suggested they look to the Superstition Freeway US 60, which has major sections constructed below ground level.

With much whining the Pecos Road connection to Interstate 10 was constructed below ground. Now they cannot drill tunnels into South Mountain because there is no technology?

Give me a break. International Harvester offered to do this for the city for free in the 1980s because they wanted to test their drills, but no one was interested.

The British built two tunnels on the main Hong Kong Island underneath a large mountain range from the North-Central District to the south side of the island in Aberdeen over 20 years ago. Perhaps ADOT can Google it and get some ideas.

In any case we want a two-lane parkway in Ahwatukee and leave the South Mountain alone.

Blanche Prokes



CEOs get preferential treatment

Dear Editor:

In George Orwell's satire, Animal Farm, the ruling pigs betray their originally declared democratic principles with a basic rule change: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

A recent congressional investigation of three CEOs who received spectacular rewards for spectacular failure depicts the pigs' maxim in operation.

The CEOs' "more-equal" status emerged from a mind-boggling dialogue between Merrill Lynch's compensation committee chairman, John Finnegan, and Rep. Henry Waxman.

Asked why Merrill's CEO Stanley O'Neal wasn't fired after presiding over his firm's huge losses, Finnegan explained O'Neal was permitted to resign because he would have lost $131 million earned in prior years if he had been fired. Only unethical conduct, not poor judgment, could justify O'Neal's firing, according to Finnegan. As a reward for losing billions in the subprime mortgage market, O'Neal retained $161 million, plus $70 million paid during his four-year tenure ("Executives under fire on exit pay," New York Times, March 8, 2008).

Former Citigroup CEO Charles Price received a similar deal: $110 million as a reward for losing a staggering $64 billion in his bank's market value. If, as appears likely, the government bails out Citigroup, Price will owe his windfall to U.S. taxpayers.

CEOs' "more-equal" status also shields them from criminal prosecution for what would be crimes for us less-equal mortals.

More than 100 companies - notably Apple and Home Depot - have backdated stock options. This devious practice allows executives to steal hundreds of millions from company shareholders.

Here's how this racket works: CEO Jones has stock options on 100,000 shares at a $30 "strike" price. Backdating the options to an earlier date when the stock price was $10 less enables Jones to buy the optioned shares for $1 million less. That $1 million is stolen from shareholders. But Congress, bribed by corporate campaign contributions, has allowed this popular form of theft to remain legal ("Talk about bad timing," TIME, Sept. 4, 2006, pg. 39).

As another sign of their exalted "more-equal" status, business executives have enjoyed skyrocketing pay over the past quarter century. Compared with employee pay, U.S. CEOs make 53 times as much as Japanese CEOs, 21 times as much as British.

In 2007, one hedge-fund manager made $850,000 per hour. And these hedge-fund managers pay taxes on fees at the 15 percent capital gains rate, compared with 35 percent for doctors and other professionals. This tax loophole is maintained by both Democratic and Republican congressmen, bribed by corporate donors.

Here's how hedge funds exploit the U.S. economy. They buy companies with debt that pays their huge fees, unload workers and return the companies to public markets.

Carlyle recently took Hertz private, siphoned off $1 billion in fees, and then took it public again.

To qualify as a hedge-fund investor, you need a minimum $5-million investment portfolio. That disqualifies at least 999 out of a thousand Americans. But don't forget, these rare animals are more equal than you.

Above all, don't succumb to what Rush Limbaugh calls class envy.

C.W. Griffin


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