Bill Bolling’s Funny Pages

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unday mornings bring my usual routine — wading through three newspapers. Despite the wholesale move to digital, there’s something about flipping through all that newsprint that seems satisfying, but this shows my age.

When I come to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, I reach for the “Commentary” section rather than the comics if I want amusement. Publisher Thomas A. “TAS” Silvestri has some impenetrable tome on what it means to be a “leader” or propaganda for the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce of which, in a curious conflict of interest for a newspaperman, he is chairman. Or there is apple-checked Bob Rayner writing that despite his Harvard education, Barack Obama doesn’t understand market economics. Rayner, I assume, does. Or Robin Behers, a former Navy petty officer, who, in what had to be an exclusive global scoop, once wrote flatly that Russia has sold nuclear weapons to terrorists.
The biggest hoot this Sunday was the lead piece penned by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the Republican whom the TD editorial board is setting up to succeed Bob McDonnell.
Bolling writes that Congress must keep the tax cuts granted by George W. Bush. Bolling, true to the GOP, claims that these are not just perks for the rich, even though they are. They are needed to help stimulate the economy and why should (rich) families be penalized? Odd that New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman writes today that by keeping the cuts, Congress would be giving a check worth $3 million to the tiny upper strata of people who are already wealthy.
But what really made Bolling a better read than “Doonesbury” or “The Wizard of Id,” was this statement:
“In my role as Virginia’s chief jobs creation officer, I have met with more CEOs than anyone in Virginia government over the past seven months. These CEOs know what it takes to create jobs and get our economy moving again. If there is one thing they all agree on, it is the need to reduce taxes to encourage spending and investment.”
Wow. That’s a mouthful. It is also highly amusing since some of the same CEOs are responsible for the very economic mess we are trying to get out of. In my past life, I spent years at BusinessWeek, was a contributing editor at Chief Executive magazine, former Washington Editor for Directorship magazine and still write occasionally for Corporate Board Member. I also blogged for about a year on corporate governance and financial services for CBS Interactive’s bnet.com.
I don’t mean to bore with my resume but my point is that I have interviewed dozens of CEOs over the years, including such luminaries as the heads of Procter & Gamble and TRW. There are some truly good ones out there, but there are also many bad apples. I do not hold them in awe.
Consider that:
  • The CEOs of Bear Stearns, Wachovia, Merrill Lynch, AIG. LandAmerica Financial Group, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Bank of America let their greed get the better of them and got all involved in subprime lending or extremely risky but profitable financial derivatives based on subprime lending such as Credit Default Swaps that stuck us in the Great Recession in the first place.
  • Greater Richmond took a huge beating because of the inept CEOs and other top managers at Circuit City, costing the area thousands of jobs.
  • CEOs at General Motors and Daimler-Chrysler botched making cars and planning for new models so badly that both needed huge federal bailouts.
  • CEOs at BP helped give us the worst oil spill in U.S. history this spring.

I have more on my list, but I think I’ll give the leader a break.

Hot flash for Bill Bolling. CEOs ALWAYS want lower taxes. It ain’t news. You might want to concentrate on why financial services firms are not lending to small businesses which create two thirds of all jobs in Virginia and elsewhere. Or why credit card companies use any ruse they can to bilk customers so they can’t spend more on goods and boost production.
But what does it matter. He’ll probably be the next governor anyway.
Peter Galuszka

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