The January 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee

 
 

National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website

 

 

In this issue:

Religious Witness with Homeless People

Memorial for Homeless Deaths in East Bay

Remember Rosa Parks: Justice in Public Transit

Justice is Pushed to Back of Bus

Big Brother Watches the Poor

Homeless Woman Works to Survive

Let Justice Roll: Raise the Miserly Minimum Wage

Richmond Courts Unfair to Poor

War Profiteer Parties Hearty

Poets Against the War Machine

Poems for the Poorman

Poems in Spirit of St. Francis

Songs of Our Shared Humanity

Psychotic Breaks

How to Deal with Pain and Fear


ARCHIVE

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

 

 

 


 

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The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

War Profiteer Knows How To Party

The U.S. death toll is more than 2,000 and rising fast. The bill for taxpayers is more than $200 billion. But one CEO has had a helluva party.

by Sarah Anderson

"Study for a War Monument." Engraving by Art Hazelwood

Over the past few months, I've gotten all kinds of flak from CEOs who were the subject of a report I co-authored about executive pay among defense contractors. Jack London of CACI International, whose employees interrogated prisoners at Abu Ghraib, denounced what I wrote as "shameful" and "ignorant." A United Technologies official accused me (falsely) of slander.

But the man who got the worst skewering was silent. David H. Brooks, CEO of bulletproof vest maker DHB Industries, earned $70 million in 2004, 13,349 percent more than his pre-9/11 compensation, according to Executive Excess, co-published by the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy. Brooks sold company stock worth about $186 million last year, spooking investors who drove DHB's share price from more than $22 to as low as $6.50.

Shareholders were mighty ticked, but what makes Brooks' war windfalls particularly obscene is that the equipment which boosted his fortunes appears not to work very well. In May 2005, the U.S. Marines recalled more than 5,000 DHB armored vests after questions were raised about their effectiveness in stopping 9 mm bullets. In November, the Marines and Army announced a recall of an additional 18,000 DHB vests.

Hearing nothing from DHB's PR team in response to media coverage of the report, I thought Mr. Brooks might be cowering in shame. Instead, I now find out that he was busy planning a party. And not just any party.


The New York Daily News estimates that the bat mitzvah Brooks threw for his daughter over the weekend cost an estimated $10 million. Virtually every musician that you might guess would appeal to a 50-something Long Island CEO was flown in by private jet: Aerosmith, Tom Petty, the Eagles' Don Henley and Joe Walsh, who performed with Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks, and Kenny G. As a likely concession to his daughter's tastes, Brooks also booked 50 Cent, DJ AM (Nicole Richie's fiancŽe) and rap diva Ciara.

According to Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove, Brooks was so pumped for Aerosmith that he changed his wardrobe for their performance from a "black-leather, metal-studded suit -- accessorized with biker-chic necklace chains and diamonds from Chrome Hearts jewelers -- into a hot-pink suede version of the same lovely outfit." The CEO then reportedly mounted the stage, clowned with Steven Tyler and insisted that his teenage nephew be permitted to sit in on drums.

Gallivanting with celebrities no doubt does wonders to relieve the mind of unpleasant matters. And Brooks has plenty to ponder. Under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for financial wrongdoing, he also faces a number of investor class action lawsuits for fraud and insider trading.

On top of the Marine recall, DHB had to settle a lawsuit in April with the New York Police Department and the Southern States Police Benevolent Association by replacing an estimated 2,609 potentially defective pieces of body armor. DHB stock, already in the tank, has slumped even further, to about $4.

Grotesque as it may be, Brooks' blowout is merely one of the more visible symbols of rampant war profiteering in the post-9/11 era. Our study showed that defense contractor CEOs received raises on average of 200 percent between 2001 and 2004, compared to only 7 percent for average large company CEOS.

Compared to the pay of those on the front lines of the war, the gap has grown even faster. The ratio between defense CEO pay and that of a military general has doubled during this period, from 12-to-1 to 23-to-1. The defense CEOs make 160 times the pay of an army private in combat.

Americans haven't always been so blase about war profiteering. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said: "I don't want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster."

FDR's strong feelings about war profiteering were shared by his successor, Harry Truman. As a Senator, Truman had traveled around the country going from one defense industry factory to another to investigate charges that executives were reaping unfair rewards. He later formed an investigative committee that saved billions in military costs. Imagine if Truman and FDR were alive today what they might have to say about Brooks' extravaganza.

Two and a half years into this war, the costs are painfully clear. The U.S. death toll is more than 2,000 and rising fast. The bill for taxpayers is more than $200 billion and growing. The damage to Americans' image in the world is immeasurable. But one man has had a helluva party.

Sarah Anderson is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and the co-author of Field Guide to the Global Economy (New Press, 2005) and Executive Excess.


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