Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Bush the Looter

Frederick Sweet looks to history and asks, can we trust the Shrub with Social Security? Hell no.

Soon after George W. Bush was sworn in as Texas governor in 1995, he transferred billions of dollars of public endowment money from the University of Texas to the control of his billionaire friend Tom Hicks, a “privatization” move similar to the one now proposed for Social Security. Bush’s friend headed the private U of T Investment Management Co. (UTIMCO) that had been set up to invest the U of T funds.

According to a March 1999 report in the Dallas Morning News, a committee that the Board of Regents uses to decide upon how the University of Texas invests its billions was run by billionaire Tom Hicks, a Bush appointee. Hicks was a major campaign contributor to Bush’s 1998 gubernatorial race and also the maximum contributor to and one of the major fundraisers in Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Hicks is an investment banker to whom Bush and his billionaire mentor Richard Rainwater had earlier sold the Texas Rangers. Hicks owns a vast sports and media empire. Bush allowed him to head up a committee charged with “investing billions of dollars of public university money in the form of investments in private companies.”

Questions were asked in 1999 because “almost a third of the $1.7 billion has been committed to funds run by Hicks’s business associates or friends . . . [and] five funds run by major Republican political donors.” Hicks was unwilling to answer questions about his activities on the public’s behalf.

It's no surprise to learn that Hicks is a major owner of pro-war Clear Channel Communications. Or that Hicks made Bush rich by buying the Texas Rangers in 1998, turning Shrub's $600,000 stake in the team into $15 million.

In mid 2004, Paul Krugman of the New York Times nailed the legitimacy issue with this lead: “Why are George W. Bush’s business dealings relevant? Given that his aides tout his ‘character,’ the public deserves to know that he became wealthy entirely through patronage and connections.”

“But more important,” Krugman continues, “those dealings foreshadow many characteristics of his administration, such as its obsession with secrecy and its intermingling of public policy with private interest.”

Then Krugman recalled, “Under his [Governor Bush’s] direction, at least $450 million was invested in private funds managed by Mr. Hicks’s business associates and major Republican Party donors. The managers of such funds earn big fees. Due to Mr. Bush’s change in the rules, these investments were hidden from public view; an employee of UTIMCO who alerted university auditors was summarily fired. Even now, it’s hard to find out how these investments turned out, though they seem to have done quite badly.

Just as poorly as your social security contributions will fare when they are handed over to wealthy parasites like Hicks to loot, the one and only true reason for "reform."


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