Do you know Alec? You probably do, even though you never heard of it. Yes, 'it.' Not a person, ALEC is the acronym for a secretive, corporate-funded, state policy front group: American Legislative Exchange Council.
From Enron to Wall Street, a big cause of America's major financial collapses in the past decade has been simple deceit. Finaglers used secret offshore accounts and dummy subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere to avoid regulatory scrutiny and to make investors think the businesses were sounder than they really were.
One politician bluntly said of Washington's annual tax giveaway to massively profitable oil corporations, 'We don't need incentives to the oil and gas companies to explore. There are plenty of incentives.' That was no lefty talking - it was George W. Bush.
How quaint. Today, the riches are massive, but the embarrassment gene seems to have been completely bred out of corporate chieftains. They have no shame at producing negative results and offing thousands of underlings, then wheeling in a front-end loader to haul their own pay to the bank.
Next comes 10.7. That's the $10.7 billion in profits this oil giant has soaked up in just the first three months of this year - a new record, not achieved by any managerial genius, increased productivity, or improvement in consumer service, but solely by the jack-up in gas prices.
Entergy Corporation, an electric utility giant based in New Orleans, owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which is nearing the end of its 40-year license to operate. No problem, here's a 20-year extension of your license, said the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (a notorious industry lapdog).
It's good to know that some corporate chieftains feel the pain of their underlings, who keep being forced to do more for less reward. Take the example of Gannett, the media giant that owns 23 television stations and 82 newspapers, including USA Today..
Not the tarot card readers or those who have extra-sensory perception and commune with the supernatural, but the people of crass commerce who deal in liquid spirits - i.e., booze. Despite our nation's relentless and depressing 'jobless recovery' (or perhaps because of it), spirits are on the rise.
Of course, averages don't tell the whole story. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith graphically explained the problem of averages with a story about a six-foot tall man who drowned when wading across a stream with an average depth of three feet.