By Manifesto Joe
People don't seem to recall what was happening five years ago in politics. That was so long ago! I'll refresh some memories. Il Doofus' approval ratings were sliding down to eventual record lows, he was about to lose control of Congress -- and in Texas, Rick "Governor Goodhair" Perry was something less than popular.
The problem with Perry's opposition that year was that they couldn't unite behind one candidate. Goodhair was re-elected with only 39% of the vote, and his main opposition was split three ways -- Democrat Chris Bell got 29.8%, independent state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn got 18%, and country-Western singer and novelist Kinky Friedman got 12.6% (Kinky's a funny and engaging personality, but he flopped badly as a politician.)
Now let me really solicit memories, all the way back to late 2003. The Huffington Post has reminded everyone, including me, that Gov. Rick Perry's office was proposing to Swiss banking giant UBS a scheme in which UBS would buy life insurance policies on retired Texas teachers, cutting the state government in with revenue upon the deaths of said teachers. The survivors of the teachers would get nothing, and the elderly ex-teachers themselves would be offered something like $50 to $100 to sign the contract.
Here's a link to the Huffington Post article on the scheme. It's noteworthy that former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, author of some of the financial deregulation that half wrecked the U.S. and world economies, was by this time a vice president of UBS, and was reportedly in on the talks.
In this ghoulish scheme, UBS would essentially be gambling on the deaths of the retired teachers, with the state cut in on revenue from the deals. Corporations had long been using this as a tax break, since insurance premiums and death benefits are not taxed.
Walmart had already gone through horrid publicity over this practice, in which that company took out life insurance policies on its low-wage "associates." "Dead peasant insurance" was what some pundit dubbed it.
When news of this scheme hit Texas news media outlets in the coming months, it queered the deal. Teachers groups were predictably outraged. And, there seemed to be little question that the governor's office was the main force pushing the scheme. (It's also noteworthy that Perry's 23-year-old son went to work for UBS a few years later.)
But the voters didn't seem to remember any of this come 2006, nor did the news media. Knuckle-dragging zombies staggered to the polls and re-elected Perry, and they did it again in 2010.
Thankfully, the Huffington Post has raised this story from the dead. It's going to be important to keep reminding the public about this matter, and many others, as Goodhair lurches toward the possibility of the Republican presidential nomination next year.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.