Phil Gramm, the former right-wing senator from Texas, has surprised me.
I assumed he had zero charitable instincts. In office, he kept trying to kill safety net programs, such as food assistance: “We’re the only nation in the world where all our poor people are fat,” Gramm smirked back in 1981.
But the former lawmaker seems to have developed a new empathy for people who are demonized. Although he’s now a Wall Street operative, Gramm returned to Capitol Hill in July to express solidarity with victims of bigotry.
Wow. Was Gramm standing with Black Lives Matter and oppressed immigrants?
Not at all.
The Texan was testifying against a new rule requiring corporations to reveal the gap between their CEO’s pay and what their workers get. It’s “demagoguery,” Gramm grumped. Then he lurched into the abyss of absurdity by wailing that overpaid corporate chieftains are actually — get this — victims of public bigotry.
“The one form of bigotry that is still allowed in this country is bigotry against the successful,” the multimillionaire snarled.
To prove this bizarre claim, Gramm cited the specific case of his buddy, Ed Whiteacre, who retired as CEO of AT&T in 2007. The exec was widely condemned for grabbing a $158-million retirement package for himself as he went out the door.
Gramm practically wept as he related the sad story of Whiteacre’s heartache. The guy was actually underpaid, wailed Gramm: “If there’s ever been an exploited worker, he was exploited. It was an outrage!” This was odd, since the former senator had never previously expressed the slightest concern about exploited workers.
Perhaps Gramm could run a telethon to support ex-executives like Whiteacre, who suffer such soul-crushing bigotry. Please give till it hurts. And don’t laugh, for Phil really feels the pain of the rich.
This piece originally appeared at OtherWords.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.