Pigs at the Trough

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9781400047710: Pigs at the Trough

Who filled the trough? Who set the table at the banquet of greed? How has it been possible for corporate pigs to gorge themselves on grossly inflated pay packages and heaping helpings of stock options while the average American struggles to make do with their leftovers?

Provocative political commentator Arianna Huffington yanks back the curtain on the unholy alliance of CEOs, politicians, lobbyists, and Wall Street bankers who have shown a brutal disregard for those in the office cubicles and on the factory floors. As she puts it:

“The economic game is not supposed to be rigged like some shady ring toss on a carnival midway.” Yet it has been, allowing corporate crooks to bilk the public out of trillions of dollars, magically making our pensions and 401(k)s disappear and walking away with astronomical payouts and absurdly lavish perks-for-life.

The media have put their fingers on pieces of the sordid puzzle, but Pigs at the Trough presents the whole ugly picture of what’s really going on for the first time—a blistering, wickedly witty portrait of exactly how and why the worst and the greediest are running American business and government into the ground.

Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski, Adelphia’s John Rigas, and the Three Horsemen of the Enron Apocalypse—Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andrew Fastow—are not just a few bad apples. They are manifestations of a megatrend in corporate leadership—the rise of a callous and avaricious mind-set that is wildly out of whack with the core values of the average American. WorldCom, Enron, Adelphia, Tyco, AOL, Xerox, Merrill Lynch, and the other scandals are only the tip of the tip of the corruption iceberg.

Making the case that our public watchdogs have become little more than obedient lapdogs, unwilling to bite the corporate hand that feeds them, Arianna Huffington turns the spotlight on the tough reforms we must demand from Washington. We need, she argues, to go way beyond the lame Corporate Responsibility Act if we are to stop the voracious corporate predators from eating away at the very foundations of our democracy.

Devastatingly funny and powerfully indicting, Pigs at the Trough is a rousing call to arms and a must-read for all those who are outraged by the scandalous state of corporate America.

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Review:

Arianna Huffington, popular pundit, columnist, and author, is not known for her polite criticisms or her carefully worded complaints. In the course of Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption Are Undermining America, the corporate CEOs, accountants, politicians, and lobbyists at who she takes aim receive little relief from their porcine characterization first intimated in the book's title. And while she is full of invective for Enron's Kenneth Lay, Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, Dick Cheney, and others, she backs up her outrage with dollar figures, dates, names, and specific information. The voluminous research is made more digestible by Huffington's direct and often amusing writing style (she characterizes a CEO's process of getting a loan approved by a corporate board as being akin to Tony Soprano getting a loan from Paulie Walnuts). Interspersed between chapters are entertainingly informative sidebars, including quizzes on executives' avarice and games where you match the CEO to his yacht. Occasionally, Huffington's anger gets mired in name-calling, which deflates her points. And while she spends ample time and space outlining the particulars of a flawed power structure, she dedicates little time to offering practical solutions toward remedying the problems. But Huffington is not trying to write a political science textbook or a party platform. As a highly readable indictment of corporate and governmental excess, Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption Are Undermining America is highly successful. --John Moe

From the Author:

The gluttony continues!  Every day brings another jaw-dropping new example of precisely the kind of political and corporate outrages that prompted me to write Pigs at the Trough.  As I wrote in the book, our representatives in Washington have tried to fool us with a Madison Avenue version of reform, featuring glitzy bill signings and execs-in-chains photo-ops but pitifully little substance.  The president's assertion in his State of the Union address that one of the greatest accomplishments of his presidency was reforming corporate America was outrageous.  The ongoing march of corporate sleaze proves otherwise.

In just the last few weeks alone, as we prepare our own taxes, we've learned that the Wall Street firms who've agreed to pay $1.5 billion to settle conflict-of-interest charges will actually be able to claim the vast majority of those payments as tax deductions.  Think of that: not only do these financial flimflam artists escape criminal indictment, they get a massive write-off to boot!  Then there's the astounding story of how Sprint's top two executives paid no taxes on $288 million in stock-option profits thanks to highly imaginative tax shelters dreamed up by the accounting alchemists at Ernst & Young.  And you were worried about whether you could deduct that $42 dollar business lunch you had with a friend?

Pigs at the Trough shows how and why such appalling abuses continue to happen - and why Washington continues to turn a blind eye.

Normally, it's satisfying to be right.  But in this case, it's just plain nauseating.

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