New York Times, November 22, 2011
Headline on the front page of the New York Times:
“As Layoffs Rise, Stock Buybacks Consume Cash.”
It could have read: “Domination of the economy by exclusive concern with the short-term price of the stock continues,” or “Investment in job-producing growth sacrificed, as usual, for the price of the stock,” or “Cash in dividends not returned to build consumer demand and repair damage to retirement accounts.”
This stock buyback obscenity dramatizes the 99% versus 1% record wealth inequality. Direct quotes from the article can focus the protestors:
When Pfizer cut its research budget this year and laid off 1,100 employees, it was not because the company needed to save money. In fact, the drug maker had so much cash left over, it decided to buy back an additional $5 billion worth of stock on top of the $4 billion already earmarked.
When the nation is looking for ways to battle unemployment, big companies are neglecting to lay the foundation for future growth.
Stock buybacks have made a remarkable comeback in recent years with $445 billion authorized, the most since 2007.
The principle behind buybacks is simple. With fewer shares, earnings per share can rise smartly even if the growth is lackluster.
Executives are able to meet goals and earn bigger bonuses.
Campbell Soup said it would buy back $1 billion in stock; five days later it announced plans to eliminate 770 jobs.
Hewlett-Packard announced a $10 billion stock repurchase, and jettisoned 550 jobs.
Zimmer is on track to double its repurchases of $1 billion, more than twice its research and development. It actually borrowed money to achieve its repurchase goal. That helped CEO Dvorak to collect millions in bonuses.
Over the last decade, companies that spent the most on repurchases had a total shareholder return of 37% versus 127% for companies that spent the least.
Protestors should know that it was systemic sacrifice of job-growth programs that produced most of this surplus corporate cash now totaling $1 trillion domestically and $1 trillion abroad. Citizens can vote for laws that will move this money, tax free, into the job-growth economy, and vote their 401 (k) shares to declare special dividends, instead of wasting this money on stock buybacks.
Carey Center for Democratic Capitalism
November 22, 2011