Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Kiss my asbestos

Josh Marshall looks into another Bush/Cheney reform:
Like many of you, for months I've heard President Bush and Vice President Cheney talk up 'Asbestos Reform' as one of the main planks of their legislative agenda. I didn't know just what they meant by that.... But given who was pushing it, I figured it couldn't be anything good.
Public Citizen describes the sweet, sweet charity:
Under S. 852, asbestos companies with large existing liabilities that are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy – known as Tier 1 companies – would have those liabilities erased, in favor of contributions to the proposed asbestos trust fund. But the value of contributions to the trust fund would be substantially less than the existing liabilities, providing significant windfalls to the companies involved.
Asbestos "reform" is part of the administration's pattern: big business gets a gift, the little guy gets the shaft. But more than that, Bush and Cheney are showing special love for industries they worked in. Halliburton was in deep trouble from asbestos until very recently. The huge liability was acquired when, under Cheney, it bought Dresser Industries. (Another sentimental connection: George H. W. Bush worked for Dresser after WWII.)

Asbestos cost Halliburton over $4 billion ($2.8B cash + 2.5B stock - 1B insurance). HAL just settled its asbestos claims a few months ago. It's too late to help Halliburton, but not the rest of Dick's buddies.


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