At play in the fields of the lurid

It's no fun always being angry after reading the daily news.

According to Seattle Times business columnist Chuck Jaffe, an American firm called Putnam Investments gifted its former chief of operations, Larry Lasser, with a $78-million severance package.

This for mismanaging the business, losing tons of money and dragging the company's reputation through the mud.

And the same folks who won't bat an eye at this applaud the arrest of some welfare cheater who buys liquor with food stamps.

American criminals do the most damage with pencils and computers, not guns.

For proof number two, I give you Gary Pilgrim and Harold Baxter, the two worthies who founded Pilgrim Barker & Associates and then, according to Jaffe, "let their buddies pillage the company's funds for personal gain."

The two corporate tyros paid fines totaling $160 million after selling the badly damaged Wall Street firm for $400 million. They'll never see the inside of a jail.

There are no bigger crooks than those crooks running certain American corporations.

Speaking of crooks, Ken Lay of Enron is still out and about despite stealing with both hands while guys caught filching cars are doing hard time.

Close to home, the Los Angeles Times reported that a group of 22 companies that paid no California state income tax received $82 million in tax refunds the other day to help them defray business costs.

This corporate giveaway was defended by those Republican and Democratic legislators who are now making enough money to share in the giveaway, while Cali's chief executive, "the Guvinator" Arnold Schwarzenegger, whines about bankruptcy and cuts social service funding for the poor and disenfranchised.

At home, business groups are weeping because Washington state has raised its minimum wage to a whopping $7.35 an hour.

Such a bold move can't help but hurt the economic recovery that our president and his followers keep talking about.

I'm sure you can see the alleged conservative point of view.

Listen: Who needs approximately $295 for a week's work (before taxes) anyway? This kind of reckless legislation is going to seriously cut into second-home sales.

Damn bleeding hearts derailing recovery! It's enough to make you throw up your filet mignon.

But there may be help on the way.

Those dedicated guys and gals at the Washington State Hotel and Lodging Association are, according to The Seattle Times, "expected to step up their lobbying efforts against both workers' comp and minimum-wage increases when the state Legislature reconvenes in January."

Makes me feel warm all over.

Also makes me want to register in about a hundred area hotels under assumed names - names like Bush, Cheney, Hilton, Best Western, Rockefeller and DuPont - and then steal every towel I can get my hands on.

Finally, I quiver as I think of President Bush preparing to fix Social Security - which system, by the way, his own experts say will remain solvent until 2043 if he does nothing.

Let's tie your retirement to the stock market, and leave mine - and those of all the others who worked all our lives for a living - alone.

American business might not have recovered yet from the economic downtown, but it's almost a guarantee that American executives aren't suffering.

And if you're a believer in the recovery, here's one little tidbit for you to ponder:

2003's Economic Report of the President (that's George) predicted there would be 1.7 million jobs created. Instead, according to an Associated Press report out of Washington, the nation lost 53,000 jobs in 2003.

I can't wait for the next prediction or the latest news of arrests on Wall Street.

It's a great thing, this living through an economic upturn!

Write Dennis Wilken at[[In-content Ad]]