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Peter Grace.

"Scare 'em. Call 1-800-Be Angry. There are probably at least 60 million sensible people in America. Why don't 60 million march on Washington? Tell them, #You stop spending more than what you have, or else."'

So says J. Peter Grace, chief executive since 1945 of W.R. Grace, a New York-based, specialty chemicals manufacturer. Grace, 79, has been CEO longer than any other executive of a major U.S. industrial concern. It is mid-morning, and he's firing salvos at Congress from the top floor of the Grace Building in Manhattan.

So, what if legislators don't stop spending? For starters, there's a possible listing in the 1992 Congressional Pig Book Summary, which calculates that the 1990 tax increase is funding more than $8 billion worth of pork barrel projects. These, in turn, will cause the deficit to skyrocket to $400 billion in 1993, the book says.

The Pig Book was produced by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a nonpartisan, nonprofit group of 450,000 members that Grace currently co-chairs with syndicated columnist jack Anderson. The group, which can actually be reached at the above hot line, motivates activists nationwide against wasteful government spending.

Leaning back in his chair, hands resting in his lap, Grace seems relaxed, but his blue eyes remain alert, his tone forceful and direct, perhaps poised on the brink of indignation, even abrasiveness.

W.R. Grace is a giant international holding company in transition. It is moving to narrow its scope of operations to just six core businesses in chemicals and health care. The company is aiming to divest noncore businesses, including Grace Energy. Last November, the company agreed in principle to divest its book, video and software distribution businesses (Grace Distribution). Other discontinued operations in 1991 relate to Grace's former agricultural chemicals group.

Specialty chemicals analyst Stuart Pulvirent of Shearson Lehman Brothers notes: "They've shrunk the company in sales pretty dramatically and I think they'll shrink it more in terms of manpower and sales, at least in the next 12 months. Any cash receipts will be used to pay off debt. Overall, net income should be fairly stable. In terms of operating income, they'll probably get smaller."

W.R. Grace's net income for 1991 totaled $218.6 million, up 7.8 percent from the previous year. But income for the quarter ended Mar. 31 totaled $5 million, down 83.8 percent year-on-year.

President and Chief Operating Officer J.P. Bolduc has been given much of the responsibility for determining strategy and running the company, Pulvirent says. "Peter Grace is OK'ing decisions, but it's pretty much Bolduc's show."

Even so, W.R. Grace and several outside concerns continue to benefit from the CEO's inexhaustible enthusiasm. According to Grace: "If you get excited enough about it, there are millions of things you can do. You first have to get the people angry."

Out of those million choices, Grace painstakingly calculated 2,478 when, in 1982, under President Ronald Reagan, he was appointed the chairman of the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control in the Federal Government - popularly known as the Grace Commission - and coordinated the work of 160 top corporate leaders in America and more than 2,000 volunteers, in an effort to root out waste, inefficiency and mismanagement in the federal government.

The final report contained 2,478 detailed recommendations calculated to save the government $424.4 billion over a three-year period.

As a result of his work with the commission, he wrote a book entitled Burning Money: The Waste of Your Tax Dollars, with chapters such as "How to Cut $100 Billion from Defense."

The success of the Grace Commission? In terms of accomplishment, Grace immodestly gives it a "10." What people adopted from the report, however, he ranks a "3."

In 1984, Citizens Against Government Waste picked up where the Grace Commission left off. According to CAGW, pork-barrel projects include roads that go virtually nowhere, "scientific studies" that yield no practical data and projects that benefit a limited number of people.

Grace, in a recent luncheon address to the Advertising Club of New York at the Plaza Hotel, launched into a rhythmic tirade of sour statistics, an entrancing combination of math and pointed commentary:

"How do you like $25 million for an Arctic region supercomputer to suck energy from the Aurora Borealis? $ 1 0 million for an unauthorized grant to Marywood College in Scranton, PA, to study stress on military families? $2.5 million in transportation to construct bike paths in North Miami Beach, FL?"

And more dramatically: "The median family income in the U.S. is about $34,000 per year. If one family gave every penny to the government, they would not be able to retire for 11.7 million years. That's how long it would take to pay off $400 billion. In other words, that selfless median income family would have had to start contributing its entire before-taxes income back in the Miocene Age - when the separate land masses of Africa, Arabia and Asia drifted into contact."

The numbers continued to roll in well-placed hits, as if Grace were trying to summon King Kong in between courses of vichyssoise and roast loin of veal:

According to the Tax Foundation, he said, the median two-income family earning $54,926 with two dependent children will pay $6,469 in federal income taxes, $4,202 in social security taxes and another $5,937 in "indirect" taxes from gasoline and beer. in all, this family will face a federal tax bill of $16,608. That's 30.2 percent of the family's total income.

Taxes at all levels - federal, state and local - will swallow up 39.7 percent, or 40 cents out of every dollar earned, of this two-earner family's income.

"In fiscal 1992 alone, we estimate that $166.6 billion is being wasted," Grace said. "That's out of $479 billion in income taxes being collected for Uncle Sam. The #waste tax' - the percentage of your personal income taxes going down the tubes in Washington - is 34.8 percent, or more than one-third of your total income tax bill."

Citizens Against Government Waste estimates the waste tax over five years will be $921 billion.

"There's been a lot of talk in Washington lately about fairness ... but there's $166.6 billion in waste. So the only fairness is that no one should have to pay a dime in new taxes until every penny of this waste is eliminated.

"Now you've all heard of the S&L crisis, and one of the 2,478 recommendations we made was for the deposit insurance programs, FSLIC and FDIC, to charge S&Ls and banks premiums that varied depending on the risk profile of the insured institution."

The cost of bailing out the FSLIC, Grace said, is estimated at $500 billion. He drove the point home by thrusting and retracting his head to an imaginary beat as he blurted out the lyrics to a rap song (pause after each line, head on the beat):

Turns out the best thing to own, Is something called a savings and loan Where you can live off the public trough With all the politicians you bought off.

Grace dropped back into the momentum of his speech, but the beat went on: The fiscal year deficit 1990 was $220.4 billion - the second highest on record. The fiscal year 1992 deficit - now estimated at $400 billion - will be the largest single-year deficit in world history. The average taxpayer worked for 93 days for the government in 1950. Now the count is up to 128 days. And referring to the 435 members of the House of Representatives who bounced 20,000 checks worth more than $10 million, he cheerfully quoted Mark Twain: "Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I am repeating myself."

Because the need for reform is great, time is of the essence, Grace says. "We're going to be in one hell of a mess, not too far off. It's all the more necessary for people to rise up and do something for their country."
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:N.B.; CEO of W.R. Grace and Co.
Author:Helou, Paul
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Words:1346
Previous Article:N.B.
Next Article:Mr. Lindsey goes to Washington.
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