Aug 2, 2004
On July 20 Microsoft Corporation announced that it was paying out a special dividend worth 32 billion dollars to its stockholders. Moreover, to boost Microsoft's stock price, the company was going to buy back another 40 billion dollars worth of stock over the next four years. It's nothing but an incredibly huge gift to some of the wealthiest people in the world.
Microsoft is able to pay out such vast sums of money because it has accumulated a huge cash hoard, currently pegged at about 54 billion dollars, and growing at a rate of about a billion dollars per month.
Microsoft is not the only company which is accumulating enormous amounts of cash. Five hundred of the biggest non-financial companies in the country have amassed an estimated 556 billion dollars in cash – or over half a trillion dollars. This is a record amount. These companies all have familiar, household names. ExxonMobil has 16 billion dollars in cash; Hewlett Packard has 15 billion dollars; Pfizer has 14 billion dollars; Intel has 13 billion dollars; Johnson and Johnson has 10.5 billion dollars.
This record accumulation comes from profits that are rising at record rates – plus the fact that the companies are not reinvesting these profits. In fact, the companies are doing the exact opposite, they are investing little and squeezing more and more work out of fewer and fewer workers – cutting the workers' wages and benefits as well.
On the one hand, these companies are sitting on a growing mountain of cash, which they then funnel back to the capitalist class in one way or another. On the other hand, the working class is on a terrible treadmill, producing more while facing growing unemployment and poverty.
That is the way the capitalist system works when the workers don't mobilize to protect themselves.