Jim Hightower: Wartime Welfare Mooches
"The economic stimulus package that republicans muscled through the house... is raw garbage that will stimulate nothing but campaign contributions and speculators... Corporate tax rebates include $2 billion to Ford, $700 million to GE and $254 million to Enron...Armey (house majority leader) is all for tax breaks as long as they go to his campaign contributors."
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After all the very sober mailings that I have been sending of late, I
thought it would be nice to try something more humourous. Of course we
can't opt for apolitical humor, so here is Jim Hightower, a master of
By Jim Hightower
In an editorial cartoon by Pulitzer-Prize winner Ben Sargent, a barrel
overflowing with the glop and stench of corporate tax breaks is being
decorated by Martha Stewart. She's shown painting it with the
red-white-and-blue design of America's flag. As she applies the stars
and stripes, she says to the reader: "See? There's nothing so ugly or
appalling you can't disguise it with this pattern."
So disgustingly true, as Washington has demonstrated again and again
since September 11. Already, Bush, the congress, and a gang of
Gucci-clad corporate lobbyists have wrapped the flag around such
legislative dreck as "Star Wars" and "Fast Track," declaring it a matter
of high patriotism to pass both. Then there are star-spangled
multibillion-dollar bailouts that richly reward CEOs and big investors
but leave hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers out in the cold.
But the most rancid of all, so far, is the sickening "economic stimulus
package" that the Republican leadership recently muscled through the
house. This is raw garbage, which will stimulate nothing but more
campaign contributions from the corporations and speculators who get all
the money. In addition to a special capital gains tax break that will
put 80 percent of the money into the pockets of the wealthiest two
percent of Americans, this package includes a retroactive elimination of
the "corporate minimum alternative tax." Under this greasy giveaway, $25
billion will be given to a handful of profitable corporations as a full
refund of taxes they've paid for the past 15 years!
Among these wartime welfare mooches are Enron, getting $254 million in
refunds, GE getting $671 million, and Ford getting about $2 billion.
This isn't partriotism...it's war profiteering. To stop it, call the
Campaign for America's Future: 202-955-5665.
HARD TIMES FOR THE LUXURY CLASS
Let's take another peek [Lifestyles Theme] into "The Lifestyles of the
Being rich means never having to say, "How much?" This is why there's
currently a lot of crankiness out there among those who had been made
rich by the spectacular rise in dot-com stock prices during the last
decade, but then have been made suddenly unrich by this year's dot-com
meltdown. Now, instead of buying a pair of Gucci's on impulse, they're
shopping for no-name shoes and asking, "How much?"
The crimp in spending by these nouveau luxury buyers is so tight that
the New York Times tells tales of empty stores and lonely sales clerks
in such previously hot shops as Tiffany, Prada, Dior, Chanel, and Gucci.
These toney stores are hurting, yet because they are purveyors of
prestige, they can't simply whack prices in half or hold a tacky
two-for-one sale. This would cheapen their own upscale image. As one
marketing expert put it, if they "cut prices too much, then people
think, well, it wasn't worth that much after all."
Luckily for the sellers of hoity-toity goods, there are still some rich
shoppers like Gary Markle of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Featured in the
Times story, this high-tech exec is continuing to spend on luxury goods
despite plummeting stock prices, local layoffs, and the general economic
downturn affecting so many others. He's building a $1.5 million house in
a gated compound, he sports around town in a shiny Mercedes, and he just
bought a brand new SUV for his wife, explaining: "She wanted a new car,
her car was two or three years old, and we said, well, sure."
In the world of the rich, a downturn means having to switch from fois
gras to caviar. As Markle told the Times, "I think people are saying to
themselves, well, I had $3 million and now I only have $2 million. But
$2 million is still a lot of money."
Sure, that's what all the people I know are saying.
RESERVING TAX BREAKS FOR THE RICH
Time for another Gooberhead Award [Beanie-cap breakdown] presented
periodically to people in the news whose tongues are going 100 miles per
hour...but who forgot to put their brains in gear.
Today's Goober is a fellow who, like a bad tamale, just keeps coming
back on us. He's Dick Armey, the house majority leader, and this time he
repeats as our awardee because of his remarkable stance on the $100
billion economic stimulus package that recently zipped through the
house. Armey declared that the package was too rich.
Well, he certainly was right about that. This thing is larded with
outrageous giveaways to the rich an assortment of elitist goodies that
has nothing to do with the millions of Americans who have been flattened
by the economic bust since September 11, nor will it do anything to
rebuild our economy. Among other things, the $100-billion package
gratuitously gives a special capital-gains tax break to the wealthiest
two-percent of Americans, and it also allows enormously profitable
corporations to get $25 billion in tax rebates.
But our boy Dick had no gripe with the rich making a killing. It was the
little dab going to low-income workers that got his knickers in a knot.
These low-wage families have been devastated by the job losses at
airports, hotels, and other places where business has plummeted, so the
stimulus package allowed small rebates on a portion of their payroll
taxes. Armey got on his hind legs to complain about allowing such folks
to get maybe a hundred bucks or so in rebate, claiming that this would
"not really have a growth impact on the economy."
What a Goober! In fact, spreading smaller sums of money to millions of
workers is exactly the way to stimulate the economy, since these folks
won't hoard it as the rich do, but instead will spend it immediately on
groceries and other basic needs for their families. Armey's all for tax
breaks...as long as they go to his campaign contributors.
THE HORROR OF "SUPERBUGS"
Food poisoning is ugly stuff, and it can be downright deadly, but,
luckily, there are powerful antibiotics that can beat back most cases of
salmonella or other bacterial food poisonings. Unless, however, the bug
infecting you happens to have evolved into a "superbug" that is immune
"Superbugs" is not the title of some bad horror movie, but a truly
horrible reality of modern life in which some bacteria are rapidly
developing a resistance to even our most powerful antibiotic drugs. Two
new scientific studies have found an alarming rise in meat products that
are contaminated with these antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In one study,
the Center for Disease Control examined 407 chicken samples taken from
supermarkets in four states. More than half were contaminated with E.
faecium bacteria that had developed immunity to the three drugs usually
used to kill it. In the other study, the Food & Drug Administration
examined 200 samples of ground beef, chicken, pork, and turkey from
supermarkets in the Washington D.C.area. A fifth of the samples
contained salmonella bacteria, and 83 percent of these bacteria were
resistant to at least one of the antibiotics commonly used to kill this
Not only is this rapid and deadly mutation scary, but it's also stupid,
for it should not be happening at all. The problem stems from the fact
that giant agribusiness operators are dosing chickens, cattle, and other
animals with tons of antibiotics annually, not to cure disease, but--get
this--to force the animals to gain weight quickly. While some three
million pounds of antibiotics go to treat humans each year, nearly 25
million pounds are fed to animals simply to speed up the fattening
process...and to fatten the profits of the giant meat purveyors.
In their rush to profit, these corporations are creating the superbugs
in our meat supply...and literally making a killing on us.
SURPRISES IN THE FINE PRINT
Time for another trip [Far-out space music] into the Far, Far, Far-out
Frontiers of Free Enterprise.
Today, spaceship Hightower takes you once again into the Lilliputian
world of tiny print--an obscure realm of product packaging where a keen
eye and a magnifying glass can reveal that the product is not really
delivering what you think it is. Thanks to Consumer Reports magazine for
bringing these items into focus for us.
Let's start with something good to eat, like Havarti Spread. Yum, I love
havarti cheese--but, wait, the back of the box quietly informs us that
this spread gives you a "havarti-type flavor." The cheese is actually
cheddar. Ok, how about Chesapeake Bay Crab Cake Kit with white crabmeat?
The package urges you to "treat yourself to this Chesapeake Bay
delicacy." Only when you check the ingredient list do you find this
note: "Crabmeat is a product of Thailand." Well, at least you get
crabmeat. When you buy a box of Manischewitz mashed sweet potatoes,
however, you probably would not notice the small type that whispers:
"Contains no sweet potatoes." There is sweet potato flavor, but the
product inside is "multipurpose white potato" flakes.
If you feel the need to shed a little light on products like these so
you can read the fine print, don't trust the Philips light bulb company.
It offers an 85-watt bulb for recessed floodlights, bragging on the
package that this Philips 85-watter "replaces 100-watt" bulbs. Yes...but
no. Squint at the back of the package and you learn that this bulb
actually delivers only about 77-watts worth of light. So, technically,
you could "replace" your 100- watt bulb with this one, but it really
wouldn't be a replacement in terms of the light it put out.
If this is confusing, consider the ad for a $500 bikini swimsuit that,
in the tiny print, warns: "Should not be worn in the sun or water."
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