Jim Hightower

Hard-Nosed Philanthropy

True philanthropy is not a function of being rich, but of being generous, giving of yourself without expecting anything in return.

It’s interesting that the greatest philanthropists in our country are middle- and low-income folks. These people give a higher percentage of their income to charities, churches, and other philanthropic causes than do the privileged families that hold great wealth.

Yet, the establishment media would have us believe that corporate executives are now the big philanthropists. We get gushing stories about various mega-corps “generously donating” bundles of money to various universities, for example.

But check it out: behind every one of these heart-warming tales of corporate altruism is a much less flattering story of corporate avarice. The New York Times reports that corporate giving is now over $4 billion a year – but these gifts come with strings attached.

California State University at Fresno, for example, is getting several million dollars from Save Mart Supermarkets to help build a campus event center. How nice of Save Mart, right? Not exactly. In return, Cal State’s place will be named Save Mart Center, and the company also gets the exclusive right to all off-campus ticket sales for Cal State events. That’s not philanthropy – it’s a straight business deal. Yet Save Mart’s “gift” can be deducted from its corporate taxes as a charitable donation.

Likewise, the drug giant Merck & Company is giving $15 million to M.I.T. for the philanthropic purpose of development of innovative technologies by faculty and students there. What’s the catch? Merck will be given patents and licensing rights to the technologies and products developed under M.I.T.’s program.

These corporate schemes to convert our university facilities and faculty into bottom-line assets for the corporation are a perversion of the very concept of charity, changing it from giving to getting.


Poets and songwriters tell us that one little word can mean a lot – passionate words like “love.”

But in Congress, passionate words are nothing compared to such dispassionate terms as “state.” This is the single word that lobbyists for multibillion-dollar cruise lines like Carnival Corporation, Disney, and Royal Caribbean Cruises inserted into America’s basic immigration law last year. By getting this one-word amendment into the law, those huge corporations can avoid paying $20 million in annual fees for INS inspectors to monitor people arriving at our ports on cruise ships.

This kind of legal dodge is not unusual for the cruise lines. Even though they are based in the U.S. of A., and even though 90 percent of their customers come from our country, the luxury cruise industry is a major tax deadbeat, thanks to a special loophole its lobbyists carved into our U.S. tax code. Royal Caribbean, for example, made $657 million in profits over the last three years … yet paid not a dime in taxes. These profitable firms are able to register their cruise ships in Panama, Liberia, and other ports of call, and pay corporate taxes there instead of in the U.S.A. Of course – Catch 22! – those ports don’t assess any corporate taxes.

Also, by claiming to be Liberian or Panamanian ships, these U.S.-based giants can avoid U.S. labor and environmental laws, forcing crews to work twelve-hour days, seven days a week, for $400 a month. To protect their sweetheart deals, the cruise companies spent about a million dollars lobbying in the last Congress. And when Congressman Gene Taylor tried to rein in these outlaws, he says the industry’s top lobbyist offered him a not-too-subtle deal: a free cruise if he’d drop his bill.


Let’s travel again into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.

Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you into the totally networked, high-tech sphere of your own home. Ready or not, Motorola, Microsoft, Cisco, and other busybody companies have designs on the simple American bungalow, planning to wire it in such a way that will make our little homes slightly more complicated than the NASA Space Center.

These companies, with the support of our tax dollars and major universities, are working double time to come up with a whole line of what they call “smart products.” Take me now, God, my time has come.

Cisco, for example, already has a prototype of a networked home in which the air conditioner, your home entertainment center, and your house lights can be adjusted from your website, even from outside your home. Presumably, this will allow you to head home from work after having tapped into your office computer that you’d like the front porch light on, Montovani greeting you as you walk in the door, and a nice 70 degrees throughout the house.

Motorola, which now touts itself as the “solution provider,” says its smart-house electronics could unlock and open the front door as you approach with a load of groceries, or automatically let your dog out at night.

This is all promoted as good news, but they’re not fooling me. The reality is that we lose control of our own homes. How many “smart car” systems have set their own screeching alarms off in the middle of the night? And what are you going to do about the diabolical teenage mutant across the street who delights in hacking into your Web site from outside your home in the middle of the night, lowering your A/C to 30 degrees, flashing your bedroom lights like an airport runway, opening your front door to let the raccoons in, and blasting the collected works of Engelbert Humperdinck through your sound system?

Jim Hightower’s radio talk show broadcasts daily from Austin on over 100 stations nationwide. His book, There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos is in paperback. Find him at www.jimhightower.com, or e-mail: [email protected]

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Published at 12:00 am CST