Jim Hightower

The Raw Deal

You can put earrings on a hog, but it won’t hide the ugliness. George W. learned this the hard way at the “Economic Forum” he held in Waco, where he used all the PR gimmicks of his presidency to put a yellow smiley-face on our current economic reality. Even as he cheerfully declared that he’s put the economy on the right track, American Airlines slashed 7,000 more jobs, IBM punted 15,000 workers out the door, and the Dow Jones average fell another 200 points. At taxpayer expense, he flew in Vice President Cheney, seven cabinet members, a gaggle of White House aides and a load of PR flacks to sit around for four hours with fat cat CEOs, a bunch of economists, and a handpicked crowd of partisan cheerleaders–all to tell him what an excellent job he’s doing. Afterwards, Bush’s top political operative bragged that “There was unanimity that we’ve taken the right [economic] steps, that we’re going in the right direction.” Then he scolded critics: “Everyone ought to applaud when the president sits down with ordinary people.” First of all, George didn’t sit for long with anyone. Never a deep study, he popped into only four of the eight forum panels, staying only 20 minutes at each before dashing back to his ranchette to resume his vacation. Secondly, instead of sitting with a regular Joe, Bush pointedly sat next to Charles Schwab, the billionaire Wall Street broker who is a $400,000 giver to Bush and the Republican Party. As for the “ordinary people,” why didn’t they invite one or two of the eight million Americans who are unemployed right now? Or how about a few former Enron employees? It would’ve been instructive to have had Bush’s top campaign contributor, ex-Enron honcho Ken Lay, sitting next to George. That would’ve been a real snapshot of what’s wrong with our economy.

NO IDEA

Some of George W.’s appointees are so ugly you wouldn’t pull them behind a John Deere with 30 feet of rope. But the ugliest might be the man Bush just snuck into the ag department as our new undersecretary for rural development. As head of a large corporate farm in Iowa, Thomas Dorr was slipperier than an Enron executive. He rigged his books so he could get around the legal limits on federal farm payments, which allowed him to grab more crop subsidies from us taxpayers than he was entitled to receive. Twice, including this year, he got caught and was forced to return thousands of dollars to the government. Dorr just shrugs off his unethical conniving, saying he has “no idea if it’s legal” and telling senators at his confirmation hearing that even if illegal it’s OK, because “I have known many, many farmers who have done that over the years.”

While Dorr loves federal farm money so much he’ll cheat to get it, he hates the idea that any of his tax dollars might help other rural people. Three years ago, he sent a hot letter to Senator Tom Harkin denouncing a small tax that helps extend Internet service to rural areas, saying that “subsidy games” had turned Iowa into a “state of peasants.” Odd attitude for a guy who wants a government job to administer programs that help the rural poor. He once made the unfortunate comment that three Iowa counties were enjoying economic progress because of their homogeneity–meaning white and Christian. Dorr also doesn’t like small, as in small farmers. He says that 200,000-acre factory farms fit his vision of what agriculture should be. This guy should not be in the U.S. agriculture department. But Bush made Dorr a recess appointment, sneaking him into office while the Senate was out of town.

STOP ‘EM IN THEIR TRACKS

An investment advisory on the Internet notes that if you had bought $1,000 worth of Enron stock a year ago, you’d now be down to $16.50. If you’d bought $1,000 worth of WorldCom stock, you’d only have $5 left from your investment. But if you’d bought $1,000 worth of Budweiser (the beer, not the stock), drank all the beer, and cashed in the cans for the 10-cent deposit, you would have $214. So, the prudent investment strategy is clear: Drink heavily and recycle. Yet, George W. Bush continues to put on his “What, me worry?” face and insist that the prudent strategy is to privatize Social Security. In July–even as George was in full political howl about the spreading corporate crime wave that has turned highly-touted stocks into trash–he blithely said again that our retirement money should be entrusted to such Wall Street finaglers and to a market that recently has frittered away trillions of dollars of people’s investment capital. It’s as though reality is a complete stranger in W.’s head. Bush’s privatization scheme would require that you funnel your Social Security funds into the stock market through a handful of private investment groups owned and managed by such massive outfits as Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and Goldman Sachs–the very firms now in the headlines and appearing before Congressional investigators for having been in cahoots with Enron, WorldCom and the other ponzi schemes that bilked workers and investors out of billions of dollars. George might be a fuzzyheaded market ideologist who still believes in laissez-faire fantasies, but these fund managers are cold-eyed opportunists who know that they would reap huge annual fees if only they can get their hands on our Social Security funds. Stop Bush’s privatization push. Call Campaign for America’s Future: 202-955-5665.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.

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