Jim Hightower

All the News That's Fit to Own

You’ve got to love the rhetorical softness employed by the media conglomerates to re-port the FCC’s recent rewriting of our country’s media ownership rules. They gingerly noted in headlines that the old rules had been “relaxed,” “eased,” or “loosened”—as if the FCC’s action were a minor adjustment to an old belt. The FCC action was regulatory rape, stripping the belt off and ripping apart rules that protect our public airwaves from monopoly control. This was an orchestrated power play plotted by three Republican ideological nutballs on the FCC and by the top executives of the major media conglomerates—executives who gave generously to George’s election and are now being allowed to collect their reward.

The FCC’s new monopoly-friendly rules mean that if you live in a sizable city, Rupert Murdoch of Fox or Mickey Mouse at ABC can practically dictate your daily mass-market news feed. In any city, a single conglomerate can now own two or three television stations, eight radio stations, the cable TV stations, the cable TV system, and the only daily newspaper. In fact, one of these global media conglomerates can buy up enough local television stations to control broadcasting to 90 percent of American households. This is Big Media’s dream—and they essentially scripted it in the back offices of the FCC. The Center for Public Integrity reports that since the proposal to rewrite the ownership rules first surfaced eight months ago, the CEOs and lobbyists for Murdoch’s Fox, Viacom’s CBS, Disney’s ABC, and other broadcast giants held 71 private, off-the-record, essentially secret meetings with FCC commissioners and top staff. To learn more about this dirty deal, call the Media Access Project: 202-232-4300.

“L” STANDS FOR LOOPHOLE

Once again, we’re offered a sterling example of the incredible ingenuity of big American corporations. Their latest gimmick is an obscure provision in our nation’s immigration laws. It’s called the L-1 Visa, and apparently the “L” stands for Loophole. It’s certainly a big one, allowing such corporations as Cigna, General Electric, and Merrill Lynch to import low-wage technology workers from India to replace their American employees. The L-1 Visa was meant to allow U.S. corporations to transfer a few of their own foreign employees from an overseas branch into company offices here. But now, these corporations are driving an immigration truck right through this L-1 loophole, having already used it to bring some 325,000 computer engineers, programmers, and other high-tech employees from abroad, mostly from India. Here’s how the game is played: The foreign workers are hired wholesale by Indian-based recruitment firms that then ship them to their U.S. branches, claiming that they are L-1 transfers. Once here, these workers are contracted to American corporations. The gimmick is that, technically, the immigrants are still employed by the Indian firms—but the bottom line is that major U.S. corporations have been able to smuggle in foreign workers and pay them a third to a half less than the Americans they replace. The L-1 Visa does not require that imported tech workers be paid the prevailing wage, nor is there a limit on how many can be brought in. Not only does this loophole allow Americans to be displaced, but it’s also common for the corporations to require their American employees to train the foreign workers who will be given their jobs. To help stop this wage-busting ripoff, Call Rep. John Mica: 202-225-4035.

JEWEL WITHIN THE JUNKPILE

Can you stand a little bit of good news from an unlikely source? It comes from that massive tax bill that the Bushites just rammed through Congress, giving away at least 325 billion of our tax dollars to a handful of rich American families that neither need nor deserve this windfall. Tucked into Bush’s massive giveaway to the Wall Street crowd is a little something that will help folks, a $20 billion provision to provide emergency aid for states that are grappling daily with our nation’s growing health care crisis. To make ends meet, most legislatures are blindly whacking the budgets for health care programs that provide essential services to seniors, low-income children, people with disabilities, and others without health care coverage. In Texas, for example, legislators “fixed” their budget shortfall by tossing some 250,000 children out of the state health care program. It’s children like these that the emergency health care money will help.

This jewel didn’t just appear in Bush’s bill—it was placed there through a determined effort led by the men and women of the Service Employees International Union. Half of SEIU’s members are nurses and other health care employees who are appalled that so many are being abandoned in a country that is so rich—so they forged a coalition with community groups, seniors, and others. Then they launched a “Put Families First” grassroots campaign, bombarding our Congress with thousands of personal appeals for decency, fairness and sanity. The Bushites opposed this aid—but people power prevailed.

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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