Jim Hightower

How deeply can George W. stick his head into the thawing tundra before having to admit that, yes, indeed, global warming just might be a wee bit of a problem? At issue is the thin layer of ozone that encapsulates our globe. This ozone is kind of important, since without it, the sun—how shall I put this?—would burn us to a crisp, wiping out all life on earth. Unfortunately, pollution from such things as our oil-guzzling cars is eating away this natural sunscreen, causing everything from more cancer to global warming. The Bushites, however, goaded by oil and chemical fat cats, pretend that this isn’t happening, so therefore there’s no need to stop pollution. But nature has a way of rudely pricking political delusions with stark reality. Specifically, the frozen Arctic tundra is thawing due to global warming. This is a problem for Bush—not because it pokes an embarrassing hole in his “It’s-Not-Happening” posture on global climate change (after all, Bush has never let reality interfere with ideology). Rather, the thawing tundra is a political problem because it’s interfering with the oil giants that are drilling in Alaska. Yes—oh, cruel irony—the very industry that claims that global warming doesn’t exist, is now stuck with its consequences! An Alaskan regulation allows heavy drilling equipment on the fragile tundra only when it is frozen solid a foot deep and covered by at least six inches of snow. Thirty years ago, these wintry conditions existed 200 days a year, but global warming has now shrunk this window of opportunity by half—too short a period for profitable drilling. But the Bushites remain delusional; they want to allow drilling even when the tundra is not frozen, thus producing more oil to cause more global warming.

PISSING AWAY on THE Taxpayers’ Dime

If you wonder why your taxes keep going up, up, up, one big reason is that corporations keep finding ways to dodge paying their share of the burden. With the recent corporate scandals, we’ve gotten peeks into off-shore partnerships, Bermuda tax havens, and other flim-flams to avoid corporate tax responsibilities. But one of the key ways to avoid paying taxes is an old provision called “cost of doing business.” Under this broad category, corporate chieftains can slash their tax bills by claiming that everything from their marble-walled executive bathrooms to their lavish advertising budgets are necessary expenses for conducting business and fully deductible from their corporate income tax. In recent years, however, what they claim to be “necessary” has been stretched so thin that anyone with an iota of common sense can see the fraud. Among the current allowable deductions are the corporate helicopter to ferry the CEO back and forth to work, the company-owned hunting lodge for top executives, the “business meetings” in Bimini, the luxury skybox for Yankee games, and so forth, as far as the corporate imagination can wander. How far it can wander was made clear by Dennis Kozlowski, the now-disgraced honcho of Tyco. As an essential, tax-deductible expense, he included most of the tab for a $2 million party he threw for his wife’s birthday in Italy. The gala featured a life-sized ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s statue of David, complete with vodka streaming from the statue’s penis into the crystal glasses of Dennis’ guests. Isn’t it good to know that you’re paying more so corporate greedheads can cavort so ridiculously?

The Thing Devours Our Democracy

Did you ever see the old science-fiction horror movie, The Thing? That fictional thing came from Outer Space and threatened to destroy our country. Today we’ve got a real-life Thing that comes from within, grows bigger and bigger every year, and it’s steadily devouring our democracy: Corporate Money. We’ve seen the White House, Congress, and both major parties consumed by this big-money, special-interest Thing. Now corporate contributors plan to swallow the presidential nominating conventions of the Republicans and Democrats. After the Watergate scandal, these quadrennial conventions have been financed with public funds—a move intended to keep the corrupting power of corporate money out of the process. By 1980, however, a little loophole appeared allowing the sponsoring cities of the conventions to offset expenses by raising a limited amount of money from local corporations. Having gotten its finger in that little loophole, The Thing began to wriggle, enlarging the hole until its hand was inside. By 2000, there were more corporate executives and lobbyists at the conventions than delegates, with the likes of Microsoft and AT&T paying $2 million each to schmooze with the top officeholders of both parties and win favor for their special governmental needs. At next year’s presidential conventions, corporations are expected to put up more than $100 million to pay about three-fifths of their total cost. But both parties seem willing to sell it all to The Thing. As a Republican election commissioner says: “I look forward to the day…when Americans can turn on their TVs and watch the Nokia Democratic Convention or the AT&T Republican National Convention.”

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author most recently of Thieves in High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country and It’s Time To Take It Back. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.

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Published at 12:00 am CST