Jim Hightower

Government Scripted 'News'


If you saw a news report on your local television station, then later you learned the report had actually been written by the federal government and that the “reporter†actually was hired by the government to read the government-written script— might that affect the report’s credibility in your mind? And might it affect the credibility of your local TV station, as well? Nonsense, you say, this is the Land of the Free, we don’t allow government-scripted news in America! No? Well, maybe you’ve seen some recent news reports touting the benefits of George W.’s new prescription drug law for Medicare patients. Some of the segments show Bush signing the law and getting a standing ovation from those watching. One shows a pharmacist explaining the program to an elderly customer. “It sounds like a good idea,†says the customer. “A very good idea,†responds the pharmacist. Talk about puff pieces!

Nowhere is it mentioned that Bush’s law is an exorbitantly expensive program that will benefit the drug company gougers more than senior citizens, or that the Bushites lied about the price tag to push it through Congress. That’s because this news bite was produced and distributed to TV stations nationwide by Bush’s own Department of Health and Human Services.

Your tax dollars at work! The agency will spend some $50 million this year on its advertising campaign to glorify the program. These “news packages†are called VNRs—video news releases—and they’ve been used for some time by corporations. Our government is simply following the corporate lead, spoon-feeding “news†to TV stations, which don’t bother identifying the source of these packaged stories. What we have is the dangerous combo of government propaganda and journalistic fraud. To help stop this, call the Committee for Concerned Journalists: 202-293-7394.

BOOM? Despite George W.’s recent cheerleading effort to convince us that the economy is surging and The Boom Is Back, most Americans are shaking their heads and saying, for whom? With the mass offshoring of both blue- and white-collar jobs, and with the Wal-Martization of wages and benefits at home, it’s no longer just the unskilled, abject poor who are left out by our “boom boom†economy. There’s a quiet crisis spreading in the America that Washington and Wall Street either never visit or ignore. I’m not talking about the inner cities, but the middle-class suburbs, where even hunger is a growing problem. “Food insecurity,†as the jargonists label it, is up by 15 percent in the last four years. That’s one and a half million new people now struggling to put food on their tables. One soup kitchen serving 11 Connecticut suburbs says 80 percent of its clients have jobs—mostly low-wage, no-benefit jobs. Likewise, affordable housing needs have long been ignored by both government and commercial developers, so 94 million of our people now have “significant†housing problems. That’s one-third of the population of the richest country on earth. Worse, 40 million of us now have housing problems ranked as “severe,†meaning housing that is either severely substandard, severely unaffordable, or both. Housing prices go up, while most people’s incomes stay flat or go down. Meanwhile, the richest among us get the bulk of federal housing subsidies. Not only do multimillionaires enjoy full mortgage deductibility on their main mansions, but also on their Park Avenue condo, their Aspen getaway home, and the summer place at the beach. MESSING WITH VENEZUELA The Bushites seems to enjoy the fun game of Preemptive Regime Change in which they shout, “Weapons of Mass Destruction†before attacking a country with the full might of the U.S. military, tossing out the old leaders, instating some new ones, occupying the country, and calling this democracy.

Now, however, they are saying that regime change need not be limited to nations that might pose some military threat to our country. For the past couple of years, these messianic global manipulators have quietly been out to topple Hugo Chavez, the duly elected president of Venezuela. What threat does Chavez pose to us? None. Zero. Zip. What’s his “crime� He’s too “leftie,†not beholden to the oil giants operating in Venezuela, not properly obedient to U.S. power, and, worst of all, the Bushites just don’t like him. So, they’ve been scheming with Venezuelan elites to oust him. They exulted in 2002 when an armed coup overthrew Chavez’s elected government, but White House elation turned to sour grapes only two days later when the coup turned out to be a Keystone Kops effort and the people of Venezuela rallied to put their man Chavez back in his presidency.

But this didn’t stop the White House. Reams of internal documents have now surfaced showing a startling effort by the Bushites to undermine the legitimate government of Venezuela—a blatantly antidemocratic effort that, ironically, they rationalize by asserting that Chavez is not democratic enough to suit them. Last year alone, they funneled a million of our tax dollars into opposition groups seeking to overthrow Chavez and install Venezuela’s moneyed class in power. One of the Bushite’s documents claims that the future of Venezuelan democracy “depends on the rebuilding of healthy and responsive political parties that can effectively channel citizen demands.†Hey, let’s try to accomplish that here! If our own government reflected citizen demands, it wouldn’t be messing with Venezuela.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Thieves in High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country and It’s Time to Take It Back, on sale now from Viking Press.