Jim Hightower

New Year's Revolution

Ready or not, the Millennium Year is on us, barraging us with a dizzying array of high-flying hype about the wonders of the New Age. But what’s really different about this new year than last year or next year? Well, one thing that’s supposed to be different is that this is a presidential election year!

The turning of the calendar into a new century and a new millennium is an important marker for people, a chance for all of us to check on the state of our American democratic society, for politicians to come out directly to the people and ask, “How ya’ doin’?”

Will they do this? Are you kidding?! They’ve been too busy raising millions from the privileged to visit your neighborhood. They’re asking pollsters how they’re doing, not how you’re doing. Gore-Bush-Bradley-McCain-et al. pretend to have big policy differences, but they’re all in agreement on the corporate agenda of their campaign contributors. All of the major contenders fully embrace the World Trade Organization and other forces of globaloney that are knocking down the American middle-class, exploiting impoverished people abroad, and subverting our own right to self-government.

What about the fact that eight out of ten Americans have seen their incomes go flat or go down during the “unprecedented prosperity” of the nineties? “Out of sight, out of mind,” say the major presidential wannabes, all of whom have pledged to continue the economic status quo. Will any of them raise a peep of protest about the giant insurance companies, banks, media conglomerates, and other out-of-control corporations running roughshod over us? Surely you jest. That’s where the candidates get their campaign funds. One way to shake up business-as-usual is to get Ralph Nader to run for president. To say “go, Ralph, go,” click onto this Draft Ralph website: www.Nader2K.org.

EARTH TO LARRY

To hear the whining of corporate executives, you’d think the Clinton administration was the very reincarnation of Teddy Roosevelt’s “trust busters.” The focus of their whining is the Justice Department’s suit to stop Microsoft’s monopolization of computer systems. But Microsoft is guilty of such anti-competitive bullying that the Justice Department had no choice but to act. And outside of this case, Clinton has been far from a trustbuster — he’s been a trust builder. He has waved through one blockbuster merger after another, shrinking competition in industry after industry, leaving consumers, workers, small businesses, and entire communities at the mercy of steadily-rising monopoly power.

The New York Times reports that in their twelve years in the White House, Ronald Reagan and George Bush were considered to be conglomeration-happy, looking the other way while 85,000 mergers valued at $3.5 trillion took place. But they were anti-trust lions compared to the meek meow of the Clintonites, who in half the time of Reagan and Bush have rubber stamped 166,000 mergers valued at nearly $10 trillion. Teddy Roosevelt must be spinning in his grave as Clinton has allowed the reconstruction of John D. Rockefeller’s old Standard Oil Trust, the resurrection of Ma Bell’s monopoly grip on America’s telecommunication system, and the re-emergence of the House of Morgan’s dangerous conglomeration of banking, stock brokerage, and insurance businesses under one roof. Incredibly, Clinton’s hands-off policy on mergers is rationalized in the name of consumers.

Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says that anti-trust is old hat: “As the deregulation of airlines and telecommunications demonstrates, archaic restrictions reduce choice and raise prices.” Earth to Larry: have you flown a commercial airline lately? Have you checked your telephone and cable-TV bill? Thanks to your mergers and de-reg, consumer choice is a joke and prices are through the roof.

AND THEY MAKE YOU LOOK DUMB, TOO

I find cell phones to be the Newt Gingrich of technology — loud, arrogant, and obnoxious. Of course, it’s the user, not the phone, that’s so rude, and at times I’ve wished bodily harm on some yo-yo for yammering at full volume into his little phone. But I certainly would not wish a tumor on him. Unfortunately, more and more scientific research is finding that people who keep a cell phone jammed to their ear for prolonged periods are getting doses of radiation that can lead to tumors on the inner ear, brain tumors, and genetic damage. Wait, says the cell phone industry, claiming that thousands of studies prove these products are perfectly safe.

Wrong. Consumer watchdogs Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman report that in 1993, when the industry first made such a claim, no studies had even been done. Since then, the industry itself has hired scientists to do studies that — lo and behold! — found no safety problems. But, in 1995, one of their hirelings balked. Public health scientist George Carlo told industry big shots that their devices were interfering with pacemakers. The industry responded not by alerting heart patients and doctors, but by cutting off Carlo’s funding. Later, however, after agreeing not to research cell phones and pacemakers, Carlo again was funded to do industry research — and this time his findings are even more alarming, connecting longtime cell-phone use to brain and inner-ear tumors.

Again, however, the industry is in denial, which led Carlo to chastise top cell-phone company C.E.O.s for ignoring scientific evidence about health effects, for falsely claiming that these phones are safe even for children, for failing to release factual information about risk, and for failing to consider changes in technology that could reduce the danger. If you must use a cell phone, make sure you have a headset so the source of radiation is not shooting right into your ear and brain.

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

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Published at 12:00 am CST
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