Jim Hightower

If It Ain't Broke

Wouldn’t you be a little skeptical if you took your car in for a routine checkup and the repair shop said it had found a mysterious and costly problem deep in the engine that “needs fixingâ€â€”even though you can’t detect any problem at all?

Welcome to the shady world of today’s Social Security mechanics, including politicos of both parties and a phalanx of banking lobbyists. They’re telling us in the direst terms that there’s a major problem deep in the Social Security system that must be fixed right away. The “fix†is going to be costly, they solemnly inform us—it’ll require raising people’s retirement age to as high as 70, cutting the monthly payments for retired workers and even privatizing part or all of this public safety net for retirees. But we must accept these fixes, they warn, or the whole system will sputter and die. B.S. ALERT! Of all government programs—including the bloated, fraud-ridden Pentagon—Social Security is least in need of fixing. It’s the most efficient program we have, requiring a mere one-percent of its total budget for administrative costs. And even the political mechanics who want to mess with the program admit that Social Security is perfectly sound and capable of paying full benefits to future retirees through at least 2042. What insurance company or bank can make that claim? And with only minor adjustment, the system is solid through 2075—long after most of today’s “fixers†will be dead. There is one fix, however, that would guarantee the soundness of Social Security in perpetuity: Raise the current $88,000 income cap so that the salaries, bonuses, stock gains, and other wealth of the elites are also subject to Social Security taxes—rather than keeping the burden solely on the wages of low-income and middle-class working folks.

To push for this simple and fair reform, call Campaign for America’s Future: 202-955-5665.

LOOTING IN IRAQ

If you think that the Bushites had no post-war plan for what they would do in Iraq after our military ousted Saddam, think again. You can see their plan in policies that were quietly and autocratically imposed on the Iraqi people during the reign of Mr. L. Paul Bremmer III, who was our occupying czar there. While America’s media establishment has been focused on the raging war by Iraqi insurgents and by the Bushites’ attempt to enthrone a puppet government there, the neo-con laissez-faire zealots in the administration have been gleefully using this ravaged country as their own ideological playground. For years, these Ayn Randian theorists have longed to create their utopia of a corporate state, and they’ve used the IMF, World Bank, WTO, etc. to try to implement their theories. But they’ve never had an entire economy at their disposal—until they grabbed Iraq.

While Baghdad was burning, Bremmer arrived. Rather than putting out fires, he used them as a distraction to issue decrees that instantly opened up Iraq to a total corporate takeover. For example, his decrees open all of that nation’s public assets to foreign corporate ownership, and allow 100 percent of the country’s industries—from banking to food—to be owned by foreigners. Also, Bremmer ruled that 100 percent of the profits that foreign investors make in Iraq can now be hauled out of the country. There’s no requirement that any of these profits be reinvested there, nor do the investors have to pay even a dime in taxes on the profits they haul away. This isn’t “liberation,†as the Bushites call their Iraqi adventure—it’s legalized looting and it fuels continuing anger and armed resistance.

TRUE BLUE TEXAS ROADHOUSE

It’s always a hoot to hear corporate lobbyists wailing to the high heavens about the scourge of “frivolous lawsuits,†demanding that Congress bar people from suing them. But guess who files most of these lawsuits? Corporations! They sue their competitors, consumers, shareholders, critics, the media, public interest groups—they’ll sue their own momma just to squeeze out another dime. For an example of litigious corporate absurdity, come to La Vernia, Texas, and hoist a cool one with the good folks who are regulars at the True Blue Texas Roadhouse. Located 25 miles east of San Antonio, this rural bar serves up beer, chips, country music, and genuine Texas atmosphere. It’s in a corrugated metal building that used to be a garage. It’s the real deal. But the True Blue Texas Roadhouse has been sued by the corporate lawyers of a national restaurant chain calling itself Texas Roadhouse. This outfit, which operates 165 restaurants in 30 states, wrote to Doug Bode in La Vernia, claiming that Bode’s True Blue Texas Roadhouse was violating the chain’s trademark name and—get this—deceiving the consuming public into thinking this little bar in La Vernia is part of the chain.

Now get this: The chain has no Texas roots whatsoever. It began in Indiana and is headquartered in Kentucky. It dresses up its bars with Texas memorabilia, but it’s a fake, profiting on the good name and spirit of genuine Texas roadhouses. “Texas is where we live,†says one of Bode’s regulars, which is way more than the plastic chain can claim. Bode himself, says, “I’m just trying to make a living. For God’s sake, I’m a Texas bar. Why can’t I use that name?â€

Well, why can’t he? If you’d like to tell the national chain where to go and tell it to leave La Vernia’s genuine Texas Roadhouse alone, call the CEO. His office number is: 502-426-9984.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale now from Viking Press. <

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