Jim Hightower

Walking with Autocrats

For a guy who brags about being a Texas rancher, George W. sure is stepping in a lot of cow patties with his Iraq policy. There was that big one about needing to oust Saddam because he had weapons of mass destruction. Then there was Bush’s claim that the Iraqi people would throw kisses and rose petals at our troops.

But perhaps the slickest and stinkiest cow patty that George has stepped in is his choice of allies to pursue his Iraq adventure. By cozying up to regimes that are repressive and dictatorial, he has undermined any claim that his foreign policy is on the moral high road. In only one week in September, three of Bush’s global buddies revealed themselves to be the very opposite of freedom fighters and democracy builders.

First came Russian President Vladimir Putin. Claiming, a la BushCheneyAshcroftRumsfeld & Gang, that global terrorism warrants extreme measures, Putin unilaterally changed the way Russia’s 89 regional governors and its legislators are chosen—effectively preventing opposition to his policies. Next was the Bush family’s longtime pals, the royals of Saudi Arabia. Their use of religious police to repress Shiite Muslims, Jews, and Christians is so severe that even George’s own state department had to censure them, declaring flatly that “Freedom of religion does not exist†there.

Then there’s General Pervez Musharraf, who stole democracy from Pakistan in a military coup five years ago. Ironically, Bush now hugs him as his close ally in his war to “bring democracy†to Iraq. Earlier this year, as a token gesture to the democratic opposition in Pakistan, Musharraf pledged to give up his post as a head of the military, while also serving as president. Now, he has reneged, suddenly declaring that it’s “in the best interest of the nation†that he wear both hats.

America’s credibility in the world is sinking because while George talks about democracy, he walks with autocrats.


Excellent news, Americans! U.S. corporations say that they are no longer “off-shoring†our middle-class jobs. It seems that they have grown afraid of the rising public anger at this self-serving fattening of their already ample bottom lines. They fear that there will be a political backlash from workers, customers, Congress—and plain ol’ American patriots. Does this mean that greedheaded CEOs are no longer shipping our manufacturing, professional, and high-tech jobs to India, Pakistan, Russia, and other low-wage centers? Of course not. It simply means they no longer say “off-shoring.†Instead, corporate PR departments have coined new euphemisms—“remote global sourcing,†or “right-shoring.â€

A new report finds that off-shoring (by whatever name) is not only continuing unabated, but accelerating rapidly and expanding into new fields. If you’re an architect, if you do legal work or tax preparation, if you’re an editor or radiologist—say bye-bye to your professional position. CEOs are putting these and many more on a virtual boat overseas, with about 80 percent of them going to India, where they can get the work done for a third or less than they pay to us Americans. The report, prepared by Forrester Research, says that off-shoring is increasing dramatically. Forrester’s previous prediction was that the United States would lose 588,000 jobs to offshoring by the end of this year; now it estimates that 830,000 will be lost—a 41-percent increase. Nearly half of corporations surveyed say they’re either off-shoring jobs now or preparing to.

Well, says one off-shoring specialist, so what: “It’s free enterprise. We’re trying to make money.†So are bank robbers. The proper word for what these CEOs are doing is stealing. They’re stealing America’s middle-class future.


Ride that Wabash Cannonball, hear the clickity-clack of the Orange Blossom Special. Trains are more than a part of our history. They’re a rich part of our culture. But are they a part of our future? I’m not talking here about the enormous potential of long-distance trains, upgrading Amtrak, and building a top-of-the-line high-speed train system between our population centers. Rather, I’m focused on the promise of rail travel within our great metro areas. I’ve ridden these local systems in the Bay Area, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. They’re simple, handy, efficient, fast, and inexpensive. They also move thousands of people a day without creating traffic jams or smog; and they create thousands of good jobs at good wages. Here’s what one observer says: Mass transit is an excellent substitute for roads. Those are not the words of some anti-auto Earth Firster, but of Paul Weyrich, an icon of right-wing thinking. To him, urban train systems make all kinds of sense and are a legitimate focus for federal, state, and local spending. Public demand for these systems is strong. Ridership is up 21 percent in the last five years; new systems in Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City, and elsewhere are exceeding expectations. There’s a backlog of 200 local transit projects seeking federal matching funds. But the Bushites—tagged by Weyrich as “THE most anti-rail administration†in our country’s history of mass transit—is trying to gut federal support. “In their zeal for fiscal conservatism,†he writes, “ they are prepared to scuttle one of the most successful government programs of all time.â€

“Missing the Train,†a new report by the Sierra Club, highlights projects in Tampa Bay, Portland, Houston, Milwaukee, etc. that are endangered by Bush’s cuts. For a copy, call 202-675-7915.

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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Published at 12:00 am CST