Jim Hightower

The TiPPing Point

In his 2002 State of the Union speech, George W. issued a clarion call for Americans to join in a newly created program he called TIPS: Terrorism Information and Prevention System. This silly and uniquely un-American program was designed to recruit millions of Americans to spy on each other. Letter carriers, utility workers, repair crews, your cable guy, and others with access to our homes were enlisted to report any activity they considered “suspicious.” Luckily, the great majority of Americans are way too independent minded and levelheaded to sign up as government snoops and snitches, so TIPS was hooted down by the public and eventually killed by Congress. But the TIPS mentality still survives in too many of our federal, state, and local police operations, which have implemented myriad “watch” programs around the country. An “Eyes on the Water” program in Ohio, for example, urges boaters to report anyone “not wearing the right gear,” while a Michigan “River Watch” program eerily sports the slogan, “Be our eyes and ears so we can calm your fears.” Similar stuff goes on under such names as “CAT Eyes,” “Real Estate Watch,” and “Eagle Eyes.” The Department of Homeland Security has issued materials warning citizens to be on the lookout for people who don’t fit in, such as any “beggar, demonstrator, shoe shiner—or flower vendor,” saying they could be a terrorist in disguise. In addition, proving that there is no limit to security silliness, Bush’s Citizen Corps has published a “preparedness guide” instructing us to not only to report any suspicious-looking people to the FBI, but also to “keep your yard clean” and “prune shrubbery.” Remember, declares the guide, “Homeland security starts at home.”

The first step toward real security is not to watch our neighbors, but keep an unblinking eye on any agency of government that insists on watching us.

HEALTH CARE MORALITY

Contrary to the “contrived wisdom” of the Powers That Be, providing health care for everyone is not an economic or even a health issue—it’s a moral issue. Corporate chieftains and the political elites have the Rolls Royce of health care, while most Americans are have a sputtering Yugo and while millions are walking barefoot. This crass inequality on such a basic human need is a moral abomination. How is it that the richest country in the history of the world has 45 million people with no health care coverage and millions more with pathetic coverage? And how is it that We The People pay $1.2 trillion a year to a corporate health care complex (more than any other country) but rank only 37th in the world in the quality of the health care we receive?

The Powers That Be just shrug their shoulders and say America can’t afford a system of good quality coverage for all. Can’t afford it? W. says America can afford the $1.2 trillion in tax giveaways he’s bestowed on the wealthiest people in our land. He says America can afford the $300 billion in direct costs already shelled out for his war of lies in Iraq. He says America can afford the hundreds of billions of tax dollars being pocketed by drug companies and insurance giants through his boondoggle prescription drug program. Of course, our so-called political leaders don’t feel the pain of America’s corporatized and exclusive health system. The very politicos who say America can’t afford universal coverage receive full platinum coverage for their families—courtesy of you and me.

No public official should have a dime’s worth of coverage until everyone in America has full coverage. The president and Congress ought to be last in line, not first!

RICK THE SLICK

If cynicism, hypocrisy, and crude deceit ever go to $50 a barrel, try to get the drilling rights to Rick Santorum’s head. This Republican senator from Pennsylvania is known as “Rick the Slick” by many of the homefolks, though he’s trying to hoodwink them into believing he’s now “Mr. Ethics.” This is a bit of a stretch, since he was a key player in the infamous “K Street Project.” This corrupt venture was organized by the supersleaze duo of Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff to turn Washington’s corporate lobbying corps into a de facto arm of the Republican Party—and to turn the party into the legislative arm of the lobbyists.

For some time, Rick was the senate point man for the K Street Project, holding weekly strategy meetings in his office with top Republican lobbyists, including Abramoff. But now that Abramoff, DeLay, and the project are all under federal criminal investigations, Rick the Slick suddenly wants no credit for his work with them. He’s claiming, “I had absolutely nothing to do—never met, never talked, never coordinated, never did anything with… the, quote, K Street Project.” Meanwhile, Santorum (who is up for re-election this year) has turned into a crusading ethics reformer in the Senate. He recently demanded that his colleagues forego the corrupt practice of hitching rides on luxury jets provided by corporations seeking legislative favors in Washington. It was an impassioned speech, but would’ve been more persuasive had one little fact not come out: Only two days earlier, Rick hitched a ride to two fundraising events aboard a BellSouth corporate jet! To keep him company, BellSouth sent its lobbyist along. Even for someone as slick as Rick, it’s hard to pose as a clean-government champion when you’ve got corporate caviar stuck in your teeth.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.

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