Jim Hightower

Congress Does it Again


Mirror, mirror, on the wall–who is the goofiest of them all?

Maybe it’s Robert Mueller, the dull-witted FBI boss who went on “Larry King Live” to announce the bust-up of a terrible terrorist cell in Florida. Maybe it’s Alberto Gonzales, the clueless attorney general who orchestrated two press conferences to pump up the story about how the Bushites had taken out these seven fearsome terrorists “to prevent America from another attack here.” Or maybe it’s Dick “Buckshot” Cheney, the snarling presidential puppet master who called the plot a “very real threat,” from people “trying to do everything they can to kill Americans.”

Who are these ferocious terrorists from whom we’ve been so heroically saved? They are a gaggle of seven hapless, down-and-out doofuses from Liberty City, Florida, who got to talking big about being part of an Islamic army in the U.S., which got them sucked into an FBI sting. Their leader is a young, troubled fellow who called himself “Brother Naz,” or “Prince Manna,” and who walked around town Moses-like wearing a bathrobe and toting a crooked wooden staff.

The Bushites allege they were planning to blow-up the Sears Tower in Chicago as a part of a “full ground war” against the U.S. But it seems that most of their ridiculous scheme came not from Brother Naz, but from an FBI infiltrator who posed as an Al Qaeda operative. Indeed, the seven schmoes had no weapons, no money, no connections, no skills, and no wherewithal even to find the Sears Tower, much less blow it up. The FBI was forced to admit that these guys posed no real threat and that their grandiose talk “was more aspirational than operational.” Yet the Bushites have brought the full power and majesty of the government down on the Liberty City Seven, puffing up this arrest as one of their top achievements in homeland security. And they wonder why they’ve lost all credibility with the public.

Windfall for Big Pharma

Ouch! What was that pinch in the butt I just felt? Ah yes, it came from the drug giants sharply jacking up their prices. Older folks, who typically need to take four prescription medicines a day, are being pinched by an average of $245 each–the largest quarterly price increase in six years.

Last year, George W. and the pharmaceuticals rammed through a half-trillion-dollar prescription drug benefit that delivers Medicare patients right into the voracious maw of the drug and insurance companies. Under George’s convoluted scheme, which took effect in January, every senior is compelled to buy one of myriad complex insurance plans to cover their medicines. In addition to the seniors’ premiums and co-payments, however, our Medicare tax dollars cover the bulk of the price set by the drug makers. In the new prescription law, Bush specifically barred Medicare officials from negotiating lower, bulk-purchase prices from the corporations. We taxpayers could have cut prices by a third or more. Instead, we’re stuck paying whatever the drug barons tell us to pay.

So, no surprise that greed greets opportunity, meaning that the brand-name pill makers have now shoved up their prices just as Bush’s drug scam comes on the line. The program also contained another boondoggle for the drug giants. The 6 million low-income and disabled Americans who had been getting their medicines through the low-cost Medicaid program were dumped into Bush’s new privatized plan. The result is that the drug profiteers are now charging up to a third more for the same medicines they had been selling at a negotiated discount through Medicaid. Dr. Bush’s drug plan turns out to be snake oil–just another way to fatten corporate profits at the expense of us taxpayers.

Pumpin’ Out More Ads

Stand there with your hand on the hose filling the tank and you’re probably thinking about plans for the weekend, or thinking about how the greedheads of Big Oil are laughing at us as we pump out more windfall profits for them, or maybe not thinking at all–just letting your frazzled mind float for a few precious minutes.

What a waste, say advertisers, who’ve calculated that the average time spent pumping gas is four minutes. Multiply that by the millions of us who pump gas, then multiply that by two eyes and two ears for each gas pumper, and well, the ad guys smell opportunity. Gas Station TV is leaping into this four-minute void in our lives. It’s installing TV sets in the gas pumps of Murphy Oil Corp., which runs the filling stations at Wal-Mart stores. ABC television will provide special programming for the four-minute pumping segment–and ABC will also sell the ads that’ll be spaced into each segment. Already Pepsi, Goodyear, and Allstate have signed up. Instead of four minutes of blessed silence, we get to spend the time hearing a sales spiel from an insurance company. By the way, you won’t be able to switch off the TV, so they’ve got you captured. But the CEO of Gas Station TV says, “We will not over-advertise.” Hey, the very presence of TV ads in a gas pump is over-advertising! And lest you think that these four minutes will be the only intrusion into your few moments of solitude, another company is installing TVs in supermarket checkout aisles.

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.