Jim Hightower

Heartsick in Bangalore

Just when you think that globalization can’t get any more ludicrous—and that America’s health-care policies can’t get anymore ridiculous—along come corporate profiteers with a cockamamie scheme to globalize our health care!

Already, X-rays and medical tests are being offshored to India, but this scheme goes farther, taking a flying leap into the surreal. Instead of sending your tests to India, they want to send you there. Corporations are now asking workers who need serious operations to fly 7,000 miles for treatments in low-cost Indian hospitals. I’ve heard of doctors being distant, but this is absurd.

Let’s say you have a heart condition or need a back operation. Your company can get your surgery done in India 80% cheaper than your local hospital will do it—but do you really want to be loaded on a plane for a 20-hour flight to Bangalore?

And, what if something goes wrong? Who is responsible, and what are your rights under Indian laws?

Like it or not, however, corporations are pushing the offshore option. The U.S.-India Business Council exults that sending patients abroad promises to “deliver big advantages for both Indian and U.S. business.” Well, now, isn’t that just dandy for business? But—hello—what the hell about patients!?!

Luckily, the steelworkers union has geared up to block the exportation of workers to hospitals in India or elsewhere, calling the scheme a “shocking” abuse. It’s time to fix America’s sick health-care system—not ship our people abroad to get care.

Good Neighbors, Bad Fence

By gollies, our Congress critters have finally done something about illegal immigration! Just in time for November’s congressional elections, the Republican leaders passed a bill to erect a 700-mile wall along the Mexico border. That’ll slam the door on the problem, won’t it?

No. First of all, the border is 2,000 miles long, not 700. Did it not occur to our stalwart leaders that the “coyotes” (the border-crossing guides who hire out to escort Mexicans across the border) will merely move into the gaps?

Second, while our Congress loudly crowed about passing the bill, it provided no money to build the wall. Not a dime! Nor did lawmakers deal with such touchy problems as having to condemn private property for the fence and coping with rough terrain that’s not suitable for sustaining such a massive structure. Also, they didn’t actually mandate that the thing be built, instead delegating that decision to the homeland security czar.

Third, and most significant, a fence does nothing about the root causes of immigration. “They’ll either go through it, over it, or under it,” says a South Texas rancher with long experience watching people cross the border. That’s because the combo of staggering poverty and innovative human spirit will propel people to seek a better life. Until that poverty is addressed, no fence and no amount of congressional hot air will make a difference in the desperate flow of immigration.

Indeed, all along the border area, the very idea of the fence is so despised by Anglos and Mexicans alike that it’s angrily referred to as the Berlin Wall, designed to keep Mexicans in and divide friends, family, neighbors, and trading partners from each other. Meanwhile, local folks are doubly riled by the bitter irony that if the fence ever is built, the job will probably go to Halliburton and be constructed by illegal Mexican labor.

Our Clueless War Leaders

A major reason that Bush’s Iraq war is such a disaster is that the commander-in-chief is clueless about the culture of Islamic people. That’s no surprise, because George W has the intellectual curiosity of a butter bean. But what’ll really give you gas is realizing that most of the Bushite counterterrorism officials also don’t know beans about their enemy.

Jeff Stein, the national security editor at Congressional Quarterly, has recently been asking these officials a rather fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” Because the Sunni-Shiite culture clash is a 1,400-year-old conflict that is now playing out in a civil war in Iraq, with our soldiers trapped in the middle, an understanding of this difference is crucial to the war.

The head of the FBI’s national security branch agreed that it is important for a man in his position to know the difference … but he didn’t. He could not even tell whether neighboring Iran is Sunni or Shiite—a rather critical


Likewise, Rep. Jo Ann Davis, who heads the subcommittee overseeing much of the CIA’s work in Islamic countries, was stumped by Stein’s question: “The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa,” she said. Also stumbling was Rep. Terry Everett, head of a subcommittee on tactical intelligence: “I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something,” he answered. Then Terry said: “Now that you’ve explained it to me, what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult.”

Golly, Terry…really? Shouldn’t you have thought about that 2,800 lives and $373 billion ago?

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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Published at 12:00 am CST