Those who still cling to the Alice-in-Wonderland fantasy that there’s nothing really wrong with America’s big-money system for financing our elections need to meet Alexandra and Hannah Wallin. These twin sisters from Utah each gave $1,000 to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign last March.
So what’s wrong with that, you ask – why make a fuss about $2,000 from two ladies from Utah? Because, at the time these ladies made their contributions, they were three years old. Alexandra and Hannah are granddaughters of Utah multimillionaire John Price. He’s a big-time Bush fat cat, who has given and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Bush.
On March 24, Price wrote a $1,000 check to George W. So did his wife. So did two of his children. So did his children’s spouses. So did five of his grandchildren. All on the same day – a “spontaneous” outburst of familial support for George W! Well, Alexandra and Hannah didn’t exactly write their checks, since they were only three. Of course, Price was orchestrating all of this, using his own grandchildren as conduits to get around the legal limits of how much a person can give. On the federal filing, where contributors have to list their occupation, Alexandra and Hannah are listed as “students.” So far, George W. Bush has received $164,000 from “students.”
Bush’s campaign claims that it returned the $5,000 contributed in the name of Price’s five grandchildren after a “routine” review of these student donors. But Price tells a different story – he says that when reporters started calling him about these kiddie kontributors, he called the Bush lawyers, and only then did they suddenly get scruples and send back the checks.
It’s part of the slime of today’s politics that politicians literally take money from children.
Have you voted for president yet? I know, the election technically is not until next year, but the votes already are pouring in – 103 million ballots have been cast as of mid-year this year. These are the “dollar ballots” that have been cast in America’s money primary – the election that lets corporate executives, lobbyists, and wealthy individuals decide who the real contenders are next year by bankrolling them this year to the tune of millions of dollars. The result is that our choices for president in 2000 will have been narrowed down by these moneyed interests to a handful of candidates who have already pledged to support the economic policies of – guess who? – the moneyed interests!
Yet, the Powers That Be are trying to perpetuate the myth that this money equals democracy – that putting up money is the way we Americans have of exercising our free speech rights. But if we swallow that dose of B.S., then we have to admit we don’t have a democracy, but a plutocracy – for the great majority of people don’t have $1,000 to put into a candidate. In fact, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group analyzed all the contributions to presidential candidates in the first half of this year and found that only .02 percent (two one-hundredths of one percent) of Americans gave a thousand bucks to any candidate.
The U.S. PIRG report, titled “Running For The Money,” also finds that the leading contenders have gotten most of their war chests from this tiny minority of $1,000 donors – two-thirds of Gore’s money comes from them, Bush got three-fourths of his money from them, and Bradley got 82 percent of his money from them.
Now, who are Bush, Gore, or Bradley going to represent – the 99.98 percent of us who don’t have $1,000 to give to them, or the elite few who are financing their campaigns?
To get a copy of PIRG’s report, go to their web site: www.pirg.org.
You’ve heard the reports of how corporate executives are getting fatter than butcher’s dogs – for example, IBM’s top dog grabbed $336 million last year, and the boss of The Gap hauled off $495 million in personal pay, which is almost $10 million a week!
The issue here is not that a few people are making tons of money. Indeed, I’m in favor of people making money. Rather, the issue is disparity and plain old fairness. Our economy is humming – worker productivity is up, output is greater than ever, corporate profits have set records, stock prices are through the roof, and more wealth is being generated than ever before. This enormous economic gain was not created by a handful of C.E.O.s. Our entire society pitched in to create it – workers, family farmers, teachers and, yes, governments. But only the top strata of society have pocketed the gain. The average American worker is putting in longer hours, producing more, and enduring greater stress, yet the average weekly wage was 12 percent less last year than it was twenty-five years ago!
In the convoluted financial system of the corporate structure, the boss has a powerful incentive to fire masses of workers periodically. In the trendy way C.E.O.s now get their salaries “enhanced,” they are given stock in the company each year, which they can cash in as the price of that stock rises. The fastest way to goose-up stock prices is to fire a few thousand workers in one whack. Wall Street brokers and speculators love to see a C.E.O. cut corporate costs like this – which means the C.E.O. can cash in for a killing.
This system destroys employee morale and actually undermines the strength of the corporation for a decade – but the C.E.O.s don’t care, for they’ll have descended onto a golf course with a golden parachute by then.
Jim Hightower’s radio talk show broadcasts nationwide daily from Austin. Find him at www.jimhightower.com, or e-mail: [email protected]