Cleaning Up with the Filthy Rich

Time for another peek into the Lifestyles of the Filthy Rich.

Few of us hoi polloi realize that it’s not easy being one of the hoity-toity. For example, let’s talk bathtubs.

To us regular folks, the tub is … well, a place to take a bath. For the superwealthy, however, one’s bathtub has to make a statement. It’s not a bathing receptacle, but an expression of one’s inner self and external wealth.

Does your bathtub have a name? Of course not, but the bathtubs of the rich do. Take the “Papillon,” 1,800 pounds of stunning modernist sculpture, carved from white Carrara Italian marble. The Papillon costs $23,000-but really, my dears, if you’re going to be looking at prices, you probably should be shopping at Sears.

There’s also the Madera Ovales M4, which sounds as though it might be a rare Spanish wine, but is actually a handmade tub created with various pricey woods, from walnut to teak. It looks very much like an oversized salad bowl-but what’s a tub for if not to exude a certain insouciant playfulness? Who knows, maybe the rich bathe in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If it’s playfulness you want, play with the M4’s $40,000 price tag.

But like I say, being really rich is not easy. It’s a challenge in extreme consumerism. If you really want to try keeping up with the elite, let me suggest the “TGH Art Deco,” an elongated tub that’s completely covered on the outside in hand-tooled Hermès leather. It’s a $55,000 tub, but I’d advise against putting water in it-you might stain the Hermès.

Corrupting the System

EnergySolutions Inc. That name has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? But whose energy problems is this company trying to solve?

Italy’s, for one. That country has 20,000 tons of nuclear waste that it wants to dump somewhere, so this Salt Lake City corporation says that for several million dollars, it will gladly import Italy’s waste and bury it in Western Utah. Great. Our country can’t figure out what to do with our own nuclear nasties, yet this corporate huckster would throw open our borders to everyone’s trash. Send us your tired, your poor … your nuclear waste!

Not wanting to see America turned into a global dumpster, some lawmakers are trying to ban imports of radioactive waste. EnergySolutions has responded by applying money to the problem. In the last four years, company executives and investors have upped their political giving tenfold, dumping nearly $400,000 into congressional campaign coffers. They’ve also ramped up the corporation’s spending on Washington lobbyists, topping a million bucks last year.

Confronted with the charge that they’re trying to buy votes, EnergySolutions asserts that the company is merely buying “access” to lawmakers. As a corporate spokesman explained, campaign cash “gives us the opportunity to participate with elected officials.”

In other words, “the opportunity to participate with elected officials” requires a major cash transaction-a corruption that shuts out ordinary citizens, perverts the public interest, and mocks our democracy. This is a bigger, more toxic problem than nuclear waste, and one solution is to take the corrupt money out of the system by publicly financing congressional elections. Learn more at www.publiccampaign.org.

Goofy in Baghdad

It’s now official: Goofy is in charge of the Bush regime’s Iraq occupation.

Even as violence has ramped up again in Iraq, and even as the Bushites continue to insist that their war must go on for years, the Pentagon is working to bring Disneyland to Baghdad. Well, not literally Disneyland, but a massive, Disney-like amusement park to be named the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, featuring hotels, lagoons, rides, skateboarding, animals, and … Mickey Mouse?

The park is the brainchild of Llewellyn Werner, head of a Los Angeles-based private equity outfit called C3. Investors will put up $500 million to build the enterprise on a 50-acre plot adjacent to Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. Werner himself told the Iraqi people last month about the splendiferous playground he’s planning. “It’s going to have a huge psychological impact,” Werner said, with grandiose Western confidence.

Oh, right, an American corporation bringing American culture to Iraq’s capital to generate profit for wealthy American investors-that’s sure to win the hearts of the locals! And if they were unclear about Werner’s motives, he bluntly told them: “I’m a businessman. I’m not here because I think you’re nice people. I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t making money.” Attaboy, Llewellyn, make ’em love you!

The Pentagon-which of course will deploy our soldiers to defend this private venture from suicide bombings and other attacks-is on board with the project. George W’s “deputy undersecretary of defense for business transformation” is even promoting the nation-building aspect of Werner’s amusement park. “Half the Iraqi population is under the age of 15,” he says. “These kids really need something to do.”

Hey, Goofy, thousands of those kids are homeless, impoverished, and don’t go to school. How about working on that?

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work-and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown-visit www.jimhightower.com. His newest book, with Susan DeMarco, is Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow.

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Published at 12:00 am CST
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