Jim Hightower

Money Primary, Casino Evil & The Flo Chart

Voting is already taking place in the 2000 election for President, only you’re not invited to participate, unless you can write a check for $1,000, $100,000, and up. This is the Money Primary, and not only does it precede next year’s New Hampshire primary, but this closed-door balloting overwhelms all others in importance.

You see, to be a major contender for either the Republican or Democratic presidential nominations in 2000, it’s calculated that each candidate will have to have amassed a war chest of $25 million by the end of this year. That’s roughly $75,000 a day that these presidential wannabes must bank, each and every day of 1999, including Saturdays and Sundays. Miss one day, and your quota doubles to $150,000 for the next day.

If you don’t raise your $25 million, you’re unlikely to be able to compete when the actual voting by us peasants takes place next year. The bottom line is that the big money interests literally decide this year who we get to vote for next year — and our choices will be limited to those candidates who prove themselves willing to support the policies of big money.

Al Gore and Bill Bradley on the Democratic side; George Bush, Elizabeth Dole, John McCain, Danbo Quayle, Lamar Alexander, and others on the Republican side — all of these will have been vetted by the rich and powerful. The vetting takes place in corporate suites, at penthouse cocktail parties and at exclusive resorts in places like Palm Beach, Florida, where Lamar Alexander and other GOP aspirants recently trekked to strut their stuff in front of business execs who give $100,000 each to be part of this Money Primary. The candidates grovel shamelessly in front of these monied executives in the hope of “stroking dollars” from them.

If you wonder why we don’t get candidates who are for the people — pay attention to who’s buying whom.


In politics, money doesn’t just talk; sometimes it positively shouts.

Meet Steven Wynn, the dapper impresario of American casinos. His Mirage Resorts Inc. operates posh palaces of gambling from Las Vegas to Atlantic City.

But as Wynn told The New York Times, if you’re in the gambling business these days, you’re in the political business, and he’s bought in so heavily that national, state, and local politicians go out of their way to give Mr. Wynn his way. In the ’98 elections, his political operation put more than a million bucks into the pockets of candidates.

The Times reports that, in Las Vegas, either politicians work with Wynn or he works to get them out of office. Not only does he fund candidates against them, but he also uses his own polling, voter registration drives, phone banks, and other political mechanisms to elect officials beholden to him. He’s particularly tight, for example, with the chairwoman of the local board of supervisors — the board that just happens to decide questions of casino development along the Las Vegas strip. So, when he wanted to build a lake with 1,100 fountains in front of his new Bellagio casino, he got the Board’s unanimous okay, even though there’s a ban on building more water-gobbling artificial lakes in this water-scarce region.

In New Jersey, the political payoff for Wynn has been even grander. First, he lobbied the legislature to relax casino regulation; second, he got Atlantic City officials to give him a 170-acre site to build a casino; third, the legislature agreed to pay for 75 percent of the clean-up costs on this site; and fourth, while dining with the Governor, Wynn got the state to put up $220 million to build a tunnel and a road straight to his casino.

By putting his chips on the right politicians, Steven Wynn takes the gamble out of making casino profits.


To know how the nation’s economy is doing, we don’t need to consult the ethereal Dow Jones Average, but the Flo Chart.

Flo’s a waitress at the Dine & Go Diner working the 6 to 9 breakfast shift, then she goes downtown to do grunt work from 10 to 4 for a bevy of insurance company lawyers at the firm of Meager, Wages & Miser. Ironically, Flo doesn’t have insurance. She does have a couple of great kids, though, and she considers them her real job, but she wishes she had more time with them.

Amidst all the hoopla about the skyrocketing Dow, I think the politicians and the media need to pay more attention to which way the Flo Chart is moving. Hers is the heartbeat of the American majority — the 80 percent of folks who are paid less than $50,000 a year, the 60 percent who don’t own any stocks or bonds, the 75 percent who don’t have a university sheepskin on the wall — and the two-thirds who aren’t voting because neither party is fighting for Flo.

Republicans and Democrats alike hail the reports that thousands of new jobs are being created these days. But for employees and job seekers, the issue isn’t just getting a job (Flo has two), but getting an income you can live on, raise a family, and retire on.

Here’s what the Flo Chart has to say about America’s so-called “prosperity”: American workers are being paid less today than they were when Nixon was president. In real dollars, average hourly wages in 1973 were $13.61. Today they’re down to $12.77.

We’re talking about the incomes of the majority of our nation’s people. This decline comes at a time when people are busting their butts, too — working harder, longer, and smarter. Since Nixonian times, worker productivity has jumped by a third.

Anyone who can spell I.Q. knows that it’s stupid for politicians to whoop and holler about prosperity, when Flo and the American majority are not a part of it.

Jim Hightower’s radio talk show broadcasts daily from Austin on over 100 stations nationwide. His book, There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos is in paperback. Find him at www.jimhightower.com, or e-mail: [email protected]

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Published at 12:00 am CST