Jim Hightower

Bush's Bait and Switch

George W is proving to be a master of the political bait-and-switch scam, saying one thing for political gain, then quietly switching to an entirely different position in his budget proposals. In January’s “State of the Union” speech, Bush declared that his number one economic priority was “jobs,” adding with a rhetorical flourish that “when America works, America prospers.” Indeed, with the high-tech bust, with more corporations moving our jobs offshore, with the job crash following September 11’s terrorist attack, and with job-busting finagling by top executives of outfits like Enron–the number of unemployed Americans has risen by 40 percent in the past year, and job programs are needed more than ever, so Bush’s rhetoric was on target. Two weeks later, however, came his budget, which is where a president’s real priorities are written in ink. Far from pushing jobs, George whacked the meager job-training budgets already on the books, particularly for programs to help those most in need today–laid-off workers and young adults. For example, “youth opportunity centers” are effective training and job-search programs that help move young people from poverty to work, and Bush even visited one in Portland just days before his state of the union speech. He lauded the program and got his picture taken with trainees, but back in Washington, he took the axe to these centers, chopping 80 percent of their funding!

Adding insult to injury, Bush & Company are lying about what they’re doing, asserting that while some programs are being cut, they’re increasing the total money going to job training. But, as The New York Times discovered, the Bushies are counting federal job funds sent to the states this year as new money for next year, even though that money has already been spent by the states. This is a funny-money maneuver that would make Enron blush.

Prescription Payola

When your doctor recommends a particular medicine or treatment for your heart condition, asthma, diabetes, or other ailment… who’s talking to you? Is it your doctor making the recommendation, or is it a drug company speaking through your doc? In choosing treatments for you, most physicians rely on what the profession calls “clinical protocols,” which are guidelines written by medical researchers and usually published in medical journals. But what the researchers and the journals fail to reveal is the fact that drug makers have their monetary tentacles wrapped around most of the authors of these guidelines, raising major questions about whether your doctor is unknowingly recommending a treatment that has been tainted with drug company cash. The New York Times reports that a recent survey was taken of 100 of the researchers who write these guidelines. Nine out of ten of them admitted that they have financial ties to the drug industry, including getting drug-company consulting fees and even getting their research financed by the industry. Worse, six out of ten had financial ties directly to the companies making the very drug that they were researching and recommending. The pharmaceutical giants claim that these monetary ties to researchers are merely an innocent effort to help educate doctors. However, Dr. Marcia Angell, the former editor of the respected New England Journal of Medicine, says the relationship is not at all altruistic or about education: “Most consulting arrangements are simply a way for researchers to make money and the industry to buy their good will,” she told the Times, adding that by paying researchers to serve on advisory boards and to make speeches at industry meetings, “the drug companies retain influence over them to a remarkable degree.”

Dust Thou Art

I know I’m rushing the season a bit, but what gardener can help it? The sun is rising earlier and staying with us longer, the seed catalogues are arriving, and it’s time again to prepare our gardens, dreaming of homegrown tomatoes, championship zucchini, and an ambrosia of piquant peppers. Ah, but every gardener looks for a little edge. What secret addition to the soil might juice up your summer veggies to new heights of excellence? No synthetic chemicals, mind you–we’re talking organics, nature’s own support system. This is where Science & Spirit magazine proves so helpful. It’s latest headline reads: “Green Burial Turns Mom Into Mulch.” Yes! Why didn’t I think of it? “Earth to earth” sayeth the scripture, and what better earthly repose than to be a tomato-pusher, a life-giver even in death! Let’s recycle ourselves, as Science & Spirit suggests, in the family garden plot or compost pile. Traditional methods of human disposal are, let’s admit it, inhumane, gross, and toxic. So why not just wrap Grandpa Ed or old Aunt Em in organic cotton sheets and plant them out back, where they can do some good? Illegal, you say? Not so. My Austin paper reports that as long as you go at least 18 inches down, the private family plot in the back yard is perfectly OK. Personally, being from Texas with its wild critters and all, I’d dig a bit deeper, but as long as it poses no health hazard to the living, go for it.

Jim Hightower’s latest book is If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates. Find him at www.jimhightower.com or write [email protected]

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Published at 12:00 am CST