Jim Hightower

W. Giveth and W. Taketh Away

Two things not long for this world are dogs that chase cars, and politicians who lie to the people. George W. Bush’s political life is about to take a hit, because millions of Americans are soon to sit down to fill out their income tax forms, and they will find a rude shock awaiting: George W. personally lied to them. The lie came early last year when George was strutting around like a banty rooster crowing about his massive tax cut bill. Yes, the richest Americans–especially the richest one-percent–were going to pocket the bulk of his giveaway, but, he also was going to give a $300 tax rebate to every taxpayer, from Bill Gates to Joe Sixpack.

You might remember that George was so pleased with this political ploy that he almost had to put his arm in a sling from patting himself so hard on the back at press conferences held all across the country to announce the rebate. He and his congressional cohorts even ordered the IRS to send a letter to every taxpayer in advance of the payment notifying them that the President had done them a personal favor and would soon be sending them their $300. But it was a lie, as most taxpayers will learn when they come to line 47 on this year’s tax forms. As I pointed out last year when Bush was running around gleefully handing out checks, his $300 giveaway was not really a “rebate,” which would mean money returned to you from past taxes you’ve paid. Instead, they were advances on future tax cuts that you may or may not get. On April 15, you’ll most likely still owe the $300 he awarded you last year. Naturally, most people have already spent their $300 “rebate,” not expecting that they’d owe $300 more in taxes this year than expected.


They came, they saw…they drank. And drank, and drank, and drank. These were not frat boys on a weekend binge in New Orleans, but six investment bankers with the very prim and proper Barclay’s of London. They went out to dinner at Pétrus, one of the city’s poshest restaurants, with a feeling of quiet luxury and such gourmet entrees as roast breast of Anjou pigeon on a parsnip galette. The Barclay’s Six ate, and ate well, but they had come to celebrate a deal, so they treated themselves first to six glasses of champagne, then to a fine wine. The bottle of 1984 Montrachet was a bit pricey at $2,000–but, hey, these were hot shot bankers from Barclay’s equity derivatives division, so they’re not going to let money stand in the way of a good ego massage on the day of a deal.

Then, something snapped, and the egos escalated. They got into the exquisite Bordeaux from Château Pétrus, starting with a 1945 vintage for $13,400. Ooooo, they declared as they sipped it, very fine. So they moved on to a bottle of the the 1946 vintage, costing them $16,500. Then they went for the trifecta, ordering the 1947 Château Pétrus for $17,500. Finally, they kicked back with a bottle of 100-year old Château d’Yquem dessert wine, for only $13,100. Total wine tab: $62,580. The restaurant owner was so thrilled that he comped the food bill for the wine swilling sextet. Less thrilled was Barclay’s top brass, who noted that the banking business is in a slump, thousands of employees have been fired, and new austerity measures had only recently been imposed. All six were reprimanded, and five were fired when they later tried to sneak their tab onto the bank’s expense accounts.


Since it’s been admitted that 100,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors in our hospitals, the profession now urges patients to ask bold and basic questions in the operating room, such as: “Now, which one of my kidneys are you preparing to remove?”

The American Medical Student Association, however, says that we patients should be asking another basic question: “When was the last time you slept, doc?”

Newly minted doctors, who serve a required hospital residency after medical school, are the backbone of patient care at most U.S. hospitals. They are the ones who are bearing the brunt of ever-more-punishing workloads as corporatized hospitals cut staff at the same time that the number of patients is increasing. They commonly are on the job for 100 or more hours a week, including shifts that run for 36 straight hours. Four out of ten of these doctors say that their most serious mistakes are due to sheer exhaustion. Indeed, being awake for just 24hours leaves you with the hand-to-eye motor skills of someone who is legally drunk. The AMSA points out that our country has laws that quite sensibly limit airline pilots to no more than 34 hours of flying each week and that restrict truckers to no more than 10 consecutive hours of driving. So, since we prohibit pilots from flying and truckers from driving while fatigued, and since we outlaw drunks on our roads, why do we allow doctors to deal with our life and death medical needs while they’re bleary-eyed and mind-boggled?

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