Jim Hightower

Friends in All the Right Places

My friend was clearly moved. She told me that she had received an urgent letter from Marc Racicot, the former Enron lobbyist who now is chairman of the Republican National Committee. While my friend does not know Marc personally, she surely was impressed that he had designated her as number 072702-V2002H. Marc’s letter said that she was one of “a select group of Republicans” that the RNC had chosen to serve “as a representative of all Republicans” living in her voting district. Her prestigious assignment was to be among a vanguard of party activists to take part in “an Official Census of the Republican Party.” One problem: My friend is a lifelong Democrat. Oh, she admits that she has sometimes strayed–like the time she voted for Dick Gregory for president on the Peace and Freedom ticket. But never has she voted Republican. In fact, she’s never wanted much of anything to do with them. But here, direct from the party chair, was a cry for help that she simply couldn’t ignore. Marc noted that the RNC is developing a “Blueprint” on issues to guide the party for the next 10 years, but that party leaders don’t know how the rank and file feel about today’s issues. So, he wrote, she is designated to “represent the views and opinions of all Republicans” in her area. Marc said it was vital that he receive her answers “in the next seven days.” One question was: “Should we take the next step in welfare reform through faith-based programs?” Well, maybe, but what exactly is the next step? If it’s to kill off all welfare moms, then probably the churches shouldn’t do that. The key question was the last one, which asked if my friend would send $500 to the RNC. “No” was her answer… but she sure hopes that her answers to all of the other questions are used by Marc to shape GOP policies for the next decade.

SENATE SELL-OUT

Sixty-six U.S. senators–including 25 Democrats–recently caved in to big corporate lobbyists to sell out hundreds of thousands of American workers and their families. The vote was on the issue of “Fast Track,” a pernicious legislative process that hands the president autocratic authority to negotiate one-sided trade deals giving huge new powers to global corporations, then forbids Congress from amending these deals to correct flaws. As we have learned from NAFTA and the WTO, these trade deals are fraught with flaws, resulting in massive job losses here and abroad, gross environmental abuses, and a loss of our right to make our own laws. But instead of standing with We The People, a majority of senators have cashed us in to the global corporate powers, even though their vote meant that the senators were meekly surrendering their own legislative authority (and responsibility) to the executive branch. The saddest players were the Senate’s Democratic leaders, for they pretended to be protecting us regular Janes and Joes, even while selling us out. They offered several amendments to put a little balm on the gaping wound of job losses that they admit will come from future trade deals, even while they approved the railroading of Fast Track . The Democrats won only one of these amendments–a provision to extend some temporary and partial health insurance to U.S. workers who’ll be fired by their globe-hopping employers. Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader of the Senate, lamely shrugged and said, “I’m disappointed that we couldn’t do more, but… we’ve got to move on.” Yeah, Tom, but unlike the families you gave up on, you’ll move on with a high-paying job, plus lifetime pension and Cadillac health coverage. If the meek ever inherit the earth, the Daschle Democrats are going to be land barons.

DANCE WITH THE ONE THAT FUNDS YA

Like the interminable dance marathons of the 1930s, the band keeps playing on and on and on. This band is comprised of the giant drug-makers. At issue is a fight in the U.S. House on a Bush-backed, industry-written prescription drug bill that would provide limited drug coverage to some seniors, but also would require us taxpayers to provide billions of dollars to subsidize the unlimited rip-off prices that the corporations want to keep charging for these medicines. It’s a sham bill to protect the excess profits of the pharmaceutical industry, rather than to meet the critical health needs of seniors. The Democrats’ bill is better, covering all seniors, but it, too, fails to control the corporate price-gouging, soaking taxpayers to enrich the avaricious companies. Why won’t either party simply say no to the gougers? Money, of course. The very week that the Republican bill was being voted on in the House, George W. Bush headlined a GOP gala in Washington to raise more than $30 million from lobbyists, CEOs, and other fat cats to help elect more Republicans to Congress. The head corporate fundraiser for George’s Gala was the top executive of GlaxoSmithKline, a London-based drug giant that will reap a windfall from Bush’s bill. Eli Lilly was there to get its dance card punched, too, as were Blue Cross, Pfizer, and other global drug profiteers. But the GOP is not the only dance in town. Drug companies say that they’re delighted to donate to Democrats, too.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.

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