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Send the Bosses to Mexico BY JIM HIGHTOWER WRIGLEY, THE CHEWING gum baron, once said, “There are highly-successful busi nesses in the [U.S.]. There are also highpaid executives. The [secret] is not to intermingle the two.” This is a story of the puffed-up egos and ballooning paychecks of today’s big corporate executives. Japan’s corporations seem to be doing pretty well in the world market without paying their top executives a Number 10 washtub full of gold each year. Japan’s top-paidexecutive the head of Nintendois paid about $6 million. Nothing to sniff at, but contrast that to the $127 million paycheck that America’s top-paid boss hauled away. Only eight Japanese executives make more than a million bucks. The average of U.S. top executives is nearly $4 million. And who is it that’s beating whom in the international market? Maybe our guys and they’re practically all guys are too fat to care. They’re the same guys who constantly preach that American companies must “downsize,” “streamline,” become “lean and mean.” But while they’ve knocked down our wages and moved our jobs abroad, they’ve jacked up their own pay by more than half in the last year alone. These guys in the executive suites now average 157 times what the average factory worker earns. Many U.S. executives have run their companies right into the ditch … yet still hiked their own pay. Many, many more have cost our country hundred of thousands of familywage, middle-class jobs. Now even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked. Let’s stop letting them kick us, curse us, and then pat themselves on the back with a big pay raise. I have an idea. Let’s keep our factories and jobs here and move our corporate headquarters to Mexico, Korea or wherever else we can get some reasonably priced chief Jim Hightower, a former Observer editor and former Texas agriculture commissioner, does daily radio commentaries, from which this artilce was selected . His commentaries are heard on 59 stations nationwide, including eight in Texas. For information on how to get Hightower on your local station, call 512-477-5588. executives. The top man at Honda, for example, makes $632,000. Now there’s a bargain. Let’s shop around the world for executives who want to streamline, downsize, and make American companies lean and mean by starting at the top. Well, the big buzz on Wall Street is about the scramble by several big companies to control “The Information Superhighway,” which I am told on good authority will lead us places like “cyberspace,” the “interactive future,” and “digital paradise.” I confess that my idea of an “information highway” is the old Burma Shave sighs. Remember those? Well, nostalgia’s not what it used to be, and now we’re talking fiberoptic superhighways that would lead from God-knows-where right into your home. What’ll it provide? “Smart television.” Oh, the TV will show the same dumb things, but there’ll 500 more channels of it. Plus, your “smart” TV will let you crank back the LaZ-E-Boy and use nothing but your clicker and thumb muscle to do your banking, “browse” through a department store, hold a teleconference with your boss or your bookie, book a vacation, call-up movies, CDs and videograms on demand couch potato nirvana! But who’ll own it, build it and charge us for it? There’s the rub. A handful of companies especially regional telephone companies are on a frenetic, multi-billion dollar shopping spree, trying to amass TV cable systems, software, networks, and other components that would let them become the 21st century monolith bestriding our nation’s information highway. It’s a bold play for monopoly power, with Bell Atlantic, NYNEX, Pacific Telesis, Bell South, Southwestern Bell, US West and Ameritech grabbing for it all. Excuse me, but aren’t these the same companies who’ve been laying off thousands of employees while running to our public utility commissions demanding rate increases? Where’d they suddenly find these extra billions? And anyone who ever dealt with phone company bureaucracy has to be skeptical about its intention to deliver anything but bigger bills. Before we rush down the information highway, let’s think about who’s going to drive and where we’re headed. A new consumer coalition called Telecommunications Policy Roundtable is trying to broaden public dis cussion of this issue. To learn more, call them at 202/628-2620. Remember, maybe way back in your past, some dark, crystal clear night when you looked up and saw not just the Big Dipper but more stars than you thought the sky could possibly hold. Well, multiply that number by, say, 10 and that’s approximately how many Washington lobbyists the health industry has hired. This is not good news. Lobbyists are like beavers they’re experts at getting in the middle of the flow and damming everything up. And that’s exactly why the insurance companies, drug makers, and others have hired every Washington lobbyist with a Sharkskin suit. It’s an all-out effort to dam up the public’s demand for health reform. Maybe you’ve seen the homey TV ad with “Harry and Louise,” a sincere, middle-class couple at their breakfast table, expressing grave doubts about these reforms. At the end is a little tagline saying this spot is sponsored by “The Coalition for Health Insurance Choices.” A Ralph Nader group? Hardly. It’s a coalition of insurance companies with a huge financial stake in defeating real reform. Part of a $7 million ad campaign, this effort to twist public debate with deceptive image ads is called “deep lobbying.” Meanwhile, in the shallower waters of Washington, the industry has unleashed on Congress plenty of old-style, back-slapping, palm-greasing lobbying. The insurance firms even persuaded Bill Gradison to give up his congressional seat this year and become their chief influence peddler. Gradison had been top Republican on the key subcommittee that’ll decide the fate of our health-care system. He’s loaded with connectionsand as an ex-member, Gradison gets full access to all the inner-sanctums of Congress. Plus he’s point-man for companies that have already made $23 million in congressional PAC contributions in the past decade. This is why we’ve got to keep our eyes and the heat on our members of Congress throughout the fight. Don’t even blink! Send a Friend the Texas Observer. Contact Stephan Wanstrom at 477-0746, or write 701 West 7th St., Austin, TX 78701. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7