Page 20


JIM HIGHTOWER V Shrub Bush Plays the Money Game How do you water a shrub? Well, if the “Shrub” in question is the Governor of Texas, you water him with money. “Shrub” is the nickname of our new Republican Governor, George W. Bushson of ex-President George Bush. The younger Bush is continuing a long-standing practice in our state of election winners opening their pockets wide so lobbyists and favor seekers who backed the loser can pour in money and make amends with the new “Power That Be.” Insiders call it “Getting Well.” In just one month after Bush’s November 8 victory over former Governor Ann Richards, hundreds of political players sought to “get well” with the new Governor by putting some $2 million in his campaign pocket. Two million! For example, the political action committee of Vinson & Elkins, one of the state’s biggest lobbying firmswhich had given $15,000 to Richardshas now given $30,000 to Bush. The Texas Dental PAC, which had backed Richards with $10,000 last year, has given “Shrub” $25,000 since November 8. Even one of Richards’ own appointees to the University of Texas System Board of Regents wrote a $25,000check to Bush, hoping to buy enough get-well medicine to hang on to his prestigious post. Apparently it workedhe’s kept his job, while other Richards appointees have been busted. As Tom “Smitty” Smith, Texas director of the watchdog group Public Citizen, puts it: “In no other game of chance do you still get to place money on the winner after the race is won. It’s illegal in gambling, but it’s encouraged in politics.” The Money Game is a totally corrupting political practice, whether it’s played by Republicans or Democrats. To learn more about it and to help fight it, get in touch with Public Citizen: 512-477-1155. The Bailout’s Big Lie Whew! Those Wall Street investment firms can really work, up a patriotic frenzy when they need Washington to pull their bacon out of the fire! Listen to this man-the-barricades, redwhite-and-blue ode to American pride Jim Hightower, a fonner Observer editor and Texas agriculture commissioner, does daily radio commentary and a weekend call-in talk show on the ABC Radio Network. delivered by the big bond dealer Goldman Sachs, trying to rationalize why ordinary taxpayers should give a-multibillion-dollar bailout to investors in Mexican bonds. “The prestige of the president and the leadership of Congress has been committed. [If Congress kills the Mexican bond bailout], the … rest of the world would [feel] that we are a nation in disarray, a country incapable of addressing a crisis. The psychological blow would be horrendous.” Guess which Wall Street firm had the most money invested in the Mexican bond market, thereby standing to gain the most from a taxpayer bailout? Bingo! Goldman Sachs. But, hey, aren’t these guys professionalsshouldn’t they have known better? Of course! And they did. Their own economists told them Mexico’s bonds were a house of cards, but Wall Street was blinded by up to 50 percent profits they had been making on those bondsuntil the market collapsed. Guess who else knew? The corrupt Mexican government for one, but they weren’t telling because of politics. Mexico’s ruling party had an election to win last September and a rebellion festering in Chiapas … so, they weren’t telling anyone. Our leaders in Washington knew, too. But “Peso Bill” Clinton and “Taco Bob” Dole were hush-hush on the shakiness of Mexico’s economy, because neither wanted any bad news from South of the Border to affect last fall’s congressional elections, or the passage of GATT right after the elections. The Mexican bailout isn’t about helping the people of Mexico; it’s about covering the butts of slipshod Wall Street investors, corrupt Mexican leaders, and shameless Washington politicians. $3 Million Coffee Spill Things aren’t always what we’re told they are. Wild rice, for example, isn’t. It’s an oat, and most are cultivated, not wild. Well, Big Business is cultivating another load of oats for us, claiming that American juries are out of controlwildly awarding huge payments to anyone who sues a corporation. Therefore, they say, Congress must restrict your right to sue them for damages. Never mind that 90 percent of people harmed by companies never recover a dime. Let’s look at one of the most notorious examples of what they call “out of control” juries: last fall’s case of a 79-year-old lady who spilled a 49-cent cup of hot McDonald’s coffee in her lapand was awarded nearly $3 million by a jury. Millions for a little spilt coffee? “Outrageous!” But you never got to hear the full storyuntil now. It turns out the lady was severely burned, requiring skin grafts. The coffee wasn’t just .”hot,” it was a scalding 180 degrees-40 degrees hotter than anyone can drink, an accident waiting to happen. Indeed, prior to this case, McDonald’s had received some 700 complaints from people burned by its coffee, yet it refused to lower the heat. As one juror put it, McDonald’s was unrepentant and arrogant: “They didn’t care,” he said. An “outrageous” judgment? The $2.7 million awarded to punish McDonald’s irresponsibility and deter it from burning others actually had a neat logic to it: That’s two days worth of McDonald’s coffee sales. But the lady got nowhere near that. The final settlement was for about $300,000. When corporations tell you a tall tale about being “abused” by consumers, consider the sourceand look for the rest of the story. Golden Rule Insurance There he goes again: Newt Gingrich, taking corporate money with one handand doing corporate favors with the other. That’s why I always keep my “Eye on Newt” for you. If Speaker Gingrich’s suits seem ill-fitted and rumpled all the time, it’s because he’s had extra pockets sewn in them so corporations can stuff him with money. .He’s got a pocket for his campaign fund; one to help with his personal finances; a secret one for his political slush fund; a tax-exempt pocket for his “think tank”; one to finance his TV show; and, well, Newt’s a man of many pockets. And if you really want to be on his good side, put a little something in each one. That’s what the Golden Rule Insurance Company does. This medical insurance firm has given nearly $120,000 to GOPAC, the Speaker’s slush fund; it’s a big contributor to his think tank; it’s put $25,000 into his campaign pocket; and it sponsors The Newt’s TV show. Golden Rule Insurance also happens to be lobbying Congress to get a special taxfree provision that would cover the medical savings plans it sells. Guess who’s the co-sponsor of Golden Rule’s legislation? Bingo! Mr. High Pockets himself: Newt! When you want to know what Speaker Gingrich really stands for, check his pockets. That’s why all of us should keep our “Eye on Newt”he’s a slimy little lizard! THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13