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JIM HIGHTOWERI Mickey’s Minions Why? Be Mickey Mouse in Haiti? Yes, but the Disney empire is not there to amuse the localsit’s there to abuse them. In this poverty stricken nation, Disney Inc. is working through a subcontractor to get cute little children’s clothes made featuring Pocahontas, Mickey and other Disney characters. You can buy a delightful Pocahontas t-shirt for your tyke for about twelve bucks. Less delightful, though, is the fact that the Haitians who sew that shirt for Disney get about four cents for it. Indeed, they earn less than eleven dollars a week, which is a subpoverty wage even in this nation of poverty. Pocahontas in a sweatshop? Yes, and that’s why an investment group called Progressive Asset Management has filed a shareholder resolution to stop Disney’s management from continuing the exploitation. The P.A.M. resolution calls on Disney to assure shareholders and us customers that employees who work for Disney suppliers “are guaranteed basic rights…healthful working conditions, a sustainable community wage and a work environment free of child labor and abuse.” Who could be against that? Michael Eisner, the big cheese at Disney Inc., first tried to keep P.A.M. from being allowed to raise this “delicate” issue at the annual stockholders meeting. That did not seem sporting to Mickey Mouse fans, though, and bad publicity forced Eisner to call off his legal beagles. To find out how you can help, and to learn more about P.A.M.’ s shareholder activism, call 1-800-786-2998. \(Sources: National Labor Committee, and ProgresBILL’S WELFARE SCAM If hypocrites could fly, politicians would be jumbo jets. Last year, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, shouting that they were “ending welfare as we know it,” locked arms to shove hundreds of thousands of welfare mothers into the job market. Fine, welfare is a bu reaucratic nightmare for those on it, and most welfare moms would much prefer a good job. But there is the sticky part. Bill and Newt punted them off welfare, but where are the jobs? We already have at least 35 million folks unemployed or underemployed, and now here come about a million more lowwage workers to join the search. Even if they find a job, they can’t afford day care for their children, nor do most of them have transportation to get to work and back. Not to worry, proclaimed the President in his state of the union address, because I have a plan to get jobs for all of these moms. Bill’s scheme is a new, $3-billion-ayear subsidy program to give up to $10,000 to corporations for each welfare mother they hire. Hello. Has he not just shifted our tax dollars from family welfare to corporate welfare? Must these corporations at least act responsibly by paying a living wage to the mothers? No, no, minimum wage is finea wage that keeps them mired in poverty. Surely, the corporate welfare recipients have to keep these low-wage, subsidized workers on the payroll for a minimum period. Nonsenseonce Clinton’s subsidy ends, the company can punt the workers at will! In his State of the Union speech, Clinton singled out Monsanto, Sprint, United Airlines, UPS and AT&T for being the first to sign up, and the Republican Congress applauded this news enthusiastically, as though these firms were being altruistic, rather than simply getting in a new corporate welfare line. Great. Washington has taken us from welfare for the needy, to welfare for the greedy. BILLIONS FOR SPECULATORS Did you get your bonus yet? They did on Wall Street. January to March is bonus-paying season for the speculators and hustlers who pull off the slick deals at Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns and the other high-flying brokerage houses. If you’re a typical American, you have been lucky just to stay afloat in the ’90s, but these Wall Streeters are averaging $54,000 in bonuses this year. Never mind that eighty percent of Americans don’t get that much in total pay, this handful of hotshots in New York City are splitting $8 billion in bonuses, with those at the top really making a killing. At Goldman Sachs, for example, the firm’s 200 partners have just paid themselves bonuses of between $4 and $8 million each. In Manhattan, 25-year-old stock manipulators are strutting into auto showrooms and buying $179,000 Lamborghinis and other luxury toys, while 30-year-old investment bankers are buying two-million-dollar condos in the Trump Tower. What do these geniuses contribute to our economy and society that warrants such extravagant payouts? They spend their days on such productive enterprises as “playing” the market, “betting” that our currency will fall in relationship to the Japanese yen, “hustling” corporate junk bonds and, as one sharpie explained to The New York Times, “I trade big positions in small companies and terrorize the chairman” \(February 12, ing. Mostly, they gamble with other people’s money, filching fat fees whether the gamble pays off or not. The Powers That Be keep insisting that our economy is “robust,” citing a rise in average income as proof. But they’re averaging your income with these multimillion dollar, Wall Street bonus babies. Through such a numbers game, they can pretend that the economy is doing well, even when most of us are not. That’s not a healthy economy; it’s a dangerous one. Jim Hightower is a former Observer editor and Texas Agriculture Commissioner. His nationwide radio show broadcasts daily from Austin, Texas. MARCH 28, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19