JIM HIGHTOWERI Wall Street vs. Midtown Common sense is a stranger among Americas economic leaders. Wall Street celebrates every time the workaday majority in our country gets socked Newt Gingrich says the power of working families to organize into unions should be cut back Bill Clinton brags that the economy is the best it ever has been. Alan Greenspan complains that economic growth needs to be slowed down. / f ignorance is bliss, these people must be ecstatic. If only these so-called “leaders” had been at midtown Manhattan on March 18, they could’ve had an up-close-and-personal demonstration of how wrong they are, and how they are leading America to economic ruin and social rebellion. Owners of the Roosevelt Hotel, scheduled to open later this month, had run a tiny classified ad in New York for 700 jobsmaids, maintenance workers, security guards and the likepaying $6 to $15 an hour. People from Queens, Brooklyn, Jersey and all around began to line up for interviews at 3 a.m. The line snaked down the block, across the street, down the avenue, around the corner, and back up the next streeta fourblock square. Then police started another line, and it ran four blocks the other way. More than 4,000 Americans stood in these two lines in the winter cold of March 18, many for as long as eight hours, trying to be interviewed for a $6-an-hour job. Welfare mothers were in the line, along with teenagers wanting to get a start, minimumwage workers hoping for a slightly better job, plus middle-aged men in suits who’ve been downsizedall a part of the Wall Street-Gingrich-Clinton-Greenspan economy. One of those in the line, Elilabeth Gatling, 55, said: “I’m going to look the [interviewer] in the eye and tell them the truth: I’m honest and reliable and I’m desperate for work.” This is the economic reality our leaders have created. What a bunch of failures they are. BROADCASTING CORRUPTION One group suspiciously quiet about the national scandal of corporate money polluting America’s politics is the very group that usually loves a juicy scandal: TV networks. While newspapers have begun doing a good job of tracking fat-cat contributors and the favors they buy for their cash, the Big Five Broadcasters have given this explosive story as little attention as possible, providing viewers with none of the indepth, saturation coverage that they devote to, say, the O.J. Simpson trial. Why have ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and FOX not been beating the drums for campaign finance reform? Because they profit from the corruption. FIRST, a big chunk of the money given to candidates by the special interests ends up being spent on television ads. In last year’s elections, the top seventy-five media markets collected $400 million to run political ads. Why push to reform a system that fills your company’s pockets with so much cash? SECOND, the conglomerate owners of the Big Five themselves are among the worst corruptors of the system, funneling more than $3 million in unregulated, corporate funds into the Republican and Democratic parties for the ’96 elections. The result of their contributions is billions of dollars’ worth of direct subsidies, special tax breaks and other governmental favors for Disney, Time Warner, Westinghouse, Rupert Murdoch and GEthe owners of the networks. One especially ripe plum that they intend to pluck from the federal tree this spring are licenses for digital television. Like all of the airwaves, this broadcast spectrum is owned by you and methe public. It is estimated to be worth at least $70 BILLION, but the TV giants want it FREE OF CHARGE…and Washington is going along with this theft. That’s why the networks are not pushing to reform campaign corruption. GOOBERHEAD CHAINSAW Time for the Hightower “Gooberhead” Award, presented periodically to those whose tongues do not seem to be connected in any way to their brains. Today’s Awardee: Al Dunlap. Yes, he’s the notorious “Chainsaw Al,” known for taking over corporations, severing thou sands of employees from their jobs and walking away with millions of dollars in personal profits. Today’s Goober, however, is not given to him for his mistreatment of workers, but for the way he’s mistreating his neighbors. \(“Boca Enclave at Standoff Over Armed Guards,” by Alexandra Clough, Palm Beach Post, Chainsaw lives in a super-exclusive neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes adjacent to a ritzy resort in Boca Raton, Florida. Exclusive as it is, though, Al is worried about crime. It seems someone smashed the sunroof of his Mercedes while it was parked in his driveway. Plus, a fountain was taken from his yard, and a concrete pineapple has been stolen from the wall around his garden. So Dunlap wants armed guards to protect his property. Fine. Except that he wants his neighbors to chipin on the $270,000-a-year price tag for 24hour, gun-toting security. “No thank you,” said the neighbors, who are not having any security problems and feel perfectly safe. Chainsaw took this neighborly rejection with all the grace and maturity we’ve learned to expect from today’s corporate leaders: he has threatened to sue them. Mr. Dunlap “will make sure people are held responsible” for any damage he suffers from their failure to pay for his protection, his lawyer says in a very twisted bit of legal logic. But, then, Al’s a pretty twisted guy who does not seem to care about doing the neighborly thing. “If you want a friend,” Dunlap says, “buy a dog.” Money will buy a good dog, but it won’t buy the wag of its tail. Given Chainsaw Al’s cheerful personality, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets bitten by his own pet dog. What a gooberhead. Jim Hightower is a former Observer editor and Texas Agriculture Commissioner. His nationwide radio show broadcasts daily from Austin, Texas. APRIL 25, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.