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JIM HIGHTOWER Zap This! If you abuse a circus elephan6 if you run a pet shop that sells a calico cat without a license or if you’ a fanner who markets a potato thath too small the US. Department of Agriculture can fine you But if huge meat companies like Tyson Chicken or Iowa Beef Processors ship a load containing such deadly contaminants as E. coli bac teria, the Ag Department has no authority to impose even a token fine, to require the company to recall the contaminated meat, or to tell you and me that the bad stuff is out there in fast food chains, schools, and other places where our families might be eating it. So, after it was discovered this summer that a Nebraska company had distributed two million pounds of bad burgers containing E. coli, and that our watchdog agency was essentially toothless, the Ag Department has finally proposed legislation allowing it to mandate recalls and impose serious fines. But instead of welcoming this consumer protection, Congress has condemned it as “unnecessary government intrusion” into the meat business. Instead of fining the perpetrators or, better yet, outlawing the factory-feeding processes that cause these lethal diseases Congress and meat-industry lobbyists want to “solve” the contamination problem by zapping our dinner with another contaminant: radiation. If they have their way, every chicken and every burger will get a dose of radioactive cobalt 60. Not to worry, they promise us it’s no worse than an x-ray of your teeth. But wait notice that the dentist covers you in a lead apron when your teeth are x-rayed, and the dentist always leaves the room! Well, they say, the meat doesn’t actually become radioactive -the zapping process just changes its DNA. Changes its DNA? To fight this irradiaEAT SAFE. GAMBLERS’ RIP-OFF While children had visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads during the holidays, Wall Street’s big brokers had visions of something much sweeter: Bonuses! Top executives at Merrill Lynch, Gold man Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and all the other high-rolling Wall Street firms pull down $200,000 to $500,000 a year in salaries, which ain’t bad. But the real gravy is ladled out to them in year-end bonuses and 1997’s holiday bonanza was the richest in history, with Wall Street’s brokerage houses and banks serving up billions of dollars to those at the top. The 190 partners on the top floor of Goldman Sachs, for example, were getting a minimum of $4 million each in bonus money, with a few grabbing as much as $25 million. Life on Goldman Sach’s second managerial tier is pretty rich, too, with 215 managing directors averaging bonuses of a million and a half bucks apiece. Likewise down the street at Bear Stearns, the two top guys took care of themselves by bestowing bonuses of more than $20 million on each other. What exactly do these high-paid geniuses actually do to warrant such astonishing enrichment? They’re stock hucksters, touts,. gamblers, and flim-flammers. They shovel capital into corporate takeovers, foreign speculation, and other ventures that, during the year, produced such results as massive job losses for ordinary workers and massive taxpayer bailouts for their failed investments in Asia. Their bonuses, you see, are not based on whether or not any of their gambles actually pay off, or produce anything worthwhile, but simply on how much money they move through the firm. These guys get theirs even when they make a mess. It’s the same old story: those in charge treat our economy like they’re the top dogs and we workers and taxpayers are just a bunch of fire hydrants. CABLE GOONS A car repair shop advertised: “Why go elsewhere and be cheated? Come here first.” That thought could just as well be applied to Congress, which cheated us big time when they passed the 1996 Telecom munications Reform Act. This big honker of a bill was rammed through Congress by lobbyists for the media giants, phone companies, and cable operators. Among other things, the act deregulated cable TV companies, which promised us at the time that de-reg would spur competition and lower our monthly bills. Well, Hello Suckers! Two years later, instead of competition, we’ve gotten a wave of megamergers that have reduced competition, and our monthly bills have gone up, not down. Now, here come the cable companies with another sock-it-to-you round of rate hikes, which Congressman Ed Markey calls “a looming cable rate El Nifio.” For example, Time Warner just imposed another 10 percent increase on our bills. To add insult to injury, the cable giants are blaming customers for the rising bills! They say that we viewers are demanding more cable choices, and that they’re having to pay more for this programming. Before you swallow that, check this out: the cable companies also own the programming companies! Time Warner owns HBO, CNN, the Home Shopping Network, TNT, Cinemax, Turner Broadcasting, and the Cartoon Network, while also co-owning Bravo, Court TV, American Movie Classics, Comedy Central, and the Black Entertainment Network. Likewise, the largest cable company, TCI, owns such program providers as the Discovery Channel, Encore, the Learning Channel, Starz, and the Family Channel. Sure these cable operators are paying more for their programming they’re paying themselves! What a racket. Congressman Markey has a bill to re-regulate these cheats and stop the cable-rate Jim Hightower is a former Observer editor and Agriculture Commissioner who preaches the populist gospel nationwide on his daily Hightower Radio show. FEBRUARY 13, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19