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JIM HIGHTOWER The Corporate Spoils of War Tiere they were, some of America’s proudest: Motorola, Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, United Technologies, and other manufacturing powerhouses, showing off their wares at a big trade fair. But this was no ordinary sale-a-thon of Made-in-the-U.S.A. products. It was China’s International Defense Electronics Exhibition, co-sponsored by the brutally repressive Chinese Army. Even as Congress was in high outrage over news that the Clinton Administration had done a special favor for Loral Corporation, a big Democratic contributor, by allowing it to give U.S. missile technology to the Chinese here were other U.S. outfits openly peddling our technologies to the same dictatorship. Oh, no, exclaimed the companies, when confronted by the Washington Post we’re only selling radar equipment, satellite technology, communications electronics, and other peaceful gear, not weapons. I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night how about you? One, this sales show was titled the Defense Electronics Exhibition. Two, it was co-sponsored by the Chinese military. Three, in a pamphlet at its booth, Motorola advertised the “military use” of its “battlefield deployable” electronics. Four, why did the companies think all those uniformed officers of the Chinese Army were hanging around their booths? The lesson here is that Loral’s deliverance of militarily useful technology to a potential combatant was no aberration. Corporations are flagrantly violating our laws against such technology transfers.They get away with it because they are big campaign contributors to both parties Motorola gave $142,000 in the last election; United Technologies $290,000; Raytheon $365,000; and Lockheed-Martin $1.3 million. It’s the corporatization of American foreign policy, despite what the law says. WATER PIRATES How far should corporate control extend over our lives? Already, a handful of huge corporate entities control the basic decisions about our jobs and standards of living, using this power to hold down the middle-class aspirations of millions of us. These same powers control the content and flow of mass communica tions, culture, entertainment, and sports, as well as of education. They control the political process, and through it they are the powers that move government. They’ve also become the supreme force over everything from pollution to our nation’s foreign policy. Now, corporations are getting their clutches on the very basis of life: the earth’s water supply. In The Nation magazine, writer Kirkpatrick Sale reports that on March 21, 1998, a United Nations conference in Paris formally and officially decreed that water “should be paid for as a commodity rather than be treated as an essential staple to be provided free of cost.” It’s a complete shift from the concept that the world’s water is a public resource, to the concept that it’s just another corporate commodity to be bought and sold, like pork bellies and stocks. It’s also a completely undemocratic shift, since we the people were not consulted or even informed. Yet such world leaders as the French Prime Minister have hailed the change, saying that “for far too long” governments have held to the outmoded notion “that water could only be free, because it fell from the heavens.” It’s a new corporate gold-rush … only it’s our lakes, rivers, oceans even the rain itself that’s being claimed as a private asset to be branded with corporate logos. If they do it to water, it won’t be long before they claim our air, too. STOCKS UBER ALLES A Chicago department store has this sign at the elevator: “Bargain basement upstairs.” Well, if you’re a typical working stiff in today’s corporate world, you’re not getting any bargains from the big executives upstairs. Most of them are downsizing the workforce, sending our jobs abroad, reducing work here to temporary and part-time status, holding wages down, and cutting out such basics as health care benefits and pensions. Not only is this harmful to work ers, communities, and our consumer economy, but there’s more and more evidence that it’s also harmful to the corporations, since they are cutting people with the skills, creativity, and experience they need, while destroying morale and any sense of loyalty among the workers who remain. Yet, the executives keep doing it.Why? Because it makes them rich. You see, the C.E.O.’s paycheck is no longer based so much on salary as on annual bonuses and something called “stock options,” which essentially amounts to giving company stock to the Big Honchos. If the value of the stock increases, those at the top make a bundle. Obviously, this system gives bosses a juicy incentive to do anything it takes to jack up the stock prices. And here’s the ugly part bosses have found that big Wall Street investors always respond enthusiastically to massive job cuts by a company, driving up the stock and literally pouring money into the pockets of the C.E.O. This is why employees at Time-Warner cringed when they learned recently that Gerald Levin, the head dog there, will be awarded a trainload of stock options if he doubles the company’s stock price in the next five years. How much is a trainload? Levin . stands to get $262 million, which is a lot of reasons for him to start firing folks and start claiming his prize. The system is rigged so that when the workers go down … executives go up. Jim Hightower’s radio talk show broadcasts daily from Austin, on over 100 stations nationwide. His new book, There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos, is available in bookstores everywhere, and his political action newsletter, the “Hightower Lowdown,” is forthcoming. Find him at , or e-mail: info @jimhightowercom. AUGUST 28, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21