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JIM HIGHTOWER Don’t Dial 9-1-1 Let’s say you’re at home one evening, sitting there in your La-Z-Boy, maybe with a cool one in your hand, when suddenly you feel a sharp pain in your chest, your left arm is tingly and sort of numb. Heart attack! Or it least it could be one. You go for the phone to get emergency help but you don’t dial 9-1-1. Instead, you call H-M-O. What?! Yes, it’s the latest “advance” in the wonderful world of managed health care instead of calling 911, you’ve got to call your Health Maintenance Organization, and its corporate bureaucrats will decide whether you get an E.M.S. to come help you. USA Today reports that Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest H.M.O.s in the country, is the first to impose this new layer of corporate bureaucracy between you and the medical service you need a bureaucratic step that could waste precious minutes as you explain to some Kaiser clerk sitting in a cubicle way out in Wisconsin what your symptoms are and why you think you need an ambulance pronto, P.D.Q., post haste, and, like, right now! You’ll be pleased to know that the H.M.O. clerk at the other end of the phone has received a good four weeks of training for the job, so of course he or she is perfectly qualified to diagnose you from afar. If the clerk decides you need an ambulance, one is then dispatched to you. But get this the H.M.O. will send an ambulance from a firm that it contracts with, even though another company’s ambulance is closer to you. Kaiser says it’s doing a favor for the whole society because, according to its emergency medical services director, “there’s a finite number of ambulances. We want to reserve them for those who really need them.” Great. A corporation with a bottom-line incentive not to send an ambulance is going to be the arbiter of whether you get one. And if the H.M.O. makes a boo-boo, leaving you dead at the other end of the phone, remember the Republicans in Congress continue to give H.M.O.s immunity from lawsuits. Welcome to the cold world of corporatized medicine. THE NAFTA RIPOFF The use of statistics has been called the art of drawing a straight line from a wrong as sumption to a foregone conclusion. Well, the Picasso of Statistics is the U.S. Commerce Department, which keeps telling us how good NAFTA is for our country. For example, we’re told that our exports to Mexico are up! Never mind that our imports from Mexico are waaaay up, creating the third worst trade deficit that we have with any country in the world. But let’s peek into that export number that officials are so proud of. It turns out that four out of every ten products that we ship to Mexico are not sold to the people there, but are parts sold to U.S. factories located in Mexico. We’re “exporting” to ourselves. Then, General Electric and the rest use these parts in their Mexican factories to make appliances and whatnot, shipping the finished product back here to sell to us. So the “export” becomes an import. If that’s too confusing, don’t worry, because corporations like GE are going to simplify the process, by getting the suppliers of parts to move to Mexico, too! The Wall Street Journal reports that forty percent of the electric ranges that GE sells in the U.S. are coming from Mexico, and now a U.S. company that makes glass doors and tops for the stoves has me ved there, as has a maker of burners, and regulators. U.S. Steel, which sells 100 tons of sheet metal every day to GE’s Mexico factory, also has built a steel plant just fifty yards from the GE factory. The bottom line is that America’s chief export is jobs. Thanks to NAFTA, U.S. corporations can eliminate middle-class jobs here, move the factory to Mexico, pay subsistence wages to people there, then send their stoves and other products back to the U.S. without paying a dime in tariffs, selling the products for the same high price they’ve always charged. The wage difference is pocketed by the corporation. What a ripoff! I say it’s time to repeal NAFTA. LIES, DAMN LIES AND ADS Let’s take a trip into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise. Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you once again into the bizarre sphere of product advertising. Our guide in this surreal world is Consumer Reports magazine, which keeps finding the Black Holes that swallow any shred of truth in ads. Let’s start with the “105-Piece Ladies Tool Set.” Here’s the hammer, pliers, two screw drivers, needle-point pliers, measuring tape, adjustable wrench, and … well, I only count twenty tools, not 105. Ah! Here they are in this little box eighty-five assorted screws. So, screws are what you get, huh? But here’s something for free! It’s a chiropractic pain relief center that says, “Most chiropractors only offer you a free exam. I offer much more than that!! ! Free headache pain consultation, Free headache pain X-rays, Free computerized spinal motion study, Free examination & diagnosis of your back pain” and many more Free services. The price for the complete Free pain analysis and diagnosis plan: $49.00. Forest Lawn cemetery also offers an amazing deal for you: Free burial service. This is an $825 deal for digging a hole, putting your loved one six feet deep, then covering it up. But you better hurry: the Forest Lawn deal for the dead is only good through June 30, 1999. Oops too late. 111 Jim Hightower’s radio talk show broadcasts daily from Austin on over 100 stations nationwide. His book, There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos is in paperback. Find him at www.jim hightower corn, or e-mail: [email protected] tower. corn. , 1999 jt.Z En THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23