JIM HIGHTOWER How to Clean Up Elections undits and political cynics scoff at citizens’ efforts to reform America’s money corrupted political process, saying it’s as futile as trying to teach table manners to a hogthe effort wears you out and it only annoys the hog. That’s cute, but if the cynics would only lift their eyes from their myopic focus on Washington, they would see something big taking place in such diverse states as Maine and Arizona. Citizens in both places have already passed grassroots initiatives providing for dramatic reformpublic financing of elections. These clean election initiatives give candidates of any party the chance to finance both their primary and general-election campaigns with public funds, provided they forego taking special interest money. Not only does this help get corrupt money out of the process, but it also means regular people can run for office again, since they have access to a pool of money to make them financially competitive with the incumbents. Maine and Arizona have run two election cycles under clean money laws, and the results would warm the cockles of the coldest cynic’s heart: There have been more challengers to incumbents than before, with more women, Latinos, and Native Americans running and winninghalf of the challengers using the clean money option say they would not have run without it. Because this system creates more choices, offering fresh faces and new ideas, voter turnout is ratcheting upward. Andhere’s the big onepublic financing is working: 59 percent of Maine’s legislators and 36 percent of those in Arizona have now been elected without taking any tainted money, and publicly funded candidates in Arizona last year won seven of nine statewide offices, including the governor and attorney general. If you want clean elections, call Public Campaign: 202-293-0222. SOCIAL SECURITY WORKS Let me tell you a story of progressive progress. In 1939, two-thirds ofAmerica’s senior citizens lived their “golden years” in cold, hard poverty. Just a decade later, that percentage was down to half. By 1959, it was only one-third. Today, the number is less than 10 percent. That’s progress. What’s progressive about it is that this decline in poverty is the result of the New Deal’s passage of our nation’s landmark Social Security program. The very same program now under attack by Wall Street wolves and congressional opportunists of both parties who insist that Social Security is doomed to failure and facing an imminent financial crisis. Horsedooties. First, this program actually works, providing the modicum of income so our gray-haired citizens have a basic level of decent living when their earning years are over. Second, Social Security is a model of efficiency, requiring only a single percent in administrative costs. Compare that to the insurance corporations that suck out one-third of our healthcare dollars to pay for their corporate bureaucracies, executive salaries, marble palaces, and advertising. But no, cry the Chicken Littlers, Social Security is going broke! Hogwash. Without changing anything, Social Security is financially sound for the next 40 years. Yet, the Bushiteson behalf of Wall Street finaglersseek to privatize this public treasure, pushing people to put their Social Security nest egg into the stock market. These are the same investment geniuses who, only three years ago, would have advised you to invest in Enron. Wall Street hustlers, members of Congress, and other “reformers” already have their own golden retirements covered. No one should be allowed to “reform” Social Security unless they actually need it. MILKING THE CONSUMER If you think CorporateWorld can’t get any more conniving, you’ve not figured on Monsanto, the biotech outfit that’s trying to profit by putting its artificial growth hormones into our milk supply. Since consumers overwhelmingly reject this adulteration, Monsanto lobbyists got our government to let this milk be marketed with no labeling of the adulteration, so we milk-buyers won’t know what we’re getting. The good news is that several dairies have responded by declaring on their milk cartons: “No Artificial Growth Hormones Used.” The bad news is that Monsanto has unleashed packs of attack-dog lawyers to sue several of these dairies, claiming that these “No Artificial Hormones” labels are false and misleading, because they might cause you and me to think that natural milk is better for us than milk with Monsanto’s additive. In the first place, I do think that. But secondly, the dairies are not making any such health claimthey’re merely informing us that the corporate additive is NOT in their milk. What’s false or misleading about that? Nothing, but by simply filing these frivolous lawsuits, Monsanto can intimidate the dairies into changing their labels. It recently succeeded with Oakhurst Dairy in Maine. Monsanto was prepared to spend a quarter of a million dollars or more just on lawyers to squeeze Oakhurst. How’s a small dairy going to match that? After fighting for several months, Oakhurst settled out of court, agreeing to alter its labeleven though Maine public opinion was solidly behind Oakhurst and even though legal analysts say Monsanto’s legal case was silly putty. Oakhurst is the third small dairy that this biotech goliath’s money has beaten down, and others are targeted. For the purity of our milk, marketplace, and judicial system, we consumers need to stand against the bully. Call the Organic Consumers Association: 218-226-4164. Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time To Take It Back, on sale now from Viking Press. 4/9/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15
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