The Money Primary
Have you voted yet? In the race for president, have you been to the polls?
What-you say the election's not until next year? Yeah, well, technically that's true. The caucuses and primaries don't begin until February of 2000, but there are about 70,000 Americans who get an extra special vote, casting their ballots this year, way before riff-raff like you and me are allowed into this [quote] "democratic" process. These special ones-about four thousandths of one-percent of America's 190 million voters-get to vote this year because they vote with money. They are the one's who put up at least $1,000 each in "the money primary," which literally will determine who our choices are for president.
It's figured by the pros that the presidential candidates have to amass a warchest of at least $20 million each in 1999 to be a credible contender for their party's nomination in 2000. They don't get this kind of money by going to the people and passing the hat while they talk about rallying America's poor folks and middle class to take power back from the greedheads of Wall Street. Au contraire, amigo. They get their $20 million or more by going to the very greedheads who are stomping on poor folks and the middle class, promising that they will not do anything as president to interfere with the stomping.
So there's George W. Bush, Al Gore, Elizabeth Dole, Bill Bradley, John McCain, and all the rest dragging their silk sacks through New York's posh upper-East side, through Washington's exclusive Georgetown neighborhood, through Beverly Hills in California, and through the other zip codes where your $1,000 crowd tends to roost.
Don't expect to see them in your zip code. In fact, you've got a greater chance of seeing Elvis than of seeing a presidential candidate in the flesh, much less of hearing one of them actually speak your language.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . Plutocracy is not government by a far-off planet . . . it's government of, by and for the elite who are now voting in the money primary. "Very few can afford to vote in the money primary" by Jim Drinkard. USA Today: May 14, 1999.
The killers are on-the-loose again.
Yet, these murderers aren't even treated as outlaws. That's because they write the laws-and kill any laws they don't like. They're the Republican leaders of congress, and once again, they're out to kill campaign finance reform.
The Shays-Meehan bill is their target. This legislation would ban "soft money," a particularly gross form of big-money corruption of our government. The bill has majority support in the House, so killing it requires a convoluted plot, which is being masterminded by Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House, and Tom DeLay, the Machiavellian power behind Hastert's throne. Their plot involves postponing a vote on the bill until September. Sounds innocent enough, except this means the bill would get to the senate too late in the legislative session to pass.
It's murder by legislative strangulation.
What's the motive-why would Hastert, DeLay & Gang go to such sneaky extremes to kill a bill that both the public and a big majority of congress want? Money. Under the present corrupt system of taking millions from corporate interests to finance elections, Republicans raise much more money than Democrats, so Hastert and DeLay are desperate to preserve the system that they think will keep them in power.
In an example of arrogance run amuck, Speaker Hastert announced his decision to postpone the Shays-Meehan vote on the same day that Tom DeLay revealed a new $25 million fund-raising drive to support Republican house candidates next year. Who's putting up this money and what favors do they expect? DeLay says it's none of our business and that he's going to keep the donor list secret.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . One thing we do know is that the first fund-raising event for DeLay's new fund was held on the Devos family yacht. This family, which owns Amway, gave the GOP a million bucks in '98 . . . and got a special, $19 million tax loophole in return. That's why we need to pass the Shay's-Meehan bill now.
"Hastert sets CFR deadline for September" by Amy Keller. Roll Call: May 24, 1999.
THE URGE TO MERGE
While Al Gore, George Bush, and most other presidential pretenders keep mouthing platitudes about "economic prosperity," a handful of voracious corporations are completely remaking the economic landscape for all of us . . . and it's not a pretty sight.
I'm talking about the urge to merge-for one corporation to devour another. It gets little political or media attention, but in the 1990s, every year has set a new record for these takeovers. There was a trillion-and-a-half dollars worth of them last year, and '99 will be even bigger. The result is an incredible elimination of competition in industry after industry.
Look at oil. In the blink of an eye, Exxon took over Mobil, British Petroleum has grabbed Sohio, Amoco, and ARCO; and Royal Dutch Shell has absorbed Texaco and is now reaching for Chevron, which itself took over Gulf. That's 10 major oil companies that are suddenly only three. Thousands of jobs have been lost, independent gas stations have been squeezed out, and consumer choice eliminated.
Check health care. MetLife, Prudential, New York Life, Travelers, and John Hancock are among the HMO competitors that are gone, gulped down whole by the likes of Aetna, Cigna, and Unitedhealth Group, which are now the Big Three. Aetna, which is notorious for squeezing the care out of health care, rules in cities like New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Orlando.
Have you flown lately? There are essentially only six national airlines now, and moves are afoot to shrink them to three: American-US Air, Delta-United, and Northwest-Continental, giving this trio 98 percent of the take-offs and landing spots in all of America's busiest airports.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . This awesome massing of power is by far the biggest and most threatening development to America's workers, consumers, farmers, and small business. Yet not a political peep from either party. And they wonder why people aren't voting. 7/7/99
READING THROUGH THE HYPE
Time for another journey [space music] into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.
Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you once again into the wondrous world of product packaging where so much is promised, so little delivered. Our tour guide is Consumer Reports magazine, which always takes you behind the hype.
Nothing has been more hyped recently than the Y2K crisis, as airlines, banks, government agencies and others promise that their computers have been checked and are "Y2K compliant," meaning their computer-based services won't go on the fritz when the calendar rolls around to January 1, 2000. Well, you'll be glad to know that Sanyo's battery-powered cheese grater, salt-and-pepper mill and other gizmos now come with the reassuring assertion on the package that "This product is Y2K compliant"! Yeah, I'm sure that salt-and-pepper shaker is "cholesterol free," too.
Speaking of free, here are a couple of snack products that are free of some basic truths-in-packaging. Do you like mangoes? Try the Mariani brand of "Mango Tropitango" fruit treat-only, don't look for any mangoes inside the package. There's a picture of mangoes on the package, but the fruit inside is pineapple, plus artificial mango flavor. Likewise, be wary of Kool-Aid's "Strawberry Tea" mix, with a picture of the fruit on the front. Flip to the backside of the packet though and it reads: "Contains No Fruit or Tea." Instead, you get red dye #40 and artificial flavor. How refreshing.
Attention baseball fans-get "Joe DiMaggio's Signature Baseball." It comes with Joe's picture, a "Certificate of Authenticity," and, sure enough, it's signed "Joe DiMaggio." Smaller print tells you that this is the man's own "authorized facsimile signature. " In other words, it's an authentic fake.
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . When buying anything, keep your eye