The Hightower Lowdown
The Bush budget and children's welfare, Pete Domenici and nuclear power & Jonah Goldberg on the joys of sweatshops
Campaign rhetoric is one thing, but it's when presidents submit their budgets that they reveal their true priorities and heart. It's been widely publicized that Bush's budget takes care of his wealthy campaign contributors first, taking about a trillion dollars in federal funds off the top to give as a special tax break to American's wealthiest one percent -- our millionaire class. Less publicized, however, is that fact that to provide this giveaway to those at the top, he's cut spending on other needs and other people. Specifically, President Compassionate is choosing to cut spending on children.
Bush's True Heart
Bush whacks $200 million out of the successful block grant program that helps states provide child care for low-income children. These programs have been key to every success story about shifting people from welfare to work. Not only is Bush's cut a slap to Tommy Thompson, his own secretary of human services, who's been very vocal about the absolute necessity of having child care available if people are to get off welfare. "For welfare reform to be successful," Thompson told senators at his January confirmation hearings, "you have to make an investment up front. It cannot be done on the cheap."
Bush also cuts 18% of the funding to help states prevent and investigate child abuse, removes a large chunk of the money that goes to train doctors who practice at children's hospitals, and zeroes out the "early learning fund" that Congress created to improve the quality of education and child care for pre-schoolers -- children younger than five who are in their most formative years.
Bush's budget reveals his heart, all right -- a heart cold enough to ice down a six-pack.
Corporate lobbyists see the Capitol dome as the lid to a giant candy jar -- and they're now grabbing all the sweet goodies they ever dreamed about.
Among those reaching deepest into the congressional candy jar is the nuclear power industry. This disgraced industry has failed in the marketplace, constantly threatens human safety with radioactive emissions, burdens rate payers with its bad investments, and has left a mountainous legacy of nuclear waste for future generations. Why worry about such unpleasantness, however, when your campaign contributions can buy you friends in high places?
One of those friends, Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, wants to give a sugar-sweet deal to the nuke boys. His bill includes some $400 million a year in direct subsidies, and also attempts to bamboozle us with linguistic hocus-pocus, simply defining away the industry's environmental ugliness. The Domenici bill asserts that nuclear power is "essentially" emissions free -- a claim that will come as quite a surprise to scientists and anyone living around a nuclear facility. The bill goes further, declaring that nuclear power "shall be considered an environmentally preferable product." Never mind that it isn't: Congress can declare butter to be a diet food!
Domenici also goes after their nuke opponents. His bill would pull federal funding from any organization that opposes nuclear power development (a group that includes the World Bank), and it would strip from the American public our legal right to have full participation in hearings concerning the safety and licensing of nuclear power plants.
Pete Domenici might want to be the nuclear industry's sweet thing, but you might not. To help stop this giveaway, contact the watchdog group, Safe Energy Communication Council at 202/483-8491.
Time for another Gooberhead Award, presented periodically to some figure in the news who's got his tongue rolling, but forgot to put his brain in gear.
Three Cheers for Sweatshops!
Today we celebrate Jonah Goldberg, editor of National Review Online, a Web publication that blissfully parrots the ideology, agenda, and propaganda of the corporate elite. Gooberhead Goldberg attempted to put a little yellow smiley sticker on (get ready): sweatshops! Yes, indeed, Goldberg exults that the low-wage, abusive, polluted, child-exploiting hell holes called sweatshops "are actually a good thing," adding that "sweatshops, all in all, equal progress," and that sweatshop workers around the world are "happy." If ignorance is bliss, this guy must be ecstatic.
Goldberg assails the students, churches, unions, human rights advocates, and other people of good will who are standing up to the corporate profiteers that sustain the global sweatshop system. He mocks this growing political movement as "sweatshop chic," and dismisses the people in it as "dour feminists and moth-balled Marxists." Of course, if the movement consisted only of dour feminists and Marxists, National Review's corporate patrons wouldn't be worried about it, and Goldberg wouldn't be writing about it.
Goldberg even sings the praises of child labor! We shouldn't be troubled that the rugs, silverware, toys, and other consumer goods we buy are made by eight-year-olds, he assures us, because in the Third World "it is natural to view your child as an economic asset." No, Jonah, it's "natural" everywhere to view your child as a child -- who ought to be in school.
Goldberg asserts that the anti-sweatshop movement "is a war on development." Wrong again, Jonah -- it's a war on sweatshops.
Jim Hightower's latest book, If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, has just been released in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.