The Hightower Lowdown

Bush and children, Bush and Big Oil, & the Inventor of the Slim Jim

Leaving Children Behind

George W. Bush loves children, especially poor children. "I refuse to leave any child behind in America," he has said again and again.

But it's a lie. Don't read his lips -- read his budget. At a time when 12 million U.S. children live in poverty, 11 million have no health care coverage, 4 million go hungry, 40% are denied access to Head Start, and 88% do not have access to the child care help they need -- Bush's budget does nothing to move these kids ahead. It whacks our current inadequate public investment in poor children, totally eliminating programs that have proven records of success, and preventing such other proven successes as Head Start from reaching the millions of 3- and 4-year-olds now left behind.

Bush blissfully mouths the line that we have a "budget surplus" in America. He proposes to dole out this "surplus" to his fat cat pals. A watchdog group called the Institute for America's Future has examined George W.'s budget in detail and found that, over the next decade, he intends to give $555 billion right off the top of the federal budget to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. These are multimillionaires, each hauling off more than a million bucks a year in personal income. The Institute shows that the half-trillion-dollar tax windfall Bush wants to hand to them is the money missing from his budget to provide health coverage, child care, Head Start, and other real needs for the very children he will leave behind. To learn more, call the Institute for America's Future: 202/955-5665.

President Pretend

The photo-op of all presidential photo-ops was recently arranged by George W. and his handlers, who don't like to let a day go by without him being in a picture with a bunch of happy children. This time it was a group of tykes playing T-ball on the White House lawn, where the Bush team had us taxpayers build a little ballpark just for such photo opportunities. This particular shot was of the president throwing out the first ball, with the pint-sized players and their parents beaming in the background. Only -- there is no pitcher in T-ball. The ball is put on a tee and batters swat it.

I thought of President Pretend when I later read that he was posturing on the issue of gasoline price-gouging by the oil giants. With prices now topping $2 a gallon in some areas, and with oil companies wallowing in record profits, the question was whether Bush would do anything presidential to help beleaguered consumers. No way. Bush's press spokesman was rushed out to insist that the president could not possibly intervene because, he claimed, "quick fixes don't work."

Two years ago, as governor of Texas, Bush was quick to provide a fix when gasoline prices were low and the oil giants were hollering for help. George hopped like a trained frog, declaring the situation to be an "emergency" and naming relief for oil producers his No. 1 legislative priority. "People are hurting," he said somberly, his brow furrowed for the cameras. He claimed he wanted to aid the small, family producers of oil, but the big bulk of his emergency money went to such "families" as Exxon, Texaco, and the other major oil producers.

Bush poses as the president, but Big Oil is still calling the shots.

Elegy for Adolph

Adolph Levis has died. His story is pure Americana, and he might literally have touched your life (or at least your lips) as he did mine. Adolph invented the "Slim Jim" -- the slick little beef-stick wrapped in cellophane and sold as a snack food, mostly in convenience stores. Years ago (before I discovered nutrition), I was hooked on Slim Jims, and lots of folks still are hooked, for $150 million worth of the things are sold each year.

Levis got the idea for his beef-stick concoction during the depression when he was peddling such edible delights as pickled pigs' feet in Pennsylvania. He hired a local meatpacker to develop his thin, dried beef stick. His logo was an elegant-looking man in a top hat whom he dubbed "Slim Jim." Slim James would've been more elegant, but that's a little prissy for bar food.

There's nothing prissy about this little item, more of a "beef-like" snack than anything that's pure cow. The mushed-up beef organs have been eliminated and some chicken stuff has been added, but it still has its original 30 magic spices and the zesty lactic acid culture that ferments for 17 hours. The whole mixture is cooked for 20 more hours, poured into molds, dried, packaged -- and shipped to a store or bar near you. Adolph's original slogan for this treat, by the way, was "Make Your Next Drink Taste Better."

I can tell you from experience that nearly anything will taste better after a Slim Jim. But still, I loved 'em, and I'm glad Adolph Levis was in my life. And for you hoity-toities who wouldn't let such low-class meat parts touch your lips: What do you think "sweet breads" are? And don't even ask how foie gras is produced.

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.
For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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George W. Bush, Institute for America's Future, Adolph Levis, Slim Jims

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