The Hightower Lowdown
by Jim Hightower
Here comes another Hightower Hog Report. Today's snorters are the CEOs of corporations who keep gorging themselves with fatter pay packages -- while they stiff their own employees. In the so-called "boom" of the past decade, average pay for workers barely kept up with inflation and hundreds of thousands of workers were fired, but average CEO pay went up 535% -- now topping $13 million each! Take Lee Raymond, head hog at ExxonMobil. In 1999, he punted 16,000 workers, claiming the need to tighten the corporate belt -- yet he gobbled up a 50% raise for himself, waddling away with $47 million in pay.
The most hoggish CEOs of the year are America's media moguls, who fought against a pay raise sought by the people who write scripts for their movies and TV shows. The writers were asking for a total pay package of $100 million over three years. No way, shrieked the top honchos of the big studios! One executive even wailed that for studios to pay so much would "simply bankrupt them."
Let's check the books. Gerald Levin, head of AOL Time Warner, took $153 million in personal pay from his company's trough last year. That's one head of one studio hogging 50% more pay in one year than the increase sought by all the writers for all the studios, for three years. Disney Inc. fed nearly $73 million to its CEO (even while he was cutting 4,000 Disney workers). As executive-pay expert Graef Crystal put it, how can these guys "deliver a sermon about how everyone has to pull in their belt when they can't even see their own belts because of their enormous pay guts?"
When it comes to meeting our nation's energy needs, old Dick Cheney and his sidekick, little George Bush, are power hawks. Let's drill and build, they bellow! No sissified conservation programs for them -- they're after oil, gas, coal, and nukes, so get out of the way, you environmental weenies.
Do What We Say, Not What We Do
Guess whose official residence uses geothermal heat pumps and has been thoroughly retrofitted to conserve energy, making it a model for the "new age" thinking he so volubly scorns? Dick Cheney! And guess who was so impressed by the money-saving energy efficiency of heat pumps that he installed one in his new house on the ranchette he bought in Texas? George W!
If it works for them, why not for the country? Money, honey. The Big Energy boys pumped millions into the Bush-Cheney election, and in return were allowed to write the energy policy Dick and George are now pushing. While Bush and Cheney personally benefit from conservation, they ridicule it publicly, saying it might be a "personal virtue," but "not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."
Guess who has found out that conservation actually is a very sound basis for energy policy? Electric utilities! From the Washington, D.C. area out to Seattle, utilities all across the country have invested billions in conservation programs, ranging from retrofitting homes to offering rebates to customers who use less electricity. These programs work, they're cheaper than building new power plants, they're non-polluting, and customers love them. A manager at Sacramento's municipal utility, which offers 20 different conservation programs, told The New York Times, "Our phones are just ringing off the hook." Thanks to conservation, Sacramento has avoided California's rolling blackouts, and avoided the costs of building a huge new power plant.
The Bush-Cheney energy policy ought to be based on what's in their own homes, not what's in their campaign fund.
Whenever citizens dare challenge some corporation that's polluting their community, or dare question the safety of some chemical, drug, or food-manufacturing process, the corporation always reacts by asserting that the citizens are dealing in more politics or emotion, but that the "science" of the issue is on the corporation's side.
Science For Sale
That's because corporations increasingly buy the science, then plant their purchased "scientific" findings in various media outlets, which then unquestioningly report the findings as though they were the pure product of independent research. In a new book titled Trust Us, We're Experts, authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber rip the veil from the corporate face of this deception, revealing that much of the science in news reports is tainted with corporate funding.
Technically, these academic scientists are not on the company payroll. Corporate money is funneled to them in research grants, consulting contracts, lucrative speaking fees -- or, outright cash. For example, Rampton and Stauber report that in the early 1990s, tobacco companies paid $156,000 to 13 academic scientists to write letters to influential medical journals arguing the tobacco industry's case. One biostatistician was paid $10,000 for an eight-paragraph letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. None of the journals mentioned the money.
No law requires these scientists to disclose their conflicts of interest. Luckily, however, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has a new Web site that discloses the corporate money behind more than 1,100 scientists and various scientific organizations. This invaluable database will be expanded and updated, helping us -- and the media -- know who's who in the corporate-scientific complex. Check it out for yourself: www.integrityinscience.org.
Jim Hightower's latest book, If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, is now available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.