The Hightower Lowdown
The media fails to report Alan Greenspan's pro-corporate zealotry; greedy doctors make for bad medicine; and subliminal advertising makes its way into books.
Uncovering Greenspan's Bias
Like some voodoo sorcerer trying to foretell the future by studying a chicken's entrails, America's media establishment examines, dissects, analyzes, and reports every word that Alan Greenspan utters on any economic topic.
How curious then, that the media showed no interest in a most remarkable utterance that our nation's top economic official recently made about a crucial policy that affects millions of working families. Greenspan, in his usual imperious and droning way, was dumping a load of economic gobbledygook on the house banking committee, when Rep. Bernie Sanders cut through the verbiage to ask a direct question: "Are you for abolishing the minimum wage?" Startled, the master of obfuscation uncharacteristically blinked and blurted: "I would say that if I had my choice the answer is, of course."
Why didn't this make the evening news? Here's a man whose mutterings on pork-belly futures will make headlines and upset people's breakfasts worldwide, yet he publicly reveals his blatant corporate bias and ideological zealotry by decrying the very existence of a wage floor for working stiffs, and the media goes oddly mute. In his exchange with Sanders, Greenspan reached new levels of ideological absurdity by asserting that he opposed the minimum wage because he considers it an "artificial government intervention" in the marketplace.
Yoo-hoo, Alan ... Who do you think you're fooling? Artificial government intervention is what you happen to do for a living. As head of the Federal Reserve, this banker periodically alters the market for interest rates so investors can profit at the expense of wage earners. In his 20-year tenure, Greenspan has routinely intervened to hold down the wages of working-class Americans -- wages that are lower today in real terms than when Richard Nixon was president.
By deeming it un-newsworthy that Greenspan so blatantly blurted out his bias, the corporate media barons have revealed their own bias.
Are you sick of corporatized health care that doesn't care about you, sick of long waits to see a doctor who then spends only seven minutes with you, sick of paying more and getting less?
Well step right up, Bucko, because I have a doctor who'll spend real time with you and even make house calls! This personalized service, called "concierge care," is the largest trend in American medicine. The only catch is: You have to be rich. Rich enough to fork over $20,000 a year just for your primary care specialists; lab work and medicines are extra.
More and more general practitioners are abandoning the general public to cater to the wealthy. Two Seattle doctors have shifted to practicing millionaire medicine, calling their venture MD2. Dr. Howard Maron says he got the idea when he noticed that "the wealthy and powerful have to sit in ER waiting rooms as if they are nobody -- or an everybody." Apparently, the doctor's heart went out to these miserably rich wretches, so he kissed off his non-rich patients and began kissing up to the hoity-toity. Now, instead of meeting the health needs of 4,000 people, as he did in his previous practice, his new pricey practice cares for fewer than 100. He notes happily that exclusively serving the wealthy also is making him wealthy.
The CEO of MD2 adds that doctors in today's medical marketplace can forget about meeting the needs of the riff-raff -- "We just need enough millionaires to run our business," he explains airily. Dr. Maron insists that such health-care exclusivity is no different than operating an exclusive golf club. The general public is shut out, but so what? Send them to HMOs and the ER with all those other nobodies and everybodies.
Hey, doc, get a clue! Health care is not a golf game, it's a human necessity. Millionaire medicine destroys the essential ethical concept of "the common good," which is what holds us together as a democratic society.
Selling Books by Selling Out
OK, I'm now officially for sale. Disney, Nike, Monsanto, and all you other corporations with big bucks -- let the bidding begin! Pay me money and, in my next book, I'll blatantly promote you and your products. Hey, for enough cash, I'll even work your name into the title.
Do you think such corporate whoring would be considered absurd in the world of serious publishing? It has already happened -- though I've yet to be among the propositioned. This latest advance in product placement by corporate forces seeking to commercialize every aspect of our culture comes from Bulgari, an Italian marketer of high-priced jewelry.
Bulgari approached popular British novelist Fay Weldon. "Oh, no, dear me," she thought at first, worried that if she took the tainted money, "my name will be mud forever." But then she thought, "I don't care. Let it be mud." That's the spirit, Fay -- what's a little mud if you can cover it with money? Her contract required her to mention Bulgari a dozen times in her new novel, but Weldon went all the way, making the company's jewelry the centerpiece of the book, which she even titled, The Bulgari Connection. The reader however, is not told about her own connection to Bulgari's money.
This doesn't bother the CEO of HarperCollins, her publisher, who's ecstatic about the deal, saying ominously: "It gives me lots of ideas." Weldon's agent is equally enthused -- "The sky is the limit," he exults.
Jim Hightower's latest book, If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.
The Hightower Lowdown
The Hightower Lowdown