The Hightower Lowdown
Dubya's "tax rebate" was really a deceptive slight of hand; overworked doctors endanger your life; and a contest to rename Enron.
George's Little Gotcha
Two things not long for this world are dogs that chase cars, and politicians who lie to the people.
George W. Bush's political life is about to take a hit, because millions of Americans are soon to sit down to fill out their income tax forms, and they will find a rude shock awaiting: George W. personally lied to them. The lie came early last year when George was strutting around like a banty rooster crowing about his massive tax-cut bill. Yes, the richest Americans -- especially the richest 1% -- were going to pocket the bulk of his giveaway, but, by gollies, he also was going to give a $300 tax rebate to every taxpayer, from Bill Gates to Joe Sixpack.
You might remember that George was so pleased with this political ploy that he almost had to put his arm in a sling from patting himself so hard on the back at press conferences held all across the country to announce the rebate. He and his congressional cohorts even ordered the IRS to send a letter to every taxpayer in advance of the payment notifying them that the president had done them a personal favor and would soon be sending them their $300. It was a political goldmine for Bush.
It also was a lie, as most taxpayers will learn when they come to line 47 on this year's tax forms. As I pointed out last year when Bush was running around gleefully handing out checks, his $300 giveaway was not really a "rebate," which would mean money returned to you from past taxes you've paid. Instead, they were advances on future tax cuts that you may or may not get. On April 15, you'll most likely still owe the $300 he awarded you last year. With one hand, Bush loudly doled out $300 to you, but with other hand, he's quietly taking it back from you this year.
Naturally, most people have already spent their $300 "rebate," not expecting that they'd owe $300 more in taxes this year than expected.
It's George's little Gotcha.
Dead-Tired Doctors ... and You
It's not widely discussed, but a dangerous secret of hospital administration is that our medical system relies on grossly overworking the young, newly minted doctors known as resident-physicians.
These doctors, who serve a required four-year hospital residency after medical school, are the backbone of patient care at most U.S. hospitals, and they are the ones who are bearing the brunt of ever-more-punishing workloads as corporatized hospitals cut staff at the same time that the number of patients is increasing. They commonly are on the job for 100 or more hours a week, including shifts that run for 36 straight hours. That kind of a shift can leave you with the hand-to-eye motor skills of someone who is legally drunk!
The American Medical Student Association points out that our country has laws that quite sensibly limit airline pilots to no more than 34 hours of flying each week and that restrict truckers to no more than 10 consecutive hours of driving. So why do we allow doctors to deal with our life and death medical needs while they're bleary-eyed and mind-boggled?
To learn more and to join AMSA in its fight for common-sense limits on residency work hours, call 703/620-6000, or go to the Web site: www.amsa.org.
Everyone knows that Enron, whose corporate logo is a giant crooked E, has taken a fall, with the company now in bankruptcy and its top execs in disgrace. Some people, however, are not aware of Enron's sports connection.
Back in the heyday of this swaggering corporation's lavish image building, CEO Kenneth Lay plopped down $100 million to buy the naming rights of the new Houston Astros baseball field. The stadium actually was built with taxpayers' money, but, hey, who cares -- this is the Brave New World of Corporatized Sports, and if Enron had the cash, it got to plaster its name all over the stadium, as though it owned the place. Lay even got to throw out the first ball of the first game at "Enron Field." Ken's pal George W. was there to watch him, the Astros' owners were thrilled with the deal, and the future looked bright on that April day.
But stuff happens. Lay always wanted his company to be a household name and now, unfortunately, it is. Its name is mud, and the Astros' owners suddenly were very unhappy to have their property tainted with a corporate logo that has become synonymous with rip-offs, corruption, and greed. To get a quickie divorce, they paid $2.1 million to Enron to buy back the naming rights. Within 24 hours, crews were all over the ballpark with cranes, socket wrenches, and even putty knives to unscrew, remove, and scrape off Enron's ubiquitous crooked E.
Enron's name is now so tainted that it says it's looking for a new one. So here's my question to you: What do you think Enron's new name should be? Let's help Enron! The best three suggestions will win free subscriptions to my monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. To rename Enron, send your suggestions to www.jimhightower.com.
Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To book Jim, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, send $15, your name, and address to: Lowdown, PO Box 20596, New York, NY 10011