The Hightower Report

Tyco stays the course, and the USDA rolls over for Big Beef

More Bush Mad Cow BS

The only thing madder than mad cow disease is our government's mad cow policies.

Take the case of Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, a small, enterprising company in Kansas that produces top quality beef. To assure both U.S. and foreign buyers that its product is free of mad cow disease, Creekstone said that it would exceed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's minimal testing standards and pay to have every single one of its cows privately tested.

Great! Who could be against more testing and such innovative entrepreneurship?

The USDA and the big beef lobby.

USDA notified Creekstone that it does not allow private testing, even by certified labs (this from an administration that's privatizing everything from its wars to your water supply). The official rationale is that only the government can assure food safety. But how can testing 100% of cows be less safe than USDA's program that inspects less than 1%?

The real reason is that the Big Boys of the beef slaughtering world – Tyson, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, etc. – don't want to do 100% testing themselves, and they want no competition from anyone who does. They claim that testing would "mislead" us consumers – we might think that 100% testing produces a safer product.

Aside from the fact that more testing does assure more safety, Creekstone is not even making such a claim. It's only claiming that, indeed, it tests 100% of its cows. Then it's up to us consumers to decide in the marketplace which beef we prefer. But the Bushites and the big beef lobbyists refuse to allow such consumer choice, declaring that Creekstone cannot advertise that every ounce of its beef is fully tested.

What a pile of BS.

To help bring sanity to Washington's mad cow policies, call the USDA comment office: 202/720-5627.

Business as Usual at Tyco

WARNING: Being a top corporate official at Tyco International can be hazardous to your health. Apparently, working at the highest ranks there triggers the greed gene, which grows out of control and totally engulfs any sense of personal and corporate propriety.

For the past couple of years, we've watched the disgraceful spectacle of Dennis Kozlowski, Tyco's former CEO who lavished company-paid luxuries on himself while the company was tanking. In the last year of Kozlowski's regal reign, shareholders lost $80 billion, while Kozlowski wallowed in a $30 million Fifth Avenue apartment bought and furnished with Tyco money. His furnishings included a $6,000 shower curtain. Imagine. Six K for a shower curtain! Could you even let it get wet?

But Kozlowski got ousted and indicted, and the "new" Tyco said that it would henceforth be a paragon of corporate virtue. Some Tyco shareholders, led by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union, offered two proposals at the corporation's annual meeting.

The first was to bring Tyco home. Even though the company is physically located in the U.S., Kozlowski was one of those runaway CEOs who reincorporated in the notorious tax haven of Bermuda. That lets Tyco escape paying millions of dollars it would otherwise owe in taxes – money to pay for its share of the costs of our nation's infrastructure, military, and even the corporate subsidies that Tyco enjoys.

Top executives of the "new" Tyco, however, sided with the ethics of the old Tyco, defeating the move to repatriate the company.

The honchos' response to the second proposal was also very Kozlowskian. It called for a pay limit of $1 million a year for the chief executive. "No!" shouted the CEO as forcefully as possible, defeating the move and maintaining the Tyco's old ethic of, "Always take care of No. 1."

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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corporate governance; federal regulation, Tyco International, Dennis Kozlowski, AFSCME, mad cow disease, USDA, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef

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