The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, May 21, 2004, News


Wonderful news, folks: the latest economic miracle has been found!

Can you say, "nanotechnology"? Better than high tech, we're told, even better than biotech! Nanotech is the golden fleece, the next big thing! It involves lab technicians manipulating microscopic molecules to manufacture synthetic nanoparticles that can be used in computers, lubricants, and other products. These man-made substances are all the rage in economic development circles, with both federal and state governments pushing taxpayer money at this fledgling industry.

Politicos in Texas, for example, are all atwitter about getting a big piece of the nano action, planning to throw scarce public funds at corporations in order to lure them to choose Texas as a nano center. But if they choose us, what do we get?

A boom, they promise! But remember the Nineties, when they promised that high tech would make everyone rich? Those companies turned out not to be profitable, however. The boom went bust, and the best high tech jobs are now being sent offshore. Now, here we go again – capital is madly rushing to nanotech, but the companies are not profitable, and no one is actually promising good jobs for Americans.

Then there's a little hiccup that neither the politicos nor the industry want to talk about: These tiny nanoparticles are big-time toxic. A stunning new study of fish finds that the synthetic molecules cause severe brain and liver damage in the largemouth bass that were tested, and they wipe out whole populations of small organisms in water that are a crucial part of the aquatic food chain. Other studies have found that nanoparticles cause lung damage when inhaled, raising serious health issues for workers in nanotech factories.

This time, before our leaders sink tons of our tax dollars in yet another high tech, get-rich-quick scam, shouldn't they ask a few pertinent questions about the price we'll pay for this so-called progress?


It's always good to get reassurances from high government officials on issues of great concern to the people.

Take the nagging issue of U.S. corporations offshoring hundreds of thousands of well-paying, high tech jobs out of our country – the very jobs we were told would be our people's ticket into the middle class. But now the CEOs of Dell, Microsoft, IBM, and the rest are shipping these engineering and programming jobs off to India, Russia, and other locales where they can pay a third or a fourth or even a tenth of the middle-class pay scale in the U.S. Hey, they say, America's a great place, but we're gonna go where we can fatten our bottom lines.

This self-serving betrayal of America's middle class has – to put it nicely – annoyed many, many, Americans. This is where Colin Powell steps in. Bush's secretary of state recently sought to reassure people on this issue of offshoring. Unfortunately, the people he reassured were in India.

On a recent trip there, he promised that the Bushites would do nothing to stop the outsourcing of U.S. high tech jobs to India and, indeed, would oppose all congressional efforts to stop it. He even posed as an economic philosopher, declaring that "outsourcing is a natural effect of the global economic system," adding adamantly that "you're not going to eliminate outsourcing."

Well, we're certainly not going to eliminate it if our government won't fight for our people. Oh, but Powell said, while "these kinds of dislocations will take place," the Bushites plan to train the American people for new jobs. What new jobs, exactly? He didn't say. He didn't have a clue.

But Bush's Labor Department knows. It lists 30 job categories that will have the greatest growth between now and 2010. Number one? Fast food workers. Two-thirds of their "growth jobs" pay less than $20,000 a year.

Forget high tech, Colin Powell envisions you in a hairnet.

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