The Hightower Report

Public schools sell their soul, and Lockheed sells us flying lemons


CORPORATIZING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Time for another Gooberhead Award – presented periodically to those in the news who have their tongues running 100 miles an hour ... but forgot to put their brains in gear.

Today's Goober is a group award, going to the top school officials of Brooklawn, N.J. They've launched a program there to teach public school kids a big lesson in life: Cash is more important than values.

Brooklawn officials have okayed the leasing of their public school properties to corporations that want to put up ads, thus letting them buy access to a captive audience of impressionable youngsters. The first facility to be branded is the gym at Alice Costello Elementary School. Now it's the ShopRite of Brooklawn Center.

For only $100,000, the supermarket chain bought the naming rights to the gym for 20 years. What a cheap sellout! The school system gets a measly $5,000 a year, and in turn it surrenders the principle that public schools are hallowed institutions that exist as a sanctuary from rank hucksterism, created to teach values of citizenship, not commercialism.

Do Brooklawn's officials fret at all that they're teaching kids that school is just another space for corporate merchandising? Ha! School board President Bruce Darrow giddily says, "It's the wave of the future. I'm looking into selling advertising on the children's basketball uniforms."

This Gooberhead then tries to claim that the corporatization process does have standards: "We're not going to cut a deal where it's the Alice Costello School sponsored by Playboy magazine." Ah, ethics. But what about Cosmopolitan magazine, Victoria's Secret, or Hooters? And what if Playboy dangled a million dollars in front of these officials? Once you sell the principle, the game is wide open.

Schools everywhere are commercializing themselves. If you think school should not be treated as a market, call Commercial Alert and fight back: 503/235-8012


BIRTH OF THE RAPTOR

The U.S. Air Force is in rapture over its new baby, which it has named, Raptor. We taxpayers, however, can be forgiven if we're less than enraptured by the recent birth of this F/A-22 fighter jet, for it's the most expensive war plane in history, it's not needed, and there are serious doubts about whether it'll even work.

The Raptor was conceived 23 years ago in the heat of the Cold War. It was intended to replace the trusty F-15 and was designed to battle a new jet the Soviets were developing. But the Soviet jet never got off the ground, the Soviet Union itself collapsed, the Cold War is long gone, and the enemies we battle today are far different, requiring entirely different weaponry. Indeed, no one threatening the U.S. today has an air force that can even battle the old reliable F-15.

Despite the changed world, however, Lockheed Martin, the maker of the Raptor, just kept pushing ahead, using its campaign contributions and lobbying clout to keep Congress feeding our tax dollars into this voracious boondoggle. Lockheed brags that the F/A-22 is the most technologically advanced plane ever built, but what it does best is eat money. Each Raptor costs us $258 million – and the Air Force is buying 277 of them! That's nearly $72 billion, almost four times the price tag originally submitted by Lockheed. Is the company accountable for such a gross cost overrun? No, no, Nanette – Lockheed got a sweetheart deal called a "cost plus" contract, which bills all overruns to you and me, not to the corporation.

What do we get for our billions? A flawed product. In March, Congress' budget office reported that the Raptor "was not meeting its requirements for a reliable aircraft." Nonetheless, the Air Force is now deploying them.

By the way, the day before Lockheed delivered its first Raptor, it announced a 41% jump in its profits – courtesy of you and me.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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