The Hightower Report

White House propaganda: pundit payola, video news releases, and misleadingly misnamed bills


The media payola scandal keeps growing. First it was Armstrong Williams, the right-wing commentator who got caught taking $240,000 from the department of education to shill for George W.'s "No Child Left Behind" education law.

"Just a bad apple," said the Powers That Be, "an aberration" in an otherwise honest system. But now comes news that Maggie Gallagher, another right-wing commentator, has pocketed some $40,000 from the government to shill for Bush's "strengthening marriage" program. Both Williams and Gallagher have been roundly castigated for so crassly thumbing their noses at journalistic ethics.

But wait a minute. It takes two to play the payola game – the corrupters as well as the corruptees. What we have here is Bush & Company routinely and cynically using your and my tax dollars to use the media to propagandize you and me. Where's the accountability for these corrupters? Which agency officials are diverting our tax funds into propaganda? Which Bush operative devised this system? And why aren't all of these Bushites being publicly castigated … and fired?

George now says his government will no longer pay journalists. Thanks for small favors, but that's only a tiny piece of the Bushite propaganda machine. Even more corrupt is their surreptitious deployment of VNRs – video news releases – which are prepackaged "news" stories prepared by Bush officials to praise his policies. These ready-to-air pieces are narrated by actors posing as reporters. You've seen them on your local TV news, but you wouldn't know it, because they never mention that these reports come from the government itself. They are broadcast on hundreds of TV stations reaching millions of households.

To help stop Bush's covert propaganda program, call the Center for Media and Democracy: 608/260-9713.


Just when you think you've bottomed out on the level of cynicism it's possible to have toward Washington's constant kowtowing to the monied interests – along comes the "American Jobs Creation Act."

These days, whenever the White House and Congress put a positive-sounding title on a piece of legislation, you can bet that the law itself does the exact opposite of what the title so gloriously proclaims.

The American Jobs Creation Act, pushed by George W. and enacted last fall, does not create a single job. Instead, it's a massive, multibillion-dollar tax giveaway to global corporations. Through this law's "homeland investment" loophole, corporations operating abroad are allowed to have some $400 billion in foreign profits taxed at the bargain-basement rate of only 5.25%, rather than the normal rate of 35%.

To pass this gargantuan boondoggle for some of the richest corporations in the world, Bush and his congressional cohorts had to cloak it as an economic development program, promising that it would prompt a surge of new investments all across our land and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs for U.S. workers.

They lied. Instead of building new factories or producing new products, thus creating new jobs, such corporations as Hewlett-Packard, Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer, GE, and ExxonMobil are using the billions they get from this tax windfall to buy out their competitors, shore up their bottom lines, or simply finance their existing operations.

For example, Hewlett-Packard, which lobbied heavily for the tax break, now says that far from hiring more workers, it plans to reduce its American workforce. Likewise, Oracle Corporation says it will use its windfall to help pay for its recent takeover of its rival, PeopleSoft – a takeover that will cut 5,000 jobs.

Beware of corporate thieves lurking behind noble-sounding legislative titles – the grander the title, the greater the theft.

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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