The Hightower Report

Privatization hasn't been a rosy ride for others; and Bill Hammond crowned Gooberhead for job peddling for son in letter to legislators


LITTLE ETHICAL LAPSES

Time for another Gooberhead Award – presented periodically to those in the news who have their tongues going a hundred miles per hour ... but forgot to put their brains in gear.

Today's Goober is a big-shot corporate lobbyist – the sort you can find in your own legislature of city hall. He's Bill Hammond, chief influence peddler for the Texas Association of Business.

Hammond is presently entangled in a corruption case involving him, Tom DeLay, and a gaggle of other GOP politicos. Apparently, however, being at the center of a national political scandal is not enough trouble for Bill, so he's decided to cross that ooze line that supposedly separates the public interest from personal. Showing both ethical obtuseness and blinding arrogance, he has now tried to leverage his position as frontman for Texas corporate power to – are you ready? – get a legislative job for his son.

Each Texas legislator recently received a "Dear Friend" letter from Hammond – who happens to dispense beaucoup bucks to help elect or defeat legislators – stating that his boy has graduated from college and is "on the lookout" for a job. Printed on TAB letterhead, Bill's solicitation asks that legislators contact him – not the son – about "any available positions."

In today's world of nuclear-level ethical implosions, the significance of this Goober's little play for personal gain is not in its scope, but in the arrogant attitude of entitlement it embodies. Governments everywhere are infested with powerhouse lobbying hacks like him, who've strayed so far from any ethical mooring that nothing is too small – or too big – for them to try to take.

Of course, he's clueless: "I can assure you 100 percent there's no attempt to exert undue influence on anyone. That's silly," he says, disingenuously adding: "If I offended any legislator, I apologize."

Legislator? It's the workaday people of this country that you offend, you Gooberhead.


THE REALITY OF SOCIAL SECURITY PRIVATIZATION

The Bushites are pushing ferociously for quick passage of their scheme to privatize our Social Security system, backed by political front groups funded by the Wall Street interests that will make a killing if the scheme passes.

The problem for the privatizers, however, is that the more people learn about the plan, the more they oppose it. One thing that Bush & Company really hope you don't learn is that other people have already experienced privatization. George is presently hopping around the country with Little Rosey Scenario on his shoulder promising a golden future with privatized retirement. But folks in several states here in America and in several countries have seen that future ... and recoiled from it.

For example, Nebraska, West Virginia, Montana, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida have tried shifting their public employees into do-it-yourself, private retirement accounts, but the efforts failed. Once the employees saw the plans, very few took the bait, and those who did generally ended up with lower benefits than they would've gotten from the public system they left.

Likewise, the rush to privatize pensions in Chile, England, and elsewhere has not ended happily for retirees. In Chile, for example, the government now has to pour billions of dollars annually into the private system, for it can't provide enough benefits to poor workers to assure even basic needs, and middle-class retirees find that hidden fees in the private accounts take as much as a third of the money they had put into them, leaving retirees with far less than they would've gotten under the public system. And England's 20-year run with its privatized system has produced fraudulent brokers, exorbitant fees, taxpayer bailouts, and the harsh reality that at least 75% of those with private accounts will not have enough in them at retirement time for "adequate pensions."

Before you buy Bush's rhetoric, check the reality of experience.

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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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Social Security, privatization, Wall Street, private accounts, Gooberhead Award, Bill Hammond, Texas Association of Business, Tom DeLay

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