The Hightower Report

Uncle Sam says 'tough break' to regular taxpaying citizens, 'anything for you, Lockheed'; and working stiffs sponge up the stress of globalization


CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEW C-130J

Washington has a message for you: "No!"

No on health care, college education, job training, food stamps, veterans' benefits, etc. All of these programs – and many more that meet basic needs of the American people – are being sacrificed on the holy altar of budget cuts. America has many crying needs, our congressional leaders acknowledge, but the money has run out. So forget it, go away, no. Besides, say our Congress critters, we're giving you the C-130J, so stop whining and be grateful for what you're getting.

The what? The C-130J is supposed to be a massive, new, whiz-bang of a cargo plane for the Air Force – but it's really a massive boondoggle for the Lockheed Martin Corporation, which makes the thing.

The plane has flaws. So many flaws that it cannot fly its intended combat missions. For example, it can't drop heavy equipment, which – hello – is a cargo plane's purpose. Also, it doesn't perform in cold weather. Nor does it have the range to reach global hot spots where it would be needed. And its engines tend to stall out on take-off. Plus – one more little thing – paratroopers can't jump out of it because the plane's design causes them to be pulled back and crash into the fuselage.

The Pentagon has already bought 50 of these things for $2.6 billion. None are in combat – instead, they're mostly sitting idle on various U.S. military bases. It's such a boondoggle that even Pentagon chief Donnie Rumsfeld wants to stop production. Yet Lockheed lobbyists and the Air Force brass have been swarming Congress, which is about to give them another $5 billion to buy more C-130Js, which now cost more than $66 million a piece.

That's your money. That's your health care, job training, education, and other real needs being squandered on pieces of worthless military junk. It's bad enough that Congress throws so much of our money at the war machine, but shouldn't we at least get back planes that work?


OFFSHORING IS 'PSYCHOLOGICALLY DISTURBIN'

One of the worst aspects of the global corporate culture is that it routinely pits one group of workers against another in the corporate pursuit of dirt-cheap labor.

This has come to an ugly head in recent years with the mass offshoring of U.S. call-center jobs. These workers answer questions that American consumers have about their phone bills, computers, credit cards, insurance polices, etc. Curious about a long-distance charge on your phone bill? If you call your company's toll-free service number, you're likely to reach someone like Rahail Manzoor in India.

An Indian trade group says there are 350,000 people there working in such back-office service jobs for U.S. corporations, and the number is expected to grow by 40% this year alone. The corporations are tapping India's vast pool of workers who are English-speaking, tech-savvy ... and cheap.

But these workers are also nervous wrecks, for they know that Americans are very angry about the offshoring of middle-class jobs. American callers often take out their anger on them, using creative combinations of four-letter words. The Indian call centers try deception to deflect this anger. Rahail Manzoor, for example, is told to call himself "Jim" on the phone, and he has undergone lessons in how to speak "American." Some call centers have giant TV screens showing the current weather in U.S. cities, the latest sports scores, and such, so workers can make small talk and pretend to be in the U.S.

But many callers know better and berate the poor operators, who are under such stress that they suffer all sorts of debilitating illnesses. It's "psychologically disturbing," says Manzoor.

It's also psychologically disturbing for Americans to see our middle-class future exported, while CEOs calmly count the billions of dollars they rake in by pitting us against the Indians. To help unite workers here and there, call the AFL-CIO's international department: 202/637-5050.

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

federal budget cuts, C-130J, Donald Rumsfeld, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Rahail Manzoor, call centers, globalization, AFL-CIO

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