The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, September 2, 2005, News


Since last year's election, there's been a plethora of analyzers and pontificators asking this question: What's wrong with the Democrats?

The party has to move to the right or get more religious or change its rhetoric, they say. Hogwash. What the Democratic Party has to do is learn how to be Democrats again. This means standing up unequivocally for working families, the middle class, and the poor, as well as standing forthrightly against the corporate powers running roughshod over this workaday majority of Americans.

Unfortunately, too many of the party's top leaders have been fuzzy on this concept, professing to be for the folks, but siding with big money. For example, look at the "CAFTA 15."

CAFTA is yet another free trade scam written by and for global corporations, allowing the elites to knock down workers here and abroad, while also placing corporate power above our own people's sovereignty. You expect the Bushites to push such a bill – and yet, even with presidential arm-twisting, the Republicans could only squeeze this atrocity out of Congress by one slim vote. The real story, however, is that 15 wimpy Democrats sold out America's working people and cast their votes with the multinational corporations. Had they not abandoned Democratic principle and constituencies, we would not now have the albatross of Cafta around our necks.

But here's some good news: A coalition of community groups in New York City is going after the two local Congress critters who were a part of the CAFTA 15, Greg Meeks and Ed Towns. They'll face serious opposition for re-election, and the groups are demanding that Democratic congressional leaders strip the two sellouts of their privileged committee seats. "Make 'em pay," is the cry of the local rebellion. After all, why should working families stand for Democrats who won't stand for them. To learn more, call the Working Families Party: 718/222-3796.


George W's handling of Iraq has been such a mess that his numbers are in the ditch. I'm not talking about poll numbers (which are at new lows), but his recruitment numbers.

The Bushites don't need polls to tell them what the public thinks about their Iraq policy – the public's judgment is clearly reflected in the Pentagon's continuing failure to meet its monthly quotas for getting new recruits to throw into this bloody war. As one exasperated Army recruiter put it: "The problem is that no one wants to join."

Well, duh. More than 1,800 of our troops have died there, veterans hospitals are more than a billion dollars short of being able to treat the influx of soldiers wounded in the war, the insurgency is more aggressive than ever, Iraq is now sliding into civil war, and the Bushites have neither a clue nor an exit strategy. Who wants to join that?

So, to goose up recruitment, the Army National Guard has signed an oily deal with a national temp agency called Labor Ready. Recruiters from the guard are given access to Labor Ready's 700 offices around the country, where they'll try to hustle economically squeezed day laborers.

These people, used for manual labor on short-term jobs, are among America's working poor, and they're some of the most vulnerable workers in the country. That's exactly why the Pentagon is targeting them, hoping that they're so hard up they'll take a killing job.

Of course, Labor Ready makes it sound as if it's doing a favor for these poverty-wage workers by helping enlist them. "Young people can get a career," enthuses a Labor Ready employee. "If they're down on their luck, they have an opportunity to get up, to see something new, to see the world."

Yeah, they can see beautiful Baghdad or Basra ... and lots of explosions. Trying to fill Bush's military quota by targeting folks who are afforded no other real opportunities in our economy amounts to conscription of the poor. It's an economic draft, and it's an outrage.

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