The Hightower Report

Don't Look Down at Immigrants, Look Up; and a New Horror From the IRS


Here's a modest suggestion for dealing with illegal immigration: Instead of everyone looking down at all those impoverished Mexicans coming here for jobs, why not start looking up – focusing on the posh executive suites of corporate America, which have saddled both U.S. and Mexican working families with corporate-written trade and labor policies that knock us all down?

Let's start with the North American Free Trade Agreement. Remember that Bill Clinton, the GOP, and all the corporate lobbyists promised that this trade deal would bring prosperity to Mexican laborers – thus stopping the flow of illegal workers into the USA. Well, 12 years later, real wages in Mexico are lower than before NAFTA was imposed, 19 million more Mexicans have fallen into poverty, and about half of Mexico's people are struggling to live on less than $5 a day.

This NAFTA economy of a few fabulously rich families and an impoverished working class was deliberately created by a cabal of arrogance between CEOs in our country, the ruling elites in Mexico, and the political puppets of both. Now, here they come again, fostering xenophobia, proposing an absurd and shameful wall along our shared border, and encouraging a new Bracero Program to turn low-wage Mexicans into a permanent flow of indentured workers for U.S. businesses.

Meanwhile, these same corporations and their political puppets have been busting wages here at home, offshoring middle-class jobs, canceling pensions and health care plans, waging war against labor unions, and shredding our social contract.

To deal effectively with illegal immigration, we must renegotiate these corporate trade scams and restore our labor laws so they actually help the workaday majority of people, raising middle-class possibilities here and in Mexico. This problem is not being caused by powerless people, but by the most powerful.


It's time to call 9-1-1 about an IRS proposal to change Section 7216 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Whenever the Bushites revise regulations, you can bet that the revisions do the exact opposite of what the regulatory title claims they do. In this case, the change is titled: "Regulations to Safeguard Taxpayer Information." Uh-oh. This can't be good. Our friendly IRS quietly issued this little gem on Dec. 8, cleverly lumping it in with a set of new rules that the agency labeled "not a significant regulatory action," hoping that no one would notice.

Fortunately, watchdog groups didn't buy the ruse. When they actually read the IRS's proposed "safeguards," they were startled to find that this regulation would authorize giants like H&R Block or any other tax preparer to sell the contents of your private tax return to any corporation wanting to buy it! All of your personal contact information – including your Social Security number – could be sold, as well as information about your income, employer, medical expenses, children, charitable donations, et cetera.

Who's pushing this crass sell-off of our privacy? There's a powerful lobby of data brokers such as ChoicePoint, credit companies like MasterCard, and dozens of marketers who want to use your 1040 filing to target you for sales. In the shadows, of course, identity thieves lurk, eager to raid the computers of data firms and grab your tax return as a one-stop shopping bonanza.

Oh, tut tut, says the head honcho of the IRS – your data will not be sold unless you sign a form authorizing your tax preparer to do it. But this so-called "consent" can be shuffled in with the stack of forms you have to sign to complete your filing, or it can be reduced to fine print, boilerplate language that no one reads.

Our tax-return information should not be sold. Period. To help fight the IRS proposal to change Section 7216 of the Internal Revenue Code, call 202/546-9707.

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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illegal immigration, NAFTA, Bill Clinton, Mexican laborers, IRS proposal Section 7216 of the Internal Revenue Code, H & R Block, Choicepoint, MasterCard

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