The Hightower Report

How Things Work in Texas; and Giants Leeching on SBA


HOW THINGS WORK IN TEXAS

Two lucky Texans are getting their dream home – a spacious apartment in a primo location. It comes rent free, all utilities paid, and with parking. Best of all, this fortunate couple is being treated to a million-dollar renovation of this fabulous property!

This might sound like one of those "extreme makeover" home shows on TV, or maybe some heartwarming story from the luxury edition of Habitat for Humanity – but, no, this is the touching tale of Tom and Nadine Craddick. He's speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and quite a wealthy fellow who already owns two other homes.

As speaker, though, Tom gets the rare political perk of living in a publicly financed apartment located inside the state Capitol, just behind the House chamber. It was renovated only a decade ago, but, alas, the historic apartment just isn't up to Tom and Nadine's fancier tastes, so they want a re-renovation, complete with a top-of-the-line kitchen redo. They feel that the existing kitchen is "woefully inadequate" for entertaining, so they want an upgrade.

Being an anti-government Republican, however, Tom rejected public funding for the project. Does that mean he put up his own money? Oh, no, no, child! He turned to his closest buddies – corporate lobbyists. Asking them for the cash, he noted that their donations would be "a lasting gift to all Texans."

That's sweet, but actually the speaker's apartment is off-limits to the public, so they'll never see their "gift." Nonetheless, such special interests as water speculators, horse-track operators, nuclear-waste dumpers, and others wanting legislative favors from Tom were quick to give. Not that there's any quid pro quo here. AT&T (which gave $250,000) claims they gave "out of [our] interest in historic preservation."

Not only do these corporate givers get on Tom's good side – they also get a tax deduction for their generosity!


GIANTS LEECHING ON SBA

You might assume that the Small Business Administration exists to help, you know, small business. But that would ignore the conniving nature of big business … and the weaseliness of the SBA.

Of course, Bush & Company constantly poses as the champion of America's small enterprises. For example, the honcho of Bush's SBA recently bragged that the agency had awarded more than a fourth of its contracts to small business, offering this as proof that "The president and his administration are committed to helping small businesses get there fair share of government contracts."

Not so fast, slick. Let's do some simple math: Of the 26 million business firms in America, 99.9% are officially considered small, so bestowing only 25% of contracts on them falls way short of being fair. Besides, shouldn't all of SBA's contracts go to small businesses? I mean … it's in your name.

It turns out that even SBA's one-fourth number is a lie, for it includes contracts awarded to huge corporations that use legal loopholes to grab money set aside for small firms. For example, Boeing has 37 of SBA's "small business" contracts, General Dynamics has 47 of them, and Northrop Grumman has 121. The trick is that these giants either set up or buy small subsidiaries that get SBA cash. As a Boeing spokesman so cleverly rationalizes this ruse, "These companies shouldn't be penalized because they are associated with a large company."

Hello … are you stupid, or do you just hope we are? Your corporate subsidiaries are not "associated with" Boeing – they're wholly owned by it, integral cogs in the Boeing machine.

Every dollar siphoned out of SBA by these connivers is a dollar denied to legitimate and deserving small businesses. To learn more and to help put the "small" back in SBA, call the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies at 415/255-1108.

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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