The Hightower Report

Immigration Surrealism; and A Little Help for Their Friends


In December, in the frantic final hours of a "Do Nothing Congress," the majority finally rose up to do something.

Unfortunately, what it did was despicable. In the dark of that final night, the Republican leadership snuck through 529 special-interest "tariff suspensions" for assorted corporations. Everything from imported shoes to boiled oysters had tariffs cut or eliminated, meaning that you and I now have to make up the loss of this tariff income with our taxes. Of course, it also means that products made abroad get a tax-free advantage over products made here at home.

To add insult to injury, this giveaway was done in a manner that would make cat burglars blush. First, the products getting the special treatment are not named in the bill. Instead, the products are only identified by numerical codes that are keyed to arcane tariff tables contained in volumes the size of phone books.

Second, the corporations that will pocket tens of millions of dollars in tax savings also go unnamed – as do the Congress critters who snuck the suspensions into law. Third, congressional guidelines say that no single tariff suspension is supposed to cost the public treasury more than $500,000 in revenue. But lawmakers and lobbyists (bless their larcenous hearts) simply inserted multiple suspensions aimed at a single corporation's product, thus giving millions of dollars in breaks to that importer.

Wait, there's more! When the full Congress finally got to vote on these tariff suspensions, which had been larded into a massive bill, members had to vote on all of them as a block, without being able to pick and choose and without knowing specifically what they were voting to do.

But we do know what they did – the Congress that failed again and again to pass bills needed by the people went out of its way to help its special friends … and did so in secret.


Apparently George W. thinks surreal is a small nation in South America.

If he and his handlers had any grasp of the concept of surreal, surely they would not have used a certain White House room to talk about the anti-immigrant bill to erect a 700-mile-long wall on our Mexican border. Of all places, the Bushites chose the Indian Treaty Room – a surreal reminder that we Euro-Americans actually were the first illegal immigrants, some 500 years ago!

Yet, this is not the most surreal incident involving the volatile immigration issue. That honor would have to go to the explosion of xenophobic nuttiness coming from Republican Congress critter Virgil Goode. He went bonkers when Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, said that he would use the Quran, rather than a Bible, for his ceremonial swearing in.

Goode seems to be blissfully unaware that our Constitution protects the religious preferences of all people and that Ellison, being Muslim, would rather naturally reach for the holy book of his own faith. In his bliss, Goode not only denigrated Ellison for being … well, Muslim … but he also warned maniacally that "we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt strict immigration policies."

For the record, Ellison is not an immigrant – he traces his American roots back to 1742.

Another surreal moment was presented to us by Dennis Prager, a right-wing radio talk-show blatherer, who demanded that Ellison be barred from Congress if he did not conform to the Christian standard and take his oath on the Bible. This burst of religious intolerance comes from a guy appointed by Bush to (of all things) the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – a museum dedicated to reminding Americans that ethnic, religious, and racial bigotry is horrifically dangerous.

If ignorance is bliss, Bush, Goode, and Prager must be ecstatic.

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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George W. Bush, immigration legislation, Indian Treaty Room, Virgil Goode, Keith Ellison, Congress, tariff suspensions

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