The Hightower Report

A Sick Policy; and Bush's Imperial Designs on Iraq


A SICK POLICY

If your bosses ever say that you should be working like a beaver, take 'em up on it. Even the most eager beavers only work about five hours a day, mostly at a fairly leisurely pace, and they take frequent vacations from work. Oh, and another thing – you'll never see beavers working when they're sick.

Contrast this natural pace with the grind of most American workers, many of whom have two or three jobs, put in 60-hour weeks, rarely get vacations, and often go to work sick. Sick? Here's a hidden reality behind America's fabulously rich economy: Nearly half of our country's full-time private sector workers get no paid sick days at all. You get sick, you still go to work … or lose that day's pay. Miss just a few days due to illness … and you'll likely lose your job.

It's mostly the lowest-paid workers who are denied the basic human decency of sick days – the very workers least able to afford missing a day's pay. Take the low-wage restaurant industry, for example. Eighty-six percent of food-service workers get no days off for illness.

Think about that in terms of your own health. Do you really want feverish cooks, waitstaff, and other employees coughing into the chili and sneezing into the schnitzel?

Yet, restaurant-industry lobbyists are going all out to kill a bill that would assure seven paid sick days a year to most workers. It's not like this is a lavish benefit – it's a modest statement of common decency. In fact, the U.S. is the only industrialized society without it.

But decency doesn't seem to be in the ethical framework of industry leaders. For example, a spokeswoman for the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain dismisses the need, saying that employees can schedule doctor appointments "at times when they are not working."

Show me a beaver that would be that cold. To support paid sick days in America's workplace, call the Public Welfare Foundation: 202/965-1800.


BUSH'S IMPERIAL DESIGNS ON IRAQ

At last we have a date for the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq … and Bush can't veto this one. It's Jan. 20, 2009. That's when George W.'s term is up and he has to withdraw from the White House, taking "Buckshot" Cheney with him. The shame is that so many more of our troops will die or be maimed in the months between now and then.

But wait – even then we might not leave Iraq. That's because the Bushites are trying to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq – an imperial inhabitancy atop that nation's oil fields.

Even if Congress mandates a withdrawal from fighting, the Pentagon says it has no plans for "total drawdown," instead working quietly but feverishly to establish a series of installations it calls "enduring bases" around the country. The centerpiece is the lavish, new, billion-dollar "embassy" being constructed inside Baghdad's Green Zone – a sort of militarized emerald palace the size of Vatican City, totally self-sustaining and independent of the Iraqi government.

But other bases are being built as well – perhaps as many as 15 self-contained military pods that would support a total of 30,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops for an indefinite period of time – estimated to be several decades – costing us billions of dollars a year. Why? Reason No. 1 is to preserve U.S. economic interests in Iraq – which is to say oil.

When did we vote for this colossally bad idea? In fact, in the last election, Americans clearly said "get out!" – not "dig in." Indeed both houses of Congress voted last year to declare that America would not create permanent bases in Iraq – but this declaration magically disappeared from the final version of the bill. Now that Democrats are in charge of Congress, it's time for them to repass that provision, make it stick in the law, and defund the Pentagon's imperial designs.

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

sick days, restaurant industry, Cracker Barrel, Public Welfare Foundation, Iraq, George W. Bush, Congress

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