The Hightower Report

Free Market Hypocrites; and Lobbyists Go Shopping

FREE MARKET HYPOCRITES

Here's today's provocative question from professor Hightower: Why do so many giant corporations hate the marketplace?

Yes, hate. Oh, sure CEOs loudly proclaim themselves to be free market worshippers, and they piously preach against the cardinal sin of government interference in the awesome workings of the holy marketplace. But after church, these corporate executives slink into the back alleys of devilish government to procure subsidies, regulations, and other favors to satisfy their profit lust.

Take the case of Monsanto Co., which makes a product known as bovine growth hormone that forces cows to produce more milk. Aside from the damage this does to cows, BGH is essentially an artificial sex hormone passed through the cow's milk to people who drink it.

Guess what? Consumers – especially mothers – do not want their families drinking sex hormones. So there has been such a consumer outcry against BGH milk that numerous dairies and supermarkets now offer milk that's labeled as being free of artificial growth hormones, so consumers can have a clear choice. Splendid! That's the free market at work, right?

Right, but Monsanto hates it! We must have new government regulations to outlaw these additive-free labels, cries Monsanto, because they mislead consumers into thinking there's something wrong with sexed-up milk. So lobbyists for Monsanto and its BGH users have been swarming state governments, demanding regulators interfere in the sacred marketplace. Our competitors must not be allowed to tell shoppers what's not in their milk, wail these lobbyists, for this information "confuses" consumers.

The confused ones are the corporations – confused on the concept of the free market. If they're so proud of BGH milk, they should have their own labels declaring: "Mmmm, yummy! Milk with artificial sex hormones added!"

LOBBYISTs GO SHOPPING

'Tis the shopping season, and many bedraggled consumers are going store-to-store seeking gifts for loved ones. But the most determined shoppers of all this season are corporate lobbyists, scurrying from agency to agency in Washington in search of special favors for themselves. They're not interested in giving, but in getting.

Indeed, they've already given. They put tens of millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of George W. and the GOP, and they've enjoyed big-time payback for seven years. But time is running out – Republicans lost control of Congress, and Bush is soon to go, so corporate lobbyists are now on a frantic, last-minute shopping spree, grabbing all they can while they can.

Their shopping list is filled with requests for the Bushites to rig regulatory rules to benefit their industries. Coal barons, for example, are pleading for permission to dump tons of rubble and waste into the valleys and streams of Appalachia. This "spoil," as they call it, is the byproduct of an environmentally devastating mining shortcut called mountaintop removal. To get at the coal, they blow up the top third of these beautiful mountains. Rather than hauling off their rubble, they want a final OK to shove it down the mountainside, burying the streams, animals, and everything else below.

On other fronts, such chicken potentates as Perdue want an exemption from public health laws that ban massive releases of ammonia from their factory farms, electric power plants want to increase their toxic emissions without the "burden" of installing pollution controls, and big-business lobbyists are demanding new rules to keep workers from using the family leave laws that allow unpaid time-off to care for newborns or deal with family illness.

These truly are gifts that would keep on giving – giving profit to the few, and pain to the many.

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

BGH, milk, Monsanto, lobbyists, mountaintop removal, electric power plants, family leave laws

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