The Hightower Report
The Toxic Corruption of Our Political System; and Herbert Hoover Revisited
THE TOXIC CORRUPTION OF OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM
EnergySolutions Inc. That name has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? But whose energy problems is this company trying to solve?
Italy's, for one. That country has 20,000 tons of nuclear waste that it wants to dump somewhere, so this Salt Lake City corporation says that, for several million dollars, it will gladly import Italy's waste and bury it in Western Utah. Great. Our country can't figure out what to do with our own nuclear nasties, yet this corporate huckster would throw open our borders to everyone's trash. Send us your tired, your poor, your nuclear waste!
Not wanting America to be turned into a global Dumpster, some lawmakers are trying to ban the importation of radioactive foreign waste. EnergySolutions has responded by applying the handy, dandy solution used for wiping away all corporate problems in Washington: money. In the last four years, company executives and investors have upped their political giving tenfold, dumping nearly $400,000 into congressional campaign coffers. They've also ramped up the corporation's spending on Washington lobbyists, topping a million bucks last year.
When confronted with the obvious charge that they are trying to buy votes, EnergySolutions asserted that they are merely buying "access" to lawmakers. As a corporate spokesman explained, campaign cash "gives us the opportunity to participate with elected officials."
In other words, "The opportunity to participate with elected officials" requires a major cash transaction – a corruption that shuts out ordinary citizens, perverts the public interest, and mocks our democracy. This is a bigger, more toxic problem than nuclear waste, and one solution is to take the corrupt money out of the system with public financing of congressional elections. Learn more at www.publiccampaign.org.
HERBERT HOOVER REVISITED
The official story of the Great Depression is that it began with the stock market crash of 1929. Wrong.
Depressions don't instantaneously explode in a country; they creep up. The big financial crash was preceded by years of financial manipulation by Wall Street hucksters, wage declines for the majority of workers, a growing epidemic of farm losses, and malign neglect by President Herbert Hoover. Even when it came, Hoover continued to insist that the economy was fundamentally sound, that Washington should simply stay the course and let the market work its magic.
If this sounds familiar, that's because George W. is the Hoover of 2008. In April, for the fourth month in a row, the American economy lost jobs, but Bush insisted that strong action was unnecessary, noting that "only" 20,000 jobs were lost last month and boasting that the unemployment rate was still at 5%.
First of all, the unemployment rate misses the depth of the problem. For example, it does not count "discouraged" workers – some 400,000 people who've been out of work for so long that they've given up looking. Also, if you worked even one day at a temporary job during the month, you're counted as "employed."
This raises the issue of the deeper flaw in job numbers, which is that they cover up the decline in people's income. Even during the Great Depression, the vast majority of folks had jobs. But today, just as then, the hours of those jobs have been cut back, and millions of people who need full-time work are only able to find part-time jobs.
Meanwhile, as rank-and-file workers (which make up 80% of the work force) see their incomes stagnate, they also see the cost of gasoline, food, health care, and other basics skyrocket. When the average pay for eight out of 10 Americans is not even keeping up with the cost of living ... look out.