The Hightower Report
Obama and Congress Can End Mountaintop Removal; and A Bailed-Out Bank Bails Out Its Bankers
Obama and Congress Can End Mountaintop Removal
If you live near a stream, should you be allowed to dump waste in it? I don't mean a garbage bag of waste but tons of it – toxic waste that buries the stream and contaminates downstream drinking water so badly that it runs black out of the tap.
If such gross selfishness would offend you, you're probably not an executive of a coal corporation.
In Appalachia, coal barons routinely explode the tops off of ancient, forest-covered mountains, then merrily bulldoze the resulting tons of coal waste and rubble down the sides into the valleys and streams below – all so they can get at the coal more cheaply and haul away a fatter profit. "Mountaintop removal," they call it – a process that is an environmental rape and an ethical disgrace. Already, 500 of America's oldest, most beautiful mountains have been decapitated, and more than 1,200 miles of pristine streams have been buried.
Isn't this a violation of our Clean Water Act? Of course! Except that a 2002 rule change by Bush & Co. perverted the law, redefining "water pollutants" to exclude mining waste. Then early this year, a Bush-appointed federal court ruled that stream burial is okay, giving the green light to 90 more mountain-destruction projects.
However, the Alliance for Appalachia, a grassroots coalition of 13 regional groups, is pushing a congressional bill to outlaw this outrage, and it has a good chance to pass. House Resolution 1310, the Clean Water Protection Act, already has 123 co-sponsors, and President Obama says he's against mining coal by "simply blowing the tops off mountains."
Obama can make the difference, both by aggressively backing the bill and by directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend mining permits for mountaintop removal. To learn how you can help, go to www.ilovemountains.org.
A Bailed-Out Bank Bails Out Its Bankers
At least one Wall Street investment house is stepping up to help some of the people who've been squeezed by the financial crisis that Wall Street caused.
Goldman Sachs – once considered the "star of the Street" before it crashed in a pile of greed and had to be salvaged by a multibillion-dollar bailout from you and me – is this angel of mercy. It has announced a new loan program to assist folks who lost money because of their investments with Goldman. What an altruistic gesture! Before we give the bank a big gold star, however, let's note that regular folks do not qualify. For example, maybe you lost a chunk of your retirement money because of the firm's collapse. Sorry, but no loan for you.
No, no – this beneficent program is strictly reserved for Goldman's own senior bankers! These special ones were paid millions of dollars in the golden years, and they invested wads of that cash in a couple of the bank's elite investment pools. One of the perks of being a high-ranking Goldman Sacher was that you got access to those very profitable funds.
But – oh, cruel fate! – even these have plummeted in value, and many of the bank's 100 top executives are reported to be down to their last $5 million. Given their gilded lifestyles, this leaves them scrambling to meet payments. One example of their cash crunch is that they now are having to pay their taxes on fat bonuses that they were paid early last year. Back then, they were riding high, and they thought the party would never end, so they spent all of their bonus money on assorted toys. That means they don't have enough money today to cover their tax obligations.
I know how badly you must feel for them, but not to worry, for Goldman is galloping to their rescue with loans reaching up to hundreds of thousands of dollars each. See, Wall Street takes care of its own – even if it has to use our bailout dollars to do it.
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.