The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, January 8, 2010, News

Helpful New Year's Resolutions

In addition to working up my own list of New Year's resolutions, it occurs to me that some of the people running our country could benefit from my suggestions for their lists. No need for them to thank me – happy to help.

Where better to start than with those proud-and-loud members of Congress who've adamantly opposed real health insurance reform for workaday Americans? I include not only the entire block of Republican lawmakers whose vocabulary consists only of the word "no" but also those pathetic Democrats who've compromised the reform idea into corporate mush. Each of these stalwarts of the status quo should make this resolution: "Since I helped kill reform, I will give up the excellent, government-paid, socialized health coverage that I get so that I am in the same leaky boat as my constituents."

And here's a resolution for the barons of Wall Street, who continue to float on billions of dollars in government bailout money yet are grabbing bonus payments for themselves while pouting that the public is not showing them the love they deserve: "I hereby pledge to go through the 12-step detox program of Greedheads Anonymous to deflate my arrogance, cure my narcissism, and become a human being again."

Let's not forget the Obamacans, either! They came into office on an anti-war, anti-fat-cat, pro-middle-class program, yet have expanded their war, catered to fat cats, and offered the middle class nothing but "a jobless recovery." Here's the resolution we need from Obama: "In year two of my term, I promise to Democrat-up by getting some economic advisers who've actually met a real worker. I'll also download recordings of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt to my iPod and require everyone in my administration to volunteer at least one loved one to go to war in Afghanistan."

If we can only get those in charge to make these pledges, we'll all have a happier new year!

Let's Chuck the Bottle

Bottled pollution.

I know we're a nation of inveterate consumers, but who would buy pollution in a bottle?

Well, millions of Americans do, to the tune of $11 billion a year. That's the size of the bottled-water industry in our country, dominated by such giants as Nestlé and Coca-Cola. "But wait," shriek industry PR flacks. "Our product is pure goodness! What are you talking about?!"

Start with the little-reported fact that bottled water can contain a toxic mix of industrial chemicals never tested for safety. Also, many tests of bottled water are done by the corporations themselves rather than by independent, certified labs, and even when contaminants are found, the marketers do not have to tell consumers or public officials about them. Chances are that your city's tap water, which is inspected several times daily, is at least as pure and often more so than the pricey stuff in bottles.

Speaking of bottles, both the production and disposal of billions of tons of these throwaways is a pollution nightmare. The Environmental Working Group, for example, has revealed an area of the Pacific Ocean that amounts to a massive plastic water bottle dump that is twice the size of Texas! You can't throw water bottles away – because there is no "away."

Then there's the absurdly huge carbon footprint created by hauling bottled water back and forth across our country, not to mention across oceans, bringing water all the way from France or Fiji. If you need a textbook example of energy absurdity, try this: New York water is trucked to California, and California water is trucked to New York.

The good news is us: consumers! Individuals, companies, restaurants, cities, states, and other entities are chucking the bottle, ending their silly addiction to a totally unnecessary source of pollution and waste. To join the effort, go to

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