The Hightower Report
How to Buy Government; and So Long, Limbaugh
How to Buy Government
Like the five-man majority of Supreme Court justices, perhaps you've been worried sick over the possibility that corporations just don't have enough power over our government.
If so, let me soothe your fevered brow with a report showing that election spending is just one path that corporations take to buying our government – many other lanes are also open to them. There, feel better now?
One wide-open path is through both the Republican and Democratic governors' associations. Both outfits offer corporate "membership" packages that literally let drug makers, utilities, tobacco companies, and other giants buy their way inside these two powerful groups. For annual dues of up to $250,000, a corporation's executives and lobbyists not only get to hobnob with these top state officials but also get to sponsor, organize, and participate in periodic policy discussions with the governors.
Is this a sweet deal for the companies? "Absolutely," enthused a tobacco executive. After all, these corporations have big money at stake on everything from state taxes to regulatory policies, and buying their way into the groups' gatherings lets them bend the ears of America's governors – and bend the governors' policies. Regular citizens and public interest groups never get this kind of special access, so it gives the corporate powers a big jump on everyone else.
Last year, for example, some 200 drug industry lobbyists organized a forum on biotechnology for Democratic governors. In this cozy setting, the biotech corporations had a one-sided chance to plead for state subsidies and regulatory favoritism – and practically every governor who attended followed up by pushing for what the industry wanted.
In so many different ways, corporate money doesn't just talk; it shouts ... and drowns out the rest of us.
So Long, Limbaugh
Keep talking, Rush – we love ya, man!
Rush Limbaugh, that is, the radio rattlebrain who led the right wing's air attack on Barack Obama's health care reform. Spewing venom, spittle, and ignorance, Limbaugh used his microphone like a cattle prod, delivering jolt after jolt of electric folderol to the 24% of Republicans who now tell pollsters that they believe Obama "may be the Antichrist."
For Limbaugh, the health care fight was personal. In January, suffering with chest pains, the yakety-yakker was rushed to a hospital in Hawaii. After his recovery, he used the experience to embellish his rhetorical assault on reformers: "Based on what happed here to me," he bellowed, "I don't think there's one thing wrong with the American health care system. It is working just fine, just dandy."
Well gosh, Rush – that's because Hawaii has had a form of Obamacare since 1974, including a statewide mandate that employers provide health coverage for full-time workers. Why shouldn't all Americans get what you got?
Still, Limbaugh kept playing his loopy card. Asked what he would do if Obama's bill passes, he harrumphed: "I am leaving the country. I'll go to Costa Rica."
Well gosh again, Rush, of course you would, because Costa Rica has universal, low-cost public health care and has the longest life expectancy in the Americas! So, why not bring such coverage to everyone in the USA?
Meanwhile, of course, Obama's reform did pass, yet Limbaugh has not kept his pledge to deport from our shores. However, Joan LaPore wants to help him escape the horror of having to live here with those of us who do support reform. Owner of a Virginia travel agency, LaPore is offering a free ticket "to send Rush Limbaugh one way to Costa Rica."
But wherever you go, Rush, keep talking – we love ya, man!