The Hightower Report

Surprise! The People Speak.; and Superbugs Go Agro

Surprise! The People Speak.

Michael Duke is the Big Wally of Wal-Mart. As CEO of the low-wage behemoth, he siphons almost $20 million a year in personal pay from the global retailer, according to estimates from executive compensation research firm Equilar.

How much is $20 million? Let's break it down in terms that Duke's own workforce can appreciate. While Big Wally's workers average about $11 an hour, Duke's pay comes to about $9,615 an hour. So he pockets almost as much in two hours as Wal-Mart workers make in a whole year! But Wal-Mart doesn't give a damn about such gross pay gaps between privileged elites and the rest of us. As a spokesman scoffed, "I don't think Mike Duke ... needs me to defend his compensation package."

Really? If not you, who?

Those who think that the hoi polloi don't notice – much less care about – America's growing income disparity should take a peek at a recent opinion survey run by the right-wing, corporate-funded Peter G. Peterson Foundation. This outfit intended to show that the general public backs the teabag-agenda slashing of government spending, including balancing the federal budget by putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block.

But – woopsie-daisy – the survey of thousands of Americans went badly wrong for the Peterson ideologues. For example, far from wanting to gut Social Security payments, 85% of the people favored extending the program by making the rich pay into the fund, like all the rest of us do.

And – hey, Mike – this one's for you: Nearly six out of 10 of the folks involved in the foundation's America Speaks survey want a new, higher tax bracket to make millionaires pay their fair share of providing for the common good.

The foundation tried to bury these surprisingly progressive results, but you can see a good analysis of them at the Center for Economic Policy and Research: www.cepr.net.

Superbugs Go Agro

Not so long ago, the "miracle cure" of antibiotics prompted doctors to prescribe them for illnesses as minor as colds and upset tummies. But then people began to die. In droves.

Why? Overuse of antibiotics led to the rapid evolution of savvy bacteria resistant to the miracle drugs. These superbugs cannot be killed, so they swarm infected patients and kill them. It has become an epidemic – about 100,000 people a year are killed by unstoppable bacterial infections that they get in hospitals, plus many others die from superbug infections they get elsewhere.

To add absurdity to this horror, the real culprits in the overuse of antibiotics are not our doctors but giant meat processors. In the massive factory operations of such conglomerates as Tyson Foods, millions of chickens, hogs, and cattle are routinely dosed each year with antibiotics. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 84% of all antibiotics go not to us humans but to the animals in these industrial facilities.

Why? For one thing, because the facilities are filthy, making the animals sick. But second – and worse – the agribusiness profiteers use antibiotics simply to force the chickens, hogs, and cows to grow faster, thus reducing corporate costs. Never mind the potential cost in human health. This is so senseless that it makes your brain hurt.

At last, however, federal regulators are taking tentative steps to – oh, progress! – stop meat processors from using antibiotics to bulk up animals. Of course, the corporate powers are swarming Congress like – well, like bacteria, in an all-out effort to kill any reform.

In the past, special interest money of agribusiness has been able to clobber common sense, but this time the momentum is on our side. To help give it a push, contact the Union of Concerned Scientists at www.ucsusa.org.

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

income disparity, antibiotics, Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, Union of Concerned Scientists

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