The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, October 29, 2010, News

Free (Corporate) Speech

The big brand-name corporations love advertising. They love it so much that they spend some $150 billion a year in our country to put all sorts of slickem and hokum on their products, and on their own public images.

But there is one kind of advertising that these same self-aggrandizing outfits despise: ads that challenge their carefully crafted images. A nonprofit doctors' group recently got a blast of corporate wrath when it produced a TV commercial that dared to take on mighty McDonald's. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine was challenging the fast-food behemoth to offer some menu choices healthier than its artery-clogging burgers.

The ad was a hoot. It featured the body of a deceased fat man on a cold slab at the morgue. He had a half-eaten burger in his hand, and the McDonald's golden arches logo was superimposed over his deathly white feet. Then an epitaph for the burger-wolfing dead man appeared on the screen: "I was lovin' it."

But when the doctors sought to buy airtime on south Florida television stations – none of them loved it. They showed no sense of humor ... and no sense of free speech. Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, and others flat-out refused to air the ad. One station initially OK'd it but then weaseled out by saying the commercial could run only if all references to McDonald's were removed.

It seems the stations were afraid of being sued by the burger giant or were afraid that McDonald's would pull its advertising from them. Indeed, corporate headquarters sent a sharp shot across the stations' bows, declaring, "This commercial is outrageous, misleading, and unfair to all consumers."

Unfair to consumers? Most consumers would like to see the public airwaves opened up to the public, not just to big-money corporations.

Corporations Take the Money and Run

The Federal Reserve, which controls America's monetary policy, says it is trying to invigorate job creation in our country by cutting interest rates to the bone. This move allows big corporations to borrow money for next to nothing so they can expand and start hiring again.

Great goal! How's it working out?

Well, the first step has gone splendidly, with such giants as DuPont, Hertz, IBM, Microsoft, and PepsiCo rushing to grab the windfall. They've borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars at interest rates of less than 1%. However, there's been quite a stumble on step two of the Fed's plan. Rather than putting this enormous stash of cash to work for America, the corporations are simply squirreling it away for their own enrichment, refusing to spend it on the job expansion that our economy desperately needs.

For example, Microsoft – one of the richest corporations on Earth – amassed almost $5 billion under this "opportunistic borrowing" scheme yet has put none of the cheap money into job creation. Instead, it is using a big chunk of it to buy back stock from its own shareholders – a move that merely profits the handful of rich elites who control Microsoft.

Worse, such corporate powers as Hertz and PepsiCo are using the funds to take over competitors. These consolidations will actually cut jobs while reducing consumer choices and raising our prices. Indeed, there's no provision in the Fed's program to keep the giants from investing the money in foreign expansion, thus offshoring more American jobs.

And there's the rub in nearly all of Washington's indirect job creation efforts – officials blithely dole out billions and even trillions to corporations and banks with no strings attached. So the big shots and bastards gleefully grab the money and run.

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