The Hightower Report

The Hammer gets nailed, and the boom is back for moneyed elite


For once, I actually agree with something that Tom DeLay said. The former Republican leader of Congress recently declared in his most somber tone, "The criminalization of politics undermines our very system." Wow. So true, Tommy.

Of course, what I mean by the "criminalization of politics" is very different from what he means. DeLay was bemoaning the stunning fact that a Texas jury had just convicted him on two felony counts of money laundering. He wailed that he was a victim of a political vendetta by Texas Democrats, calling his prosecution "an abuse of power."

Amazing. Here's a guy who became Congress' most powerful member by blatantly using his position of public trust to broker campaign cash from myriad corporations in exchange for passing their legislation. He went on worldwide golfing junkets with lobbyists aboard corporate jets, plotted legislative strategy with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, enjoyed lavish meals on the corporate tab, and collected millions of dollars for the GOP's campaign coffers from lobbyists – all while moving the special-interest agenda of his corporate benefactors through Congress. Yet he's whining about "an abuse of power"?

Yes, Tom, politics has been criminalized – it's been turned into a criminal enterprise funded by corporations for corporations. Reprobate politicos like you have turned the People's House into a shameful pay-to-play parlor.

DeLay was so good at hitting up corporate lobbyists for money and then pounding their wish lists into law that he was nicknamed "The Hammer." But now, the Hammer's been nailed – not by Democrats, but by a jury of 12 common citizens whom his own hotshot lawyers helped select. These honest people diligently sifted through reams of evidence and ultimately saw him for what he is: a felon.

Renewed Swagger

Excellent news, people! After three years of financial doldrums and depression, money is on the move again, the economy is beginning to hum, and bluebirds of happiness are twittering with delight.

"People are starting to shake off what happened," trilled one of those bluebirds. "The mood is absolutely better," exclaimed another. "There is a definite buzz on the Street," chirped yet another happy songster.

Of course, none of these merry optimists are talking about your street or mine. Instead, the new surge of economic exuberance is being felt exclusively by those fortunate ones on Wall Street and in the executive suites of giant corporations. For example, the big five Wall Street firms (Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase) have set aside $90 billion this year to lavish huge bonuses on their big shot bankers. Ninety billion! Also, major corporations are hauling in total profits this year of $1.7 trillion – the highest level ever recorded. Ever!

Thus, reports The New York Times, the moneyed elites are walking with renewed swagger and indulging themselves once again in extravagances that we commoners cannot imagine. One insurance executive, for example, has doubled her annual cosmetic surgery budget this year! Then there's the Goldman Sachs executive who celebrated Halloween with a posh party of a thousand of his best friends in a hip Manhattan night club. His bash featured an open bar and a performance by hip-hop star Lil' Kim, who appeared in a black cat costume.

Trick or treat, y'all! As these privileged pranksters play, the majority of Americans remain mired in a miserable, jobless economy, with incomes falling, the middle class sinking, and poverty rising. As one Wall Street economist starkly says, "This is unlikely to change in 2011 or 2012."

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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