In an editorial cartoon by Pulitzer-Prize winner Ben Sargent, a barrel overflowing with the glop and stench of corporate tax breaks is being decorated by Martha Stewart. She's shown painting it with the red-white-and-blue design of America's flag. As she applies the stars and stripes, she says to the reader: "See? There's nothing so ugly or appalling you can't disguise it with this pattern."
So disgustingly true, as Washington has demonstrated again and again since September 11. Already, Bush, the congress, and a gang of Gucci-clad corporate lobbyists have wrapped the flag around such legislative dreck as "Star Wars" and "Fast Track," declaring it a matter of high patriotism to pass both. Then there are star-spangled multibillion-dollar bailouts that richly reward CEOs and big investors but leave hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers out in the cold.
But the most rancid of all, so far, is the sickening "economic stimulus package" that the Republican leadership recently muscled through the house. This is raw garbage, which will stimulate nothing but more campaign contributions from the corporations and
speculators who get all the money. In addition to a special capital gains tax break that will put 80 percent of the money into the pockets of the wealthiest two percent of Americans, this package includes a retroactive elimination of the "corporate minimum alternative tax." Under this greasy giveaway, billion will be given to a handful of profitable corporations as a full refund of taxes they've paid for the past 15 years!
Among these wartime welfare mooches are Enron, getting 4 million in refunds, GE getting 1 million, and Ford getting about billion.
This isn't partriotism...it's war profiteering. To stop it, call the Campaign for America's Future: 202-955-5665.
HARD TIMES FOR THE LUXURY CLASS
Let's take another peek [Lifestyles Theme] into "The Lifestyles of the Rich...and Cranky."
Being rich means never having to say, "How much?" This is why there's currently a lot of crankiness out there among those who had been made rich by the spectacular rise in dot-com stock prices during the last decade, but then have been made suddenly unrich
by this year's dot-com meltdown. Now, instead of buying a pair of Gucci's on impulse, they're shopping for no-name shoes and asking, "How much?"
The crimp in spending by these nouveau luxury buyers is so tight that the New York Times tells tales of empty stores and lonely sales clerks in such previously hot shops as Tiffany, Prada, Dior, Chanel, and Gucci. These toney stores are hurting, yet because they
are purveyors of prestige, they can't simply whack prices in half or hold a tacky two-for-one sale. This would cheapen their own upscale image. As one marketing expert put it, if they "cut prices too much, then people think, well, it wasn't worth that much after all."
Luckily for the sellers of hoity-toity goods, there are still some rich shoppers like Gary Markle of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Featured in the Times story, this high-tech exec is continuing to spend on luxury goods despite plummeting stock prices, local layoffs,
and the general economic downturn affecting so many others. He's building a .5 million house in a gated compound, he sports around town in a shiny Mercedes, and he just bought a brand new SUV for his wife, explaining: "She wanted a new car, her car was two or three years old, and we said, well, sure."
In the world of the rich, a downturn means having to switch from fois gras to caviar. As Markle told the Times, "I think people are saying to themselves, well, I had million and now I only have million. But million is still a lot of money."
Sure, that's what all the people I know are saying.
RESERVING TAX BREAKS FOR THE RICH
Time for another Gooberhead Award [Beanie-cap breakdown] presented periodically to people in the news whose tongues are going 100 miles per hour...but who forgot to put their brains in gear.
Today's Goober is a fellow who, like a bad tamale, just keeps coming back on us. He's Dick Armey, the house majority leader, and this time he repeats as our awardee because of his remarkable stance on the 0 billion economic stimulus package that recently
zipped through the house. Armey declared that the package was too rich.
Well, he certainly was right about that. This thing is larded with outrageous giveaways to the rich an assortment of elitist goodies that has nothing to do with the millions of Americans who have been flattened by the economic bust since September 11, nor will
it do anything to rebuild our economy. Among other things, the 0-billion package
gratuitously gives a special capital-gains tax break to the wealthiest two-percent of Americans, and it also allows enormously profitable corporations to get billion in tax rebates.
But our boy Dick had no gripe with the rich making a killing. It was the little dab going to low-income workers that got his knickers in a knot.
These low-wage families have been devastated by the job losses at airports, hotels, and other places where business has plummeted, so the stimulus package allowed small rebates on a portion of their payroll taxes. Armey got on his hind legs to complain
about allowing such folks to get maybe a hundred bucks or so in rebate, claiming that this would "not really have a growth impact on the economy."
What a Goober! In fact, spreading smaller sums of money to millions of workers is exactly the way to stimulate the economy, since these folks won't hoard it as the rich do, but instead will spend it immediately on groceries and other basic needs for their
families. Armey's all for tax breaks...as long as they go to his campaign contributors.
THE HORROR OF "SUPERBUGS"
Food poisoning is ugly stuff, and it can be downright deadly, but, luckily, there are powerful antibiotics that can beat back most cases of salmonella or other bacterial food poisonings. Unless, however, the bug infecting you happens to have evolved into a
"superbug" that is immune to antibiotics.
"Superbugs" is not the title of some bad horror movie, but a truly horrible reality of modern life in which some bacteria are rapidly developing a resistance to even our most powerful antibiotic drugs. Two new scientific studies have found an alarming rise in meat products that are contaminated with these antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In one study, the Center for Disease Control examined 407 chicken samples taken from supermarkets in four states. More than half were contaminated with E. faecium bacteria that had developed immunity to the three drugs usually used to kill it. In the other study, the Food & Drug Administration examined 200 samples of ground beef, chicken, pork, and turkey from supermarkets in the Washington D.C.area. A fifth of the samples contained salmonella bacteria, and 83 percent of these bacteria were resistant to at least one of the antibiotics commonly used to kill this bug.
Not only is this rapid and deadly mutation scary, but it's also stupid, for it should not be happening at all. The problem stems from the fact that giant agribusiness operators are dosing chickens, cattle, and other animals with tons of antibiotics annually, not to cure disease, but