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Jim Hightower


'Patriotism' of Drug Corporations Even by Wall Street's corrupt standards, the lobbying assault that the big drug companies launched shortly after September 11 is hamfisted, selfish, and sleazy.

The New York Times reports that the pharmaceutical barons are the most powerful lobby in Washington. They spend about $200 million a year on lobbyists and campaign contributions - more than any other industry. They have 134 lobbying firms on their payroll, which gives them - get this - 625 registered lobbyists to push their agenda. That's 90 more lobbyists than there are members of Congress!

Within hours of September's crashbombings, this army was deployed in D.C., going corridor to corridor, agency to agency, and all the way to the top, to Bush himself. In a coordinated campaign, they used our nation's fight against terrorism and the public scare about anthrax as covers to win a list of legislative stinkers for their industry that they had long wanted, but couldn't get Congress to swallow. But, now, they wrapped those stinkers in our American flag and patriotically declared, as the CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb put it: "We are part of the nation's defense system."

Some patriot. Bristol-Myers' contribution to national defense was to demand a three-year extension on the patent for its diabetes drug, Glucophage. This meant that diabetes patients would not be able to get a cheaper generic version for another three years, and Bristol-Myers would pocket an extra $6 billion.

Among the other stinkers that the lobbyists pushed in the name of national security was a waiver from certain FDA rules for drugs that could be marketed to combat bioterrorism. Which rules? Bush officials said they might waive the testing and safety requirements on these drugs, as well as waiving the responsibility of drug makers to notify authorities of serious illnesses and injuries caused by their products.

This is nothing but shameless war profiteering, and it undermines national security.


Stop the Stupidity at Yucca Mountain What a deal!

Nuclear power corporations get billions of dollars in subsidies from us taxpayers, then they get all the profits from the energy that is sold, and in exchange they want to give us taxpayers their nuclear waste- all 77,000 tons of it.

What to do with it? Stuff it in Yucca Mountain, their lobbyists urge, out of sight and out of mind in far away Nevada. Indeed, we would be out of our minds to do this, not only because it's another multibillion-dollar giveaway to these private profit-making corporations, but especially because it's a deadly move for the rest of us. It would require convoys of trucks and rail cars to haul their waste, cutting a new radioactive trail across 42 states and through dozens of cities. Nor does the danger end once the stuff arrives at Yucca Mountain, since it's a volcanic ridge laced with 34 earthquake faults poised over the aquifer that provides water for Nevada and California.

George W, who is loaded with campaign cash from the nuke boys and is eager to please them, recently rubber-stamped their scheme. It's safe, he declared. Sure George ... about as safe as letting the baby play with a hand grenade. In fact, Bush is so eager to do this corporate favor that he has okayed the scheme before the energy department has even designed the canisters that are supposed to hold this hot waste for 10,000 years, before it knows how to seal the tunnels that will hold the canisters, before it has solved the rather large problem of water corroding the canisters, and before some 300 other scientific and engineering questions have been resolved.

Bush & Company claims that these are mere technical matters that someone can deal with later, even though independent scientific experts scoff at this idea and say that the administration is clueless about what it's doing at Yucca Mountain.

To get Congress to stop this stupidity, call the watchdog group, Critical Mass: 202-454-5130.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. For more info about his tours and monthly newsletter, visit www.jimhightower.com.

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