If you want to know what's going on behind the scenes in George W. Bush's reign as U.S. president, you ought to be subscribing to Texas gadfly Jim Hightower's "Hightower Lowdown."
The monthly four-page report regularly takes a look at the latest federal government outrage that typically flies below the radar screen of the mainstream media. This month, for example, Hightower focuses on the Bush administration's practice of outsourcing key government functions to corporate America, especially corporate America that has been friendly to the Bush regime.
In fact, Hightower asserts, there may be as many rent-a-troops in Iraq today as there are members of the U.S. military. The largest private contractor, which isn't news, is Halliburton, of course, which has seen its government contracts rise by a stunning 600 percent since Bush became president.
"In return, Halliburton has delivered gas price gouging, contaminated food and water, and a consistent pattern of overcharges," Hightower wrote. "It has been caught hiring Third World laborers to do its grunt work in Iraq, paying them as little as $5 a day, and then billing Uncle Sam more than $50 a day for each worker. In a February analysis of $10 billion in waste and overcharges by various contractors in Iraq, federal investigators found Halliburton responsible for $2.7 billion."
And like the military, those government workers get killed and maimed. No one knows for sure how many have died, but the best guess by the U.S. Department of Labor is 917 contractor deaths and 12,000 wounded in the Iraqi war.
The war, though, is just the tip of Bush's outsourcing spree. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is the government's champion when it comes to contracting with corporate America.
"Bush likes to claim that he has cut the federal bureaucracy," Hightower pointed out. "In fact, he's increased it, but most of the people working in his government wear corporate logos."
As many have frequently pointed out, privatizing public services to corporate America often creates a conflict of interest. Corporations have to turn a profit to satisfy their stockholders. Consequently, the profit motive often trumps public service considerations.
"Our government is not meant to be a marketplace. It is intended as a democratic forum where the needs and aspirations of all the people are addressed," Hightower concluded. "The corporations' grab-all-you-can, survival-of-the-fittest ethos is about serving their interest, not the public's. This is why We the People must expose, challenge, stop and reverse the corporationization of our public institutions."
Hightower, incidentally, will be at our Fighting Bob Fest again this year on Sept. 8 at the Sauk County Fairgrounds in Baraboo.
He alone makes it worth attending.
Dave Zweifel is editor of The Capital Times.
© 2007 The Capital Times