Public Works Work


Here's an idea: Instead of wasting our tax money on Wall Street slicks who don't use it to help anyone but themselves, why don't we use our public funds to build something in America?

Like what? Like bridges to replace those in disrepair, upgraded and expanded schools and libraries, high-speed rail networks to connect our population centers, energy-saving technologies for every home and building, public transportation for all of our cities, state-of-the-art Internet systems everywhere, and public parks.

America has important work that needs to be done. America also has millions of workers who need good jobs. Let's combine the two needs so we can lift our country up and move forward together.

"There is no better time than today" to launch a major public works program. That's not a quote from some lefty do-gooder but from the head of the National Association of Manufacturers. Corporate executives are now joining labor leaders, mayors, and other progressives who see the urgent need to invest in and rebuild America, creating new infrastructure and new middle-class opportunities all across our land.

George W. and his gang of laissez-faire ideologues oppose this. They assert that such a bold national undertaking would take too long to help with the current financial collapse. Hello, George – state and city transportation officials say they could have 3,000 highway projects and 8 billion dollars' worth of mass-transit projects under way in less than 90 days. Let's get the money to them! This is not a time for more ideological claptrap from right-wing theorists. It's a time to restore America's can-do spirit, turning our grassroots people loose to build.

This should not wait until next January. Congress should come together now, this month, and begin to move money where it'll do some real good for everyone in America.

Big Oil's Charm Offensive

ExxonMobil wants you to know that it cares about poor African children. Several are featured in a recent TV ad touting Exxon's donations to a charitable effort in Africa to fight malaria. Chevron wants you to know that it's a caring corporation, too. It's running a TV ad touting its concern about alternative energy, featuring a touching tagline that says: "This isn't just about oil companies. This is about you and me."

Why the push to show Big Oil's gentle side? Because new profit figures show yet another quarter of the ongoing money grab by these giants. Exxon's take for the three summer months, for example, was nearly $15 billion – the most profit of any corporation in history. So the money grabbers are putting on masks of altruism, hoping we won't notice their pockets bulging with our dollars – and hoping we won't demand that Congress take away the billions of dollars they get each year in tax subsidies.

To see the true heart of the oil barons, however, don't look at their ads – look at their production numbers. While prices rose in the past year, pinching consumers hard, the big refiners deliberately cut back on gasoline production to hold prices up. While diesel shortages were squeezing the economic life out of U.S. truckers, the refiners ignored domestic need because they could get a higher price by shipping American diesel to Europe, South Africa, and Australia.

Worse, though, is Big Oil's failure to use its windfall profits for development of new oil supplies. The corporations claim that they need enormous profits in order to explore for oil – yet last year the Big Five spent only $10 billion on exploration, while dumping $55 billion into the pockets of their top executives and major investors.

Oil company image ads aren't fooling anyone. Their attempts to appear touchy-feely are as hopeless as hanging an air freshener on the tail of a hog.

Jim Hightower is the bestselling author of Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit