Number 87 September 22, 2000

This Week:

Quote of the Week
One Last Word About Donating to the Notes
Special For WordPerfect and MS Word Users
The News, Inc.


A couple of weeks ago (NN #85), I said "From San Francisco, California, to Alberta, Canada, to Flathead, Montana, social indicator projects are springing up all over the United States." My apologies for this egregious annexation of a Canadian province into the United States! I was looking at a long list of communities which have social indicator programs, and inadvertently stuck the one non-U.S. reference into my list of examples. This is a great illustration of the power of imperialist thinking to linger even in the face of my best efforts to purge it from my brain. I apologize to all my readers, and especially to the Canadians among you. And thank you to alert reader JK for pointing out this offensive error.

Reader Susan suggests that I introduce a new feature called "Press Clipping of the Week," in which readers send in their examples of un-reported or under-reported news items. "Kind of like a more political News of the Weird," she says. I like it! I like it! My only hesitation is space and time. Regular readers know I have a problem with both. So let me think about that one. Could be fun...

In the meantime, I am constantly clipping things from the newspaper that are either weird, funny, or instructive of something-or-other. I only have time to publish some of them, with the result that I develop these large piles of clippings surrounding my desk which won't go away. So this week I clean the summer clippings off the floor and offer up "The News, Inc.," focusing on the international aspect of the news. A little shorter, a little lighter, a little je ne c'est pas. Next week, or sometime soon, I'll look at the domestic news scene.

So many great ideas; so little time! See ya next week,


"Quote" of the Week:

The lead headline from the August 14th New York Times said it all:

"Democrats Ready the Stage For Their Post-Clinton Era: Program Is Centrist, Like G.O.P.'s, but Differs in Details."

If that isn't an invitation to vote for Nader and LaDuke, I don't know what is.

One Last Word About Donating to the Notes

For those of you who are new to the Notes, I devoted Nygaard Notes #82 entirely to the many wonderful reasons why you should donate to Nygaard Notes, and all the great things that will happen if enough of you do so. Many of you have done so, and I hope you have already received my note in the mail. May I repeat: Thank you!

Some of you have every intention of sending in a donation to support Nygaard Notes, I know, and have just not gotten around to doing so. Now's the time! I have figured out how to do the bookkeeping and I have (finally!) thanked all of you who have sent in your hard-earned money. My next month already looks a little more free than it did. If you are like me, you may subscribe to the motto: "No matter how busy I am, I can always find time to procrastinate!" But I know that if you put it off too long, you'll never get around to it. And I really do need your support. So I suggest that you do it right now.

About once a quarter I plan to ask people to donate money, and probably every August I will do the big pitch like I did this year. Just like public radio. Readers who missed it can find issue #82 at the Nygaard Notes website:


Special Idea For WordPerfect and MS Word Users

Many readers have told me that they prefer to print out the electronic version of Nygaard Notes so they can hold it in their hands when they read it, or take it into the bathroom, or whatever they do. Since I lay out the paper version of Nygaard Notes in WordPerfect format, I could make a separate subscription list and send those who want it the "ready for printing" version as a WordPerfect attachment. Send me an email if you are interested in trying this. For those of you who have Microsoft Word, I could probably figure out how to lay out Nygaard Notes in that format and send that as an attachment as well (although I don't think I could get it to look as good as the WP version.) So, send me a note if you would like me to try that.


The News, Inc.

Bush, Inc.

The front page of the July 31st Wall Street Journal brought us the following great headline: "Bush's Donors Have A Long Wish-List And Expect Results: Finance, Chemicals, Drugs And Other Industries Fuel Richest Campaign Ever." The Journal, hardly a bastion of socialist propaganda, gives us the following helpful hint: "For an idea of what a George W. Bush presidency would be like, peek in on a fundraising gala" in which you will find "the lawyers and corporate executives who have helped build a $93.2 million campaign fund and who, as shareholders in Bush, Inc., will hold a big stake in a Bush presidency."

In case anyone mistakes the headline for an indirect endorsement of the Democratic nominee (at that time still unofficial), the Journal points out in the same article that "Mr. Gore's campaign has a bank balance of $74.3 million..." I doubt that he raised that much cash by having bake sales.

U.S. Extortion, Inc.

The job of a headline is to try to capture the main point of an article in a few words. Not only do headlines often fail to do this, they sometimes give an entirely misleading impression of the content of the article above which they appear. To illustrate, we can look at a front-page story from the New York Times of July 19th. The headline sounds like good news: "U.S. Offers Africa $1 Billion A Year For Fighting AIDS; Funds To Help Buy Drugs; Loan Plan Aimed At Assisting Poor Sub-Saharan Nations Overwhelmed by Virus." If you bother to read the whole article, you read that the loans are intended to be used to buy "discounted" drugs from "five multinational drug companies." Four paragraphs toward the end of the article tell the real story, so I will quote them verbatim here:

"The United States loans could also help American pharmaceutical companies prevent the spread of generic knock-offs of their profitable AIDS drugs to Africa. Even with heavy discounts of up to 80 or 90 percent the companies have not yet made public the prices they will charge some drug makers could still sell their product profitably in Africa.

"The United Nations has said it is exploring the possibility of helping African nations buy generic AIDS drugs from Brazil and India for less money than even the discounted prices Western drug makers might charge for the original product. The drug companies consider generic alternatives a violation of their intellectual property.

"But it seems unlikely that Brazil, India, or other nations that produce such drugs for home consumption would have the export financing available to help African nations buy the goods. The American loans, along with a recent commitment by the World Bank to provide at least $500 million to help African nations set up anti-AIDS initiatives, give added incentive to African nations to treat many of their AIDS- and HIV-infected citizens with Western medicine.

"Even at 90 percent discounts, a typical cocktail of AIDS-suppressing drugs might cost $2,000 a year for a single patient in Africa, more than four times the average per capita income in many of the worst-afflicted countries."

To translate: Multinational drug companies mark up AIDS drugs by at least 800%, at which price they cannot be afforded by the people most afflicted by AIDS. Other countries can produce these drugs for almost nothing. In order to protect their profits, the drug companies invoke "intellectual property" rights, which are exactly in opposition to the "free trade" our government supposedly favors. Even if other nations try to sell generic drugs to Africa anyway, they will still be too expensive for these countries to purchase without foreign aid. The $1 billion that our government has "offered" to Africa cannot be used to buy these drugs, but can only be used to buy the obscenely-overpriced U.S. "patented" versions.

And, as usual, the U.S. "aid" is in the form of loans. Unlike development aid, for which one might be able to argue that loan money will increase the productive capacity of the recipient nation's economy, the repayment of the principal and interest on loans taken for public health reasons can only guarantee a future net transfer of wealth from the poor countries to the rich.

Nygaard Notes Alternative Headline: "U.S. In Extortion Bid To Profit From African Epidemic; Free Trade Opposed For Drug Company Monopolies."

Germany, Inc.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the destruction of the Social Democratic systems that have yielded some of the most admirable rates of public health and welfare in the capitalist world continues apace. This process is called "Americanization," or "modernization."The "unification" of the European economies under the Euro leaves no room for that social welfare stuff, as an article in the New York Times of July 15th pointed out. Headlined "Radical Tax Plan, a Spur for Germany Inc.' Is Approved," we learn of a gigantic corporate tax cut that was demanded by "companies dependent on satisfying the performance demands set by investors on Wall Street or in London." The article states that the new law will "reduce crushing tax rates for individuals" from 51% to 42%.

It is worth noting that Germany's "crushing" pre-reform tax rates were lower than the top tax rates in the United States during the 1960s (70%, down from 90% before 1964), a period during which the United States experienced the most rapid economic growth in its history. And, far from being "crushed," the productivity of the German economy has consistently outperformed our own lower-taxed economy over the subsequent 20 years, despite some catch-up by the U.S. over the past four years.

The German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder used to be "a long-haired student protester," we learn, but his new tax plan has "made him a hero of the corporate elite." "It is a very important signal to investors," says the chief economist for Deutsche Bank, "because here you have a government of Social Democrats and Greens that has passed a very business-oriented tax reform." He added that this "pro-business political trend" is apparent across Europe, even where "left of center" parties are in control. "The Euro is the catalyst," he said. Sure enough, earlier this month the "Socialist" government of France proposed its own package of massive tax cuts, albeit a bit less business-friendly than Germany's.

The German economic system that the Times would have us believe was so in need of reform had produced a Germany that does far better than the United States in terms of infant mortality, high school graduation rates, poverty rates, suicide rates, health care coverage, homicide rates, and teen birth rates. The German level of income inequality is far lower than the United States, and Germany has the highest wages of any industrial country, 80% higher than the United States'.

The article concludes by pointing out that "American companies were unusually active in lobbying for the bill."

Wal-Mart, Inc.

The Star Tribune (Newspaper of the Twin Cities!) reported in a five-paragraph brief in the "FYI" section of the September 9th edition that the German Cartel Office has ordered German Wal-Mart stores to stop "selling staples such as milk, butter, flour and cooking oil below cost on a regular basis." Giant corporations often use this undercutting tactic to drive smaller competitors, who are less able to absorb the loss of revenue, out of business. Perhaps that seems to be "just the way it is" here in the United States, but such a practice is illegal in Germany.

The Associated Press story didn't quote anyone who supports the German government's efforts to protect local businesses, and the jobs and local control of the economy that they provide, choosing to quote only one German who says that the temporarily-lower prices that the Wal-Mart market grab produces is "a good thing."

And, speaking of misleading headlines, this brief was entitled, "Prices Too Low For German Regulators." Now, THAT is what is known as "spin."