By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
Well, not quite. Most of the $1.5 trillion in budget surpluses projected over the next decade comes not from any shrewd political moves by loud mouth Washington politicians, but simply because American workers are pumping their savings into Social Security. That money will be needed to pay for benefits over the next decade, and with the baby boomers beginning to cash in, there will be just enough. Excluding Social Security, the budget shows a deficit until 2004, then a small surplus until 2008.
But Republicans are cooking the books, looking for a way to spend the so-called surplus on tax cuts. These are the same politicians who've been claiming that Social Security is insolvent and ought to be privatized.
Marc Breslow writes in the feisty magazine Dollars and Sense: "The Republicans want to spend the retirement savings of moderate- and low-income Americans on tax breaks which, as usual, they will target to ward their wealthy campaign contributors. Then they will force us to play the stock market in order to replace Social Security."
DEA Ropes 'Dope' as Industrial Hemp Spreads Beat Weed
DEA agents are on the lookout for anyone growing industrial hemp, a crop the Clinton administration fervently believes can contribute to drug addiction. This is pretty unlikely.
"You'd have to smoke a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole to get a buzz, and you'd die from carbon monoxide first," says Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, which is introducing a line of hemp products.
The DEA could care less. The agency's war against hemp helps rationalize its budget, allowing the DEA to point to its success in the eradication of industrial hemp.
Farmers in Great Britain and Germany grow hemp, and under free-trade agreements Canadian farmers will shortly start dumping it in the U.S., where it will be used in the manufacture of textiles and as a nutty-tasting food oil.
But U.S. farmers, desperate for a money-making crop, will have to sit on the sidelines and watch the Canadians clean up. Recently, hemp enthusiasts have been talking about transforming the North American Industrial Hemp Council into a serious trade association, and approaching former CIA director James Woolsey about representing the group. Woolsey attended a recent hemp conference because of his interest in developing sustainable energy sources (which might include hemp) to make the U.S. less reliant on foreign fuels.
"Industrial hemp can play a high ly important role in American agriculture and business," Woolsey said.
"It's not a drug. So it shouldn't be regulated as one."
The fight to grow hemp has pulled together a group of odd bedfellows, ranging from actor Woody Harrelson, who wears clothes made of hemp, to entrepreneurs like the Body Shop's Roddick.
Says designer Ralph Lauren, "I've always loved the look of natural, rustic fabrics. I especially like the ...mix of hemp against silkit's very romantic."
Exclaims Calvin Klein: "I love the fabric."
"It's like the O.J. trial," she opined gleefully. "O.J. is a Cancer. Ken Starr is a Cancer. In O.J., police frame a guilty man and in Monica, Starr frames a guilty guy. Isn't it eerie how much Lucianne Goldberg looks like Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate?
Casey paused for a breath, then continued, "The Republicans say the corporation is the highest expression of collective good. This is all about corporate rule versus democratic process. The public is smarter than politicians. Corporations want passive consumers. Democracy requires rebellious free agents. That's what's heartening now. The public is disobedient."
Additional reporting: Bob Frederick