High-tech schmoozing

Time for the newest Hog Report! This time we have high-powered, high-tech hogs like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Lou Gerstner of IBM and other corporate heavies who waddled into Washington for a three-day "High Tech Summit" convened on Capitol Hill by the joint economic committee. It was billed by the committee's Republican leaders as "a substantive dialogue with the high-tech community."

But the substance turned out to be nothing but political pap and high-tech hype, with Gates and gang rambling on about the wonders of consumerism their industry was developing, and with Republican lawmakers vowing repeatedly to help out by getting government off their backs.

Off their backs? Good grief! Washington has bent over backwards to stuff billions in subsidies into the back pockets of these so-called "self-made" entrepreneurs. Start with the fact that the Internet and computer technology itself came from government funding, then add in such favors as the special tax breaks they've been given and the special low-wage labor subsidy they get.

The GOP's dog-and-pony show was not about policy but about kissing the computer industry's collective butt in an effort to get more campaign dollars from high-tech hotshots like Gates. Indeed, Haley Barbour -- a Microsoft lobbyist and Republican fund raiser -- says he and other lobbyists had attended a meeting with senators to discuss the upcoming summit, and the fund-raising staff for Senate Republicans was involved in planning it. Just coincidentally, GOP leader Trent Lott scheduled a Senate vote on a multibillion-dollar legal loophole for the industry on the very day that Gates made his appearance at the summit. It passed. The week before, Microsoft had been a "table sponsor" for the Republican congressional dinner, apparently making a down payment on legislative favors to come.

What the GOP is doing with the high-techies is not a "dialogue." It's legalized bribery.

Jim Hightower is an author, radio commentator, public speaker and political sparkplug from Austin, Texas. For more populist commentary, visit his website.