Let’s play a game called “Washington Budget Whackers Go Wacky”!

Unfortunately, though, it’s not a game. Ax-wielding Republicans and Democrats alike are madly whacking at our nation’s public programs in a political contest to show which of them is the scroogiest of all.

For example, both are going after the very useful program that helps low-income Americans pay the ever-rising cost of heating their homes in the dead of winter. This budget cut will literally cut off the heat to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. But hey, say Congress critters whose workplace is always kept toasty at taxpayers’ expense, everyone must sacrifice.

Well…not really everyone. Washington’s ferocious ax-wielders are sparing assorted corporate subsidies. Take the Market Access Program–please! It hands $200 million a year to huge processors and exporters of agricultural commodities like Sunkist and Welch’s so they can advertise their products abroad. Hello–these “free enterprise” giants have plenty of money to make their own ads.

Even wackier, this subsidy often is frittered away on pure nonsense. Last year the Cotton Council used a big chunk of its $20 million handout from Uncle Sam to promote U.S. cotton sales in India. India? That country produces twice as much cotton as us and is a major exporter of the stuff, so it has no interest in buying ours.

Nonetheless, such outfits are in line for more federal advertising dollars, while poor folks are literally to be left in the cold. Why? It’s the perverse power of political money at work. The corporations getting ad subsidies give more than $8 million a year in campaign donations and spend about $10 million a year on lobbyists.

To help straighten out this out-of-whack system, contact U.S. Public Interest Research Group: www.uspirg.org.

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Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.