April 20 - April 26, 1995

CHILLING DEVELOPMENTS: Now, I thought surely I'd seen everything, having been to the state fair twice and been involved in Texas politics.

But this is one for Ripley's Believe It or Not. You've heard of Stupid Pet Tricks? This is Stupid Politician Tricks.

When Loudspeaker of the House Newt Gingrich took control of the Congress in January, he said he was going to stop the perks and pampering lawmakers get. He made a particularly loud fuss about one really silly freebie: the delivery every morning of a bucket of ice to each Congressional office. That's right, Believe It or Not, we taxpayers were making daily ice deliveries to members of Congress.

Newt said it was a perfect symbol of how out-of-touch, over- pampered and perk-crazy Congress had become. And he was right. "No more free ice," Newt commanded.

So. Guess who's still having a bucket of ice delivered to his office every morning? Bingo! The Newt!

So are such top Republican leaders as Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, John Kaisch and Bill Archer--all of whom pose as Big-Time Budget-Whackers. Oh: of those 73 new Republicans who marched into Washington this year, demanding an end to "Business as Usual" ...believe it or not, 51 have arranged to get the frozen freebie delivered daily.

Bear in mind that automatic ice deliveries have stopped. So for Newt and all the rest of these hypocrites to be getting a bucket-a-day from us taxpayers, each one actually had to sneak a call to the Capitol Hill iceman--and request it!

No wonder Newt and Gang won't pass term limits, won't ban members from taking gifts from lobbyists and won't consider campaign-finance reform--they won't even give up free ice!

That Newt--he's quite a trickster, isn't he?

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Are you sitting down?

Well, ready or not, like a bad sequel to a horror movie, here comes: Son of the Savings & Loan Scandal.

That's right, the financial finagling of the 1980s that led to a $300-billion-plus bailout by us taxpayers is baaaack--and oozing toward your wallet.

State and federal investigators in Texas, New Jersey, Arizona, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have just disclosed that--once again--financial insiders are playing footsie with real estate brokers, developers and other fast-buck artists. And--once again--billions of dollars are being drained from S&Ls, banks and insurance companies that have been financing deals that are grossly overvalued--some of them involving the exact same properties that were sold and resold at inflated prices in last decade's S&L scams!

As one investigator put it: "These properties are time bombs. Many aren't worth 20 cents of the original dollar lent on them. Some aren't worth a nickel on the dollar."

It's enough to give you a bad case of "trichotillomania." Ever get that? It's the uncontrollable desire to tear your hair out.

Investigators report that these financial flimflammers are listing housing developments, shopping centers and other properties on their books as though they are worth millions--when in fact they're vacant lots, abandoned shacks or burned-out buildings. And in some cases, the property simply doesn't exist at all!

They conservatively estimate that losses so far in "Son of S&L" total $20 billion--with many more billions in losses to come. And when these losses cause the financial institutions to fail, guess who gets the tab? Us sorely abused taxpayers, that's who.

Grab your wallets--and circle the wagon! As Yogi Berra once said: "It's deja vu all over again."

--By Jim Hightower

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April 20 - April 26, 1995

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