Taking gifts from the Godfather 

Wal-Mart’s prescription program analyzed

Wal-Mart is the world’s biggest corporation because they run their business the same way Vito Corleone ran his in The Godfather: sheer brute force. They keep the costs low by playing hardball with their suppliers, driving out local businesses and paying their employees as little as they can.

But just as Don Corleone was a generous man, dispensing justice and favors to those who kissed his ring, Wal-Mart is now selling several hundred commonly prescribed drugs for $4 in 15 states, including Indiana.

Even the uninsured can now get certain drugs at a bargain rate. Instead of paying several hundred dollars a month for my blood pressure and heart medicine, I can get them for less than it costs to buy a carton of Pall Malls.

I’m no fan of Wal-Mart’s corporate policies, but like pretty much everyone else I know, I shop there a lot because it’s the cheapest place to buy a lot of stuff I need. I support the mom-and-pop businesses whenever I can, but not for everything I need. Wal-Mart kills them on price.

I look at shopping at Wal-Mart, and getting cheap prescription drugs there, as taking charity from the mob. While I fear the mob, I’d be glad to accept a gift from them, providing I didn’t have to do anything unsavory to get it.

I hope that Wal-Mart doesn’t ask me to do anything illegal for them to get these cheap prescription drugs. It’d suck if they asked me to burn down a competitor’s business, or if they wanted me to drive a load of Chinese-made goods from Oklahoma to Pittsburgh.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who recently called George W. Bush “the devil,” has donated millions of dollars to buy heating oil for poor people in Alaska and other parts of our country.

Some villages in Alaska have rejected the offer, saying Chavez is an enemy of the U.S. and they refuse to participate in a scheme intended as an insult to the president.

To me, the Wal-Mart situation is kind of like the Chavez giveaway, or it would be, if I didn’t agree with Chavez’s characterization of our current president.

Is there a moral dilemma involved in accepting gifts from people, countries or corporations whose practices we detest?
Some would say yes, but if Chavez wanted to pay my electricity bill next month, I’d let him. Hell, if Fidel Castro wanted to buy my groceries for a year, I’d be all for it. I might even let Kim il-Sung, the ruthless dictator of North Korea, sponsor me for the Mega Sports package on DirecTV.

It should be obvious to everyone by now that the federal government doesn’t give a damn about you. Unless you’re a defense contractor, a soldier willing to deploy to Iraq or a really cute teen-age male congressional page, you’re not going to get any attention from anyone employed by our government.

If our nation’s enemies really wanted to undermine our government, they’d set up free health clinics in our inner cities. They’d build soup kitchens and shelters for our homeless. They’d work for justice in the workplace.

I don’t see very many politicians in our own country trying to do that. Bill Clinton is the only one in my lifetime who tried. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson tried. FDR tried.

Locally, the person who’s done the most to help people is Congresswoman Julia Carson, who’s spent her entire life helping poor people get back on their feet. She’s literally fed the hungry, provided clothing for the naked and health care for the sick.
As we approach the election, she’s being crucified by some in the conservative local media. Don’t you believe the lies being told about Congresswoman Julia Carson.

And if Hugo Chavez approaches you and offers to pay for your heating oil this winter, or if Wal-Mart wants to give you cheap prescription drugs, don’t be a moron. Accept the help. These days, you’ve got to take care of yourself because few others will help you.

Thanks, NUVO readers
I want to thank the readers of NUVO for voting for me as Best Local Columnist in last week’s Best Of Indy issue. It’s the sixth or seventh time I’ve been so honored and I appreciate the fact that some of you out there like what I have to say.

I’m into my 14th year of writing this weekly column for NUVO, and I plan to keep on writing it for as long as the people who run the place let me. I’m working on a book of some of my best columns and interviews and we’re hoping to get it out next year.

For those of you who don’t like my work, well, there are a lot of really talented writers in every copy of this newspaper. Read one of them instead. I know I have a big mouth and I’ve said some things which have come back to bite me in the ass, but every word of every column comes straight from my heart, as diseased as it is.

Thanks again to the readers, advertisers and staff of NUVO who’ve supported me over the years.

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