HIGHTOWER: Going Bananas Over Trade

America's trade policy makes about as much sense as a rooster wearing socks.For months, the Japanese, and others have flagrantly dumped steel into the U.S. market, selling it at prices beneath what it costs them to produce it. Not only is this illegal, but it's also a crushing blow to our own steel workers and their towns -- yet the milquetoast Clinton administration has done little about it.Contrast this to the full-fledged war dance that the Clintonites have been engaged in over another commodity: bananas. Our country has marched to the brink of an all-out trade war with Europe over bananas -- even though the U.S. produces no bananas and no U.S. jobs are at risk.Well, there is one U.S. job attached to bananas -- Carl Lindner's. His corporate empire, based in Cincinnati, includes ownership of Chiquita Brands, which produces beaucoup of the yellow fruit in Central America. Lindner has been in a long pout because he wants the Europeans to buy his bananas, but instead they've been buying from their former colonies in the Caribbean. So Lindner has gone to Washington, enlisting everyone from Bob Dole to Bill Clinton to threaten the Europeans with a trade war if they don't start buying from Carl.He has such clout in Washington because the one thing Lindner produces more of than bananas is campaign contributions. Indeed, when Dole was running for president, he flew around in Lindner's corporate jet. Lindner also gave $500,000 to the Clinton re-election effort ONE DAY AFTER Clinton's top trade official filed a formal complaint against the Europeans on behalf of Chiquita bananas. Three years later, his banana war has escalated to the point that Clinton is imposing 100-percent tariffs on such European goods as pecorino cheese and cashmere sweaters.This is Jim Hightower saying ... To do nothing for America's steel, yet go to war over Lindner's bananas is absurd -- even by Washington's standards.

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