Jim Hightower Archive

Can “powerless nobodies” fight the corporate powers?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Generations of working class shrimpers, oysterers, and other fishing families on the sparkling bays along the Texas coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, have long shared the waterways with alligators and snakes that also call this place home.

But in the 1980s, a strange and invasive new critter entered Lavaca Bay, and it’s been devouring whole species of seafood, along with the livelihoods of local Gulf communities. This was not some monster from the deep, but a massive, 45,000-acre factory owned by Formosa Plastics Corporation, founded by the richest man in Taiwan.

Formosa is not here for seafood. It’s the world’s second largest fabricator of polyvinyl chloride, the tiny, highly-toxic pebbles and powders used to make gabillions of plastic bags, pipes, bottles, etc. For decades, Formosa has cavalierly been dumping trillions of these poisonous pebbles and tons of the polyvinyl powders into its wastewater – which end up in Lavaca Bay.

That poisonous content then spreads to other bays and into the shrimp, oysters, fish, and other creatures living there. The result has been species vanishing from these waters, creating economic and social devastation for families and communities that rely on nature’s bounty.

Wait, isn’t this against the law? Of course – but petrochemical behemoths like Formosa have corrupted the law, turning Texas lawmakers and environmental regulators into their puppets. But, when leaders won’t lead, The People must, and that’s exactly what’s happening in this case. A defiant, determined shrimper and a scrappy environmental coalition have combined to win the largest citizen environmental lawsuit in US history, forcing Formosa to stop its gross contamination.

For information on the details and impact of this remarkable people’s victory, go to Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid at TLRA.org.

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What’s scaring the bejeezus out of billionaires?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

There’s a new political army on the march in America: Tromp-tromp-tromp they came, it’s the Billionaire Brigade!

It’s actually a very small army – only 749 Americans rank as billionaires. But they have a lot of firepower – collectively, they’ve amassed some $4-trillion in personal wealth and are now grabbing nearly all of the new wealth that our economy generates. In response to the extreme inequality their greed has created, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and other Democratic leaders are proposing a widely-popular wealth tax on the opulence of this tiny group. And oh, what wails of anguish this has generated in the lairs of billionaires! They’re indignant that fortunes above $50-million would be assessed a teeny surtax to help fund education, health care, infrastructure, and America’s other essential needs.

So, with a rallying cry of Save the Poor Rich, the Billionaire’s Brigade seeks your pity: Mark Zuckerberg laments that taxing his gabillions would hurt charities; Michael Bloomberg suggests that the tax could turn America into Venezuela; and Wall Street baron Leon Cooperman actually teared up while wailing that a wealth tax would harm his family. As one money manager said, “These tax proposals are scaring the bejeezus out of people who have accumulated a lot of wealth.”

I don’t think there’s much Jesus in these people! The Biblical Jesus would bless Sanders, Warren, and the majority of Americans who favor a wealth tax to benefit the Common Good. No need to cry for the few hundred haughty families whose love of money would be only slightly dinged by this tax – every one of them would still be fabulously rich. Plus, they’ll be privileged to live in a country that’s a little more closely aligned with its people’s egalitarian values. And that’s priceless.

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Reposted from Hightower Lowdown

Why would we trust plutocrats to save us from plutocracy

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote of being leery of a fast-talking huckster who visited his home: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons,” Emerson exclaimed.

Likewise, today’s workaday families should do a mass inventory of their silverware, for the fast-talking CEOs of 181 union-busting, tax-cheating, environment-contaminating, consumer-gouging corporations are asking us to believe that they stand with us in the fight against… well, against them. From Wall Street banksters to Big Oil polluters, these profiteers are suddenly trumpeting their future intentions to serve not just their own greed, but every “stakeholder” (which is what they call employees, customers, supplies, et al).

But vague proclamations are cheap, and it’s worth noting that these new champions of the common good propose no specifics – no actual sacrifices by them or benefits for us. A few media observers have mildly objected, saying it’s “an open question” whether any of the corporate proclaimers will change how they do business. But it’s not an open question at all. They won’t. They won’t support full collective bargaining power for workers, won’t join the public’s push to get Medicare for All, won’t stop using monopoly power to squeeze out small competitors and gouge consumers, won’t support measures to stop climate change, won’t back reforms to get their corrupt corporate money out of our politics… won’t embrace any of the big structural changes necessary to reverse the raw economic and political inequality that has enthroned their plutocratic rule.

In fact, their empty proclamation is what West Texas cowboys might call “bovine excrement,” meant to fend off the actual changes that real reformers are advancing. Corporate elites won’t fix inequality for us – they’re the ones doing it to us.

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Reposted from the Hightower Lowdown

Where can Trump find a good farm policy?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Donald Trump’s idea of a good farm program seems to be “Hee Haw.” On a recent trip to Wisconsin, he drew guffaws from the state’s hard-hit dairy farmers by proclaiming that – thanks to his policies – the farm economy was looking good. “We’re over the hump,” he gloated.

Perhaps The Donald thought that farmers are rubes, unable to do simple math. But those dairy farmers were painfully aware that it costs them $1.90 to produce a gallon of milk, but the processing giants that control the milk market are paying them only $1.35 a gallon. That 55-cent-a-gallon loss quickly adds up to a huge loss of income, and a devastating loss of farm families – Wisconsin lost 638 dairy farms last year and another 551 so far this year.

Far from “over the hump,” farm prices have been further depressed by Trump’s tariff clash with China – US dairy sales to China fell by 54 percent in just the first half of this year. Meanwhile, monopoly power is crushing prices – an $8 billion behemoth named Dean Foods now controls 90 percent of Wisconsin’s milk market, empowering it to commit daylight robbery, blatantly stealing farmers’ product… and farms.

Yet, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue – the one national official who’s supposed to stand up for farmers – nonchalantly kissed them off, smugly declaring it natural that the big devour the small. So, he professes, there’s nothing he can do for family operators except tell them to “go out” of agriculture.

Perdue and Trump are simply inept stewards of America’s farm economy. Time for a change. One who is offering a path to a revitalized, family-farm-based food system that’ll break the corporate stranglehold over US agriculture is Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Download a summary of her comprehensive proposal for “A New Farm Economy” at ElizabethWarren.com/Plans/New-Farm-Economy.

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Kroger: Don’t Lose Local News Audio Player

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Like most politicians, corporate executives never do anything wrong. If anything wrong does “happen,” it’s always someone else’s fault.

That’s been the gutless ploy of Kroger supermarket honchos who recently yanked all local newsweeklies and community papers out if its stores. When a firestorm of local protests reached all the way to the mega-chain’s Ohio headquarters, executives quickly named the villain who banished the papers: The papers themselves! They failed to keep up with the digital age, said Kroger bosses, so shoppers no longer pick up the free papers.

BOVINE EXCREMENT! While it’s true that chain-owned daily newspapers are losing readers after shriveling their coverage and jacking up their prices, more readers have turned to free local independent weeklies to fill the print-news gap. In Lansing, Michigan, for example, media audits show that Kroger shoppers alone have nearly tripled the pickup rate of Lansing’s alternative weekly since 2012.

Kroger’s nationwide edict is a case of corporate conceit at its most stupid. It was issued from Kroger headquarters with no warning and no consultation (much less negotiation) with the papers or communities. It didn’t have to be so inept and ugly – and now Kroger’s executives have gone into hiding, petulantly refusing to meet or even return phone calls to the people they’re hurting, apparently hoping the furor will just go away.

That’s truly stupid. Indeed, a group of indy papers has now launched a national campaign to call out Kroger’s executives, literally rallying us supporters of independent local news to give them our two-cents-worth. Call toll-free to 1-800-KROGERS (576-4377), then press 3 for “store experience” to speak to a manager – and demand that they restore the free press to all of their stores.

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Reposted from Jim Hightower

Who does Trump’s farm bailout bail out?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

 

Donald Trump Loooooves farmers. We know this because he says so. “Farmers, I LOVE YOU!” he declared in December.

But he’s been “loving” them to death, with policies that are causing farm prices to tumble, miring our ag economy in the ditch and creating a rising tsunami of farm bankruptcies. Then came Trump’s doofus of an ag secretary, Sonny Perdue, who publicly insulted farmers by branding them “whiners” for daring to complain about policies causing them to lose income and their farms.

So, as an “I love you” make-up gesture, Trump has been sending big bouquets of money to some of his beloved farmers. Our money. Lots of it – $28 billion so far in what he cynically (and comically) calls a “Market Facilitation Program,” otherwise known as a taxpayer bailout.

But TrumpLove turns out to be highly selective, with more than half of the government payments going to the biggest farm owners. The Ag Department initially announced a $125,000 limit on the amount any one farm could get, but every Trump deal seems to have a gimmick in it to give a special break to the slickest operators. The slickum in this deal is that assorted members of a family are allowed to claim that they are owners of the same farm and thus get bailout bucks, even if they do no actual farming and live in New York City! One Missouri farm family, for example, got $2.8 million worth of subsidy love from Trump, and more than 80 families topped half-a-million in payments.

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Meanwhile, the great majority of farmers have gotten zilch from Donald the Dealmaker – and 80 percent of eligible grain farmers (the smaller producers most endangered by his bad policies) have received less than $5,000. So Trump’s “Market facilitation” is squeezing the many who are most in need, while helping a few of the largest get even bigger.

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Reposted from Hightower Lowdown

Here’s the straight skinny on Medicare for All

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

The British people have been widely admired for their steady demeanor in times of adversity–stiff upper lip and all that. Until Donald Trump, that is.

In June, our presidential popinjay descended on London with a bombastic proposition that caused the upper lips of the entire British population to quiver at once. There as a guest, and treated to the full pomp of a state visit, The Donald blurted out what he hailed as a “phenomenal” gift in the form of a new US-UK trade deal: He was offering to bring in America’s healthcare profiteers to start privatizing Britain’s National Health Service.

It’s possible that Trump was simply ignorant, unaware that Brits love their NHS, since its socialized plan provides quality care to all without families fearing they’ll be bankrupted or priced out of treatment by private insurance giants, hospital chains, or Big Pharma. Or possibly, he was hornswoggled by the right-wing pontificators of Fox News (Trump’s most trusted policy advisors) and their steady stream of lies about anything with the word “social” in it.

Last year, after seeing (What else?) a Fox News segment reporting that thousands of Brits were marching in protest of their health system, Trump smugly trumpeted that they were fed up with care-for-all socialism. But–oops–the uproar was actually in support of the NHS, demanding that the miserly Tory government strengthen it with “more staff, more beds, more funds.”

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How to get Congress to reform our broken healthcare system

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

For $3.5 Trillion a year, shouldn’t we Americans have a world-class healthcare system? Yet, while we spend the most of any advanced nation in the world to get care (more than $10,000 a year per person), we get the worst results.

No surprise then, that the “Medicare-for-All” idea is now backed by 85 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Independents, and (get this) 52 percent of Republicans! So… why isn’t Congress responding to this overwhelming public demand for universal coverage?

I suspect that one big reason for Washington’s big yawn over the people’s plea for sweeping reform is that our lawmakers do not personally feel the financial pain and emotional distress that are inflicted on millions of regular Americans by a system built on private greed. After all, their health needs are met by a double-dose of the socialistic care that they so furiously deny to our families.

First, they are given big taxpayer-subsidies to cover the cost of their insurance with you and me paying about 72 percent of the price. But, second, there’s a secretive medical center located right in the US Capitol building that provides a full-blown system of – shhhhh – healthcare socialism to our governing elites.

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Let’s decode Trump’s Afta-Nafta trade deal

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

In a very weird twist in his chaotic 2016 presidential campaign, Candidate Trump started sounding like a genuine, workaday populist, fuming at his rallies about the devastating effects of Nafta and other international trade deals, and how they’ve shafted America’s blue-collar workers. He was right, and The Donald promised his mad-as-hell working class he would not stand for it. Of course, the pampered son of privilege never meant it. And, sure enough, as president, Trump promptly sold out workaday Americans to his real base: The global corporate elite.

He’s now delivered to Congress his New! Improved! Nafta! It is a piece of Trumpscam that he rebranded–Ta-dah!–the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). This issue of The Lowdown is sounding the alarm about the extraordinary level of corporate avarice and malevolence that is baked into it. We’re urging all Lowdowners to pay attention, spread the alarm, and act while there is still time to fix it–possibly turning Trump’s raw deal into a good deal.

The pitch

“Keep your eye on the ball” is not only a core principle for baseball players, but also for us commoners trying to assess exactly what the spinmeisters of global trade are hurling at us. Their deals are and always have been large-scale hustles, filled with hypocrisy, deceit, and greed. Promoted as fair and good for all, they’re invariably rigged with profiteering schemes that lock into law advantages for corporations over the common good of consumers, the environment, labor, independent businesses, governments, and all other democratic forces.

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Trump to Working Class: 'Adios, Chumps'

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Congratulations on that nice pay raise you got last year, a 7% hike—wow!

Seven percent might not sound all that big, but after 40 years of stagnant wages, even a small uptick can help cover some of your old credit card bills or get an upgrade on your 10-year-old pickup.

Oh, wait ... You say you didn't get 7%? Oops, my mistake. It was the CEOs of corporate giants who reported to the Associated Press that they enjoyed a median jump of 7% last year. And as their paychecks were already king-size, that uptick amounted to an extra $800,000 in their take-home, for a median yearly income of $12 million each. Bear in mind that "median" means half of the corporate bosses grabbed more than 7%. For example, David Zaslav, honcho of the Discovery television network, had a 207% boost in pay, raising his total take in 2018 to $130 million.

These lavish payouts to top-floor bosses—combined with a miserliness toward rank-and-file employees who actually produce the corporate wealth—is creating an untenable income disparity in corporate America, stretching inequality in our Land of Egalitarianism to the snapping point. The pay gap between aloof CEOs and typical employees nearly doubled last year at a range of corporate giants, from PayPal to CVS Pharmacy, and it tripled at Discovery. AP's recent survey of 340 major corporations found that compensation inequality is now so extreme that a middle-wage employee would have to work 158 years to make as much as his or her chief executive was given last year alone. This separation is widening at warp speed, propelled by the boundless greed and narcissism of so-called leaders like Zaslav. To amass as much pay as he pocketed in 2018, a typical Discovery employee would have to work 989 years.

When you hear corporate chieftains and such corporate cheerleaders as Donald Trump gloat that our economy is "booming," ask yourself: A boom for whom?

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Where’s the beef in Trump’s new trade deal?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

“MAGA,” blusters Donald Trump – Make America Great Again! America’s ranching families, however, would like Trump to come off his high horse and get serious about a more modest goal, namely: Make America COOL Again.

COOL stands for Country-of-Origin-Labeling, a straightforward law simply requiring that agribusiness giants put labels on packages of steak, pork chops, etc. to tell us whether the meat came from the USA, China, Brazil… or Whereintheworldistan. This useful information empowers consumers to decide where their families’ food dollars go. But multinational powerhouses like Tyson Foods and Cargill don’t want you and me making such decisions.

So, in 2012, the meat monopolists got the World Trade Organization to decree that our nation’s COOL law violated global trade rules – and our corporate-submissive congress critters meekly repealed the law.

Then came Donald Trump and his Made-in-America campaign, promising struggling ranchers that he’d restore the COOL label as a centerpiece of his new NAFTA deal. Ranching families cheered because getting that “American Made” brand on their products would mean more sales and better prices.

But wait – Trump has now issued his new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and… Where’s the beef? In his grandiose, 1,809-page document, COOL is not even mentioned!

Worse, slaps America’s hard-hit ranching families in the face for it allows multinational meatpackers to keep shipping foreign beef into the US market that does not meet our food safety standards! Aside from the “yuck” factor and health issues, this gives Tyson and other giants an incentive to abandon US ranchers entirely.

To stand with America’s farm and ranch families against their betrayal by Trump and the Big Food monopolists, contact the National Farmers Union: NFU.org.

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Reposted from the Hightower Lowdown

We hear the Dow Jones Average, but why not the Doug Jones Average?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Language matters. For example, the words that corporate and government officials use to report on the health of America’s economy can either make clear to us commoners what’s going on – or hide and even lie about the reality we face.

Consider the most common measurement used by officials and the media to tell us whether our economy is zooming or sputtering: Wall Street’s index of stock prices. The media literally spews out the Dow Jones Average of stock prices every hour – as though everyone is waiting breathlessly for that update.

But wait – nearly all stock is owned by the richest 10 percent of Americans, so the Dow Jones Average says nothing about the economic condition of the 90 percent majority of Americans. For us (and for the true economic health of America as a whole) we need to know the Doug Jones Average – how’re Doug and Dolores doing?

As we’ve seen, stock prices keep rising to new highs, while wages and living standards of the middle class and poor majority have been held down by the same corporate and political “leaders” telling us to keep our eye on the Dow. To disguise this decline they play another dirty language trick on us when they issue the monthly unemployment report. Currently, with the unemployment rate down to four percent, they tell us America’s job market is booming!

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It's Not Socialism; It's What the People Want

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

"Socialism," snarled Donald Trump at a recent pep rally of far-right Republicans. And the obedient crowd of faithful Trumpistas snarled back in unison: "So-shull-izz-ummm!"

And there you have the entire intellectual content of the GOP's 2020 re-election strategy under Generalissimo Trump—slap Democrats silly with a scurrilous campaign branding them as Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin reincarnate. It's not just Trump hissing out the socialist label in a frantic McCarthyesque attempt to make it stick by mindless repetition, but also Mike Pence, cabinet officials, Republican lawmakers, right-wing pundits and, of course, the extremist choreographers of Fox News.

Their incessant babbling has already turned clownish, with many babblers bumbling over their own ignorance and making ridiculous attempts to overplay their weak hands. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, for example, compared Democrats who support ideas such as "Medicare for All" to Mussolini. Apparently, Cornyn is unaware that the brutish Italian dictator was no socialist, but a fascist! Mussolini's ideology of ultranationalism, promotion of masculine authoritarianism, domination of society by big business and the wealthy and suppression of democratic rights is the opposite of the Democratic agenda. Indeed, it describes the policies of—guess who—Trump and his acolytes, including Cornyn!

The real problem for the GOP, however, is not merely that squawking like Chicken Little about diabolical socialism makes them sound like old fuddy-duddies, but that the so-called socialism they're attacking is enormously popular with the workaday majority of Americans. Government-backed health care for all? Sure. Why should CEOs and Congress critters be the only ones to get this? Affordable higher education and housing initiatives? Of course, for that helps all of America. A wealth tax on corporate giants and the superrich? Long overdue that they stop dodging the cost of the common good. Restore the rights of labor and restrain the rise of monopolies? Yes!

Far from socialism, this is democratic populism, reversing decades of government policies that take from the many to give to the wealthy few. It's an honest, popular rebellion against the corporate plutocracy that seeks to usurp America's democracy, promoted by Trump and Cornyn. Which side are you on?

And which side are some of our Democratic leaders on? Unfortunately, an exotic flu epidemic has broken out in Washington, D.C. Dubbed the "Canadian hot sauce flu," it afflicts a particular group of Democratic officeholders and operatives.

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Should you have to pay to protest?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Ideally, elections are about ideas, but these days policy discussions are being shoved aside by raw partisanship and vitriol. Not only are good ideas ignored, but very bad idea can become public policy without the public knowing it.

For example, the Trump Team wants to snuff out your Constitutional right to free speech and assembly by putting an exorbitant fee on public protests in our nation’s Capitol City. In other words, you’d still be “free” to rally for or against any issue or policy – but not for free! Apparently meant to deter any more of the mass demonstrations against their policies on women, immigrant children, climate change, etc., they want each protesting group to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government for policing and other necessary costs of guaranteeing the public’s right to protest.

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Will you win the “Throw Your Money At Amazon” Sweepstakes?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

How much are you paying Amazon? I don’t mean how much you’re shelling out for stuff you bought, but how much you and your neighbors are simply giving to this huge and uber-rich on-line retailer.

If you live in Indianapolis, Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, or 16 other lucky cities – congratulations, for you’re a finalist in the “Throw-Your-Money-At-Amazon” Sweepstakes! It’s like Bonnie & Clyde, but instead of robbing banks, Amazon has enticed city and state officials to rob their own citizens, then hand over the loot in the form of tax breaks, land, and other bribes to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. The locality that offers the most booty “wins” the grand prize of having this thieving corporate behemoth become its new neighbor. At least until Bezos gets a better offer.

So, again I ask: How much are your officials offering?

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Towering Excess: The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom for Bostonians

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Boston is experiencing a luxury real estate boom, with thousands of new luxury residential and rental units in different stages of development. A decade from now, Boston’s skyline and population demographics will be fundamentally altered by decisions being made today.

This boom does have benefits, providing good jobs in the building trades and increasing property tax revenue for the city. But the boom is not helping address Boston’s acute affordable housing crisis. Bostonians today have a median household income of $58,500. Average Bostonians cannot afford the new luxury condos. They will, unfortunately, feel their impact. Boston’s luxury boom figures to push up land and housing costs and accelerate Boston’s already troubling disparities of income, wealth and opportunity.

Suffolk County, the jurisdiction where Boston resides, rates as the most unequal county in Massachusetts, our nation’s sixth most unequal state in terms of the gap between the wealthiest 1 percent and everyone else. And Boston’s racial wealth divide will only worsen if current trends continue. One marker of those trends: In 2015, not one single home mortgage loan was issued for African-American and Latino families in the Seaport District and the Fenway, two Boston neighborhoods with thousands of new luxury housing units.

City officials are failing to understand how such towers play a key role in the global hidden wealth infrastructure, a shadowy system that’s hiding wealth and masking ownership, all for the purpose of helping the holders of private fortunes avoid taxes and oversight of illicit activities. Many Boston luxury properties are functioning, in effect, as wealth storage lockers for global capital.

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How many tweety birds does it take to Tweet the truth?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

In CorporateWorld, when trouble pops up and things get sticky, CEOs don’t wring their hands and try to dodge the issue. No-sir-ee, the chief gets paid the big bucks to step forward confidently and seize control… by ringing up the company’s PR consultants and having them try to dodge the issue.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon Inc.’s boss, is an expert at this. The uber-rich online marketing colossus has been hit with a long string of exposes about the corporation’s nasty practices. From profiteering as a flagrant tax dodger and predatory killer of independent, local businesses to running a massive network of publicly-subsidized warehouses with sweatshop labor, Amazon’s carefully-crafted image as a “cool” company is… well, getting fried in negative headlines and online chatter.

Thus, Bezos (known for thinking outside the cage), has hired a flock of tweety birds to counter the negativity. They are former warehouse workers who now tweet full-time about how absolutely wonderful those warehouse jobs are. The tweeters tell us that air circulation in the warehouses is “very good;” in a 10-hour shift, they assure us, lucky workers get not one, but two 30-minute breaks; and they’re even allowed bathroom breaks (within reason, of course).

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Help save America’s public post offices

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

The US postal system has 30,000 outlets serving every part of America it employs 630,000 people in good middle-class jobs, and it proudly delivers letters and packages clear across the country for a pittance. It’s a jewel of public service excellence.

Therefore, it must be destroyed.

Such is the fevered logic of laissez-fairyheaded corporate supremists like the billionaire Koch brothers and the right-wing politicians who serve them. This malevolent gang of wrecking-ball privatizers includes such prominent Trumpteers as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (a former Wall Street huckster from Goldman Sachs), and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney (a former corporate-hugging congress critter from South Carolina). Both were involved in setting up Trump’s shiny new task force to remake our US Postal Service. It’s like asking two foxes to remodel the hen house.

Trump himself merely wanted to take a slap at his political enemy, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, by jacking up the prices the postal agency charges to deliver Amazon’s packages. The cabal of far-right corporatizers, however, saw Trump’s temper tantrum as a golden opportunity to go after the postal service itself. So, instead of simply addressing the matter of package pricing – Shazam! – the task force was trumped-up with an open-ended mandate to evaluate, dissect, and “restructure” the people’s mail service, including carving it up and selling off the parts.

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America's War

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

America’s political history has been written in the fierce narrative of war. Not our country’s many military clashes with foreign nations – but our own unending war for democracy in the USA.

Generation after generation of moneyed elites have persisted in trying to take wealth and power from the workaday majority and concentrate both in their own hands to establish a de facto American aristocracy. Every time, the people have rebelled in organized mass struggles against the monopolists and financial royalists, literally battling for a little more economic fairness, social justice, and equal opportunity. And now, the time of rebellion is upon us again, for We the People are suddenly in the grip of a brutish level of monopolistic power.

Corporate concentration of markets, profits, workplace decision-making, political influence, and our nation’s total wealth is surpassing that of the infamous era of robber barons. Apple, which just became the first US corporation to reach a stock value of 1 trillion dollars, is now larger than Bank of America, Boeing, Disney, Ford, Volkswagon, and 20 other brand-name giants combined. And the powerful tech industry is now controlled by just five superpowers – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix – which raked in half of this year’s stock price gains by the 500 largest corporations. Indeed, the recent gold rush of corporate mergers has created mega-firms, shriveling competition in most industries – airlines, banks, drug companies, food, hospitals, hotels, law firms, media, oil, etc.

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Gentrification shreds the fabric of our cities while making rich developers even richer

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

When I moved to Austin in 1976, I lucked into finding a small, dog-run style house that must have had a lot of dogs running through it over the years, for it was pretty run down. That was good, though, because it meant I could afford it on my minimalist salary. Located in a working-class neighborhood just off of South Congress Avenue, the house was about 100 years old and needed a lot of work, but it suited me just fine. As did the mixed-race neighborhood of striving musicians, retirees, ex-hippies, unemployed writers, cab drivers, and several marijuana peddlers. It was an unpretentious, genuinely eclectic community of laid-back, free-spirited Austinites. (Our unofficial slogan was, “We’re all here because we’re not all there.”)

We had plenty of bars, churches, and other places where neighbors would gather periodically in various groupings, but one spot was a magnet for the whole community, regularly pulling practically everyone in. The H-E-B, our area’s supermarket, was part of a mid-sized chain of Texas grocery stores named for its founder Howard E. Butt. The family smartly chose to market Mr. Butt’s initials, rather than draw attention to his namesake body part.) Our H-E-B was widely popular because its workers paid attention to the community they were in, stocking staples like 20-pound bags of frijoles, smoked ham hocks, and cornmeal-breaded catfish, as well as auto-repair parts and low-priced barbeque grills made from barrels.

Ironically, it was the store’s attentive connection to its customers that suddenly made me aware of an unsettling reality in the late 1990s: The neighborhood was fundamentally changing. My wake-up call came from my friend Molly Ivins, the bigger-than-life Texas populist and gloriously talented writer who also lived in our offbeat, Southside habitat. “Hightower,” she barked alarmingly into the phone, “you will not believe what I just saw them selling at the H-E-B.” Before I could muster a guess, Molly drawled out: “Por-ta-BELLOW mushrooms!”

Well, there it was–foodie evidence that gentrification had crept into our neighborhood without so much as a pretty please.

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Gentrification shreds the fabric of our cities while making rich developers even richer

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist


When I moved to Austin in 1976, I lucked into finding a small, dog-run style house that must have had a lot of dogs running through it over the years, for it was pretty run down. That was good, though, because it meant I could afford it on my minimalist salary. Located in a working-class neighborhood just off of South Congress Avenue, the house was about 100 years old and needed a lot of work, but it suited me just fine. As did the mixed-race neighborhood of striving musicians, retirees, ex-hippies, unemployed writers, cab drivers, and several marijuana peddlers. It was an unpretentious, genuinely eclectic community of laid-back, free-spirited Austinites. (Our unofficial slogan was, “We’re all here because we’re not all there.”)

We had plenty of bars, churches, and other places where neighbors would gather periodically in various groupings, but one spot was a magnet for the whole community, regularly pulling practically everyone in. The H-E-B, our area’s supermarket, was part of a mid-sized chain of Texas grocery stores named for its founder Howard E. Butt. The family smartly chose to market Mr. Butt’s initials, rather than draw attention to his namesake body part.) Our H-E-B was widely popular because its workers paid attention to the community they were in, stocking staples like 20-pound bags of frijoles, smoked ham hocks, and cornmeal-breaded catfish, as well as auto-repair parts and low-priced barbeque grills made from barrels.

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How vicious is the GOP’s war on the poor?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Generals plan wars, but battlefield commanders do the bloody work.

So, meet HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, a quiet but bloodstained commandante in General Trump’s relentless war against poverty-stricken Americans. Carson is loyally serving the extreme right-wing’s ideological crusade to destroy the very idea of housing subsidies for poor families. He has taken a budget ax to the program that enforces our society’s fair housing laws, and he even stripped the words “free from discrimination” out of HUD’s mission statement.

Such sneak attacks, however, were deemed too subtle by Trump’s political base of hardcore haters of poverty programs, so the commander-in-chief demanded a frontal assault on the poorest of the poor. Carson delivered, dutifully, proposing legislation to triple the monthly rent that the most impoverished of public housing families would pay – including increased rents for the elderly and disabled. To add cruelty to this nastiness, Carson also called for eliminating child-care and medical deductions that public housing families can subtract from their rent payments.

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How vicious is the GOP’s war on the poor?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Generals plan wars, but battlefield commanders do the bloody work.

So, meet HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, a quiet but bloodstained commandante in General Trump’s relentless war against poverty-stricken Americans. Carson is loyally serving the extreme right-wing’s ideological crusade to destroy the very idea of housing subsidies for poor families. He has taken a budget ax to the program that enforces our society’s fair housing laws, and he even stripped the words “free from discrimination” out of HUD’s mission statement.

Such sneak attacks, however, were deemed too subtle by Trump’s political base of hardcore haters of poverty programs, so the commander-in-chief demanded a frontal assault on the poorest of the poor. Carson delivered, dutifully, proposing legislation to triple the monthly rent that the most impoverished of public housing families would pay – including increased rents for the elderly and disabled. To add cruelty to this nastiness, Carson also called for eliminating child-care and medical deductions that public housing families can subtract from their rent payments.

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We hear the Dow Jones Average, but why not the Doug Jones Average?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Language matters. For example, the words that corporate and government officials use to report on the health of America’s economy can either make clear to us commoners what’s going on – or hide and even lie about the reality we face.

Consider the most common measurement used by officials and the media to tell us whether our economy is zooming or sputtering: Wall Street’s index of stock prices. The media literally spews out the Dow Jones Average of stock prices every hour – as though everyone is waiting breathlessly for that update.

But wait – nearly all stock is owned by the richest 10 percent of Americans, so the Dow Jones Average says nothing about the economic condition of the 90 percent majority of Americans. For us (and for the true economic health of America as a whole) we need to know the Doug Jones Average – how’re Doug and Dolores doing?

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Hard times (still) in the fields

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Every decade or so, America’s mass media are surprised to discover that migrant farmworkers are still being miserably paid and despicably treated by the industry that profits from their labor. Stories run, the public is outraged (again), assorted officials pledge action, then… nothing changes.

Several news reports recently have re-documented that the shameful abuse of these hard-working, hard-traveling families continues. A Los Angeles Times report revealed that, even if they receive the legal minimum wage, many farm laborers earn less than $17,500 a year because of the low pay and the seasonal nature of their work. Moreover, they are often “housed” in shacks, old chicken coops, shipping containers, and squalid motels.

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Forget shaming this do-nothing Congress. Stop paying them!

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Want good quality, lower-cost health care for your family – and (what the hell, let’s think big here) for every man, woman, and (especially) every child in our society?

Here’s how we can finally get Congress to pass such a program: Step One – take away every dime of the multimillion-dollar government subsidy that Members of Congress get to cover their platinum-level health insurance. Let them have to live with the same exorbitantly-expensive, dysfunctional, and (let’s admit it) sick system of medical profiteering they’ve thrust on us. Eliminate all of their special treatments, including shutting down their “Office of the Attending Physician,” a little-known spot of pure, 100% socialized medicine conveniently located in our US Capitol to provide government-paid doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others who give immediate, on-the-spot attention to these special ones.

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The Koch Klan is funding a stealthy war against the principle of the Common Good

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

What’s happening to America? I mean the big America we thought we were building. Since 1776, We the People of this bountiful land have not only worked to meet our individual needs and achieve personal goals, but we’ve also worked collectively to build something that’s much bigger than any one of us, more important than any particular group, and more enduring than any single generation–namely, a “little-d” democratic society committed to the Common Good.

And, yes, we’re still a long way from achieving that ideal, but by fits and starts our nation has made real progress, thanks to 242 years of gutsy grassroots movements. Today, though, we need to face up to a shocking reality: There has been a coup against our national pursuit of the Common Good!

Few people are aware of it, for the coup has not been conducted as a single, bold, commando-style frontal assault. Rather, since the middle of the last century the perpetrators have mounted a sneaky, slow motion coup of attrition, moving methodically from one political venue to another, donning multiple organizational guises to strike down a law here, reverse a public policy there, demonize “others,” and ambush progressive groups all along the way. Consequently, over decades, the essential American idea that “we’re all in this together” has been steadily losing out to a diametrically opposed idea: “Each of us is on our own.

This bleak outlook is even recognized as a formal political doctrine: selfish individualism. Basically an ethic of greed, this “philosophy” is being advanced by a plutocratic elite that insists that the role of government is not to promote our common interests and do the will of the majority, but to protect the property and accumulated wealth of moneyed individuals from the rest of us. They are anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-union, anti-majority radicals who militantly declare: “I got mine, good luck getting yours and don’t even think of touching any of mine.”

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Are job incentive programs good for communities?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist


Governors and mayors insist that giving our tax dollars to corporations to lure them to move to our cities is good public policy, because the corporations create jobs, those workers pay taxes and – Voila – the corporate giveaway pays for itself! Really?

No. Good Jobs First tracked the 386 incentive deals since 1976 that gave at least $50 million to a corporation, then it tallied the number of jobs created. The average cost per job was $658,427. Each! That’s far more than cities and states can recover through sales, property, income and all other taxes those jobholders would pay in their lifetimes.

The rosy job-creation claims by incentive dealmakers also tend to be bogus, for they don’t subtract the number of jobs lost as a result of these deals. Amazon, for example, has leaned on officials in every major metro area to subsidize its creation of a nationwide network of warehouses, data centers, and other facilities. In a 2016 report titled Amazon’s Stranglehold, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that more than half of Amazon’s facilities had been built with government subsidies. And Good Jobs First found that since 2005, Amazon has received more than $1 billion from taxpayers to build their private business.

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The Great ScAmazon of 2017

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

In September, the giant retail monopolist, Amazon, announced its intention to build a second corporate headquarters in Someplace, North America. Where’s that? Aha, that’s the trick in a corporate game called “Fleece the Taxpayer.” CEO Jeff Bezos demanded that everyplace submit a list of bribes (excuse me, “incentives”) they would pay to get Amazon to put what he calls HQ2 in their place. Yes, the haughty Amazonian royals actually commanded our public officials to bring all the jewels, gold, and other taxpayer booty they have and kiss Bezos’ ring just to be considered for HQ2. In one stroke, taxpayers all across America were pitted against each other in a bidding war.

Amazon even listed specific incentives that each supplicant should offer. First was a “business-friendly environment.” Then, urging hopefuls to “think big” when offering freebies, the directive demanded contributions of “land, site preparation, tax exemptions, relocation grants, workforce grants, utility grants, and fee reductions.”

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Why are we giving corporate welfare to Amazon?

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Isn’t it funny that right-wing politicians across the country piously rant against giving a few bucks worth of jobless benefits to the needy, then turn around and shove billions of our tax dollars into corporate welfare for the greedy?

You’re right – it’s not funny, but here we go again. We’re presently witnessing the most disgusting spectacle yet of the politico-corporate cabal extracting money from the People’s wallets to enrich themselves. Amazon.com, the $136-billion-a-year internet colossus, has haughtily initiated a sleazy, self-serving public bidding war over where it will locate its new corporate headquarters. The city and state that offer the most bribe money to this private enterprise will be “The Winner.”.

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