Tag Archives: Jim Hightower

Shoveling America’s wealth to the top


by Jim Hightower

As an old country saying puts it, “Money is like manure – it does no good unless you spread it around.”

Yet, America’s corporate and political leaders have intentionally been shoveling wealth into an ever-bigger pile for those at the top. They’ve gotten away with this by lying to the great majority, which has seen its share of America’s prosperity steadily disappear. Yes, they’ve told us, the rich are getting richer, but that’s just the natural workings of the new global economy, in which financial elites are rewarded for their exceptional talents, innovation, and bold risk-taking.

Horse dooties. The massive redistribution of America’s wealth from the many to the few is happening because the rich and their political puppets have rigged the system. Years of subsidized offshoring and downsizing, gutting labor rights, monkeywrenching the tax code, legalizing financial finagling, dismantling social programs, increasing the political dominance of corporate cash – these and other self-serving acts of the moneyed powers have created the conveyor belt that’s moving our wealth from the grassroots to the penthouses.

Not since the Gilded Age, which preceded and precipitated the Great Depression, have so few amassed so much of our nation’s riches. Having learned nothing from 1929’s devastating crash, nor from their own bank failures in 2008 that crushed our economy, the wealthiest of the wealthy fully intend to keep taking more for themselves at our expense.

Now, however, the people are onto their lies. In an October poll, two-thirds of Americans support increased taxes on millionaires, an end to corporate tax subsidies, and policies to more evenly distribute the wealth we all help create. This is rising egalitarianism shows the true American character, and it’s changing our politics – for the better.

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It’s time to name the tea party politicians….


(and their sponsors)–and call them out

In just one year, the tea party went from hating billionaires to fronting for them

By Jim Hightower 

As he keeps demonstrating, President Obama is not exactly Mount Rushmore material. But — good God! — the petulant pettiness and corporate servility of Congress’ tea party Republicans makes Obama’s timidity seem like a chapter from Profiles In Courage.

America has BIG needs right now–a jobs crisis, housing crisis, infrastructure crisis, energy crisis, climate crisis, middle-class crisis, democracy crisis. But they can’t even be addressed because tea party ravers in the House, joined there by a gaggle of old school right-wingers, keep throwing hissy fits over far-out ideological gimcrackery.

Our problem in Washington really comes down to this: We have too many 5-watt bulbs in 100-watt sockets. Take, for example, the astonishing clamoring by tea party congress critters to pass a light bulb bill. Yes, light bulbs! In July, these addle-brained lawmakers actually spent time, energy, and their credibility on stopping the horrible scourge of energy efficient bulbs from spreading across the country.

This non-issue was literally drummed up by the billionaire Koch brothers (who, by the way, are in the dirty energy business and profit if you have to use more of it to light your home). During the past couple of years, various Koch front groups have been shrieking that nanny-state Democrats have banned Thomas Edison’s old, glowing 100-watt incandescent globes. As of next January 1, they wailed, sales of Edison’s marvel will be outlawed, replaced by the cold glare emitted by spiral, fluorescent bulbs.

Only, none of that is true. There is no ban, just a new standard for all bulbs to consume less energy. And it was not set by Democrats, but by a Republican-sponsored law signed in 2007 by George W. Bush. Furthermore, the light bulb industry backed the new efficiency standard. “Everyone supported it,” says a top executive of bulb-maker Philips. So did Edison’s descendants, who issued a simple statement that old Tom himself could’ve written: “Technology changes. Embrace it.”

Plus, the new law shows that government rule-making can work beautifully, producing a major surge in industry innovation. In only four years, Philips, GE, and Sylvania have already developed incandescent bulbs that meet the government’s higher efficiency standard and save money for consumers.

Nonetheless, such dim bulbs as Michele Bachmann, along with the tea party caucus, joined the Kochs’ silly circus. They merrily rolled the bizarre anti-efficiency light bulb bill right through the House. Luckily the Senate won’t pass this folderol, so it won’t become law, but that won’t stop congressional tea partiers from continuing their goofy rant against big government “telling us what kind of light bulbs we can buy.”

Name the names Continue reading

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Tea party Congress: “Power to the Corporations”


Wednesday, September 7, 2011 |  by Jim Hightower

Good grief – the genuine populist fury of grassroots tea partiers is now being perverted into anti-populism by the very tea party Republicans they elected to Congress.

Tea party House members have become the Koch brothers‘ plutocratic dream. They’ve voted to keep giving a $4-billion-a-year government subsidy to Big Oil, to privatize and slash Medicare, to let Wall Street banksters keep ripping off consumers and investors, and to put Social Security on the congressional killing floor. Is this what grassroots voters meant by “Power to the people?”

Take tea party Congressman Austin Scott. Only, you can’t – he’s already been taken by corporate lobbyists. This Georgia Republican won election last year by waging a full-throated campaign against foreign workers who enter the country illegally. Throw ’em all out, he ranted – those jobs belong to U.S. citizens. But, curiously, Scott did not applaud on July 29 when Legal Service lawyers won a case to stop a corporation in his district from illegally firing U.S. workers and replacing them with Mexican migrants.

Far from applauding, this tough-on-immigrants tea party stalwart abruptly shifted sides, favoring the corporation’s illegal hiring practices against his own constituents who’d been thrown out of their jobs. Indeed, only three days after Legal Services won its case against the corporation, Scott rose up on his hind legs and introduced H.R. 2774, a vindictive, one-sentence bill that says: “Be it enacted… in Congress assembled, that the Legal Services Corporation Act is repealed.”

Scott’s hypocrisy is as subtle as a hammer to the head: He professes to be for the people then tries to kill a program that helps poor people pursue justice against corporate elites. “Power to the Corporations” is his motto.

“How Rep. Austin Scott betrayed his Tea Party roots,”www.washingtonpost.com, August 9, 2011

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Dim bulbs in Congress


By Jim Hightower

Our problem in Washington is this: we have too many 5-watt bulbs sitting in 100-watt sockets.

Any doubt about this was erased in July when tea party ravers in the House joined old-school right-wing ranters to pass a light bulb bill. This was the culmination of a loopy crusade by the billionaire Koch brothers to stop the spread of energy-efficient light bulbs. Say what? Yes, Koch front groups drummed up a non-issue by howling that Big Government is “telling us what kind of light bulbs we can buy.”

Sure enough, an assortment of Koch-headed Congress critters joined the silly circus by trying to undo the rather useful government effort to stimulate production of better bulbs. They rallied round Thomas Edison’s old 100-watt energy gulper, claiming that nanny-state Democrats had banned Edison’s marvel, requiring that incandescent bulbs be replaced by the cold light of fluorescent bulbs.

This whole crusade is hogwash. There is no ban on incandescent bulbs – just a new standard for all bulbs to consume less energy. And this standard was not set by Democrats, but by a Republican-sponsored law signed in 2007 by George W. Bush. Also, the descendants of Edison say that he would support such an advance: “Technology changes,” they said, “Embrace it.”

And guess who was behind passage of the new energy efficiency mandate: light bulb makers. “Everyone supported it,” says a top Philips executive, adding that the law produced a major surge in innovation by the industry. Only four years after the law passed, Philips, GE, and Sylvania all are ready to market incandescent bulbs that meet the higher efficiency standards, while saving money for consumers.

Did I mention that the Koch brothers are in the dirty energy business and profit when you have to use more of it to light your house?

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America’s real “job creators” are broke


By Jim Hightower

As narrators used to say in Western movies: “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…”

Our policy makers in Washington have totally lost sight of what’s happening at the ranch. Both John Boehner’s GOP-controlled House and Barack Obama’s White House are riveted on slashing trillions of dollars from the federal budget, as though that’s America’s most important need. Bovine excrement! If they’d lift their vision to the countryside, even they could figure out that our great economic urgency is for the creation of good, middle-class jobs to get America moving again – moving upward and moving together.

Today, we are a dangerously dis-united society. Elite CEOs and big investors are grabbing all the gains, leaving the vast majority mired in recession and facing falling incomes. Since the recession technically “ended” 18 months ago, corporate profits have zoomed, sopping up an unprecedented 88 percent of America’s economic growth. Meanwhile, only one percent of the growth that we all help produce has gone to wages and salaries, which is the source of income for about 90 percent of us.

Yet, those same CEOs say they won’t invest in new jobs or raise wages until consumers start buying again. That’s like saying, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Hello – the consumers CEOs are waiting on are the workers whose jobs and wages the CEOs won’t increase.

You see, despite the GOP’s ideological claptrap about corporate executives being “job creators,” it is ordinary Americans who actually create jobs by spending from their paychecks. This is why our obtuse policy makers need to quit pampering the rich and fussing over budgets – and start launching a national, FDR-style jobs program that’ll immediately increase paychecks, perk up consumer spending, and generate grassroots economic growth.

“What percent of Americans are self-employed?” http://surveysez.com/joomla/index.php/education-a-employment/84-self-employed.html, 2010.

“Corporate profits boom: labor markets goes bust,” Austin American Statesman, July 23, 2011.

“Corporate America’s chokehold on wages,” Austin American Statesman, July 23, 2011.

“Why the Wealthiest Americans Are the Real ‘Job Killers,'”www.alternet.org, July 19, 2011

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America’s shameful leadership


by Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower

As Bob Dylan famously wrote “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Especially when the wind is right in your face, howling at gale force.

While Washington fiddles with the knobs and levers of budget reduction, America’s great working class is being blown down by harsh economic winds. Yet, our country’s political and financial elites, sitting in the comfort of their power centers, don’t seem to see, hear, or care. If the elites just looked around, here’s some of what they find:

• In Central Texas, a surge in poverty is now severely straining the area food bank, which is struggling with more than a 50 percent increase in demand in the past three years.

• Arizona, which has added only 4,000 jobs in the past year, has 10 unemployed job seekers for every opening – and 45,000 Arizonans are set to lose their jobless benefits in the next few months.

• By the end of the Great Recession in 2009, the median white household in America had lost $36,000 in net worth. Worse, the median African-American household had lost 83 percent of its net worth, which is now down to the financially perilous level of less than $2,200.

• While CEOS of major corporations have jacked up their pay by a fourth since the recession technically ended in 2009, average wages for workers have stagnated. Meanwhile, the price of such basics as food and gasoline have risen relentlessly. Real wages today are 1.6 percent lower than a year ago.

So, who is Washington working to help? Not the hard-hit workaday majority – but the $9 million-a-year CEOs and billionaire Wall Street barons who’re demanding drastic budget cuts on programs that help working families, while also insisting that their own lavish fortunes be spared from even the slightest dings. What a shameful time in our history! Can’t America do better than this?

“The GOP Plays with Fire, We All Get Burned,” www.thinkprogress.org, July 8, 201.

“Food bank’s new building to double capacity,” Austin American Statesman, July9, 2011.

“Economy Faces a Jolt as Benefit Checks Run Out,” The New York Times, July 11, 2011.

“Recession knocks some blacks into poverty,” Austin American Statesman, July 10, 2011.

“Recovery weak, lopsided toward wealthy,” www.timeswv.com, July 2, 2011

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Budgeting for Ignorance


The most shameful assault in state legislatures these days is on our public schools.

Jim Hightower By Jim Hightower

 Will Rogers said that when Congress is in session, the public gets the same panicky feeling as  “when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”

 Rogers’ observation can also be applied to the mayhem that has broken out in various smash-  happy state legislatures. All across the country, right-wing zealots are wielding their little  ideological hammers to destroy common sense and wreck the common good. These anti-  government extremists are going after everything from the basic rights of workers to our crucial environmental protections.

Their most shameful assault, however, is on our public schools. They’re not merely clobbering teachers and shattering education budgets; they’re after the very idea of public education. A few years ago, Debbie Riddle, a boneheaded Texas legislator, asked: “Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education?” The Republican then sputtered, “It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell.”

She was hooted down then, but this year, her Kafkaesque ideological extremism has moved from the legislative fringe to the center of the Republican majority’s agenda. Using the huge budget deficit (which they created) as their excuse, Texas GOP lawmakers and the Republican governor are cavalierly slashing our state’s historic, constitutional commitment to providing an “efficient system of public free schools.”

Even as student enrollment is growing exponentially, these ideologues are whacking the state’s school budget by $4 billion. Worse, they are terminating the law that gives our public schools top budgetary priority, based on how much we need to spend to educate our children. No more “entitlement,” they scream, as stupidly as they can.

Unfortunately, Texas is not the only state putting budgetary ideology over school kids and undermining our entire society’s future. As the old bumper sticker puts it: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

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A LYING HYPOCRITE FOR PRESIDENT


by Jim Hightower

If you find it necessary to declare on national television that “I am a serious person,” you’re probably not.

Meet Michele Bachmann. She’s currently running for president, but suffering a few credibility problems. One is that she keeps creating her own fanciful version of history. For example, she recently bewildered Iowa voters by asserting that the Founding Fathers had magnanimously included every American in the nation’s new government: “It didn’t matter the color of [people’s] skin,” she marveled, “it didn’t matter whether they were of a higher class or a lower class, it made no difference.” Seriously.

Indeed, Bachmann plowed straight ahead into a fantasy about the Founders’ glorious work to free the slaves. She insisted that these wealthy, white, slave-owning men “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” Seriously.

No surprise, then, that the congresswoman also invents her own personal history. While she unsparingly attacks “Washington’s spending addiction” – she apparently doesn’t own a mirror. It turns out that her husband’s counseling clinic has received thousands of dollars in state and federal grants. Oh, she dodges, those tax dollars didn’t come to us. Seriously? Yes, she explains, the money went to train our clinic’s employees – as though that’s not a subsidy for their business. Then there is the $260,000 in subsidies for her family’s farm. Oh, she dissembled, that went to my father-in-law, adding that, “I have never gotten a penny from the farm.” Seriously? But wait, she’s listed as a partner in the farm, and her financial disclosure forms report that, in fact, she has received $105,000 in income from it.

Bachmann says she wants to take government back – and, in all seriousness, it looks like she’s already clawing back her piece of it.

“Psycho Talk: The 32 Craziest Things GOP Presidential Contender Michele Bachmann Has Said,” www.alternet.org, June 30, 2011.

“Michele Bachmann denies benefiting from government aid,”www.chicagotribune.com, June 26, 2011.

“Bachmann and the LA Times report,” www.exchange.yrd.com, June 26, 2011.

“Bachmann’s had her share of government aid,” www.latimes.com, June 26, 2011.

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CORPORATE HOGGISHNESS RUN AMUCK


by Jim Hightower

They’re back. Citigroup, Coca-Cola, IBM, Merck, and dozens of other major U.S. corporations are back in Washington – like hogs at the trough – demanding to be fed another tax boondoggle.

This is not the first pig-out for these oinkers. In 2005, having stashed huge profits in foreign countries and tax havens, the multinational giants came to Washington offering Congress a heck of a deal: We’ll bring this money back to the U.S. and invest it here, creating beaucoup jobs, IF you give us a sweetheart tax rate on our profits of only about five percent, rather than the usual 35 percent rate.

The Bushites and GOP Congress enthusiastically took the bait. Sure enough, $312 billion came home… but instead of investing it in job creation, top executives and big shareholders simply put it in their pockets. Sixty percent of the boondoggle was gobbled up by only 15 of America’s biggest multinationals – many of which actually shut down American plants, fired thousands of workers, and moved more of their production abroad. Merck, for example brought nearly $16 billion home in October 2005, then announced a restructuring plan the next month to close U.S. plants and cut some 3,500 jobs. You could almost hear the executives chortle and say, “Thanks, suckers.”

Well, look out, for a corporate lobbying front is working with Republican House leaders to sucker us again. The group includes such superrich computer giants as Apple, Dell, Google, and Intel, pushing for what they call a “repatriation holiday.” With a big stage wink, they promise to create jobs in exchange for that same, dandy, five-percent tax deal.

What gross hoggishness! State and national budgets are being slashed – and these fat greedheads are trying to scam America with a tax holiday for themselves.

To fight their greed, go to www.usuncut.org.

“Companies Push For A Tax Break On Foreign Cash,” The New York Times, June 20, 2011.

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KOCH CLASSINESS


  by Jim Hightower

David Koch, the right-wing multibillionaire, likes to pose as a class act. He’s thrown around several million bucks, for example, to get a wing of Manhattan’s Lincoln Center named for him and to buy a seat on the board of WGBH, Boston’s prestigious public television station.

These purchases make nice wallpaper for him, but they can’t cover up the ugliness at the core of Koch’s heart. He has poured a fortune (and his very soul) into the creation of dozens’ of political attack groups and corporate fronts to advance his self-serving, plutocratic vision of America. Far from a class act, the Koch operation is as crass as they come.

One of the crudest arms of his vast and secretive political network is called Americans for Prosperity. It runs all sorts of astroturf campaigns to knock down the prosperity of working families and lift up the power and prosperity of corporate elites – like the Kochs.

AFP’s Michigan branch recently showed what it’s made of in a campaign to kill funding for a new international bridge between Detroit and Canada. Building this bridge would create jobs and ease traffic snarls, but it would compete with a corporate-owned toll bridge – and the Koch’s virulently oppose all things public.

To stir-up public opposition, AFP went into a hard-hit Detroit neighborhood and plastered people’s homes with official looking flyers that declared in bold type: “Eviction Notice.” The bogus flyers told homeowners that the state transportation agency was prepared to seize their homes to make way for the new bridge. “It was meant to startle people,” said AFP’s clueless and classless state director, who was perversely proud of the panic his lie had caused in this distressed community.

Such sensitivity is what has made the Koch name a cussword all across America.

“Conservate group: Fake eviction notices were ‘meant to startle people'”www.freep.com, June 7, 2011.

“The Koch Brothers’ attack operation is all class,” www.alternet.org, June 8, 2011

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