My post-election message: What progressives won this year
A jittery week at the polls, huh? One measure of our political anxiety is that liquor sales spiked this week. Also, it’s probably not a coincidence that a new breakthrough in drug legalization was made on Tuesday, when 56 percent of Oregon voters said YES! to sanctioning the use of “magic mushrooms,” which are said to relieve anxiety and depression.
Political pundits have rushed out to say (even gloat) that Tuesday was a debacle for Democrats, especially for the progressive movement – and we certainly did not match our extraordinarily high expectations. But hold the mushrooms.
Jim Hightower’s Radio Lowdown
Here’s a thought-provoking bumper sticker: “The system is fixed. We must break it.”
This thought came into vivid focus recently when a news report by ProPublica revealed that a nest of preening multibillionaires – led by the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Michael Bloomberg – have been playing America’s rigged tax system to dodge paying their share of upkeep for the society that so-lavishly enriches them. In a leak of actual IRS data, the 25 richest Americans were exposed for using tricks and loopholes to pay barely 3 percent of their enormous riches to our public treasury – while ordinary working people shell out about 24% of their meager income.
Check out the manipulations by Amazon jefe Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man. Even as his riches skyrocketed by $120 billion from 2006 to 2018, he paid just one percent in taxes on that huge gain. One year, in which his wealth swelled by $18 billion, he even took a $4,000 tax credit from us for the care of his children.
The chief fix for these super-dodgers is that they can take out loans on the escalating value of their stock, mansions, yachts, etc. – without paying taxes on the cash they get. Then they spend the cash value of those assets without having to sell them. Financial voodoo for the privileged few!
In response to the revelations in ProPublica’s jaw-dropping report, congressional Republicans, Biden Administration officials, and the IRS are all promising a through investigation and crack-down. Not on the sleazy billionaires, of course, but on ProPublica! Yes, some top public officials exclaim that they are outraged, not by the tax rigging, but by the fact that you and I have been told about it in specific, undeniable detail.
It’s not cynical to call the system corrupt when the corruption is put right under our noses.
While Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed, “I have a dream,” it was full of lofty ethical stuff like “justice for all” and… well, it was so 1963.
But in today’s Facebook-Instagram-Google world of billionaire ethics and expectations, dreams need to glitter with a 2021-ish grandiosity to go viral. So, who better to take us there than that visionary of instant gratification, Jeff Bezos? “Ever since I was five years old,” says the mega-billionaire boss man of Amazon, “I’ve dreamed of traveling to space.” Now that’s intriguing, because Jeff regularly acts like he is from outer space – so, is this homeward bound?
Bezos can certainly afford the ticket, for today’s global pandemic has delivered a financial windfall to him, increasing his personal wealth by $75 billion last year alone. Bear in mind that he didn’t have to work harder or smarter to “earn” this bonanza. Indeed, he’s retiring as Amazon CEO, but his haul keeps growing as the corporate stock price keeps bloating.
Meanwhile, he bought himself a rocket ship company, and in July he intends to be Customer No. 1 on a tourist fling to the lower edge of space. He and five other high-flyers will take a short suborbital joy ride about 50 miles up in a fully pressurized cabin, then unbuckle and experience weightlessness for about three minutes before scooting back to terra firma.
Imagine how impressed MLK Jr. would’ve been by Jeff’s commitment of his enormous wealth and potential to such a… well, such a flighty dream. For his part, the gabillionaire predicts that his space-capade will make him a new man: “It changes your relationship… with humanity,” he says of space travel.
Good, for his relationship heretofore has been one of worker exploitation, tax cheating, and monopoly profiteering. So go forth, Bezos-man – and come back a better human.
Hidey-ho, folks! Thanks for tuning in to and sharing my weekly commentaries. Also, I hope you’ll join me for a live webshow I host every other Tuesday. It’s the Hightower Lowdown Happy Hour at the Chat & Chew Cafe. You can join the action live online as I chat with grassroots leaders and progressive sparklies from around the country. Go to hightowerlowdown.org/chatnchew to find out about upcoming guests and watch past episodes.
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Meet Jim Hightower.
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and New York Times best-selling author, Jim Hightower has spent four decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.
Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hightower believes that the true political spectrum is not right to left but top to bottom, and he has become a leading national voice for the 80 percent of the public who no longer find themselves within shouting distance of the Washington and Wall Street powers at the top.
Hightower is a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, spreading the message of progressive populism all across the American grassroots.
He broadcasts daily radio commentaries that are carried in more than 150 commercial and public stations, on the web, and on Radio for Peace International.
Every month he pens a rousing newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, that blasts through the corporate media blockade to lend new reporting and populist perspective on the events of the day.
A popular public speaker who is fiery and funny, he is a populist road warrior who delivers more than 100 speeches a year to all kinds of groups.
He is a New York Times best-selling author, and has written seven books including, Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time To Take It Back; If the Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates; and There’s Nothing In the Middle Of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos. His newspaper column is distributed nationally by Creators Syndicate.
Hightower frequently appears on television and radio programs, bringing a hard-hitting populist viewpoint that rarely gets into the mass media. In addition, he works closely with the alternative media, and in all of his work he keeps his ever-ready Texas humor up front, practicing the credo of an old Yugoslavian proverb: “You can fight the gods and still have fun.”
Hightower was raised in Denison, Texas, in a family of small business people, tenant farmers, and working folks. A graduate of the University of North Texas, he worked in Washington as legislative aide to Sen. Ralph Yarborough of Texas; he then co-founded the Agribusiness Accountability Project, a public interest project that focused on corporate power in the food economy; and he was national coordinator of the 1976 “Fred Harris for President” campaign. Hightower then returned to his home state, where he became editor of the feisty biweekly, The Texas Observer. He served as director of the Texas Consumer Association before running for statewide office and being elected to two terms as Texas Agriculture Commissioner (1983-1991).
During the 90’s, Hightower became known as “America’s most popular populist,” developing his radio commentaries, hosting two radio talk shows, writing books, launching his newsletter, giving fiery speeches coast to coast, and otherwise speaking out for the American majority that’s being locked out economically and politically by the elites.
As political columnist Molly Ivins said, “If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that rambunctious child — mad as hell, with a sense of humor.”