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.

Read on…


Jim Hightower’s Radio Lowdown

Making Work Work for Workers

As a writer, I get stuck every so often straining for the right words to tell my story. Over the years, though, I’ve learned when to quit tying myself into mental knots over sentence construction, instead stepping back and rethinking where my story is going. This process is essentially what millions of American working families are going through this year as record numbers of them are shocking bosses, politicians, and economists by stepping back and declaring: “We quit!” Most of the quits are tied to very real abuses that have become ingrained in our workplaces over the past couple of decades – poverty paychecks, no health care, unpredictable schedules, no child care, understaffing, forced overtime, unsafe jobs, sexist and racist managers, tolerance of aggressively-rude customers, and so awful much more. Specific grievances abound, but at the core of each is a deep, inherently-destructive executive-suite malignancy: Disrespect. The corporate system has cheapened employees from valuable human assets worthy of being nurtured and advanced to a bookkeeping expense that must be steadily eliminated. It’s not just about paychecks, it’s about feeling valued, feeling that the hierarchy gives a damn about the people doing the work. Yet, corporate America is going out of its way to show that it doesn’t care – and, of course, workers notice. So, unionization is booming, millions who were laid off by the pandemic are refusing to rush back to the same old grind, and now millions who have jobs are quitting. This is much more than an unusual unemployment stat – it’s a sea change in people’s attitude about work itself... and life. People are rethinking where their story is going and how they can take it in a better direction. Yes, nearly everyone will eventually return to work, but workers themselves have begun redefining the job and rebalancing it with life.

What’s the “Quits Rate?” And Why Is It Skyrocketing?

Corporate bosses across America have been sputtering in outrage at you working stiffs this summer, spewing expletives about the fact that while the US economy has been coming back... you haven’t! “Labor shortage,” they squeal, lazily accusing the workforce of mass laziness. They charge insultingly that millions of workers got used to laying around during the pandemic. Noting that there is now an abundance of jobs open for everything from restaurant workers to nurses, the bosses and their political dogs bark that you people need to get back in the old harness and start pulling again. Adding a nasty bite to their bark, several GOP governors cut off unemployment benefits to people, hoping to force them to work. Other businesses have proffered signing bonuses, free dinner coupons, and other lures, while such notoriously mingy outfits as McDonald’s and Walmart have even upped their wage scale in an effort to draw workers. Yet... no go. In fact, to the astonishment of the economic elite, the employment flow this year is going the other way! Record numbers of current workers in all sorts of jobs in every section of the country are voluntarily walking away. There’s even an official economic measurement of this phenomenon called the “Quits Rate,” and it is surging beyond anything our economy has experienced in modern memory – in April, 4 million workers quit; in May, another 3.6 million left, in June, 3.9 million said adios! The “Quits” are so unexpected and so widespread that pundits have started dubbing this year “The Great Resignation.” What’s wrong with people, why are such staggering numbers of Americans failing to do their jobs? But, wait – maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe the corporate system’s “jobs” are failing the people. Consider this: The most common comment by those who’re walking out is, “I hate my job.”

Which food future will you choose?

America certainly has an abundance of food (even though many Americans do not), yet we face a momentous choice of whether to pursue a food future rooted in the ethic of sustainable agriCULTURE - or one based on the exploitative ethic of agriINDUSTRY. What better symbol of agri-industry's vision of "food" than that ubiquitous Thanksgiving bird, the "Butterball" turkey. The Butterball has been hoisted onto our tables by huge advertising budgets and regular promotion payments to supermarkets. The birds themselves have been grotesquely deformed by industrial geneticists, who created breasts so ponderous that the turkeys can't walk, stand up, or even reproduce on their own (thus earning the nickname "dead-end birds'). Adding torture to this intentional deformity, the industry sentences these once-majestic fowl to dismal lives in tiny confinement cages inside the sprawling, steel-and-concrete animal factories that scar America's rural landscape - monuments to greed-based corporate "husbandry." As the eminent farmer-poet-activist Wendell Berry tells us, eating is a profound political act. It lets you and me vote for the Butterball industrial model or choose to go back to the future of agriculture, which is the art and science of cooperating with, rather than trying to overwhelm, nature. That cooperative ethic is the choice of the remarkable "Good Food Uprising" that has spread across the country in the past 30 years. Now the fastest-growing segment of the food economy, it is creating the alternative model of a local, sustainable, small scale, community-based, organic, humane, healthy, democratic - and tasty! - food system for all. To take part in the good food movement and find small-scale farmers, artisans, farmers markets, and other resources in your area, visit www.LocalHarvest.org.

Looking for older commentaries?

You’ll find them over on the Hightower Lowdown now, in the radio archives. Note: we post new episodes there on Tuesdays and Thursdays; however, some radio stations around the country air Hightower’s commentaries on their own schedule.


 


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Meet Jim Hightower.

Looking for photos and more of Hightower? Check out the media kit.

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.”

    You can leave a message using the contact form below. For immediate media inquiries and needs, please call Laura Ehrlich at 512-477-5588, ext. 1.

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    Books

    Swim Against the Current (2008)

    Swim Against the CurrentThe New York Times bestselling author and America’s funniest activist gives the lowdown on how to put up-not shut up-in the fight for our future.

    Hightower, the country’s #1 populist, has picked up some useful advice over the years, from “never eat at a café featuring ‘bargain kebobs'” to “never hit a man with glasses; hit him with something much heavier.” As he and his longtime co-conspirator Susan DeMarco have rambled through grassroots America, however, they’ve also come up with more serious words of wisdom to share here, namely: question authority, trust your values, seek alternatives, break away, stand up for your beliefs, and swim against the current!

    Their book introduces readers to people across the country who have actually done this-people in business, politics, health care, farming, religion, and other areas who are taking charge, living their values, doing good, and doing well. Hightower and DeMarco show how they are doing precisely what the elites want us to believe can’t be done: changing their lives and making a difference. He tells the stories of these people and offers inspiration and information that will help readers tap into their own maverick potential in order to navigate a different, more satisfying course of their own.

    Whether they are young and just starting out or older and searching for a different path, the commonsense folks in this book have escaped the corporate tentacles to find their own way toward a richer life and a better American future. They are creating a new, deeply democratic model for the country, edging it back onto the long road toward egalitarianism and the common good.

    Hightower and DeMarco are at their contrarian, sharp-witted, and straight-shooting best as they celebrate the triumph of grassroots gumption over the tight-fisted grip of corporate control.

    Thieves in High Places (2004)

    Thieves in High PlacesAmerica is at an historic divide between rulers and rulees and the rulees are restless. Hightower’s THIEVES IN HIGH PLACES is an epistle to the American people about vision and choices, and it’s a clarion call to action. The question Jim Hightower is asking is: What kind of country do you want America to be? Not only for you, but for your children and theirs? In THIEVES IN HIGH PLACES Hightower takes on the Bushites, the Wobblycrats, and the corporate Kleptocrats, digging up behind-the scenes dirt that the corporate media overlooks like BushCo’s “Friday Night Massacres”, what’s happened to our food, and the Bush plan for empire. Also drawing on Hightower’s Rolling Thunder Down-Home Democracy Tour, Hightower has tapped into the thriving activist networks that are our country’s grassroots muscle, and his book tells their uplifting stories of retaking control of their communities.

    Let's Stop Beating Around The Bush (2004)
    Let's Stop Beating Around The BushThe bestselling grassroots guru is back with his incisive take on the state of the union and life today in the good ol’ U.S.A.

    America in 2004 is color coded — and it’s not just a matter of red, white, and blue. The terror alert bounces from yellow to orange. The economy offers up a hundred shades of red ink. The environment is turning brown. National security is cloaked in gray shadows. And, as he did in the bestselling Thieves in High Places, Jim Hightower covers it all with uncommon insight, political fearlessness, and laugh-out-loud humor.

    America’s #1 populist gives us Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush — a hard-hitting, fact-filled review of the real state of the union that you won’t get from the establishment media. With his daily radio commentaries and award-winning monthly newsletter, no one has chronicled the madness of King George the W, the wimpiness of corporate Democrats, and the aggressive avarice of Wall Street with the thoroughness and tenacity of Hightower. Now he brings that investigative punch into this wild and woolly hook of fiery essays.

    With his satirical “Six Perfectly Good Reasons to Re-elect George W. Bush”; his mix of damning indictments and uplifting stories; and side bars, cartoons, games, and puzzles, Hightower has clone the impossible: he has created a subversive read that makes politics fun again.

    The People Are Revolting! (In The Very Best Sense Of That Word) (2003)

    The People Are Revolting! (In The Very Best Sense Of That Word)

    With his aw-shucks charisma and no-nonsense attitude, he dishes out what’s wrong with the eroding integrity of our democracy: politicians for sale to the highest bidder, the economic boom of the 90s not trickling down to the regular folks and more corporate scandals than you can shake a stick at. Offers a compelling collection of Hightower talks plus the best of his daily “Common-Sense Commentaries” on radio, all with an introduction by the late Senator Paul Wellstone.

    • Buy from Indiebound — support independent booksellers
    • Buy from Powells.com — independent, too!
    • Digital versions: Android, Apple and MP3/CD
    If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates (2000)

    If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us CandidatesJim Hightower, America’s favorite subversive, is still mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore. But he will give you a sizeable piece of his mind on Election 2000. This plain-talking, name-naming, podium-pounding populist zeros in on everything that ails us, from the global economy and media to big business and election winners everywhere. In his hard hitting commentary and hilarious anecdotes, Hightower spares no one, including the scared cows — and especially the politicians — who helped steer us into this mess in the first place. An equal opportunity muckrucker and a conscientious agitator for “We the People”, Hightower inspires us to take charge again, build a new politics for a better tommorow — and have a lot of laughs along the way.

    There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos (1998)
    There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead ArmadillosRevised, and with a New Introduction by the Author

    “I am an agitator, and an agitator is the center post in a washing machine that gets the dirt out.”
    –Jim Hightower

    Hightower is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore! He’s also funny as hell, and in this book he focuses his sharp Texas wit, populist passion, and native smarts on America’s political, economic, scientific, and media establishments. In There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos, Hightower shows not only what’s wrong, but also how to fix it, offering specific solutions and calling for a new political movement of working families and the poor to “take America back from the bankers and bosses, the big shots and bastards.”

    “If you don’t read another book about what’s wrong with this country for the rest of your life, read this one. I think it’s the best and most important book about out public life I’ve read in years.”
    –Molly Ivins, author of Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?“When do we get to vote for Jim Hightower for president? Will somebody please tell me? When do we get to vote for Jim Hightower for president?.”
    –Michael Moore, author of Downsize This!

    “Listen to Jim Hightower. His is a two-fisted, rambunctious voice unafraid to speak truth to power, eloquently and clearly…He’s one of the best.”
    –Studs Terkel