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
Let’s say you’re a millionaire. That’s a lot of money, right? Now let’s say you’re a billionaire. That’s a lot more money! But how much more?
Think of all those dollars as seconds on a clock. A million seconds would total 11 days – but a billion seconds equals nearly 32 years! Rich is nice, but billionaire-rich is over the moon – and the wealth of billionaires is now zooming out of this world. There are only 2,200 of these überrich dudes in the world, but the wealth stashed away by these elites hit a new record this summer, averaging more than $4 billion each. They’ve even pocketed an extra half-billion bucks on average in the midst of the COVID-19 economic crash.
Bear in mind that these fortunate few did nothing to earn this haul. They didn’t work harder, didn’t get one-digit smarter, didn’t create some new breakthrough product to benefit humankind – they could just crank back in their gold-plated La-Z-Boys and let their money make money for them.
Then there are multimillionaire corporate chieftains who are cashing in on their own failure. Having closed stores throughout America, fired thousands of workers, stiffed suppliers and creditors, taken bailout money from taxpayers, and even led their corporations into bankruptcy, the CEOs of such collapsing giants as Hertz, J.C. Penney, and Toys “R” Us have grabbed millions of dollars in – believe it or not – bonus payments! The typical employee at J.C. Penney for example, is held to part-time work, making under $12,000 a year. Thousands of them are now losing even that miserly income as the once-mighty retailer is shutting 154 stores. Yet, the CEO was paid a $4.5 million cash bonus before the company filed for bankruptcy this year.
And still, the corporate establishment wonders why the people consider it a club of heartless, greedy bastards.
Many Americans can’t believe that political coups are part of our country’s history – but consider from the Wall Street Putsch of 1933.
Never heard of it? It was a corporate conspiracy to oust Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had just been elected president. With the Great Depression raging and millions of families financially devastated, FDR had launched several economic recovery programs to help people get back on their feet. To pay for this crucial effort, he had the audacity to raise taxes on the wealthy, and this enraged a group of Wall Street multimillionaires.
Wailing that their “liberty” to grab as much wealth as possible was being shackled, they accused the president of mounting a Class War. To pull off their coup, they plotted to enlist a private military force made up of destitute World War I vets who were upset at not receiving promised federal bonus payments. One of the multimillionaires’ lackeys reached out to a well-respected advocate for veterans: Retired Marine general, Smedley Darlington Butler. They wanted him to lead 500,000 veterans in a march on Washington to force FDR from the White House.
They chose the wrong general. Butler was a patriot and lifelong soldier for democracy, who, in his later years, was critical of corporate war profiteering, and he was repulsed by the hubris and treachery of these Wall Street aristocrats. He reached out to a reporter, and together, they gathered proof to to take to Congress. A special congressional committee investigated and found Butler’s story “alarmingly true,” leading to public hearings, with Butler giving detailed testimony.
This is Jim Hightower saying… By exposing the traitors, this courageous patriot nipped their coup in the bud. But their sense of entitlement reveals that we must be aware of the concentrated wealth of the imperious rich, for it poses an ever-present danger to majority rule.
What is it about billionaires and multimillionaires that make them both self-entitled and clueless about the impacts of their greed?
Even when they occasionally make a stab at doing something right, they tend to get it all wrong. For example, while major corporations rushed out PR campaigns at the start of today’s devastating pandemic, loudly proclaiming all-in-this-together solidarity with their workers – shhhhh – most have quietly and quickly resumed their pre-pandemic policy of widely separating their rich fortunes from the well-being of their workforce.
Take supermarket giant, Kroger. Last March, as the pandemic spread across America, Kroger honchos publicly hailed grocery workers for staying on the job, despite the health hazard. They ran national TV ads announcing a $2 pay hike for employees, calling it a “heroes bonus.” Nice!
But only six weeks later – shhhhh – the honchos killed the bonus pay, even as the virus spread. Not nice.
Well, you might think, the economy was collapsing, so maybe the bosses had to skrimp. Hardly. Grocery sales and profits have boomed in the pandemic, and – as the investigative newsletter Popular Information now reports – Kroger’s profits have zoomed up by $1.2 billion since the disease surged last year.
Where did that bonanza go? To fat-cat executives and shareholders. Last September, Kroger spent a billion dollars on a stock buyback program – a corporate manipulation scheme that artificially jacks-up stock prices, thus enriching the already-rich handful of investors and executives who own most of the stock. How rich are they? One example: Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen’s latest annual paycheck was $21,129,648.
One man, one year. And, unlike the typical Kroger workers who draw only $27,000 a year, McMullen is not on the frontline putting his life at risk.
And yet, those on top of America’s financial heap wonder why working families spell “boss” backwards – Double-SOB.
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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.
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.”