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
Is “corporate ethics” an oxymoron? Do you have to be a jerk to be a successful CEO? Is exploitation the only path to profit?
The good news is that many companies, big and small, in the food economy are blazing a different path through Wall Street’s jungle of greed, demonstrating that money and morality can be compatible. Texas supermarket chain HEB, for example, has drawn an intensely loyal customer base by (1) investing in good wages and benefits for employees, (2) showing up in such emergencies as pandemics, hurricanes, freezes, etc. to give essential supplies and hands-on help, and (3) being an involved and supportive neighbor to the hundreds of unique communities it serves.
Also, Maine Grains is “relocalizing” the business of milling grain by working with local farmers who’d been abandoned by global grain marketers like Ardent and Gold Medal. They’re producing nutrient-rich flours from heritage grains, boosting the local economy in the process. Then there’s Bob’s Red Mill, which also artfully mills its products from diverse, natural grains–and it’s 100% employee-owned.
These are part of a rising business alternative to the selfish, profiteering ethic of Fortune 500 titans. Called certified B Corporations, they definitely exist to make a profit, but they are equally focused on having a positive social impact, prioritizing fair wages, environmental protections, and healthy communities as core elements of their missions, even making those goals legal requirements of their corporate charter.
Ben & Jerry’s, Amy’s Kitchen, King Arthur Baking, and New Belgium Brewery are just a few more of some 3,800 other businesses now organized as B Corps. Though not pretending to be perfect, they’re at least striving to be more than money grubbers, instead trying to contribute to the Common Good. For more information on the products and practices of B Corps, go to BCorporation.net.
We’ve got the Academy Awards, the Emmy’s, and GRAMMYs… but what should we call the award for the most extraordinary performance by a corporate profiteer? How about the “Sleazy,” with winners getting a solid gold sculpture of a middle finger? There were so many worthy contenders, but one corporation exhibited uncommon callousness, so the 2021 Sleazy goes to … Tyson Foods!
The meatpacking giant has regularly run roughshod over workers, farmers, communities, and the environment – not to mention the millions of animals it fattens and slaughters. But the coronavirus pulled out the worst in Tyson’s corporate ethic. Last April, its billionaire chair, John Tyson, ranted that health officials who were closing-down several of his slaughterhouses that had become hotbeds of contagion were creating another crisis: A national meat shortage!
Responding instantly, our corporate-compassionate, burger-gobbling president decreed that meatpacking plants were crucial to America’s national security and must be kept open at all cost. Trump’s edict required workers to return to their jobs or be fired. Only there was no meat shortage. Not only did Americans have an excess of cheeseburgers, pork chops, and chicken nuggets, but Tyson and other giants actually increased their meat exports to China last year. Meanwhile, Covid rampaged through Tyson’s factories. In its Waterloo, Iowa facility alone, a third of the processing workers – low wage, mostly people of color – were infected. At least six died.
Which brings us to the corporate play that cinched this year’s Sleazy for Tyson. Waterloo slaughterhouse supervisors actually knew that the back-to-work order would sicken hundreds, but not exactly how many. So, managers organized a winner-take-all betting pool on the percent of employees who would test positive. “It was simply something fun,” said one – “kind of a morale boost.”
The virus infected more than a third of 2,800 workers in the plant. Some fun huh?
These days, the haughty rich in our country have developed such an arrogant sense of self-entitlement that they’ve gone from being merely irritating to infuriating.
Unsurprisingly, their plutocratic greed and rigging of the system has generated a political backlash, including a widely-popular push to tax the massive stashes of wealth the upper-upper class has amassed by stiffing the middle class and poor. Alarmed by this uprising, the rich have launched a major effort to defuse public anger – not by altering their own behavior, but by a semantical twist.
Interestingly, since “The Rich” has become such a negative phrase, it is being dropped from the vocabularies of right-wing media, lawmakers, and other defenders of wealth concentration. Rather, they now glorify the millionaire/billionaire class as “high-earners” and “high net worth individuals.”
Both are awkward phrases, yet both serve to exalt the fortunate few as superior earners and worthy individuals. Words matter because they are powerful social constructs that share our culture’s moral values. For example, even failed CEOs who preside over big losses still collect boodles of cash from the corporate hierarchy, while working stiffs who perform their jobs admirably at the same corporation get pay cuts or even get booted. Boeing, for instance, suffered $12 billion in losses last year, costing 30,000 workers their jobs, yet the top exec was rewarded with $21 million in pay.
Other job crushing CEO failures include AT&T, Disney, GE, Hilton, T-Mobile, and Tenet Healthcare – yet each of those top executives were rewarded with at least $20 million in pay. In every case, the establishment media cloaked the greed of the chiefs by saying they “earned” millions and are now “worth” such-and-such.
These aren’t euphemisms – they’re lies. To get the truth, the media might ask ousted workers how much they think the CEOs actually earned and are worth.
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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.”