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
No longer just a parlor game, monopoly is what’s for dinner. Practically every commodity and every step in producing our families’ most essential consumer purchase is in the tight grip of four or fewer global conglomerates:
- Four chemical giants control more than two-thirds of the world market for commercial seeds.
- Tyson Foods and three other meatpackers control 60 percent of the US poultry market, while just three global packers control 85 percent of the US beef market and 71 percent of the pork market.
- Four multinational grain trading powers control 90 percent of all grain (corn, wheat, rice, etc.) marketed in the world.
- John Deere and an Italian conglomerate control nearly half of the US market for tractors and other farm machinery.
- The biggest buyers of farmland are multibillion-dollar Wall Street speculators, jacking up per-acre prices beyond what family farmers (especially young people trying to get into farming) can pay; indeed, the largest owner of US ag land is super-rich tech mogul Bill Gates, who holds land in a dozen states that would amount to nearly a 400-square mile farm (bigger than four Seattles, the sprawling metropolis where he lives).
President Biden has been a lifelong policy minimalist, but when running for president he at least recognized the need to “combat corporate power,” promising to “make sure farmers and producers have access to fair markets.” Rhetoric aside, though, there is at this point no sense that he and his inside team grasp the structural enormity of what’s at stake, nor have they come up with proposals to do the heavy lifting necessary to free America from the monopoly yoke.
Nonetheless, farm, labor, consumer, environmental, and other progressive advocates should move a broad, aggressive anti-monopoly initiative to the top tier of our change agenda, because it can produce big positive results for nearly every grassroots constituency.
An old political truism notes that, “Where there’s a will, there are 1,000 won’ts.”
And what a hurricane of won’ts swirled out of Washington’s power centers in March to pummel Joe Biden! Corporate lobbyists and their congressional hirelings howled at him for declaring that he would seek a tax increase on corporations to pay for the essential, overdue job of repairing and expanding our nation’s antiquated, dilapidated infrastructure. Blowhard Mitch McConnell, the GOP’s senate leader, blustered that poor corporate America should not be singled out to bear this “burden.”
But wait –Mitch singled out the corporate giants in 2017 to receive a massive cut in their tax rate, so even with a slight increase now they’ll still pay much less than regular people.
Also, the giants wormed loopholes in the law to cut their taxes further. Indeed, 55 of the biggest, most profitable corporations paid zero in US income taxes last. As Bernie Sanders points out: “If you paid $120 for a pair of [Nike] shoes, you paid more to Nike than it paid in federal income taxes over the past 3 years, while it made $4.1 billion in profits.”
Mitch and his fellow hypocrites cynically profess they support restoring America’s infrastructure – but, he says, asking our corporate political funders to pay more “is not going to get support from our side.”
So, who do they want to pay for it? You. Working people and the poor! Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and a leader of Mitch’s team, points to putting more user fees on drivers and adding taxes on consumers as the way to go.
To see a list of other major corporate scofflaws who’ve been pocketing billions in profits, yet paying zilch for the upkeep of America, go to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy: ITEP.org.
It’s time for America to go back to the future – a future of true greatness created by a people united to build a strong nation for the Common Good.
From the start of our United States, Americans have backed leaders who dared to do big public projects – Jefferson, Lincoln, TR, FDR, Truman, Ike, JFK, and LBJ all dared to achieve bold goals.
It’s only since Ronald Reagan’s “government-is-evil” demagoguery that our presidents and lawmakers shriveled to no-can-do mediocrities, unwilling even to try tackling America’s big needs or invest in our people’s unlimited possibilities. Their failure is why our nation’s infrastructure – once world-class – has deteriorated to an embarrassing 16th in the world. It’s hard to muster any national pride in chanting: “We’re Number 16!”
But – surprise! – here comes Joe, a lifelong, go-slow Democrat, unexpectedly proposing a get-serious, roll-up-our-sleeves, $2-trillion package of investments to modernize, and extend Americas collapsing infrastructure. In addition to roads, bridges, and dams, it gives a long overdue boost to such needs as rural high-speed broadband, replacing lead water pipes, building clean energy systems, constructing affordable housing, upgrading public transit systems, increasing home healthcare for the elderly and providing affordable childcare facilities – all geared to creating good union jobs and lifting local economies.
Even more transformative than the particular components is Biden’s back-to-the-future method of paying for this Rebuild America agenda by returning to progressive taxation. Instead of the same old no-tax, laissez-fairyland extremism that Washington has practiced for 40 years (leading to the deep infrastructure hole we’re now in), Biden will at long last demand that multinational corporate behemoths stop dodging their tax obligations to America. It’s the same fair-taxation policy that funded our nation’s real needs in the past, while also increasing productivity and raising living standards for millions of working families.
Let’s do it again!
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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.”