Jim Hightower’s Radio Lowdown

How Inequality Happens

High-dollar corporate executives and Wall Street bankers keep telling us that it’s lonely at the top. Well, they should try toiling at the bottom of America’s pay scale. The radical rise of inequality in our society is a function of the vast political inequality separating the working class from the power structure. The elite rich have many friends in high places paying close attention to their needs, but the further one tumbles down the economic ladder the lonelier you are when your interests conflict with the bosses and big shots. As Ray Charles sang, “Them that’s got is them that gets.” Consider waiters, bartenders, and other restaurant workers. Generally these jobs are poorly paid and routinely abusive, yet lawmakers mostly ignore all that, cozying up to the abusers, because... well, they’re rich and politically connected. As a result, most of today’s restaurant workers are paid a sub-minimum wage that was set 32 years ago at $2.13 an hour! That’s not a wage, it’s an insult. Yet most lawmakers refuse to raise it, bowing to the piles of campaign cash they get through a lobbying front called the National Restaurant Association, dominated by multibillion-dollar food chains. Worse, in the past decade, this consortium of greedy wage suppressors even devised a diabolical scheme to make restaurant workers pay for the industry’s lobbying campaigns to hold down wages! The Association bought an outfit that provides hokey food safety training to workers, then it lobbied to get California, Florida, Illinois, Texas, and other states to require that all employees not only undergo the silly on-line training course, but also making them pay $15 each for the training. Guess what? NRA then uses those worker training fees to fund its lobbying efforts that let restaurants pay poverty wages. And that, kids, is how inequality happens.

Singing The Hard-Hit Wall Street Worker Blues

I don’t usually cover sob stories, but this one is so touching it might make you cry. Or throw up. It’s about some workers who toiled all last year in the caverns of New York City, only to find at year’s end that their pay was being cut by up to 50 percent. Actually, it’s not their salaries that were cut – but their bonuses. You see, these are Wall Street investment bankers whose annual salaries total only a few hundred-thousand-dollars each (poor babies), but they always expect to double or triple that in bonus money. After all, theirs is a dirty job – they engineer multibillion-dollar corporate mergers that increase monopoly power, eliminate the jobs of thousands of regular workers, and further enrich the superrich. It’s devilish work – hence the big bonus payouts to keep them doing it. Last year, though, the number of whopper deals plummeted, the revenues of Wall Street investment banks sank… and, oh, how sad it was to hear the wails of so many poor Wall Street millionaires whose bonuses were whacked. See, I told you it was a sob story. But worse than the loss of money for these hard-hit financial toilers is the tragic crimping of their lifestyle. The New York Times reports, for example, that Wall Street’s bonus bust has already resulted in fewer of these dealmakers buying hundred-thousand-dollar luxury cars this year. Can you imagine the pain of that? The dinging of annual bonuses is even stirring radical sentiments among these restive rich workers – in one survey of financial professionals, 72 percent said they would consider quitting if their bank cut their bonus. Now there’s an enticing new source of labor activism for unions that’re organizing at Starbucks, Amazon, McDonald’s, etc. Why not a Wall Street banker union? Solidarity forever, brothers and sisters!

Here’s A Wild Idea That’s Taking Root

Growing up, I absorbed a lot of values from my Ol’ Texas Daddy – a strong commitment to the Common Good, a healthy work ethic, and a lively sense of humor. But one thing about him I’ve rejected: His determination to have a perfect yard of thick, verdant, St. Augustine grass. Lord, how he worked at it – laying sod, (watering), fertilizing, (watering), weeding, (watering), spreading pesticides, (watering), mowing… (more watering). But it was too hot, too dry, too infested with blight, bugs, slugs, and such. He was up against Texas nature, and he just couldn’t win. So, I’ve gone in the opposite direction – slowly nurturing a natural yard of native trees, drought-tolerant plants, and a general live-with-nature ethic in my little landscape. I’m hardly alone in this rejection of the uniform “green grass imperative.” A spontaneous yard rebellion is taking hold across our country as more and more households, neighborhoods, businesses, etc. shift to a nature-friendly approach. A particularly encouraging push for change is coming from school kids – elementary level through college – who’re appalled by the poisoning of our globe and organizing locally to do something that both makes a difference and makes a statement. One exemplary channel for their activism is a student movement called Re:wild Your Campus. Of course, some people consider wild yards to be scruffy, ugly… unruly. That’s their choice, but some also insist that tidy grass lawns must be everyone’s choice. So they proclaim themselves to be the yard police, demanding that cities and homeowner associations make green-grass uniformity the law, filing busybody lawsuits and running right-wing social media campaigns targeting people and groups that disobey. These attacks are silly because... well, they are silly, and also because they’re attacking the future, which is nearly always a loser strategy. To work for yard sanity and choice, go to Rewild.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.”

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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