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Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown
2 minutes | 4 hours ago
Monopoly Is What’s For Dinner
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.
2 minutes | 5 days ago
How the corporate plutocracy works
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.
2 minutes | 7 days ago
Is America big enough to Go Big again?
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!
2 minutes | 12 days ago
Hey Washington: Follow The People
“Those in the know” say that We the People should forget any progressive fantasy that – at long last – Washington might finally produce the kind of bold FDR-style agenda that America needs. They smugly lecture us that recalcitrant Republicans in Congress, not to mention a swarm of corporate lobbyists, are opposed to progressive change, so who could get it passed? Here’s an idea: Try the people themselves. Those in the know don’t seem to know it (or don’t want us to know it), but big majorities across grassroots America are strongly in favor of the fundamental changes that Washington elites are rejecting. For example: Two-thirds of America (including a majority of moderate Republicans) say “Yes!” to doubling the minimum wage. 72 percent of the people, including 46 percent of professed Republicans, shout their approval for Medicare for all. Eight out of 10 Americans, including strong majorities of Republicans, support a paid family leave program like every other developed nation provides for their people. What about increasing taxes on the rich, expanding Medicaid for poor families, raising teacher pay, spending more for early childhood education? Yes, yes, yes, yes say majorities, not just in blue states, but also in GOP strongholds like Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah. These are not just poll numbers, but solid ideas embraced last year by a broad cross-section of voters in ballot elections across the country. For example, Florida voters enacted a constitutional initiative to up the state’s minimum pay to $15, with “yeas” topping “nays” by a whopping margin of more than 20 points – making it more popular than either Trump or Biden. Instead of fearing the people, Democratic leaders need to get out of Washington and join them. Let’s rally and organize the power of outsiders to produce transformative policies of, by, and for the people.
2 minutes | 14 days ago
Forget Trickle-down BS – Let’s Push Percolate-up Economics
The past year proves that a lot of conventional economic wisdom is neither true nor wise. For example: “We don’t have the money.” The power elites tell us it would be nice to do the big-ticket reforms America needs, but the money just isn’t there. Then a pandemic slammed into America, and suddenly trillions of dollars gushed out of Washington for everything from subsidizing meatpackers to developing vaccines, revealing that the money is there. “We can’t increase the federal debt!” Yet, Trump and the Republican Congress didn’t hesitate to shove the national debt through the roof in 2017 to let a few corporations and billionaires pocket a trillion-dollar tax giveaway. So, if those drunken spenders can use federal borrowing to make the likes of Amazon and Zuckerberg richer, we can borrow funds for such productive national needs as infrastructure investment and quality education for all. “The rich are the ‘makers’ who contribute the most to society.” This silly myth quickly melted right in front of us as soon as Señor Coronavirus arrived, making plain that the most valuable people are nurses, grocery clerks, teachers, postal employees, and millions of other mostly-low-wage people. So, let’s capitalize on the moment to demand policies that reward these grassroots makers instead of Wall Street’s billionaire takers. “Tax cuts drive economic growth for all.” They always claim that freeing corporations from the “burden” of taxes will encourage CEOs to invest in worker productivity and – voila – wages will miraculously rise. This scam has never worked for anyone but the scammers, and it’s now obvious to the great majority of workers that the way to increase wages – Hello – is to increase wages! Enact a $15 minimum wage, restore collective bargaining, etc. and workers will pocket more, spend more, and the economy will rise. Percolate-up economics works – trickle-down does not.
2 minutes | 19 days ago
Can GOP Autocracy Outlaw American Democracy?
Ralph Waldo Emerson told of a dinner guest who went on and on about the virtue of honesty, offering his own life as a model of perfect rectitude. “The louder he talked of his honor,” said Emerson, “the faster we counted our spoons.” That’s my reaction to the cacophony of phony piety arising from Republican governors and legislators who are trying to enact more than 250 new state laws to stop Black, Latino, Asian-American, Indigenous, and other non-Caucasian voters from casting ballots. Yet they proclaim, “We’re not racists, we’re righteous crusaders protecting the sanctity of the vote.” Really? So why are they specifically targeting people of color with their repressive voting restrictions? For example, panicky Republican lawmakers in Georgia tried to outlaw any early voting on Sundays. Odd. Why? It’s a flagrantly-racist attack on the Black church. For years, a joyous civic tradition called “Souls to the Polls” has played out in Southern Black churches on Sundays prior to election day. After the sermon and prayers, congregants, ministers, musicians, and others in the church family travel in a caravan to early voting locations to cast ballots. It turns voting into a civic, spiritual, and fun experience. What kind of shriveled soul tries to kill that? Apparently, the same shameful souls in the Georgia GOP who want to stop local groups from providing water and snacks to citizens forced to wait for hours in line to vote. They’re actually trying to make it a crime to give water to thirsty voters! Hey, Republicans: What would Jesus do? This is Jim Hightower saying… Excuse me, but voting in America should not be made a misery. The goal (and duty) of every public official ought to be maximizing voter turnout – after all, the more Americans who vote, the stronger our democracy. But there’s the ugly political truth – Republican officials no longer support democracy.
2 minutes | 21 days ago
Are You a “Low-Quality” Voter?
Hey, you, get away from those polling places! We don’t want your kind here! Scram! That’s a stupid, shameful, and ultimately self-defeating political message, yet it’s being pushed as the official anti-voter electoral strategy of Republicans. Admitting that they can’t get majorities to vote for their collection of corporate lackeys, conspiracy theorists, and bigoted old white guys, the GOP hierarchy’s Great Hope is to shove as many Democratic voters as possible out of our elections. They’re banking on a blitz of bureaucratic bills they’re now trying to ram through nearly every state legislature to intimidate, divert, and otherwise deny eligible voters their most fundament democratic right. Their main targets are people of color, but they’re also pushing to keep students, senior citizens, union households, and poor communities from voting. Unable to come up with any actual need for these autocratic restraints, the GOP vote thieves are fraudulently exclaiming in mock horror that millions of illegal immigrants, dead people, Chinese, and even pets are voting! “Lock down the polls!” they cry. Again and again, these absurd claims have been thoroughly investigated – even by Republican judges, committees, media, etc. – and repeatedly they’ve proven to be… well, absurd. Let’s be blunt: You’re more likely to find Big Foot than you are to find a case of mass vote fraud in America. Even some GOP politicos have quit pretending that they’re searching for The Big Cheat, instead bluntly making an overt right-wing ideological argument for subverting democracy: “Everybody shouldn’t be voting,” explained Rep. John Kavanaugh, the Republican chair of Arizona’s election committee. Slipping deeper into doctrinaire doo-doo, he asserts that it’s not just the number of votes that should matter in an election – “we have to look at the quality of votes,” too. Call me cynical, but I’m guessing that most Democratic voters would fall into his “low-quality” category.
2 minutes | a month ago
Now, Robots are Coming for White-Collar Jobs
In CorporateSpeak, there are no “job cuts.” Instead, firings are blandly referred to as “employment adjustments.” Now, though, corporate wordsmiths will need a whole new thesaurus of euphemisms, for masses of job cuts are coming for employees in the higher echelons of the corporate structure. Don’t look now, but an unanticipated result of the ongoing pandemic is that it has given cover for CEOs to speed up the adoption of highly-advanced RPAs (Robotic Process Automation) to replace employees once assumed to be immune from displacement. As one analyst told a New York Times reporter, “With RPA you can build a bot that costs $10,000 a year and take out two to four humans.” Prior to the COVID crisis, many top executives feared a public backlash if they pushed automation too far too fast. But, ironically, the economic collapse caused by the pandemic has so discombobulated the workplace and diverted public attention that corporate bosses have been emboldened to rush ahead. While the nationwide shut-down of offices and furloughing of employees has caused misery for millions, one happy purveyor of RPA systems notes that it has “massively raised awareness among executives about the variety of work that no longer requires human involvement.” He cheerfully declares: “We think any business process can be automated,” advising corporate bosses that half to two-thirds of all the tasks being done at their companies can be done by machines. This is Jim Hightower saying… Conventional corporate wisdom blithely preaches that all new technologies create more jobs than they kill, but even those pollyannish preachers are now conceding that this robotic automation of white-collar jobs is being imposed so suddenly, widely, and stealthily that losses will crush any gains. “We haven’t hit the exponential point of this stuff yet,” warns an alarmed analyst. “And when we do, it’s going to be dramatic.”
2 minutes | a month ago
Is Your Job in the Robot Kill Path?
Hunters have come up with euphemisms to make what they do sound… well, less unpleasant. For example, animals aren’t killed, they’re “harvested.” Corporate America is now adopting this verbal ploy, for CEOs urgently need to soften the image of their constant hunt for ways to kill jobs. Their urgency is that they’re now pushing a huge new surge in cuts – this time targeting college-educated, white-collar professionals. Their weapon is the same sort of neutron bomb they’ve used to dispatch millions of blue-collar workers: Robots. But robot is a negative term, so it’s been replaced with a nondescript acronym: RPAs – “Robotic Process Automation.” These sophisticated automatons are armed with artificial intelligence, enabling them to take over cognitive work that had been the niche of such highly-paid humans as financial analysts, lawyers, engineers, managers, and doctors. More than just an incremental extension of a long, slow automation process, this is a Big Bang. It’s presently ripping through the workforce at warp speed and most of America’s vulnerable employees have no idea of what’s coming. In a survey of corporate executives last year, nearly 80 percent of them had already put some forms of RPA in place, with an additional 16 percent planning to do so within three years. That’s 96 percent of corporate employers! McKinsey, the world’s biggest corporate strategy consultant, had calculated in 2019 that the thinking robotics would displace 37 million US workers by 2030. Now, seeing the current corporate stampede to impose RPAs on US workplaces, McKinsey has upped its projection to 45 million job losses in this decade. Returning to the hunting analogy, professional jobs requiring human-level judgement have been presumed to be beyond the range of robotic firepower. But, as one labor economists now notes, with the mass deployment of RPA technology, “that type of work is much more in the kill path.”
2 minutes | a month ago
A Question of Nature
When corporate executives are absurdly hypocritical, yet so obtuse that they don’t even realize it, is it still hypocrisy… or are they just dimwitted? Consider the histrionics emanating from corporate bunkers over rising public approval for the idea that nature be given legal rights that are enforceable in courts. The Rights of Nature movement argues that if, say, a mining conglomerate decapitates a mountain, that injured citizen of our natural world ought to have its day in court. “Outrageous,” shriek the honchos of Corporate America – the courts are for people, not for pieces of property! Hello, hypocrisy. After all, a corporation is not a person – it has no brain, no pulse, no soul, no life. It’s not even a real piece of property, just an inert document printed by a state. Yet, the owners of that piece of paper claim that it magically bestows “personhood” on their syndicate, giving it the legal and political rights of real people. Yet, these “paper people” now cry that Earth’s actual living creatures can’t have any legal rights because they are just property. Excuse me, but a single drop of water has more life in it than all the corporations in the world. Also, let’s note that the long evolution of law even had to be enlightened to recognize that such “property” as slaves were human beings with fundamental rights. The body of legal (and moral) rights has grown, and it enhances our own humanity to recognize that we and nature are one. Crass corporate exploitation, on the other hand, diminishes all living things, threatening life itself. Those who reflexively mock the idea of legal standing for marshes, grasslands, forest networks, and other wildlife – might consider taking a moment by a quiet stream in the woods to ponder the question: Does nature need us, or do we need her?
2 minutes | 7 months ago
Wimpy leaders ignore strong people
Right-wing Republicans and corporate Democrats have become a pathetic bunch of “No-can-do Nancys.” Faced with an economy reeling from the plutocratic policies that these same lawmakers pushed down upon us, they are now whimpering that America is too weak to meet the obvious needs of its own people. “We must surrender to the Gods of Economic Despair,” they cry. At a time when history calls for our leaders to step forth with a bit of FDR boldness and rally grassroots people to rebuild our economy, they trumpet for retreat, giving up on America’s historic ideal of the common good. A jobs program? “Everyone for themselves,” they shout. Health care for all? “Go to the emergency room,” they scream. Social Security? “Socialism,” they screech, “run away from it!” Public education? “Can’t afford it,” they tell us, as they turn their backs on hundreds of thousands of teachers soon to be fired. Repair America’s rotting infrastructure? “Too big for us, ” they wail, “leave it to the next generation.” Wagging teabags rather than picking up the tools of real recovery, the woeful voices of American failure insist that they speak for the People. Hogwash. Americans are a strong, community-minded, democratic-spirited, can-do people. Indeed, the latest Gallop poll shows that 60 percent of the public favors “additional government spending to create jobs and stimulate the economy.” “But we must balance the budget,” whine the naysayers. Of course we should, and big majorities say we should do that by putting people to work, taxing the superrich to pay their fair share of Social Security and other public needs, as well as by slashing the $12 billion a month we’re spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s time for our “leaders” to stop whining – and catch up to the people. “DeMarco note on budget balancing,” July 2010. “Cost of War,” www.nationalpriorities.org, July 2010. “Labor’s New Critics: Its Allies in Elected Office,” The New York Times, June 28, 2010. “More Stimulus Needed to Reduce Unemployment,” www.cepr.net, June 24, 2010. “Afghan war costs now outpace Iraq’s,” www.usatoday.com, May 13, 2010.
2 minutes | 8 months ago
Amazing! Republicans turn progressive
Wow, what a surprise! Have you seen the National Republican Party’s official platform? Perhaps, like me, you would have expected it to be a mish-mash of Trumpian miasma, laissezfairyland corporate economics, QAnon lunacy, police state authoritarianism, and all the other wackiness that today’s GOP has been embracing. But, no – astonishingly, this 18-page policy statement flat-out rejects the elitism, knownothingism, and nutballism coming out of the White House and out of the mouths of nearly every Republican congress critter. For example, instead of the GOP’s usual claptrap about the moral superiority of “wealth creators,” the platform unequivocally hails the egalitarian ethic of the Common Good: “Our government was created for all the people, and it must serve no less a purpose,” proclaim the Republicans. Moreover, they issue an in-your-face rebuttal to recent Republican policies of inequality: “America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper,” they state. ALL Americans! And, believe it or not, their platform provides the means for a shared prosperity, declaring that “The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the [Party].” Plus, they profess solidarity with America’s working class: “Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in the country – they are America.” Holy Woody Guthrie, let’s all sing “This Land Is Your Land!” With Republicans converting to the principle that we’re all in this together – even adopting it as formal policy – we could become one nation again and join in building a little-d democratic society based on fairness, justice, and equal opportunity for all. But is this document a fake, a plant, a joke? No, it’s what the Party was before it lost its mind – it’s the national Republican platform of 1956.
2 minutes | 8 months ago
Trump dishes up “Chicken á la Avian Leukosis”
Top regulatory officials in Trump’s government keep chanting the same one-word mantra: “Deregulate… Deregulate… Deregulate…” Day after day, these agency bosses have been “liberating” greedy business interests to do their damnedest to us consumers, workers, the environment… and even to our chicken dinner. Yes chicken. Instead of Kentucky-fried or tacos con pollo, they’re serving up “Chicken a la Avian Leukosis.” That’s chicken infected with a virus that produces cancerous tumors and lesions on the birds. In July, the US Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service rubber stamped a demand by Tyson Foods and other multibillion-dollar meat conglomerates to deregulate chicken processing rules so they can sell chickens diseased with Avian Leukosis for human consumption. And, no, the huge brand-name marketers would not even be “burdened” by having to put a right-to-know label on the package so we consumers could know what we’re buying. As always, the industry line is: “It’s perfectly safe… trust us!” Uh… no. Their claim is that slaughterhouse line workers can simply cut out any tumors they see, then process the rest of the animal. There are two problems with this claim: First, Avian Leukosis can be a systemic disease passing through the blood, so slicing tumors doesn’t necessarily eliminate the virus. Second, line workers don’t have time to see tumors, much less remove them, since Trump’s corporate hugging regulators have also allowed poultry factories to speed up their processing lines to 175 birds per minute. This means each worker handles up to three chickens a second! Trump & Co. assert that their policy of relentless deregulation is necessary to make the system fair for corporations. However, as Lyndon Johnson used to say about such political hokum, “They can’t make chicken salad out of chicken s#!t.” To learn more, go to Food & Water Watch: FoodAndWaterWatch.org.
2 minutes | 8 months ago
Save our Post Office… and our right to vote
As progressive champion John Lewis warned, your right to vote “is not guaranteed. You can lose it.” You see, it’s one thing to “have the right” to cast your ballot, but it’s quite another thing to be able to exercise that right. During the past decade, Republican officials and operatives have become experts at voter-suppression, using legal technicalities, poll closures, fraud, fearmongering, and plain old thuggish intimidation to shut out voters who’re inclined to support Democratic candidates. Rather than winning votes, their game is preventing votes. And now comes Donald Trump with a pernicious scheme to keep millions of us from having our say in November’s election. Here’s the story: Because of the spreading COVID-19 health crisis, a majority of Americans are reluctant to risk their lives by voting in crowded polling places. Shouldn’t be a problem, though – just let everyone who’s concerned use our nation’s excellent, reliable, trusted postal service to cast their votes by mail. But such a sensible solution panicked Trump. Eeeek, he shrieked, mail-in-voting will increase turnout, and that’s bad for me! Yet, he can’t just ban voters from using the mail. So he came up with a maniacal Plan B: Simply defund the US Postal Service so it can’t do its job, thus forcing everyone to vote in person – or give up their voting rights. Sure enough, in March, he personally killed a bipartisan provision in the national economic rescue package that would’ve assured timely delivery of our mail. Then, in May, he installed one of his partisan mega-donors as Postmaster General, and he is now sabotaging delivery times by arbitrarily slashing the hours of postal workers. This is Jim Hightower saying… Like a tin-hatted third-world potentate, Trump is willing to destroy this prized national asset to cling to power. To help save our public post office – and our right to vote go to: USMailNotForSale.org.
2 minutes | 8 months ago
Getting into “Good Trouble”
In this horrible time of economic collapse, it is truly touching to see so many corporate chieftains reaching out in solidarity with the hard-hit working class. We know they’re doing this because they keep telling us they are – practically every brand–name giant has been spending millions of dollars on PR campaigns in recent weeks asserting that they’re standing with us, declaring over and over: “We’re all in this together.” Except, of course, they’re really not standing anywhere near us. While we’re waiting in endless lines at food banks and unemployment offices, the elites are still getting fat paychecks and platinum-level health care. The severity and gross disparity of our country’s present economic collapse is not simply caused by a sudden viral outbreak, but by a decades-long plutocratic policy of intentionally maximizing profits for the rich and minimizing everyone else’s wellbeing. As the eminent economist Joseph Stiglitz rightly put it, “We built an economy with no shock absorbers.” Jobs, once the measure of a family’s economic security, have steadily been shriveled to low-wage unreliable work, untethered to a fair share (or any share) of the new wealth that workers create. In a relentless push for exorbitant, short-term profits, today’s executives have abandoned any pretense that a corporation is a community of interdependent interests striving to advance the common good. Instead, while the honchos are richly covered, they’re washing their hands of any responsibility for the health, retirement, and other essential needs of their workforce. “Rely on food stamps, Obamacare, and other publicly-funded programs,” they say, even as their lobbyists and for-sale lawmakers slash the public safety nets so rich shareholders and speculators can take evermore profit. These forces of American greed have shoved millions of working families to the economic precipice – and all it takes is a virus to push them over.
2 minutes | 8 months ago
How intractable is CEO greed?
As horrible as the COVID-19 crisis is, it has brought out the best in the American people – the selflessness of front-line nurses and doctors, for example, as well as the generous community spirit of local food businesses. Yet, it has also amplified one of the worst character flaws in our society, namely the “me-first” greed of corporate chieftains. Just last August, we were told that a new, more-democratic corporate ethic was emerging. The CEOs of 181 big-name giants signed a public pledge that henceforth they would run their corporations not solely to maximize shareholder profits but also to benefit workers, communities, and other economic “stakeholders.” Then, only five months later – BOOM! – the pandemic hit, profits dropped, and the new magnanimous spirit of togetherness vanished from those corporate board rooms. Immediately, masses of their workers were being punted out the door, health benefits were coldly terminated just when needed most, and the pledge to serve the common good went into the shredder. Well, retorted such pledge-signers as Arne Sorenson, CEO of the Marriott hotel empire, revenues are drying up, so all promises are negated. In a March video message dispatching most of Marriott’s employees, Sorenson cluelessly added this insult to their injury: “I wish you good health and a sense of optimism.” A couple of weeks later, however, workers learned that while Marriott was cutting off their paychecks, it had doled out $160 million to its rich shareholders, a group that includes Sorenson. In fairness, the CEO did say he’ll forego some of his million-dollar salary this year. But that’s a disingenuous show of solidarity, since he also gets some $11 million a year in incentive pay and other compensation. And, while workers are now consigned to the unemployment line, Sorenson is in line for a 7.7 percent pay hike next year, plus a multimillion-dollar cash bonus.
2 minutes | 8 months ago
The deadly economic disease behind COVID-19
In this horrible time of economic collapse, it is truly touching to see so many corporate chieftains reaching out in solidarity with the hard-hit working class. We know they’re doing this because they keep telling us they are – practically every brand – name giant has been spending millions of dollars on PR campaigns in recent weeks asserting that they’re standing with us, declaring over and over: “We’re all in this together.” Except, of course, they’re really not standing anywhere near us. While we’re waiting in endless lines at food banks and unemployment offices, the elites are still getting fat paychecks and platinum-level health care. The severity and gross disparity of our country’s present economic collapse is not simply caused by a sudden viral outbreak, but by a decades-long plutocratic policy of intentionally maximizing profits for the rich and minimizing everyone else’s wellbeing. As the eminent economist Joseph Stiglitz rightly put it, “We built an economy with no shock absorbers.” Jobs, once the measure of a family’s economic security, have steadily been shriveled to low-wage unreliable work, untethered to a fair share (or any share) of the new wealth that workers create. In a relentless push for exorbitant, short-term profits, today’s executives have abandoned any pretense that a corporation is a community of interdependent interests striving to advance the common good. Instead, while the honchos are richly covered, they’re washing their hands of any responsibility for the health, retirement, and other essential needs of their workforce. “Rely on food stamps, Obamacare, and other publicly-funded programs,” they say, even as their lobbyists and for-sale lawmakers slash the public safety nets so rich shareholders and speculators can take evermore profit. These forces of American greed have shoved millions of working families to the economic precipice – and all it takes is a virus to push them over.
2 minutes | 8 months ago
How to fight off a bad case of “CHS” Flu
Unfortunately, an exotic flu epidemic has broken out in Washington, DC. Dubbed the “Canadian Hot Sauce Flu,” it uniquely afflicts a particular group of Democratic officeholders and operatives. CHS Flu renders its victims weaker than Canadian hot sauce, leaving them unable to stand boldly for the workaday majority they’re supposed to represent. Instead, the afflicted – who are mostly old-line Party leaders – are reduced to don’t-rock-the-boat corporatism and conservative appeasement when advancing policy ideas. They fear that anything stronger will spook centrist voters. This breakout is a reaction to the recent surge of younger, progressive voters and office holders openly pushing real populist change, including a Green New Deal, taxing the obscene wealth of corporate profiteers, public financing of our public elections, breaking up monopolies, restoring labor rights, free higher education and tech training, and Medicare-for-all. Far from alienating the electorate, these proposals are generating majority support precisely because they are bold and clearly would benefit… well, the majority. Yet, the protectors of the old money-soaked, politics-as-usual system are wailing that the Party must move to the center, rather than to the left. But wait – their mythological center is way over to the right, hunkered down with corporate interests and blocking working class progress. The future of the Party doesn’t require moving left, center, or right. Those are ideological positions. Instead, the Dems should move out to the grassroots reality of ordinary Americans. People there are envisioning, electing, and beginning to enact a true progressive agenda to advance our nation’s democratic ideals of economic fairness, social justice, and equal opportunity for all. That is a politics of integrity – a politics that is worthy of our involvement. “In Pennsylvania, Skewing Left May Sap Momentum of 2018,” The New York Times, March 4, 2019. “A Dose of Moderation For Democrats,” The New York Times, March 4, 2019. “It’s Radical Not to Tax The Rich More,” The New York Times, February 4, 2019. “The Secret To Winning In 2020,” The New York Times, December 17, 2018. “Democrats are the party of the left – and liberal Republicans,” Austin American Statesman, March 5, 2019. “What the Public Wants, It Doesn’t Get,” The New York Times, March 6, 2019.
3 minutes | 9 months ago
Trump’s one-word re-election campaign
“Socialism,” snarled The Donald at a recent pep rally of far-right Republicans. And the obedient crowd of Trumpistas snarled back in unison: So-sh’ll-izz-ummm! There you have the entire intellectual content of the GOP’s 2020 re-election strategy under Generalissimo Trump – slap Democrats with a scurrilous campaign branding them as Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin re-incarnate. It’s not just Trump hissing out the socialist label in a frantic McCarthyesque attempt to make it stick by mindless repetition, but also Republican lawmakers. Unfortunately for them, they’re overplaying a weak hand and bumbling over their own ignorance. Texas Senator John Cornyn, for example, compared Democrats who support ideas like Medicare-for-All to Mussolini. Apparently, Cornyn is unaware that the brutish Italian dictator was no socialist, but a fascist! Mussolini’s ideology of ultranationalism, masculine authoritarianism, suppression of democratic rights, and rule by wealthy elites is the opposite of the Democratic agenda. Indeed, it describes the policies of – guess who? – Trump and his acolytes, including Cornyn! The real problem for the GOP, however, is not merely that squawking “socialism” makes them sound like nutty old fuddy-duddies, but that the Democratic policies they’re attacking are enormously popular with America’s workaday majority. Government-backed health care for all? Sure, why should CEOs and congress critters be the only ones to get this? Affordable higher education? Of course, for that helps all of America. A wealth tax on corporate giants and the superrich? Long overdue. Restore the rights of labor and restrain the rise of monopolies? Yes! Far from socialism, this is democratic populism, an honest, popular rebellion against the corporate plutocracy promoted by Trump and Cornyn. Which side are you on?
2 minutes | 10 months ago
Trump versus the wisdom of Robert E. Lee
While our present President’s moral character seems stuck somewhere between boorish and brutish, it’s only fair to note that he also has an aesthetic dimension. This surprising side of Trump popped out several days after the Charlottesville attacks by raging white supremacists. In a presidential tweet, he said: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart.” Yes, very sad to see a resurfacing of raw bigotry ripping so viciously into America’s historic attempts to create a culture of mutual respect and unity in a nation of extraordinary diversity – e pluribus unum, as our national maxim puts it. Oh… wait. That’s not what Donald meant. Rather than criticizing those who are out to rip apart the American culture’s Big Idea of Egalitarianism, this was just more babble from the boorish Trump. He was actually advocating the continued presence of statues of Confederate champions of racism – pieces of bronze and granite that publicly celebrate America’s shameful period of slavery, secession, and white supremacy. The KKK thugs invaded Charlottesville in violent objection to the city’s planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, who led the southern states’ war against the USA so they could keep enslaving African-Americans. Trump’s lament, then, was not about the attack on America’s humanitarian ideals, but merely about “the removal of our beautiful statues.” Apparently, it never occurred to him that most Americans do not consider those statues either “beautiful” or “ours.” Ironically, Robert E. Lee himself opposed erecting Confederate statues across the south: “I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war,” he said, but instead “to obliterate the marks of civil strife.” We could use a leader with such wisdom today, when bigots feel newly empowered to incite civil strife across our nation. “Lee didn’t support memorializing war,” Austin American Statesman, August 20, 2017. “In tweets, Trump digs in on Confederate icons,” Austin American Statesman, August 18, 2017. “Confederate Statues and ‘Our’ History,” The New York Times, August 21, 2017.
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