I receive, each month via snail mail a gem of a newsletter. I'm quite sure others here at the great orange satan also subscribe to this newsletter. This month The Hightower Lowdown discusses the economy, in the down-home Texas way unique to Jim Hightower. I personally can get very lost reading about the US economy, how it works, how it doesn't work and who is writing the rules. For those who haven't seen Hightower's excellent research on the topic, I will share. I can promise that even if you are not an economics scholar, you will find the information interesting and enlightening. First, however, some information about the author below the fold.
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three 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.
To quote Molly Ivins:
"If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that rambunctious child -- mad as hell, with a sense of humor."
Because Hightower is a champion of "The Powers That Ought to Be" (80% of the US) he takes considerable time investigating and articulating precisely what is wrong with this economy. To wit, Hightower reports that 5 million people (about 10% of the workforce) are out of work, and unemployment is heavily skewed by class. Among the wealthiest 10% of American families (incomes above $150,000), only 3% are unemployed--a jobless rate that rises as you go down the income scale. Among the bottom 10%, more than 30% are out of work. Hightower further notes that it will take 11 million new jobs to gainfully employ all those in need of work. Quite a hole we, as a nation, have gotten ourselves into. Here are some of the reasons our nation is in this predicament.
Corporations no longer exist to make anything, much less to employ or sustain a middle class. They are now owned by global speculators, equity-fund bandits, and huge institutional investors --all of whom demand giant, short-term profits, usually achieved by slashing jobs and wages.
Thirty years of ruthless union busting and relentless undermining of fair labor laws now permit corporate bosses to fire on whim, turning once-good jobs into outsourced, contract, temporary, and part-time work.
Millions of jobs in manufacturing, computer programming, banking and insurance, and practically every other category have been moved by corporate chieftains to low-wage countries. Not only has this massive, self-serving shift eroded America's middle-class job base, but it's also been used by executives to sledgehammer the wages of jobs that remain here.
Since 2000, some 5.6 million manufacturing jobs have been replaced by computers and other machinery--jobs that had served as a ticket into the middle class for the 70% of people without a college diploma.
Small businesses and new ventures are America's major producers of jobs. Yet, despite the public's massive bailout of Wall Street, the big lenders have cut off the flow of essential financing to these grassroots enterprises, so this job-creation machine is stalled.
Wall Street's banksters, who can grab far more money by investing in hocus-pocus schemes that produce nothing except more riches for the rich, have no intention of returning to the real economy--and Washington is doing nothing to make them return or to create alternative financing.
The words from a wall street consultant: "American business is about maximizing shareholder value. You basically don't want workers."
What the honchos "earned." According to The Lowdown, David Tepper, a big deal at the Wall Street hedge fund named Appaloosa Management "earned" $4 billion in 2009. That's 2 million dollars an hour.
John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo received a 537%, increase in salary once the bailout money was repeaid allowing him to "earn" $21.3 million. It was necessary, says Wells Fargo, to "reward him appropriately."
There are many more stories similar to these stories.
Redistribution of wealth? Here's Hightower's take:
Many of those mad-as-hellers waving tea bags at protest rallies funded by corporations (oh, the irony!) have shouted themselves red-faced at the demon Obama, assailing him as a Socialist-Marxist-Fascist-Nazi who is using health care, stimulus spending, unemployment comp, tax increases, green jobs, and other government policies to redistribute wealth in our country. "Un-American!" they shout, insisting that in our Land of Equality, government has no business helping one group advance at the expense of another.
Too late. Apparently, the tea-bag mythologists missed the last thirty years, during which Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush beat Obama to the redistribution punch and were so effective that they make him look like a redistributionist piker. They used everything from skewed tax cuts to rigged global-trade deals to shove our nation's wealth upwards into the coffers of corporate and financial elites, leaving the rest of us behind.
Hightower concludes his evaluation entreating us to spread the word. First, we have to understand what has been happening to our economy since the Reagan years. Second, we need to share what we know with as many people as possible.