IF THE GODS HAD MEANT US TO VOTE THEY WOULD HAVE GIVEN US CANDIDATES

clever book jacket with his face in cowboy hat and blue and red stripes with stars on either side with the photo of heads of politiciansIF THE GODS HAD MEANT US TO VOTE THEY WOULD HAVE GIVEN US CANDIDATES: More political subversion from Jim Hightower (2000)

Note, there is an updated and revised 2010 edition. This cover image is from the 2000 edition I got from the library. They may have the newer version too, and I definitely want to check it out (pun intended!).

I had heard the name of Jim Hightower and recognized him as a politician. I had no idea he was so FUNNY! Since he was from Texas I just assumed he was one of the humorless, hostile, conservative types. Turns out he will SKEWER ANYONE with equal delight!

Jim Hightower, America’s most popular populist, is a bestselling author, radio commentator, public speaker, and all-around political sparkplug whose credo is “You can fight the gods and still have fun.” Twice elected to statewide office in Texas, he has long battled the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought to Be: the working families, consumers, the environment, small businesses, and just plain folks.

Though the jacket copy above used the cringe-worthy “folks” that has forever been made vomit-inducing from the W use of it (and followed by Obama continuation of same while speaking in an elegant fully literate way otherwise), I was delighted to read this description, itself amusing.

The title alone perfectly sums up the 2016 election without needing any updating. In fact, it might be even more applicable to 2016. The 17 losers (and I include 45 in particular despite the Electoral concept biting US all in the ass), was astonishing in the shallowness of the candidates, the YUUUUUGENESS of their egos (45!! Unbelievable. Trust me. Believe me. Sad.)

The title of section 2 perfectly captures so many people’s views of the state of politics (you can’t really call it governing) today (3/2017) that it could be a bumper sticker everyone would want:

Some say we need a third party,
I wish we had a second one.

True that! Following the recent who-the-fuck is Tom Perez elevation to Chair of the Democratic National party leadership role, all hope for progress, hell, all hope for democrats to return to being Democrats is lost. Grandma Pelosi is so out of touch and unwilling to relinquish the reins of power before death takes her, that she dares to stand there and say that people don’t want change. Were you not watching stadiums full of 28,000 people supporting real change? And if it is true that Grandma Clinton is really going to give it a go a third? or would it be fourth time? I have lost count.

The massive representation in Congress by old white grandpas who plan to stay in power until they die — and with their great free medical insurance, that won’t be until they have served until they are 90 or 100 like Strom Thurmond. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was just elected for another term as Senator at age 84! The man has never had anything but a political office for a living. Thirty plus years in the Senate and by God, his attitudes have not changed since he first went into politics in 1959. Sigh. I digress.

It occurred to me that maybe this is the problem with the Democratic Party [not knowing what to do] — it’s been so long since its leaders actually included the demo portion of the party in their thinking that they’ve forgotten how. Not that it would seem all that difficult, but sometimes the obvious needs addressing.

He then lists a bunch of pathetic instructions (or product liability outs, you decide) like “Do not attempt to stop the chainsaw with your hands.” He says the list is factual. Sad!

Equally obvious would be a how-to instruction for building a real Demo-cratic Party: “to have a people’s party, go to the people.” Not just to the bean sprout eaters, but to the snuff * diapers as well, talking about the gut-level issues of economic fairness and social justice.

*snuff diapers: I have no idea what this means. Maybe a regionalism, but it is the word in the text not a typo. I did a fast search and nothing explained it or used it as a thing at all.

For example, working people are overtaxed and income tax is the least of it for most folks, who are socked again and again by grossly regressive federal payroll taxes, state and local taxes of all sorts, ever increasing sales taxes, and more and more “fees” attached to everything from plane tickets to using a national park. It’s not enough just to complain that Republican tax cuts are a giveaway to their fat-cat contributors (which they are), for that doesn’t do anything for the working stiffs who really need the tax relief. How about going to the people with a real populist tax-cutting program for the middle class, including a proposal to stop taxing work (wages), instead taxing international currency speculation and short-term stock market transactions? (p. 124)

The capital gains tax is lower than the earned income (work) tax. The rich don’t have to worry about making their mortgage payment or saving for their kids’ college or having to cut RX in half to stretch their available income. They have so much extra money they can gamble it at the Wall Street Casino while being able to write off any losses against income and pay a lower than base income tax rate on their profits (ex. 15% capital gains versus 28% income tax for the same dollar value).

Most people who sell their homes only have one and it is their sole major asset. It just smacks of contempt to me that elderly people, for example, should have to pay tax on their inflated by financial speculation market value homes when downsizing. Of course, since the great foreclosures of 2008+ the reverse problem happened. They may have paid off their mortgage of $100,000 but then their house became worth $50,000 due to “the invisible hand of the market” that squashes the average American and lifts up the already elevated elites. Furthermore, the Medicaid system for long term care requires complete impoverishment to qualify or you can sell your home to pay the $100,000 to $250,000 buy-in for assisted living. This absolutely guarantees that ordinary Americans have absolutely NO WEALTH to pass on to their children contrasted with the rich and their trust fund kids.


ELECTION ISSUES THAT WILL NEVER GET ADDRESSED
The author points out the fact that there are so many issues to be concerned about but at the time he wrote it, and pretty much always, except for Bernie Sanders in 2016 who stuck to issues, candidates pretty much pander and say whatever they think their audiences want to hear. Hell, 45 did nothing but make outrageous statements so far beyond the pale, that one of his voters actually stated on a Chris Hayes show that he had not believed all the crazy and voted for 45 because “the Congress will stop him.” The man was at least 65-years old, had previously voted Democratic, but actually believed the REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED HOUSE and now SENATE would stop the crazy? Yee gods: they are sociopaths who delight in the crazy for distraction while they destroy democracy in this country.

What about the fact that the genetic manipulators, led by Monsanto have messed with our food supply and with Mother Nature in a massive and most alarming way, and that our watchdog agencies have conspired with the manipulators to hide it from us? This would make a lively campaign issue and it’s a growing national concern that would allow a people’s party to get on the side of the people. And while we’re at it, why not start talking about the American government’s dirty little wars — like its destructive, money-gobbling drug war that’s been an embarrassing failure at stopping the flow of drugs but is spectacular successful at stomping on people’s liberties; or the war against the family farm, using both the actions and inactions of government to squeeze efficient, productive people off the land; or the war against unions, writing the rules of collective bargaining in such a way that the union-busting tactics of a century ago are back, and legal; or the war on privacy, using “terrorism” and “drugs” as the alarm buttons to allow all levels of police deeper into our personal lives.

These issues are part of the election that could be if we had a no-bullshit Democratic Party that really wanted to stand up for America’s workday majority, kick Republican butt from coast to coast and realign American politics for the next century. At the heart of this populist politics is the recognition that there has been a RADICAL and totally UNDEMOCRATIC remaking of our economy in the past few years, deliberately wrenching it to serve the few, then pretending to the many that the changes are the result of IMMUTABLE FORCES that have brought a halcyon epoch of prosperity for all. Political leaders of both parties, including the leading contenders for the 2000 presidential nominations, are full participants in the PRETENDING. But who are they fooling? The wrenches and pretenders can put all the cologne they want on this skunk, but it won’t cover up the stink. (pp 124-125)

We WERE NOT experiencing an epoch of prosperity for all and it has only gotten worse over the last 16 years.

[Democrats] now compete with Republicans to win a plurality of the  minority of relatively well-off Americans who vote. And, to appeal to this minority, they campaign and govern on policies narrowly tailored to benefit the few, ignoring or actually stiffing the many, which further shrines the Democrats’ electoral base and makes them ever more dependent on the money powers, which demand an even narrower focus on their special needs, which . . . well, you see the downward spiral. Amazingly this SUICIDAL STRATEGY is the product of smart people (too smart by half, maybe) who seem to have lost all traces of street savvy. They’re like the fellow who received this less than glowing performance evaluation for his work: “This employee has the full six pack, but he’s missing the little plastic thingy that holds it together.” (p. 127)

Hillary 2016 exemplifies the SUICIDAL STRATEGY at its finest. And it’s only getting worse (Perez).

“IF THESE ARE GOOD TIME, WHY AREN’T I HAVING ONE?”
The author goes on to point out that the headlines of media seem to be at odds with reality. Almost as if the magazines were all owned by the same few corporate conglomerates with no independent editorial direction.

Like a fuzzy blue blanket, this constant overlay of economic superlatives creates a warm feeling of national comfort, a sense that except for the old poor family all is right in the jolly kingdom of America. The blanket of good news also shields the COMFORTABLE from having to address the possibility that there just might be something FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED about globalization, conglomeration, outsourcing, and the other processes of economic RAPACIOUSNESS that are loose on the land. “Who cares if a few people lose their jobs,” shrug the PPPPPP,* “there are beaucoup jobs out there, Bubba, if you really want one, and, besides, all that globalization and what not sure seems to be working for EVERYBODY ELSE, haven’t you been paying attention to the ECONOMIC reports?” To punctuate the point, they always turn to the one indicator that’s been relentlessly perky: the Dow Jones Average. (p. 129)

*PPPPPP is described early in the chapter as meaning “Perky Purveyors of Perpetually Positive Press about Prosperity.”

Effusive obsession with the Dow — that has never had any meaning for my life and probably many others is a mystery to me. Maybe I suppose some makes a bit of concern in terms of pension funds invested by third parties, but fewer and fewer people have such a perk as a pension fund. Certainly not any hourly wage earners and paycheck to paycheck people. The absurd concept of “The Dow IS America!” makes me vomit. Just like the homo economus cute catch phrase, America and it’s citizens are more than objects of economics.

USA Today went even further, elevating Dowism* to the level of mystical omnipresence, claiming that the WHOLE NATION “is riveted to every tick in the market” and “attuned to Wall Street,” asserting that as the Dow rises, “a lot of people feel wealthier and inclined to spend moron cars, houses, and other goods.” (p. 130)

*Isn’t that a whimsical play on Taoism?

Oh here is another good quote on the same page:

There were heretics, here and there, of course. Newsweek’s Allan Sloan, for example, termed the Dow jones average such a hokey indicator of real economic strength that rather than watching worshipfully for it to surpass 10,000 or any other arbitrary height, we should “obsess over something more important. Like why Buffy the Vampire Slayer has blond hair and black eyebrows.”

For the younger people out there, the Buffy TV show was a national obsession for many years. Worth checking some DVDs out from the library for amusement.

THE MARKET AS GOD
He continues with more excellent descriptions of the god Market:

Sloan aside, though, the media and the politicians broadly accept that the market is God and that the Dow is God’s own messenger, convert the Word that when the Dow is up, so is America. Harvard dignity professor Harvey Cox, writing last year [1999] in Atlantic Monthly, observed that “current thinking already assigns to The Market a comprehensive wisdom that in the past only gods have known. The Market, we are taught is able to determine what HUMAN NEEDS ARE, what copper and capital should cost, how much barbers and CEOs should be paid, and how much jet planes, running shoes, and hysterectomies should sell for. But how do we know The Market’s will?

“In the days of old,” Cox continues, “seers entered a trance state and then informed anxious seekers what ind of mood the gods were in. . . . The prophets of Israel repaired to the desert and then returned to announce whether Yahweh was feeling benevolent or wrathful. Today, The Market’s fickle will is clarified by daily reports from Wall Street. . . . Thus we can learn on a day-to-day basis that The Market is ‘apprehensive,’ ‘relieved,’ ‘nervous,’ or even at time ‘jubilant.’ On the basis of this revelation AWED ADEPTS make critical decisions about whether to buy or sell. Like one of the devouring gods of old, The Market — aptly embodied in a bull or bear — must be fed and kept happy under all circumstances. True, at time its appetite may seem excessive — a $35 billion bailout here, a $50 billion one there — but the alternative to assuaging its hunger is too terrible to contemplate.”

Cox then tells of the power that what I call Dowism holds over our secular leaders of both parties in Washington: “If any government policy vexes The Market, those responsible for the irreverence will be made to suffer. That The Market is not at all displeased by downsizing or a GROWING INCOME [wealth] GAP, or can be gleeful about the expansion of cigarette sales to Asian young people should not cause anyone to question its ULTIMATE OMNISCIENCE. Like Calvin’s inscrutable deity, The Market may work in mysterious ways, ‘hid from our eyes,’ but ultimately IT KNOWS BEST.”

Indeed, the theology of Dowism, just as of other religions, is dependent on a hearty dose of FAITH OVER REASON. Cox quotes an early Christian theologian who remarked: “Credo quia absurdum est” — “I believe because it is absurd.”

Especially absurd is the new insistence by fervent Dowists that Wall Street has SPREAD TO EVERY STREET, that there has been a MIRACULOUS DEMOCRATIZATION of stock market wealth to the BROAD POPULACE. Therefore, what’s good for the market really is good for America. So you’re downsized, so you’re among the 80 percent of Americans whose incomes have gone down or barely kept up with inflation in the boom-boom nineties, so you and the spouse are woking three or four jobs just to try to stay even — stop your bitching and start counting your stock market blessings. (pp. 129-131)

WEALTH and POVERTY
On page 132 he describes the difference between income and wealth. In addition to growing income inequality (wages) the more significant gap has become the WEALTH gap. A significant t part of this wealth gap starts with the absurdly low estate tax (aka “death” tax) which exists to PREVENT wealth hoarding across many generations.

Opponents to the estate tax claim that the money was already taxed so doesn’t warrant being taxed again. Of course this is specious reasoning. We pay income tax on our income and we pay sales tax on the income we spend, we pay property tax on the income we use to pay for shelter, we pay a gas tax with our income to support road maintenance. In fact, the burden of direct and indirect taxation is enormous if you add up all the ways your are charged taxes and fees (like on your cable bill or utility bills). Particularly vicious is the fake press they provide that makes regular “folks” think that THEIR “wealth” will be taxed on their death. Poor deluded dears. The estate tax only applies on ESTATES over $250,000 and so won’t impact the vast majority of Americans. And the rich have trusts, lawyers, and accountants to make sure their taxable estate wealth is as low as possible, just like they do for their capital gains taxes, and everything they own gets locked up tight by clever professionals that know how to game the already greatly biases IRS rules that screw servers by taxing imaginary tips while allowing capricious depreciation on equipment for businesses to reduce on paper the amount of tax that should be paid.

. . . wealth — a measure that counts everything you own including your house car, bass boat closing, furniture, velvet paintings of dogs playing poker, your collection of those tiny liquor bottles you get on airplanes . . .  and your portfolio of stocks and bonds. Good gosh, gushed the Times, people’s home are no longer the number one source of their personal wealth; stock market investments are! Strip off those old “Share the Wealth” bumper stickers, for the dream has at last been realized. As the Times put it, “The size of their paychecks aside many Americans are FEELING richer as the value of their stock holdings rises. . . . Where skyrocketing real estate prices one provided reassurance to the middle class, soaring stock portfolios now do.” (p. 132)

Of course, any critical thinker reading this would be baffled because it flies in the face of all evidence to the contrary. And this was in 2000 remember, so the great foreclosure and half-priced underwater houses had not yet wiped out the actual number one source of people’s personal wealth.

LIES, DAMN LIES, AND STATISTICS (attributed to Disraeli)
The author points out the  many flaws in the math and reasoning or the Times “Good News” article, like so many things in the “news” today. “Feeling richer” is not equal to BEING richer. Numbers have different manipulations that we all learn in school but are soon just generalized so that “average” means something casually when someone may well be speaking of the “mean” or the “median” all of which are completely different results. He gives the example of average as being acceptable if you calculate freezing water and boiling water together. The experience of your foot in a bucket of ice and the other foot in the boiling water clearly is not an experience of an average acceptable temperature.

Similarly, if you examine all stocks portfolio’s values and divide by the number of Americans in with “the other 1 million or so families at the very tippy-top of the economic pyramid” along with Bill Gates et al, an average value of a stock portfolio has no meaning because a claim that “average” households are essentially wealthy from stocks is just wrong. Just like saying that the average American family earns $35,000 a year, this does not mean most people earn $35,000 a year; it means that some people earn far less and some people far more, so the figure of $35,000 a year is meaningless. Some people have zero wealth in stocks or bonds. They are not watching the Dow as if they win the lottery when it goes up.

Page 133 relays an anecdote that is gag worthy, concluding with this comment by Richard Grasso, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange at the time.

Give Wall Street a Chance, was Grasso’s Beatle-esque message: “I gave him a tutorial on what’s happened in the U.S in terms of this deomcratization of capitalism. One of the messages I wanted to emphasize is how . . . with indirect ownership, literally EVERYONE in America is a stockholder.”

This was relayed after a meeting with a rebel group leader in Columbia that was fighting for social justice. Grasso had helicoptered in to meet him to explain why capitalism was better, I guess, than social justice. The author doesn’t say if it was persuasive.

Six out of ten [6 of 10] U.S. citizens own NO STOCKS AT ALL — not through a 401(k), a mutual fund, a pension plan, NOTHING. The Dow might as well be a pink- and purple-polka-dotted cow for all the good it’s doing the typical household. And most folks who are “in the market” are barely there. In fact, 89% percent of all stocks are owned by only 10 PERCENT of American households, and nearly HALF the stocks are owned by those 1 million families who comprise the WEALTHIEST 1 PERCENT OF AMERICANS. (p. 137)

Remember this book was written in 2000 so it doesn’t account for the 2008 disaster. The 2010 version might have been revised to include the post financial meltdown status.

Yet Washington continues to bow before the Dow, with Republicans and Democrats alike proclaiming all of America to be “prosperous” so long as the market’s investors are prospering. (p. 137)

In the light of history with Alan Greenspan‘s [Ayn Rand acolyte actually worshiped at her feet] pronouncement: “I made a mistake,” and our current knowledge of other banksters and colluders of the credit default swaps and derivatives etc. that blew up the world shockingly easily, the description of Bill Clinton, destroyer of Glass-Steagall that saved us post-Great Depression from more financial market excess, praising another member of the Goldman Sachs aristocracy seems quaint.

A rich example of this skewed perspective [all Americans are prosperous] came to the fore in mid-May of ’99 when Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin stepped down as pontiff of the Clinton administration’s Dowist economic policies. Another media gush ensued, with adoring paen hailing Rubin as the “Architect of Prosperity” (New York Times), and virtually every story cited the TRIPLING of the Dow Jones Average as the high mark of his “wildly successful tenure” (Washington Post).

In a farewell Rose Garden ceremony filled with more adoration than the pope usually gets, President Clinton did not praise Rubin simply for his righteous due, which was that he steadfastly fattened the fat no matter what it cost others, but by asserting that Rubin was somehow a populist pontiff. Without so much as an embarrassed twitch, Clinton proclaimed to the assembled media that Rubin had come to Washington “to help me save the middle class.” Middle class? Rubin, a MONEY-SCAVENGING INVESTMENT BANKER WHO AMASSED A $100 MILLION PERSONAL FORTUNE AT GOLDMAN SACHS before coming to Washington to preserve and extend the wealth of his privilege peers, wouldn’t know a middle-classer if he ran over one with his limousine. Apparently oblivious to the irony, Clinton pressed on with his characterization of Rubin’s work as an exercise in GRASSROOTS ECONOMICS: “He built a spirit and a belief that we could actually make this economy what it ought to be for our people. That will be his enduring achievement — along with the fact that EVERYBODY BELIEVED that as long as he was secretary [sic] of the Treasury nothing bad could happen. “

Was Saturday Night Live scripting this? Rubin was the guy who fought FEROCIOUSLY to KILL any of the JOBS INITIATIVES that candidate Clinton had promised in 1992, who promoted high stock prices by encouraging LOWER WAGES for middle-class workers, who OPPOSED any significant increases in the MINIMUM WAGE, who pushed hard for NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, who breakfasted every week with Fed chairman Alan Greenspan and enthusiastically backed his WAGE-STIFLING monetary policies, who TOOK  billions of tax dollars that could have been used to REBUILD America’s manufacturing base and instead used them to BAIL OUT RICH SPECULATORS WHO HAD MADE BAD GAMBLES in Asia and Latin America, who protected CORPORATE WELFARE from any budget cuts while whacking away at HEALTH and HOUSING programs that benefit working families, and who generally treated the middle class like a fire hydrant at a dog show. (pp. 137-138)

Wow! How great is that take down!?

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IS FAKE NEWS
I had never paid any attention to what the author explains is another one of the fake statistics used to persuade that if we the people feel that something in the system is wrong, the Consumer Confidence Index is dutifully produced each month to gaslight you into thinking it is only “you, Bucko.”

First, despite its ubiquity and authoritative tone, the index is NOT THE BONA FIDE calculation of any government agency, academic institution, or other independent entity. Rather, The Conference Board Inc. is a PRIVATE BUSINESS that is thoroughly dependent on delivering and publicizing monthly reports that please its CORPORATE CLIENTS, which include an alphabet full of bran-name marketers, such as Aetna, BankAmerica, Chevron, Dow Chemical, Exxon, Ford, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, JCPenney, Kmart, Lockheed Martin, Merrill Lunch, NationsBank, Philip Morris, RJR Nabisco, Sears, Texaco, United Airlines, Wal-Mart, and Xerox. (p. 140)

Basically, the Board is a service company for corporate executives, holding seminars and conferences for them, producing reports, doing management research, organizing executive “networking groups,” and the like. Just as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate service organizations have an unabashed PROCORPORATE agenda, so does the Conference Board, which has no representatives of CONSUMERS, WORKERS, or other broad PUBLIC INTERESTS overseeing its work. John Williams, an independent consumer research analyst who is the director of a watchdog organization called the Shadow Bureau of Government Statistics and who produces a no-nonsense newsletter of economic conditions called Straight Shooter, says bluntly: “The purpose of the Conference Board is to PROMOTE BUSINESS, and it is dedicated to good news for business.”

Second, the index is a lot less authoritative than its tone suggests. Each of its monthly releases to the media carry this notation: “The Consumer Confidence survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households.” That’s a most impressive number of citizens for the Board’s surveyors to talk to each month . . . except that they don’t talk to people.The survey is simply a multiple choice questionnaire that is mailed out to the five thousand households. Not mentioned in the monthly media releases is the fact that less than half of these households actually respond by the time the index is compiled, so it’s really a completed survey of more like two thousand to twenty-five hundred households each month. Still, two thousand households could make a very valid survey if the Board used a representative sample of the U.S. population chosen by the scientific sampling techniques used by professional pollsters. IT DOES NOT. Instead of mailing the questionnaires to five thousand homes chosen from all hundred million U.S. households, the five thousand monthly names are drawn from a PRESELECTED POOL of less than seven hundred households! January through December, the survey goes out to another fie thousand addresses taken from this age tiny pool — which includes a mere six-tenths [6/10ths] of 1 percent of us.

Nor are these seven hundred thousand chosen scientifically. Rather, the Board’s surveyors send out assorted direct mail solicitations asking, in effect, “anyone out there want to be in our survey pool?” If this strikes you as lacking somewhat in survey selection professionalism, consider that some of those already in the pool get their golfing partners, their business clients, their brother-in-law Bob, and other acquaintances to jump in, too. No one gets paid to participate, but there are free products to sample from time to time and there’s the thrill of knowing that you’re speaking for America, even if you really don’t. (pp. 140-142)

That’s enough of the that discussion. There is more detail that describes why things like this are flawed or meaningless or actually designed to falsify reality. The lesson here is that you cannot believe anything anyone says without vetting the source and who is behind the source, even when it is the government.

THE FLO CHART (starts p. 144)
He continues to provide the real basis on which to judge economic reality, not the Dow or the fake confidence index but what he calls the Flo Chart, with Flo representing a mom with two jobs, no insurance, and two kids.

How’s Flo doing? Hers is the heartbeat of America’s MAJORITY — the 80 percent of folks who are paid less than $50,000 a ear, the 60 percent who don’t own any stocks and bonds, the 75 percent who don’t have a UNIVERSITY sheepskin hanging on the office wall . . . and the two-thirds who aren’t voting because NEITHER PARTY is fighting for Flo. (p. 145)

Flo, he points out, can tell how things are going by counting her income and subtracting her expenses. Fuck statistics.

One sad stat he describes is the way the impact of women flowing into the workplace was sucked up to seem like families were holding their own, but they were not. “Median family incomes have not risen since the Nixon years, but they would have plummeted disastrously, since real wages for 80 PERCENT of American men are down. The chief stopgap against total family financial disaster has been that both spouses now work. ”

Debt is the other thing that forestalls, temporarily financial catastrophe. In 2000 when this book was published, the average debt he reports as being $7,000 (presumably credit card or non-collateralized loans, not student debt). A quick search got me the updated average (and remember what that means) debt as of 2016 as $16,000 so more than doubled in 16 years.

Don’t get me started on the 2005 Bankruptcy Act and all the ways consumers are now screwed while certain people who might have become president by some evil prankster walks away clean from 4 or more bankruptcies while the rest of the people end up homeless, jobless, and dispossessed of all assets to qualify for the pittance that Clinton (Bill) left available as Workfare that subsequently was limited, capped, and restricted by drug tests and limitations on what you can buy with government assistance (no candy for you!).

If you’re only making $25-30,000 a year, that’s a heavy load, and it’s costing you $1,000 a year just to pay the interest. The result has been a doubling in the 1990s of families filing for personal bankruptcies. Congress did respond to this crisis, though. Not to help the families (you dreamer), but to protect the banks and other credit-card issuers by making it next to impossible for working stiffs to use the bankruptcy laws. (p. 147)

And this was before the 2005 Bankruptcy Act passed.

THE GOVERNMENT IS REALLY IS THE PROBLEM NOW
It is surprising to me that anyone believes that the government ever cared about providing a social safety net or social justice. We know now that the current administration cares even less than ever before as they are stripping hard won environmental protections, labor laws, and eliminating the very programs that prevented the elderly from starving to death or dying due to lack of medical care, and taking food out of the mouths of children.

Let’s be blunt: Low wages are the official policy of the U.S. government. If you’re a manufacturer wanting to hold down wages here at home, the government will book you on a trade delegation to Asia, hook you up with a contractor that provides workers for as cheap as fifteen cents an hour, underwrite your foreign investment, suspend tariffs and quotas so you can ship your cheap-labor products to stores back here, and put out a press release saluting you for joining in a private-public partnership to foster “global competitiveness.” If you’re a minimum-wage employer, don’t worry about any rabble-rousing POPULISM from Democratsthey’ll give you a wink as they hold any increases to a level WAY BELOW POVERTY. Even at higher wage levels, if you’re a Microsoft, IBM, or Silicon Valley giant and want to put a drag on the salaries of your engineers, programmers, and other high-tech workers, count on the DEMOCRATS to join Republicans in help you import an extra fifty thousand or so of these workers each year from Pakistan, Russia, and elsewhere, letting you pay them a third to a half less than U.S. workers, thus busting the American salary scale. (p. 148)

Really great stuff; he really knows how to tell it like it really is!

And if wages do show any sign of creeping up, count on Uncle Alan to step in stomp on them. Alan Greenspan, as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board [retired now], is the ruling authority over our nation’s monetary policy, and he hates wage increases. You see, if wages rise, they might possibly pinch corporate profits ever so slightly, and this might spook your big Wall Street investors causing the high-flying stock prices of corporations to slip a notch. Since today’s upper-class prosperity is built ALMOST ENTIRELY on the bloated price of those corporate stocks, both parties are determined that nothing should spook those investors, even if this means keeping Flo down It’s really a choice of who you want to help — the few who profit from stock prices, or the many who depend on decent wages. BOTH PARTIES HAVE MADE THE SAME CHOICE — Greenspan, first appointed by President RONALD REAGAN and reappointed by Presidents Bush and Clinton has been their bipartisan hit man on Flo. there’s no relief in sight for the poor lady, either, since both DEMOCRAT Gore and Republican bush have signaled that they want Uncle Alan back for yet another term.  (pp. 148-149)

And as we know, Uncle Alan did indeed carry on, until 2006. He is 90 years old now and Wiki entry cites him as still consulting. Hard to believe after the financial crisis of 2008 he would have any credibility, but there you have it.

I should stop and just let you read and appreciate the dry humor and clever turns of phrases while discussing reality and not the shining happy city on a hill that the politicians all acclaim. Maybe just a bit more:

Newsweek had even done a cover story called “The Year of the Employee.” It went on at great length about “this white hot job market,” claiming that people want to be FIRED because they get such “HEFTY SEVERANCE PACKAGES.” Besides, said the magazine, today’s lucky job seekers can take their choice of job offers that not only include “stunning pay increase and gold plated stock option” but also such perks as being allowed to bring your dog to work (complete with company-supplied Milk-Bones). “It’s the revenge of the downsized,” Newsweek prattled. (pp. 150-151)

Fake news has obviously been with us a lot longer than the recent bald-faced lies of the madness of King 45. Carnage! Violence! Bigly! The Wall!


It is not reassuring that even then the bulk of the politicians, media, power elite, and corporate management were all arrayed against the wage workers. I mean, I lived through the whole thing and knew it all was a bunch of lies but somehow I still believe in the dream: get an education, get a good job, get ahead and have economic security. Somehow it never worked out that way. I had white privilege going for me but I also had sexism against me. I had a graduate degree education going for me, but al the pay was for jobs that required a lack of morality, ethics, and actual hear of evil. I could not live and work under those conditions, so I deported myself to lower wage work but because a lot of it was in a female-dominated field, I made less than a man without a high school education doing manual labor. A professor in grad school (on loan from business school) told us that as librarians, we didn’t deserve high pay despite the Master’s degree requirement because the work was indoors, not risky or dangerous, and “not demanding.” She was clueless, but it still true that, in addition to the long forgotten push for “comparable worth” back in the 70s we are stuck without EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK 40 years later.

There are dozens of ways that I have thought of that could redress this constant and damaging failure by the private sector to obey the law but all would require government action. Maybe I will do theme read on it and post since it is likely to be going backward soon. Just in the last couple of days a politician declaimed that “OF COURSE WOMEN SHOULD EARN LESS THAN A MAN!”

And as Jim Hightower has clearly described in this book, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans were inclined to do shit for anyone other than the 1 percent back before  OCCUPY WALL STREET called the bastards out for their corruption. Alas, after the initial jubilance of making a statement that was awesome, the powers that be are doubling down on their respective ideologies, none of which are going to help social justice. The new administration is hell-bent on destroying the progress we have made, limited as it was, and that is demoralizing to say the least.

This whole book is delightful and actually probably benefits from aging, though I definitely want to get the 2010 edition to compare. Knowing what I know now, reading this book, crystallized why we are where we are today to some extent. It doesn’t explain 45, but seeing the sweep of history 16 years later offers a lot of insight into the forces that are running amok today.

Good read. Planning to read other books by Jim Hightower.


I do not understand why the quote symbols are odd. I am going to let it go and publish this and work it out later.

 

 

 

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2 comments

  1. Pingback: Thieves in High Places by Jim Hightower | My Reading Site
  2. Pingback: Thieves in High Places by Jim Hightower – My Reading Site

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