Jim Hightower – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Wed, 12 Aug 2020 06:29:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.15 The Virus That’s Really Killing Americans? Greed and Corporate Profiteering https://www.juancole.com/2020/07/americans-corporate-profiteering.html Thu, 30 Jul 2020 04:02:54 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=192283 ( Otherwords.org ) – Health care giants are taking COVID-19 relief money while cutting jobs and paying CEOs millions. By | July 29, 2020

The holy mantra of health professionals was coined about 2,500 years ago by the Greek physician Hippocrates: “Do no harm.”

Of course, that was before corporate healthcare took charge and asserted a new guiding ethic: “Jack up profits.”

Putting this in practice, America’s largest and richest hospital chains rushed to the front of the COVID-19 bailout line this spring to pull $15 billion from the government’s emergency fund. They pocketed the taxpayers’ money despite sitting on tens of billions of dollars of their own cash reserves.

But hold your nose, for it gets much stinkier.

The bailout was intended to keep hospital workers on the job. Yet the wealthiest chains have hit nurses, janitors, and other crucial frontline staffers with layoffs, pay cuts, and deadly shortages of protective gear.

For example, HCA, the $36-billion a-year health care behemoth that’s wallowing in profits, snatched a billion-dollar taxpayer bailout for itself, then demanded hospital staffers accept wage freezes and the elimination of company pension payments… or have thousands of jobs eliminated.

However, in a public show of compassion, HCA’s chief executive Samuel Hazen donated two months of his $1.4 million salary to an employee support fund. Magnanimous? Deceptive is more like it.

The trick is that a CEO’s “salary” is a miniscule part of total pay. Hazen’s annual bonus, stock payouts, and other compensation will raise his actual pay to almost $27 million.

So his donation is less than 1 percent of his pay, and he almost certainly will write that off his income taxes. That means we taxpayers — including the nurses and others he’s knocking down — not only underwrite his fat take-home pay, but we also subsidize his face-saving philanthropic gimmick.

What we have here is a raging virus of executive suite greed doing deeper damage to our society than COVID-19 ever could.

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Thom Hartmann: “Pandemic Profiteers: Making a Killing From COVID! (w/ Richard Wolff)”

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Congress’ Relief Package was for Small Business, but pro-Trump Millionaires Grabbed up the Lion’s Share https://www.juancole.com/2020/05/congress-business-millionaires.html Fri, 22 May 2020 04:02:33 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=191043 ( Otherwords.org ) – Thanks to a specially carved loophole, one multi-millionaire claimed 339 times more than the average small business received. By | May 20, 2020

Monty Bennett was just another faceless right-wing millionaire on the long list of high-dollar donors to Donald Trump — until he suddenly surfaced in April as the nation’s biggest bagger of government cash in the emergency Paycheck Protection Program.

Bennett got $76 million from this fund meant to help small businesses keep people employed in today’s pandemic shutdown of the economy. But there’s nothing mom-and-popish about Monty’s business.

Operating through a maze of tightly interwoven financial trusts and corporate subsidiaries, Bennett runs a sprawling, Dallas-based conglomerate named Ashford Inc. that owns and operates 130 hotels and luxury resorts all across the country, including the Marriott Beverly Hills and the Ritz-Carlton in the Virgin Islands.

How does a multibillion-dollar empire get such payments while legitimate small businesses are shut out? The old-fashioned way: By paying lobbyists and lawmakers to rig the rules to let corporate thieves raid the treasury.

A major donor to Trump and GOP congress critters, Bennett pressured them to punch a special interest loophole in the program, decreeing that while a big business cannot apply for payments, each “unit” of a big business can.

So… gotcha!

In early April, before most of America’s Main Street enterprises even knew relief was available, Ashford’s squad of manipulators were running all-night sessions for each of the hotels it owns, getting them to rush out “individual” applications. This twisting of the PPP fund made the slick hotelier King of Bailout Hill, having scooped up 339 times more than the average applicant received.

In addition to stiffing small businesses, Bennett balked at the requirement that the bulk of taxpayer dollars be used to maintain the paychecks of Ashford’s hotel employees. Instead, he loudly insisted that government aid should be available to bolster corporate owners — i.e., him.

Did you know that “boss,” spelled backwards, is double-S.O.B?

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Republican Donor Benefits From Funds Meant For Small Business | NowThis

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Our real Pandemic is burgeoning Inequality https://www.juancole.com/2020/05/pandemic-burgeoning-inequality.html Sun, 03 May 2020 04:01:10 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=190659 ( Otherwords.org) – The forces of greed shoved working families to the edge — all it took was a virus to push them over. By | April 29, 2020

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.

Via Otherwords.org.

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Democracy Now!: “Economist Thomas Piketty: Coronavirus Pandemic Has Exposed the “Violence of Social Inequality””

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The Rich wanted to Strangle a Tiny Gov’t in a Bathtub to avoid Taxes; Now it Turns out We need a Competent State https://www.juancole.com/2020/04/strangle-bathtub-competent.html Sun, 19 Apr 2020 04:03:28 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=190388

As the devastating impact of Trump’s inaction becomes clear, Americans are discovering a hidden socialist streak.

( Otherwords.org) – Amazingly, America has become a nation of socialists, asking in dismay: “Where’s the government?”

These are not born-again Bernie Sanders activists, but people of all political stripes (including previously apolitical multitudes) who are now clamoring for big government intervention in their lives.

Nothing like a spreading coronavirus pandemic to bring home the need that all of us have — both as individuals and as a society — for an adequately funded, fully functioning, competent government capable of serving all.

Instead, in our moment of critical national need, Trump’s government is a rickety medicine show run by a small-minded flimflammer peddling laissez-fairyland snake oil.

“We have it totally under control,” Trump pompously declared after the first U.S. case was confirmed in January. For weeks, as the pandemic spread out of control, he did nothing. Meanwhile an increasingly anxious public found that they couldn’t even get reliable test kits from Trump’s hollowed-out government health agencies.

Still, he shrugged off all concern and responsibility: “By April, you know, in theory,” he said, “when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” Not exactly a can-do Rooseveltian response to a national crisis!

By March the inconvenient fact of a rising death toll exposed this imposter of a president as incompetent, uncaring… and silly.

That complete absence of White House leadership is why a deadly pathogen is now raging practically everywhere across our land, unknown millions of us are being infected, a “closed indefinitely” sign has literally been hung on the American economy, and even our people’s social and civic interactions — the essence of community life — have been halted.

Right-wing politico Grover Norquist once said he wanted a government so small “I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Trump has shown us what such a small-minded government looks like. And what it costs us.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

Otherwords.org

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

E-Mails Show Trump Squandered Crucial Time To Address Coronavirus: NYT | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC

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The Lie of Health Care ‘Choice’ https://www.juancole.com/2020/02/health-care-choice.html Sun, 23 Feb 2020 05:01:38 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=189277 ( Otherwords) – In our corporate-run health system, consumer “choices” are shaped entirely by profit-seeking monopolists. By | February 19, 2020

Lyndon Johnson had a saying about special interests trying to get his support to pass some blatantly self-serving legislation: “They can’t make chicken salad out of chicken (bleep)!”

Yet chicken (bleep) is all that the corporate health complex has to work with as it frantically tries to defend its current system of mass malpractice. After all, as most Americans have learned the hard way, profiteering insurance giants, Big Pharma, and hospital chains grossly overcharge us while constantly trying to shortchange — or outright deny — care to millions of our families.

So, unable to win public support on their own merit, the corporatists and their hired political hacks are going all out to continue their gouging and keep control of America’s dysfunctional system. They’re now running a multimillion-dollar PR and lobbying campaign of lies to trash and kill all reforms that would deliver quality, comprehensive care to everyone, at far less cost than they can deliver.

Masquerading as a “Partnership for America’s Health Care Future,” the profiteers warn ominously that such reforms as Medicare for All or a public option for health insurance would take away people’s “choice” and our “control” over health care.

Hello: we presently have no choice or control.

Our “care” is managed by a handful of insurance, drug, and hospital monopolists whose primary objective is not improving our health, but feathering their own cushy nests. And the undeniable, ugly truth is that they can only continue ripping us off by killing real reform.

That’s one reason the American Medical Association and others are dropping out of the Partnership’s political front. Honest health care practitioners no longer believe it’s in their best interest — or the public’s — to be part of its chicken (bleep) PR campaign.

Via Otherwords

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Bernie Sanders: “Medicare for All Means Choice”

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The Polls Show Americans want Big Changes, but “Moderate” Dems say Progressives Can’t Win https://www.juancole.com/2020/02/americans-moderate-progressives.html Sat, 15 Feb 2020 05:02:00 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=189136 (Otherwords) – Moderates consistently warn that progressive ideas can’t win “the middle.” But just look at the polls. By | February 12, 2020

With dozens of Democratic candidates, scores of televised debates, and swarms of reporters and pundits descending on the tiniest blip in polls, this campaign already feels never-ending. But at long last, we’re beginning what matters: Voting!

This year, in addition to decisions about candidates, voters will be making a decision about the future of our society. The question we face is whether we will continue the same-old politics of enriching and empowering the few at the expense of the rest of us, or will we pivot to implement transformative structural changes.

As you would expect, Trump and his sycophantic congress critters are howl-at-the-moon opponents of Medicare for All, the wealth tax, tuition-free college and trade school, the Green New Deal, universal child care, and the full package of populist policies that would begin reversing the scourge of inequality that continues spreading throughout our land.

But what about Democrats? Sadly, many of them are opposed, too.

Not grassroots Dems, of course — not the hard-hit, workaday people who need these reforms. But there’s a gaggle of don’t-rock-the-corporate-boat Democrats (mostly old-line pols, consultants, high-dollar donors, and other Washington insiders) who are declaring that the party must abandon proposals for big systemic changes.

Why? Because, they exclaim, being so progressive, so plainspoken, so insistent — so, well, democratic — is frightening voters.

They warn that proposing major new policies to benefit everyone will let the Trumpeteers paint their candidates as scary socialists. They lecture that the proper course is to draw back to the corporate-centered, Clintonesque approach of incremental minimalism: small, technocratic and legalistic tweaks that won’t disrupt the system itself.

This is the responsible path, they assure us, for winning over America’s moderate middle, particularly independent Republicans and white, middle-class swing voters. Never mind that the white middle class is not by and large made up of squishy moderates, but of millions of mad-as-hell, downwardly mobile middle classers who feel abandoned by both political parties.

Still, the establishment is trying to push the party’s candidates to surrender their progressive ideals and just tinker around the edges of actual change.

For example, rather than offering full-fledged health coverage for every man, woman, and child, these minimalists say the safe political route is simply to criticize Republicans for tampering with Obamacare and leave the current profiteering system of “corporate care” untouched — thus leaving millions of our families with poor to zero coverage.

It is simply a lie that people will be scared off by candidates who propose decent health care as a right for every American. As a December New York Times poll reported, 81 percent of Democrats (and two-thirds of independents) support the idea of Medicare for All legislation as proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Hello — apple pie doesn’t get an approval rating that high!

Or take Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for a tiny wealth tax on mega-fortunes above $50 million — a tax that would finance education, infrastructure expansion, and other crucial programs. In the Times December poll, 77 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents, and — check this — 57 percent of Republicans favored Warren’s tax on superfortunes.

Thank goodness such squeamish Dems weren’t able to nullify big public solutions that Americans desperately needed in the past, such as:

  • FDR’s Social Security, labor protections, and farm security measures,
  • Ike Eisenhower’s interstate highway infrastructure,
  • LBJ’s Civil Rights, Medicare, Title IX, and anti-poverty programs,
  • and even Nixon’s EPA and OSHA.

As a South Texas saying puts it: “A grandes males, grandes remedios”: for big problems, get big solutions. Obviously, our society’s problems today — from rampant inequality to climate change — are beyond huge. But how big will Democrats go in addressing these challenges?

Via Otherwords

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

The Hill: “Nebraska Dem Party Chair: How to win on progressive values in rural America”

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We Know Exactly Where to Get the Money to Fix Inequality https://www.juancole.com/2019/10/exactly-where-inequality.html Sun, 27 Oct 2019 04:02:47 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=187067 By Jim Hightower | –

(Otherwords) – Jesse Jackson ran a strong populist campaign for president in 1988, advocating bold new policies and programs to address inequality. This prompted establishment skeptics to scoff, “Where ‘ya gonna get the money?”

It’s no secret where America’s wealth has gone in recent decades: upwards.

Jackson answered directly: We’ll “get it from where it went.”

He meant from corporations and the rich, which had long been rigging the economic system and government policies to shift income and wealth from the workaday majority to themselves.

Thirty years later, that shift has become an avalanche: Just three men — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett — now own more of the nation’s wealth than the 165 million Americans who make up the bottom half of our population combined.

This extreme (and expanding) separation of the few from the many is why progressive policy makers today are calling — as Jackson had — for big, forward-thinking populist solutions. But again, the smug forces of the status quo scoff, “Where ‘ya gonna get the money?”

The answer is the same one Jackson offered decades ago, but this time two new factors are in play.

First, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have offered specific, easy-to-understand proposals to tax multimillionaires and billionaires to pay for the structural changes needed to open opportunities for the poor and middle class.

Second, the public now enthusiastically supports such a tax: A recent poll found two-thirds of Americans (including a majority of Republicans) favoring Senator Warren’s plan for a 2 percent tax on fortunes above $50 million.

Inequality will not fix itself. As the American majority has had to do periodically in our history, We The People must intervene to keep greed and wealth concentration from suffocating our society’s essential democratic values of fairness, justice, and opportunity for all.

A wealth tax is the place to start.

Via Otherwords

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Bloomberg: “Income Inequality Is a Structural Issue in U.S.: Columbia’s Sachs”

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The GOP is Demonizing the Left in New Red Scare, but US Public wants . . . Socialism https://www.juancole.com/2019/05/demonizing-public-socialism.html Fri, 03 May 2019 06:38:51 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=183809 (Otherwords) – The policies Republicans smear as Stalinist are a good deal more popular than their own. By | May 1, 2019

“Socialism,” snarled Donald Trump at a recent pep rally of far-right Republicans. 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 ultra-nationalism, masculine authoritarianism, suppression of democratic rights, and rule by wealthy elites is the opposite of the progressive agenda. Indeed, it describes the policies of — guess who? — Trump and his acolytes, including Cornyn!

The real problem for the GOP, however, isn’t merely that squawking “socialism” makes them sound like nutty old fuddy-duddies, but that the 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 super-rich? 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?

Via Otherwords

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Bernie 2020 Colorado: “Bernie Defines Democratic Socialism”

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The United States of Monopoly Rule https://www.juancole.com/2018/08/united-states-monopoly.html Sat, 18 Aug 2018 07:30:50 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=177963 (Afterwords) – Five banks control half of all U.S. financial assets, and six conglomerates control 90 percent of our media.

Monopolies aren’t merely un-American — they’re virulently anti-American. They suppress our fundamental values of fairness and opportunity for all.

Our people have instinctively rebelled at monopoly avarice — from the Boston Tea Party to the populist movement, labor unions, trust busters, muckrakers, the New Deal, and even Ralph Nader.

Yet, in just the last couple of decades, corporate elites and their public officials have enshrined monopoly power as a legitimate form of business in our land, aggressively protected by lawmakers, regulators, and judges.

For example, after our grassroots economy was crushed in 2007 by the greed of too-big-to-fail Wall Street banksters, officials bailed out the villainous banks at taxpayer expense — and deliberately made them bigger, more powerful, and more dangerous than ever. Today, just five banks control nearly half of all financial assets in the United States.

You’d think such a massive power grab by bank monopolists would produce an equally massive, 24/7 barrage of coverage by the nation’s media outlets, which purport to be defenders of democracy. But while an occasional story pops out about monopoly abuse, there’s no comprehensive coverage to rally a public rebellion against what’s become the “United States of Monopoly Rule.”

Why? Look at who owns America’s mass media.

Three decades ago, 50 large media conglomerates controlled 90 percent of the media. This year, after a frenzy of mergers among of those giants, just 6 mega-media monopolists control 90 percent of what we see, hear, and read. It’s not in their interest to inform the public about the threat that monopolies pose to our democracy, so they won’t.

As the great journalist A.J. Liebling warned nearly 40 years ago, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” To help battle the monopolists, check out the Center for Media and Democracy at www.prwatch.org/cmd.

By

Jim Hightower, an OtherWords columnist, is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder:
WATCH: Sinclair Media’s Orwellian Discrediting Of Anti-Monopoly Message

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