Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower: CEOs are eager to kill your jobs via AI

Talus, an ancient mythical    automaton    with artificial intelligence

Talus, an ancient mythical automaton with artificial intelligence

Via OtherWords.org

Corporate bosses don’t talk about it in public, but among themselves — psssst — they whisper excitedly about implementing a transformative “AI agenda” across our economy.

AI stands for artificial intelligence, the rapidly advancing digital technology of creating thinking robots that program themselves, act on their own, and even reproduce themselves. These automatons are coming soon to a workplace near you.

Not wanting to stir a preemptive rebellion by human workers, corporate chieftains avoid terms like automation of jobs, instead substituting euphemisms like “digital transformation” of work.  

Privately, however, top executives see AI as their path to windfall profits and personal enrichment by replacing whole swaths of their workforce with an automated army of cheap machines that don’t demand raises, take time off, or form unions.

As tech exec Kai-Fu Lee confided to The New York Times, he expects AI to “eliminate 40 percent of the world’s jobs within 15 years.”

Some CEOs are so giddy about AI’s profiteering potential that they openly admit their intentions.

Take Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics giant hailed as a job creating savior last year by Donald Trump. It was given $3 billion in public subsidies to open a huge manufacturing plant in Wisconsin, but it’s now reneging and declaring that it intends to replace 80 percent of its global workforce with robots within 10 years.

Corporate apologists say displaced humans can be “reskilled” to do something else. But what? Where? When? No response.

Executives try to skate by the human toll by saying that the machine takeover is the inevitable march of technological progress. Hogwash! There’s nothing “natural” about the AI agenda — it’s a choice being made by an elite group of corporate and political powers trying to impose their selfish interests over us.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, write and public speaker.

Jim Hightower: You'll have to give self-driving cars the right of way

Inside a Tesla self-driving car.

Inside a Tesla self-driving car.

Via OtherWords.org

With chaos in the White House, worsening climate disasters, more wars than we can count, and a wobbling economy here at home, the last thing we need is another big challenge. But — look out! — here comes a doozy!

It’s AI — artificial intelligence — the fast-evolving science of autonomous machines that can think, learn and even reproduce themselves.

Consider self-driving vehicles. Once the stuff of science fiction, the future is suddenly upon us, with Google, Daimler, and GM rolling out driverless taxis, commercial trucks, and even cars with no steering wheel or gas and brake pedals.

An army of corporate lobbyists is rushing to legislative halls, literally changing the rules of the road to allow full deployment of these vehicles.

What about the hundreds of thousands of professional drivers who’ll lose their jobs? Not our problem, say the financiers and AI barons who’d profit from a mass bot-mobile conversion. Besides, as AI champion David Autor coldly asserts, those drivers get sick, take vacations, etc. “People are messy,” he notes; “machines are straightforward.”

Indeed, so straightforward that these two-ton, non-sentient “drivers” will be driving straight at a world of defenseless pedestrians. Already, one of Uber’s experimental cars killed an Arizona pedestrian last year.

We can fix that, says Andrew Ng, a prominent AI investor: They just have to be reprogrammed.

By “they,” Ng doesn’t mean the self-driving machines — he means pedestrians! “Please be lawful,” he scolds, “and please be considerate” of the computer-driven vehicles. Give right-of-way to the new technology!

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

Jim Hightower: Forget Bezos and Cyber Monday -- Shop at local stores

Shops along Water Street in Stonington, Conn.    — Photo by    Pi.1415926535

Shops along Water Street in Stonington, Conn.

— Photo by Pi.1415926535

Via OtherWords.org

“Cyber Monday” is coming up — get out there and buy stuff!

You don’t actually have to “get out there” anywhere, for this gimmicky shop-shop-shop day lures us to consume without leaving home, or even getting out of bed. Concocted by Amazon, the online marketing monopolist, Cyber Monday is a knock-off of Black Friday — just another ploy by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to siphon sales from real stores.

Seems innocent enough, but behind Amazon’s online convenience and discounted prices is a predatory business model based on exploitation of workers, bullying of suppliers, dodging of taxes, and use of crude anti-competitive force against America’s Main Street businesses.

A clue into Amazon’s ethics came when Bezos instructed his staff to get ever-cheaper prices from small-business suppliers by stalking them “the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.”

John Crandall, who owns Old Town Bike Shop in Colorado Springs, is one who’s under attack. He offers fair prices, provides good jobs, pays rent and taxes, and lives in and supports the community.

But he’s noticed that more and more shoppers come in to try out bikes and get advice, yet not buy anything. Instead, their smartphones scan the barcode of the bike they want, then they go online to purchase it from Amazon — cheaper than Crandall’s wholesale price.

You see, the cheetah is a multibillion-dollar-a-year beast that can sell that bike at a loss, then make up the loss on sales of the thousands of other products it peddles.

This amounts to corporate murder of small business. It’s illegal, but Amazon is doing it every day in practically every community.

So, on this Cyber Monday, let’s pledge to buy from local businesses that support our communities. For information, go to American Independent Business Alliance: www.amiba.net.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker.

Jim Hightower: GOP is hard at work suppressing the vote

Via OtherWords.org

At last, Nov. 6 is coming: Time to vote! Let’s all join the majestic panorama of democracy in action!

Well… calling America’s electoral process “majestic” is overdoing it, for millions of our citizens will not be allowed to vote.

That’s because a consortium of national, state, and local officials of Republican persuasion — along with their corporate ringleaders — have mounted a tawdry campaign over the past decade to slam the ballot box shut on entire segments of America’s electorate.

In a concerted effort, these rabidly partisan officials have targeted African Americans, students, Latinos, the elderly, union households, the poor, immigrants, and other communities of qualified voters to shoo them away on Election Day.

Why? Because such citizens tend to vote for Democrats and progressive ballot initiatives.

So the GOP’s grand strategy is not to “win” by getting the most votes, but to keep from losing by aggressively (and shamefully) shutting out millions of Americans who might vote against their plutocratic, autocratic, kleptocratic candidates and agenda.

Consider voting day itself. It’s a Tuesday — a workday — automatically eliminating people working two or three jobs who can’t afford to take off a couple of hours or more to get to the polls and wait in line to vote. Move elections to weekends, make it a holiday, vote by mail… make democracy easy!

Instead, in a depraved, anti-democratic grab for partisan gain, Republican officials have frenetically been planting thick briar patches of ridiculous rules, logistical barriers, intimidation tactics, ballot deceptions, and outright voter bans in targeted precincts across the country.

These thugs are stealing the people’s most valuable civic property: Our votes. Shouldn’t they at least have to wear ski masks on Election Day so everyone can see who’s doing this to us?

Jim Hightower, an OtherWords columnist, is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker.

Jim Hightower: Trump's bid to use Postal Service to hit Amazon may backfire big time

Photo by Chensiyuan    Close up of the James A. Farley Post Office,  in Manhattan. Read the inscription over the columns:  " Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds''

Photo by Chensiyuan

Close up of the James A. Farley Post Office,  in Manhattan. Read the inscription over the columns: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds''

Via OtherWords.org

The U.S. Postal Service has 30,000 outlets serving every part of America. It employs 630,000 people in good middle-class jobs. And it proudly delivers letters and packages clear across the country for a pittance.

It’s a jewel of public-service excellence. Therefore, it must be destroyed.

Such is the fevered logic of laissez-faire-headed corporate supremists like the billionaire Koch brothers and the right-wing politicians who serve them.

This malevolent gang of wrecking-ball privatizers includes such prominent Trumpsters as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (a former Wall Street huckster from Goldman Sachs), and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney (a former corporate-hugging Congress critter from South Carolina).

Both were involved in setting up Trump’s shiny new task force to remake our U.S. Postal Service. It’s like asking two foxes to remodel the hen house.

Trump himself merely wanted to take a slap at his political enemy, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, by jacking up the prices the Postal Service charges to deliver Amazon’s packages. The cabal of far-right corporatizers, however, saw Trump’s temper tantrum as a golden opportunity to go after the Postal Service itself.

Trump complained about the Postal Service not charging Amazon enough for mailing packages. But instead of simply addressing the matter, the task force was trumped-up with an open-ended mandate to evaluate, dissect, and “restructure” the people’s mail service — including carving it up and selling off the parts.

Who’d buy the pieces? For-profit shippers like FedEx, of course. But here’s some serious irony for you: The one outfit with the cash and clout to buy our nation’s whole postal infrastructure and turn it into a monstrous corporate monopoly is none other than… Amazon itself.

I’d prefer my neighborhood post office, thanks. To help stop this sellout, become part of the Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service: www.AGrandAlliance.org.

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

 

Jim Hightower: Companies step up their thefts from their employees

 

Via OtherWords.org

Workplace exploitation has been around from the beginning. But rather than using whips to make the assembly lines move ever faster, today’s corporate exploiters use technology, devious work schedules, and lobbyists to extract more work from employees — for less pay.

Walmart, for example, wants to provide next-day delivery for online customers by having its low-wage workforce use their own time and vehicles to drop off packages as they go home after work.

Economists have a technical term for these corporate ploys: stealing.

One entire group being victimized by corporate thieves are the 4.3 million Americans who make up our “tipped workforce.”

Mostly employed as wait staff in restaurants — from big chains like IHOP to the most exclusive dining establishments — these workers fall under a grossly unjust category of labor law that allows their employers to pay a miserly minimum wage as low as $2.13 an hour.

The rationale is that customers will subsidize this sub-poverty pay by leaving generous tips — a convenient corporate lie refuted by the fact the income of tipped workers is a third less than non-tipped workers. And tipped workers are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty.

Luckily, Trump has intervened to help. Lucky for restaurant owners, that is.

Bowing to demands by restaurant industry lobbyists, Trump’s Labor Department has proposed a new rule allowing employers to seize workers tips and use them for any purpose — including fattening their own profits. Paying $2.13 an hour already amounts to a massive wage theft, but this elevates it to legalized highway robbery!

Even the most notorious robbers in history would be too ashamed to pull a job this wicked. Thankfully, a Democratic provision slipped into an omnibus spending bill may have stopped it for now.

Still, today’s combination of corporate greed and Trump’s ethical bankruptcy is turning blatant wickedness into business as usual.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 

Jim Hightower: Counting the 'populist' Trump's lies to his sucker followers

 

Via OtherWords.org

Have you noticed that Donald Trump constantly prefaces his outlandish lies with such phrases as: “To be honest with you,” “To tell the truth,” and “Believe me”?

Why? Because like a snake-oil salesman, he constantly needs to convince himself that he’s speaking the truth in order to perform his next lie convincingly. The show must go on… and on.

In fact, he already ranks as the perhaps lyingest president in U.S. history. And that includes Nixon! The Washington Post‘s fact checker counted over 2,000 lies in Trump’s first year alone.

Trump’s biggest whopper is that he’s an honest-to-God “populist,” standing up for America’s hard-hit middle class against Wall Street, corporate lobbyists and moneyed elites.

This prevarication has duped many working stiffs into thinking he’s their champion. The huckster doubled down on this lie in his inaugural address last year, pompously declaring, “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

That’s why a new, straight-talking pamphlet by the watchdog group Public Citizen is so important. It exposes the “people’s champion” as a rank fraud who’s worked from day one to further enrich and empower the corporate elites he had denounced as a candidate.

Public Citizen’s report documents with concise, easy-to-grasp specifics on how Trump-the-faux-populist has systematically sold out the working families whose votes he cynically swiped, handing our government to a kakistocracy of corporate plutocrats.

The Public Citizen exposé is titled “Forgetting the Forgotten: 101 Ways Donald Trump Has Betrayed the Middle Class,” and it drives the stake of truth through the heart of his populist pretensions. It’s available at CorporatePresidency.org/forgotten.)

 Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Public Citizen board. 

 

Jim Hightower: Bribing big firms to lure them to your area is a fool's game

"Eve Tempted by the Serpent,.''   by  William Blake .

"Eve Tempted by the Serpent,.'' by William Blake.

Via OtherWords.org

Governors and mayors insist that giving our tax dollars to corporations to lure them to move to our cities is good public policy. The corporations create jobs, those workers pay taxes, and — voila! — the giveaway pays for itself!

Does it really work that way? Unfortunately, no.

Good Jobs First tracked the 386 incentive deals since 1976 that gave at least $50 million to a corporation, then tallied the number of jobs created. The average cost per job was $658,427 — each! That’s far more than cities and states can recover through any kinds of taxes those jobholders would pay in their lifetimes.

The rosy job-creation claims by incentive dealmakers also tend to be bogus, because they don’t subtract the number of jobs lost as a result of these deals.

Amazon, for example, has leaned on officials in every major metro area to subsidize its creation of a nationwide network of warehouses, data centers and other facilities.

In a 2016 report titled “Amazon’s Stranglehold,” the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that more than half of Amazon’s facilities had been built with government subsidies. And Good Jobs First found that since 2005, Amazon has received more than $1 billion from taxpayers to build their private business.

Each handout was made in the name of local workers — and, yes, Amazon does employ thousands. But the subsidies enable the retail giant to undercut local, unsubsidized competitors, driving them out of business and causing devastating job losses that greatly outnumber jobs gained.

The Institute reports that at the end of 2015, Amazon employed 146,000 people in its US operations. But the taxpayer-supported giant had meanwhile killed some 295,000 U.S. retail jobs.

Check out the report for yourself at ilsr.org/amazon-stranglehold.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 

Jim Hightower: Jeff Bezos wants the key to your house

Amazon is watching you.

Amazon is watching you.

Via OtherWords.org

Would you give your house key to a complete stranger, letting that person (whose name you don’t even know) walk right into your home when you’re not there?

One stranger who’s brazenly asking you and millions of other people to do just that is Jeff Bezos.

He’s the head honcho of Amazon, the e-commerce behemoth whose vast supercomputer network routinely compiles and stores dossiers on every one of his customers. He’s obsessed with having the most data on the most people — it’s a little creepy.

Now, adding to the creep factor, Bezos literally wants Amazon to get inside your home. And, ironically, he’s using “security” as his rationale.

Rather than simply delivering the products you order from Amazon to your doorstep, the corporation wants a key to unlock your door, allowing its delivery crews to go inside and do you the favor of placing the packages securely in your abode.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

Other than you being robbed, of course, either by rogue Amazon employees or by hackers who will certainly gain access to the corporation’s computerized key codes. Or maybe “Crusher,” your pitbull, mauls the Amazon intruder and you get sued.

Need I mention that Bezos expects you to pay for the privilege of having his employees enter your home? First, his dicey, open-sesame program, which he calls “Amazon Key,” is available only to customers who shell out $99 a year to be “Amazon Prime” members.

Second, you must buy a special Internet-unlocking gizmo and a particular camera to join his corporate key club. And guess where you must go to buy this entry technology? Yes, Amazon — where prices for the gizmo and camera setup start at $250.

This is Jim Hightower saying… What a deal! For Amazon, that is.

Bezos’s  real goal — indeed, his only goal, always — isn’t so much to get inside your home. It’s to get inside your wallet.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

 

Jim Hightower: A mass murderer's love song to Trump

Via OthertWords.org

We’ve had a great relationship,” exulted a giddy Donald Trump, following his two-day schmoozefest in Manila with the thuggish Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte, who calls himself a “toughie,” brags that he’s personally killed many people and likes to compare himself to Hitler. He’s been on a murderous rampage since his election last year.

In the name of eliminating the drug trade, Duterte has unleashed a massive military assault across the country, not merely targeting dealers, but also anyone alleged to even use drugs. His onslaught is a human rights atrocity, with untold thousands being executed in what are antiseptically termed “extra judicial killings” — that is, murders.

Yet the present president of the United States says Duterte is his new buddy. Trump stressed in their official discussions that the Philippine president can count on him and the U.S. (which includes you and me) to be a friend. And, as a friend, Trump didn’t bother his authoritarian buddy with any unpleasant talk about those rampant human rights abuses.

Instead, the Duterte-Trump get-together was one of mutual praise and even affection. Indeed, Trump was delighted when Duterte impulsively grabbed the microphone at a gala state dinner and serenaded Trump with a love ballad, crooning: “You are the love I’ve been waiting for.”

In fact, Duterte had earlier demonstrated that love when he named Jose Antonio to be his trade representative to our country. Antonio, a Philippine real estate mogul, happens to be a partner with our president in the luxurious new Trump Tower, now under construction in Manila. Cozy, huh?

Hugging up Duterte might be good business for Trump, but it’s a sorry deal for our national interest — and it’s an insult to our people’s support of human rights.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 

Jim Hightower: President Trump and other people's money

Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-12763,_Banküberfall.jpg

 

Via OtherWords.org

If you’ve been to any of the cities graced with a Trump hotel, casino, or resort, you know that The Donald splashes his name in giant, gaudy letters across every structure he owns — preferably in gold or at least golden paint

Now he’s taken ownership of a massive new structure, but he might not want his name on this one. It’s Trump’s towering re-do of America’s tax law. And it’s truly golden — for the super-rich, that is.

The plan reveals in hard numbers whom this presidency really serves: Not just the 1-percent, but the one-tenth of 1-percenters who are multimillionaires. People like Trump himself.

First and foremost, the Trump tax plan slashes the payments that giant corporations make to support our nation. He claims that this will let corporate elites raise the wages of workers and create jobs, winking at the fact that, of course, the elites will pocket every dime of his tax giveaways.

And — shhhh — he doesn’t mention a little secret gotcha: A third of his corporate benefits go to foreign owners of American corporations.

Meanwhile, Trump’s luxurious new tax structure eliminates many benefits for middle class families, such as tax deductions for medical expenses, college tuition, and interest paid on student loans.

He wants modest-income families to pay more, so he can eliminate current taxes on his own uber-rich family — including killing the alternative income tax paid by the rich, and the estate tax, which applies only to the immense fortunes of a handful of America’s richest families.

Did I mention that the gilded tax structure proposed by this self-described business genius would hang an additional $1.5 trillion in debt around our children’s necks?

No surprise, for Trump’s grandiose luxury projects were often built with other people’s money. Trump would cash in before he slipped away, leaving others to grapple with the bankruptcy.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

 

Jim Hightower: Push back against arrogant Amazon

"Battle of the Amazons,'' by Peter Paul Rubens.

"Battle of the Amazons,'' by Peter Paul Rubens.

Via OtherWords.org

Isn’t it funny that right-wing politicians across America piously rant against giving a few bucks worth of jobless benefits to the needy — then turn around and shove billions of our tax dollars into corporate welfare for the greedy?

You’re right. It’s not funny. But here we go again.

We’re witnessing the most disgusting spectacle yet of the politico-corporate cabal extracting money from the people’s wallets to  further enrich themselves.

Amazon.com, the $136-billion-a-year Internet colossus, has initiated a sleazy, self-serving public bidding war over where it will locate its new corporate headquarters. The city and state that offer the most bribe money to this private enterprise will be “the winner.” {Boston and Providence are among the bidders.}

Uber-rich Amazon doesn’t need — and certainly doesn’t deserve — any public handout. But officials in 238 cities have prostrated themselves in front of this Amazonian welfare queen in embarrassing bids to win her nod.

Amazon’s arrogant executives even sent out a list of basic benefits they expect every applicant to deliver, including a “business-friendly environment and tax structure,” free land, a subsidy to reduce its operational costs, tax breaks, relocation grants for executives and workforce, reduced utility bills, and — oh yeah, also give us first-rate schools and an educated labor pool.

As one analyst of Amazon’s bribery scheme noted, “These incentives aren’t free. There’s no fairy godmother paying for them.”

The typical result of corporate giveaways is that they cost the public more than we get back. By demanding such corporate spoils, Amazon brands itself a common thief, not only taking our money, but also stealing our trust in the fairness of the system and widening inequality in our society.

To help stop this corruption, go to GoodJobsFirst.org.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator,  writer and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 

 

Jim Hightower; As free as you can afford to be

wallet.jpg

Via OtherWords.org

I think of freedom in positive, aspirational terms — as in FDR’s “Four freedoms,” or in the uplifting songs of freedom sung by oppressed people everywhere.

But right-wing ideologues have fabricated a negative notion of “freedoms” derived from their twisted concept of individual choice. You’re “free” to be poor, politically powerless, or ill and uncared for, they say — it’s all a matter of decisions you freely make, and our government has no business interfering with your free will.

This is what passes as a philosophical framework guiding today’s Republican congressional leaders.

For example, they say their plan to eliminate health coverage for millions of Americans and cut such essential benefits as maternity care for millions more is just a matter of good ol’ free-market consumerism.

As explained by Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Tea Party Republican: “Americans have choices. And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”

Lest you think that Chaffetz must simply be an oddball jerk, here’s a similar deep insight from the top House Republican, Speaker Paul Ryan: “Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.”

Yes, apparently, you’re as free as you can afford to be. As Vice President Mike Pence recently barked at us, Trumpcare’s you’re-on-your-own philosophy is all about “bringing freedom and individual responsibility back to American health care.”

The GOP’s austere view is that getting treatment for your spouse’s cancer should be like buying a new pair of shoes — a free-market decision by customers who choose their own price point, from Neiman Marcus to Goodwill. And if you go barefoot, well, that’s your choice.

 

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 

 

Jim Hightower: Donald Trump's relentless Twitter attacks on --- our allies

 

Via OtherWords.org

Donald Trump missed his opportunity to become a General Patton-style military commander and glorious war hero back in the Vietnam era. He surely would’ve been the greatest in history, to hear him tell it.

But, alas, he says some unspecified foot problem (or something or other) kept him from the privilege of actually getting to go fight in that war. Bad luck, I’m sure. But now that The Donald is the commander-in-chief for real, his inner warrior has been given a second chance to bloom, and this time he’s fully enlisted.

In recent weeks, President Trump has (1) escalated a running war of words against Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, (2) bombed the European leaders of NATO with explosive charges that they’re unworthy of his support, (3) launched a fierce new barrage of tough rhetoric in his extralegal offensive to ban all travel to the U.S. by anyone from six Muslim nations, and (4) opened an entirely new battlefront by attacking the mayor of London with one of his Twitter missiles.

In last year’s presidential campaign, Trump declared with typical modesty that “No one is bigger or better at the military than I am.”

Well, I’m certainly no expert on war, but if a president is going to pick a mess of foreign fights, wouldn’t it be better, strategically speaking, to pick on actual enemies, rather than on America’s allies? After all, there might come a time when we need friends to stand with us.

In a twist of historic irony, it looks like Boss Trump and his military team might need those European allies sooner than they figured. His national security chief and the Pentagon are pushing a new strategy for America’s long, horribly messy war in Afghanistan — but it depends on our NATO allies sending some of their troops into the fight.

Oops, how awkward for the impetuous tweeter-in-chief.

 Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 

 

Jim Hightower: Trump/Ryan Care would be bonanza for insurance company CEOs

It appears that House Speaker Paul Ryan’s 123-page legislative plan for Trumpcare, the GOP’s so-called “replacement” for Obamacare, is dead — for now, anyway.

Republicans tried to rush it through, but not before the Congressional Budget Office discovered it was actually a displacement plan.

That is, if it had passed, 24 million Americans who are now insured would have lost their insurance. Moreover, the premiums paid by senior citizens would have been jacked up, and the benefits for practically everyone would have been cut.

But Ryan did make sure that one group with special needs would have benefited from his legislative wizardry: the CEOs of giant insurance corporations.

Understandably, none of the GOP lawmakers who’ve been loudly crowing about killing Obamacare mentioned a little, six-line provision hidden on page 67, discretely titled “Remuneration from Certain Insurers.” In plain English, this gob of gobbledygook offers a tax subsidy that encourages insurance conglomerates to increase the pay of their top executives.

Current tax law says insurers can pay as much as they want to top executives, but they can only deduct $500,000 per executive from their corporate taxes. Under Ryan’s rip-off, however, we taxpayers would have at least doubled — and possibly quadrupled — the unconscionable salary subsidies we dole out to these enormously profitable corporations.

The White House and GOP Congress proclaimed that their replacement of Obamacare was “the will of the people.” Really? How many Americans think that jacking up the pay of super-rich insurance chiefs is a proper use of our tax dollars?

And I’d say a big majority of the people would think it immoral to steal lifesaving healthcare benefits from working-class and poor families just to subsidize corporate elites who are already overpaid.

If Republicans actually thought their executive pay subsidy was the will of the people, why did they try so hard to keep it a secret

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 

 

Jim Hightower: Hypocrite House speaker should spare us his lectures on morality of entitlements

 

Via OtherWords.org

For nearly half a century now, America’s middle-class working families have been pummeled by corporate greedmeisters and their political henchmen.

Indeed, during the recession, the typical median-income family has lost 40 percent of their wealth. Haven’t they been punished enough?

No, says U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Along with other top Republican leaders of Congress, he intends to slash the Social Security money that middle-class and low-income workers depend on for their retirement, and he ultimately aims to kill it altogether.

Dependence on such public “entitlements,” he preaches, weakens our nation’s morality.

Entitlements? Social Security isn’t a welfare program — regular working people pay a 12-percent tax on every dime of their wages into this public pension fund year after year. They earn their retirement.

Morality? Social Security embodies America’s core moral value of fairness and our society’s commitment to the common good. And it works: Before it was enacted, half of all Americans spent their “golden years” in poverty.

Social Security has saved the great majority of us from old-age penury. Where is the morality in stealing away this earned retirement — and the modicum of dignity that comes with it — from millions?

Besides, a sermon on the morality of entitlements should never come from a congress critter’s mouth.

Ryan himself wallows in a mud pit of congressional entitlements that working stiffs couldn’t imagine getting: A $223,500 annual paycheck, a free limousine and chauffeur, a maximum-coverage health plan, a tax-paid PR agent, a lavish expense account, free travel — and, of course, a platinum-level congressional retirement program funded by the very taxpayers whose Social Security he’s out to kill.

Yet Ryan wonders why Congress’ public approval rating is plummeting toward single digits.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown

 

Jim Hightower: These are great days for reading '1984'

 

Via OtherWords.org

Tromp-tromp-tromp — troops are marching to battles. Boom-boom-boom — bombs are blowing up communities. Whoooosh — poisonous gas is being released.

Forget Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan — this is Trump’s War.

Our bellicose commander in chief is at war in the homeland, deploying his troops to attack everything from our public schools to the EPA, dropping executive order bombs on Muslim communities and the Mexican border.

He’s spewing poisonous tweets of bigotry and right-wing bile at the media, scientists, inner cities, “illegal voters,” Meryl Streep, diplomats, Democrats, and people who use real facts.

Basically, Trump is at war with everyone who doesn’t agree with him — in short, with the majority of Americans. And you thought that Nixon had a long enemies list!

Yet Trump’s most destructive assault so far hasn’t targeted any one group, but instead an essential and existential concept: truth. Bluntly put, he believes that truth is whatever he says it is, and that he can change it tomorrow.

Years ago, in a futuristic novel, the author wrote about the rise of a tyrannical regime that ruled by indoctrinating the masses to accept the perverse notion of capricious truth. It was George Orwell’s 1984, which depicted a dystopia he named Oceania.

There, the public had been inculcated to believe that reality is not “something objective, external, existing in its own right.” Rather, “whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth.”

Now, in 2017, we live in Trumplandia — with a delusional leader of a plutocratic party trying to redefine reality with “alternative facts,” fake news, and a blitzkrieg of Orwellian “Newspeak.”

But resistance to Trumpism is already surging. Not least, Orwell’s 70-year-old book has become a bestseller again — thanks to Trump resisters seeking… you know, the truth.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 

Jim Hightower: Perry to run Energy Dept. for crony capitalism

Via OtherWords.org

Rick Perry has taken quite a tumble since being governor of Texas. He was a twice-failed GOP presidential wannabe and then ended up being a rejected contestant on Dancing with the Stars, the television show for has-been celebrities.

But now, having kissed the ring of Donald Trump, Perry is being lifted from the lowly role of twinkle-toed TV hoofer to — get this — taking charge of our government’s nuclear arsenal.

That’s a position that usually requires some scientific knowledge and experience. But as we’re learning from Trump’s other Cabinet picks, the key qualification that Trump wants his public servants to have is a commitment to serve the private interests of corporate power.

That’s why Perry — a devoted practitioner of crony capitalism and a champion of oligarchy — has been rewarded with this position.

As governor, Perry went to extraordinary lengths to let the fossil-fuel giant Energy Transfer Partners run a pipeline through the ecologically fragile, natural wonders of Texas’s pristine Big Bend region. In fact, he rammed it right down the throats of local people, who were almost unanimously opposed.

Perry then accepted a $6 million campaign donation — i.e., a payoff — from the company’s corporate boss, who later made Perry a paid member of the corporation’s board of directors.

Perry also privatized a state-run, low-level nuclear-waste facility, turning it over to Waste Control Specialists, a firm owned by a major campaign contributor. Then he let the corporation double the amount of waste dumped there, while reducing its legal liability for damages.

Finally, after taking even more cash from the owner, Perry pushed to let him put high-level nuclear waste in the dump.

Rick Perry has zero expertise or experience for the job of energy secretary, but he has plenty at stiffing the American people and our environment.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, public speaker, editor of the populist newsletter The Hightower Lowdown and a member of the Public Citizen board. 

Jim Hightower: Our fraudulent, pathological liar president-elect still addicted to Twitter

Two previous pathological  liars/egomaniacs in their glory days.

Two previous pathological  liars/egomaniacs in their glory days.

Via OtherWords. org

All hail Augusts Trumpus — the American Putin, whom none can criticize! All hail the All Knowing One, who reveals “realities” that aren’t there and finds “facts” that mere mortals can’t detect.

Once again, the Amazing Donald has demonstrated his phantasmagoric power of perception, having found a new outcome in November’s election that others haven’t seen. Trump has been greatly perturbed by the official results, which showed that while he won the Electoral College majority, he wasn’t the people’s choice.

Instead, according to the latest tally, Hillary Clinton won the popular balloting by a margin of more than 2.7 million votes and counting.

Growing increasingly furious at this affront to his supernatural sense of self, the master of factual flexibility went on Twitter with an amazing revelation: “I won the popular vote,” decreed our incoming tweeter-in-chief.

How did he turn a 2.7 million vote loss into a glorious victory? “I won,” he tweeted, “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Wow again! Millions?

You’d think that such a massive conspiracy, with millions of illegal voters in line at thousands of precincts, would’ve been noticed by election officials, GOP poll watchers, and the media. How did Trump find this truly incredible “fact”?

It seems he channeled it from the mysterious Twittersphere — and specifically from a Texas conspiracy hound who had earlier posted a tweet declaring: “We have verified more than 3 million votes cast by non-citizens.”

But this guy turns out to be part of a right-wing fringe group chasing non-existent voter frauds. Exactly none of those 3 million “illegal” votes have been verified. Stunned that Trump would cite his tweet as proof, he asked sheepishly: “Isn’t everything on Twitter fake?”

Get used to it — fakery is reality for America’s next president, Augustus Trumpus.

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

 

Jim Hightower: Wells Fargo scandal exposes the moral rot in American big business

“Stumpf” is a German adjective for someone who’s obtuse, slow on the uptake, imperceptive, or to put it bluntly, stupid.

Ironically, it also happens to be the surname of Wells Fargo’s belatedly ousted CEO, who’s now mired in what might be the most shameful banking scandal yet. For seven years or so, John Stumpf has presided over a venal bank policy, pressuring Wells Fargo’s retailing employees into systematically stealing from particularly vulnerable, low-income customers of the bank.

During this time, he padded his own fortune with more than $100 million in personal pay. When this mass rip-off was recently exposed, Stumpf — the big boss getting the big bucks to be in charge — pleaded ignorance.

In an act of what Sen.  Elizabeth Warren called “gutless leadership,” he publicly blamed the corrupt corporate culture on thousands of the bank’s low-level employees.

But the chief wasn’t the only stumpf at Wells Fargo. Where were its board members, who are empowered and duty-bound to set, monitor and assure ethical corporate behavior from the top down?

For seven years, this 15-member board of governance sat idle, apparently incurious about their corporation’s flagrant, widespread thievery, which involved setting up bogus and unasked-for accounts in the names of Wells Fargo  retail customers even after a 2013 report by the Los Angeles Times exposed it.

Far from investigating and clamping down, the board kept shoving multimillion-dollar bonuses at Stumpf and other top executives.

Bear in mind that this is a powerhouse board, made up of top executives from other corporations, former government financial officials, and big time academics. And they are extremely well-paid to be diligent, getting up to $400,000 a year to keep Wells Fargo honest.

What’s at work here is the ethical rot that now consumes America’s entire corporate system — a stumpf system that steals from the many to further enrich the few, buying off the integrity and vigilance of those who run it.

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