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Jim Hightower: Who Killed the Bluebird of Happiness?

The greed of corporate elites hinders the economic 'recovery' for the rest of us

By Jim Hightower |

Economists and politicians keep their fingers on the pulse of the Dow Jones Average, following every tick of this narrow measure of Wall Street wealth.

But the truer indicator of America’s economic health is in the Doug Jones Average — how are workaday folks like Doug and Doreen doing? After all, the experts tell us that we’re now entering the third year of a glorious economic recovery from the Great Recession, so surely the bluebirds of happiness are chirping again in Dougland. But, listen: silence.

What killed off the bluebirds is the same greed of moneyed elites that caused the crash. Since the recession ended in July 2009, CEO pay is back in the stratosphere, corporate profits are up by nearly half, corporations are sitting on a record $2 trillion in cash, and the perky Dow Jones Average has soared by a delirious 90 percent, with nearly all of that gain being pocketed by the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans who own more that 80 percent of all stocks and bonds. The sounds you hear up there are the pop-pop-pop of Champagne corks.

Yet more than half of Americans say the recession is still raging in their ZIP codes, and nearly a third of them describe it as a full-blown depression. What’s bugging these party poopers? Reality.

In this “recovery,” those at the top of corporate America are practicing tinkle-down economics, refusing to hire the Dougs and Doreens, while eliminating hundreds of thousands of other jobs, knocking down wages and benefits, and unleashing their lobbyists on Washington and state capitals to shred jobless programs, health care, education, worker rights and other basics that sustain America’s middle class.

If a bluebird did show up in Doug and Doreen’s yard these days, it wouldn’t be chirping — it’d be dinner.

At least President Barack Obama recognizes that the workaday majority has been knocked down: “Our economy as a whole,” he says (with what passes for keen insight in today’s clueless Washington), “just isn’t producing nearly enough jobs.” Indeed, as one economic analyst put it: “June’s employment report doesn’t have a single redeeming feature. It’s awful from start to finish.”

The numbers were depressing:

» Only 18,000 jobs were added to the economy in June. It takes about 10 times that just to cover the new job seekers who enter the market each month.

» The unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent. It would’ve been worse, except a quarter-million jobless people were so discouraged by their fruitless search that they quit looking in June. If you give up the search, our Orwellian system no longer counts you as unemployed, even though you are.

» For those with jobs, average hourly wages this year are 1.6 percent lower than in 2010 — the tiny pay raises that workers did get were swallowed whole by oil giants, supermarkets, utilities and other price-hikers.

So, congressional leaders and the president are trying to cut a deal — not to launch the bold, can-do jobs program that America urgently needs, but to slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other essential programs.

Adding to this Kafkaesque disconnect from reality, Republican leaders are locking arms (and minds) to prevent any cuts to the insane tax handouts now going to billionaire hedge fund speculators, Big Oil and multinational corporations that hide massive profits in offshore tax havens. While they cut the poor, no tax giveaway to the rich is so revolting that GOP lawmakers won’t kiss it right on the lips, as shown by their insistence that even the $3 billion a year doled out to subsidize corporate jets is off-limits, as is the subsidy that Uncle Sam gives yacht owners. Seriously, jets and yachts!

Sen. Jon Kyl whined that Democrats “want ordinary Americans to believe that they will not be affected by the president’s tax-increase proposals.” If anyone knows what planet Kyl lives on, please beam the news to him that ordinary Americans don’t have corporate jets and yachts. We can laugh, but clowns like Kyl are destroying our middle class to make America safe for plutocrats.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

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» on 07.14.11 @ 10:20 AM

The middle class was trained to bite its own tail in this country. When the ultra rich feel threatened, they unleash the diversionary propaganda: watch out for terrorists, gay marriage, abortion, and make sure you become obsessed with the idea that some illegal alien or black child or homeless beggar is getting a benefit your tax dollars paid for.

In the meantime, people who have hundreds of millions of dollars from gambling with our retirement and college savings - those people are bailed out with our tax dollars and given more tax breaks. They will suck this country dry, then retire to their vacation homes on the French Riviera.

The middle class has too many stupid people in it. How else can an idiot like Sarah Palin become a cultural icon? I rest my case.

» on 07.14.11 @ 01:39 PM

How do people end up with your thought process?
Terrorists..they are not a threat?  They do not want to destroy our way of life and all the freedoms that we have?
Gay Marriage…so everyone that doesn’t agree is a homophobe or just hate gays?  They are intolerant?  Why can’t the homosexual community just accept a civil union and get the legal benefits and just call the one they love their life partnher?  Why can’t the homosexual community accept traditional marriage?  They are the intolerant ones when a small minority imposes it beliefs and wants to make laws for the majority to follow!
Abortion…because people believe a human life should not be murdered?  Funny how liberals don’t mind an innocent but always defend the murderer or terrorist right to live!
Black child or homeless beggar…your thought process is wrong on all accounts.
Conservatives want everyone as individuals to rise and be the best they can be in this country.  If certain members of our society want to live off of the system and not be apart of it, we conservatives are mean and don’t care?  How do people contribute when they desert their parenting obligations or do drugs instead of going out and getting a job and contribute?  We all have choices in this country and some choose not to be a part of society.  Everyone nowadays has a chance.  Liberals, like you, will always use race, religion, sexual orientatation or whatever means to castigate conservatism, without looking at root causes and trying to fix them, but instead, feel sorry for people, but not help them!

» on 07.14.11 @ 03:40 PM

Coastal Local,

You don’t seem to get my point. Terrorism is a real issue, but not a political one. Terrorism is not handled by flapping flags and chanting, “Let’s Roll!” - into Iraq. But that’s what they got our nitwits to do. Politicizing it, and the constant focus on it, help terrorists achieve their goals. And, it helps to distract us from what really threatens our way of life: the wholesale theft of our national wealth.

Gay marriage. If gays are considered equal under the law, then their marriages must also. Not civil union, or any other watered-down version you feel comfortable with, but the fully-recognized legal union called marriage that carries all of the rights and benefits of the commitment. If you consider gays less than equal, well then that’s a different problem. And it’s un-American, and it’s yours.

Abortion. In a world full of people having kids they can’t support or don’t want, with a population busting at the seams, and resource shortages looming, every sperm-egg union has to be sacred? Where else will the child soldiers, drug addicts, homeless, and felons come from? How else can we fill those jails. Read about the “Super Predator” and get back to me.

How about giving women the right to terminate a pregnancy before month four? A fetus at that stage is not any more sentient, cognizant, or “human” than the trout you might eat for dinner. Yet, you call it’s abortion murder - equating it with the slaying of, for instance, a child? I hope you are a dedicated vegan.

The anti-abortion movement has promoted an image of partial-birth abortions, a radical and extremely rare procedure used only in a life-threatening emergency, and the nitwits think women go around getting these because they are too sexually promiscuous. It’s preposterous.

Conservatives in this country want everyone to be the best they can be? Okay, but I’m not talking specifically about conservatives, I’m talking about nitwits. A lot of them call themselves conservatives, but a few call themselves liberals, too. Anyway, if the shoe fits, wear it.

» on 07.14.11 @ 05:23 PM

Wow!  No wonder our society and nation is in decline.  Thanks for your views, but we will never agree to anything.  I guess that is why our country is so polarized.  People complain about the polarization, but I believe that the last couple of years, conservatives have woken up to the destruction that liberals cause, have caused and will cause in the future, and are finally fighting back.  I sure the hell hope conservatives win this batte!  FYI, I was a liberal most of my life until I realized everything I heard and believed were from the main stream media and fortunately alternate voices are now allowed to speak and get across their ideas and views.  I know what Mark Levin means when he uses the term “drones”.

» on 07.14.11 @ 08:06 PM

I’m the drone? Been a liberal most of your life? Until you found enlightenment? from what? a TV show? a radio show?

What do you believe caused the housing bubble? Loans to poor people? Do you understand Credit Default Swaps? Do you understand why the Fed rate was dropped to a historical low of 1% in 2003? Do you know why that was extraordinary? Do you even care?

When do you believe an embryo is entitled to all the human rights enjoyed by a human child? when the sperm penetrates the egg? when the egg splits the first time? when the egg splits the hundredth time? at one month? at three?

» on 07.14.11 @ 10:46 PM

“conservatives have woken up to the destruction liberals have caused” .  You wanna talk about destruction? Why don’t we start with the unpaid for war in Iraq that we were led into by a president that you conservatives bestowed upon us. Thanks alot , now we are stuck building schools and infrastructure in a country 7500 miles from here ,all the while neglecting and closing down the same here. That makes a lot of sense , huh? Now go get back in line for programming with all the other good little Murdochian androids.

» on 07.15.11 @ 02:17 AM

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, just think entitlements are what make a middle class. You think jobs are what stimulus money create. You think too hard and know too little. It is high taxes and unearned entitlements that kill the wealth generating industry that make jobs, good paying jobs, not government, not regulations, not entitlements and not redistribution of wealth.

The left, from its beginning as the envy class, has always had it backwards. They see the rich have money, things and power. But they never know how they got it and out of a misplaced sense of jealousy want what the rich have. But the only way they know how to get it is theft under the banner of “social justice” or in other words what mine is mine and what’s yours is mine too.

The economic problems we have are, boiled down to its simplest form, a thirst for benefits and entitlements we as a country and economy have not earned. Oh, you arm chair radicals will immediately jump in and say we have earned it but the rich just horded it all for themselves. You then become first class, class warriors, demonizing the wealthy for their lot in life. Yet you fail to explain that if all the wealthy were to give up all their disposable income and live like you, it wouldn’t put a dent in the economic deficit we have (wealth production versus wealth consumption). Hell it wouldn’t put a dent in the unbelievable federal debt, let alone the total government debt and of course the enormous private debt.

No Jimmy its not corporate greed but unfettered entitlement that has us where we are. And until you jealous, envious, poor loser progressives pull your proverbial heads out of your proverbial A hole you will never get it and will undoubtedly suffer the consequences.

The economic problems we have today stem from nothing more than consuming more than you produce and borrowing to make up the difference and that goes from the poorest to the wealthiest, from the mom and pop shop to the federal government. We are all guilty and we will all now have to pay up. There is another solution, earn our way out. Make more than we consume. Be the manufacturer for China instead of the other way around. It can be done but first you have got to put a cork in the biggest bunch of crybaby obstructionists on the planet, the left.

» on 07.15.11 @ 05:31 PM

But Bishop ANchove, the Wealth Creators need people to work for them, and they need people to buy from them. Ideally, these people should be smart enough to do the work, and healthy enough to keep working. They should earn enough money to feel able to buy the products they help make, as well as the products made by other Wealth Creator’s and their employees. Without that, wealth creation ceases.

Wealth accumulation may continue, however, and without benefit to anyone but the accumulator. Wealth accumulators gather up the saved wealth of everybody, and share it back for a fee. They also speculate with it. Now, there are some who confuse wealth accumulators with Wealth Creators, but their differences could not be greater!

Wealth Creators need and want public education, an unearned entitlement for its beneficiaries. Without it, the workforce is less productive and capable, and the smart employee is so rare that he or she may demand exorbitant pay!

Wealth Creators need and want affordable public health care, for the same reason. weak, sick, or worried employees are less productive.

Just as the farmer showers water and fertilizer on an orchard that has not yet earned these “entitlements” he knows that without this investment the trees will be less productive and their fruit will be bitter.

Wealth accumulators don’t care about these things. They do not directly make money through innovation, manpower, and production. They make money by moving it around. That is a necessary thing, and one that is vital to the Wealth Creators, but is is not creative of wealth.

These days, Wealth Creators are stymied. There are plenty of people who want to work, but few will buy products,  because they pay too much for health insurance and have little income.

This is because much of the wealth was destroyed. How did that happen? Ask the wealth accumulators. They made bad bets with the wealth they had gathered up from pension funds, college savings accounts, etc. They lost these bets, and had to pay each other back, but there was not enough money. So, they told the people that the wealth was destroyed and the people would have to suck it up. Now the people have less wealth than they did 20 years ago, because they gave the wealth accumulators an amount equal to what they had just lost in bad bets, just so the wealth accumulators would not have to jump from high windows.

Like they did in 1929.

The wealth accumulators are not sharing money with the Wealth Creators, because they do not believe the Wealth Creators can make more of it for them. But the less they share, the less new wealth gets created. So, the wealth accumulators are very anxious and are withholding their accumulated money. They do not understand Wealth Creation, or even orchard management.

» on 07.16.11 @ 10:41 PM

Well at least we agree somewhat on some things Rambler. The wealth creation I refer to quite often is not personal wealth though. This is a major misconception that our ignorant media conveys way too often and most people suck it up. The wealth I am talking about is our economic wealth, the total value of our economy as measured by our production versus consumption of goods and services.

Wealth creators are those who add intrinsic value to the economy. That can be an individual like Bill Gates, the Koch brothers or other industrialists or the engineer down at the factory along with rosy the riveter.  It can also be whole industries like oil extraction, electronics manufacturing or food production. What you and I put in our pockets is the result of that wealth or value creation. But one thing is for sure there are those as you call accumulators that just transfer wealth. They don’t necessarily add any value but enrich themselves off the value added by others.

What I have been harping on and quite often is the total lack of distinction in our culture between the two. Unlike most liberal/progressive leftists I don’t have a problem with accumulators. More power to the middlemen and the gambler/speculator class, but by God if we are not making any new wealth then we need to stop elevating wealth transfers to the same importance as wealth generation.

The problem is we have for the last 40 or so years in this country done just that, glorified the accumulation of wealth by transfer while simultaneously denigrating the very sectors of our economy that make wealth or value. And isn’t it ironic that all the economies that take those wealth generating sectors off our hands have grown very rich while we have simultaneously grown more in debt, trying in vein to borrow what we no longer make. Your statement that wealth was destroyed by the gamblers is false, it was never there. It was paper value with nothing intrinsic behind it. And until our currency’s value catches up with the real value of our economy things will continue to get worse.

If you understand that, and I believe you do, then it’s much clearer where I am coming from. We simply cannot be a service economy to the whole world and remain a wealthy nation, and we haven’t, as our current economic debacle has finally made clear. Obama can print all the money he wants and Wall Street gamblers can transfer all the money they want, but until we actually start earning, by adding value to our economy, what we consume we will continue to borrow until thoroughly bankrupt.

None of this is partisan, which is why I get so angry with all the partisan crap being spewed out there. Yes we can argue the merits of private versus public ownership and you and I are on opposite sides of that, but it doesn’t matter one friggen bit if we don’t make what we consume, period. If we don’t clear all this other BS out of the way and get down to that simple little equation, nothing else will matter.

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