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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

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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