National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, co-editor of the monthly "Hightower Lowdown" and author of "Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time to Take It Back," Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be -- consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.
Join me at the Hightower Lowdown Happy Hour at the Chat & Chew Cafe
Hidey-ho, folks! Thanks for tuning in to and sharing my weekly commentaries. Also, I hope you’ll join me for a live webshow I host every other Tuesday. It’s the Hightower Lowdown Happy Hour at the Chat & Chew Cafe. You can join the action live online as I chat with grassroots leaders and progressive sparklies from around the country. Go to hightowerlowdown.org/chatnchew to find out about upcoming guests and watch past episodes.
To fix the Labor Shortage, Start With the Wage Shortage
At a recent congressional hearing on America’s so-called “labor shortage,” megabanker Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, offered this insight: “People actually have a lot of money, and they don’t particularly feel like going back to work.”
Uh… Jamie… most people are living paycheck to paycheck, and since COVID-19 hit, millions have lost their jobs, savings, and even homes. So, they’re not exactly lollygagging around the house, counting their cash.
Instead of listening to the uber-rich class ignorance of Dimon (who pocketed $35 million in pay last year) Congress ought to be listening to actual workers explain why they’re not rushing back to the jobs being offered by restaurant chains and such. They would point out that there is no labor shortage – there’s a wage shortage.
More fundamentally, there’s a fairness shortage. It was not lost on restaurant workers, for example, that while millions of them were jobless last year, their corporate CEOs were grabbing millions, buying yachts, and living large. Yet, more than half of laid-off restaurant workers couldn’t even get unemployment benefits, because their wages had been too low to qualify. Then there’s the high risk of COVID exposure for restaurant employees, an appalling level of sexual harassment in their workplace, and demeaning treatment from abusive bosses and customers.
No surprise, then, that more than half of employees said in a recent survey that they’re not going back to those jobs. After all, even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked!
So rather than demanding that government officials force workers to return to the old exploitative system, corporate giants should try the free-enterprise solution right at their fingertips: Raise pay, improve conditions, and show respect – create a place where people want to work!
For a straightforward view from workers themselves, go to the advocacy group, OneFairWage.site.
Should “Workforce” mean forcing workers to take crappy jobs?
A recent headline blared: “Labor shortages end when wages rise.”
Gosh, Captain Obvious, what an amazing discovery! Someone notify the Nobel Prize committee, for surely this revolutionary revelation will win this year’s prize in economics. Better yet, someone notify that gaggle of Republican governors whose theory of labor economics begins and ends with the medieval demand that workers be whacked with a stick to make them do what the bosses want.
At issue is the furious complaint by restaurant chains, nursing homes, Big Ag, and other low-wage employers that they have a critical labor shortage. It seems that millions of workers today are hesitant to take jobs because there’s no affordable childcare, or the jobs they’re offered expose them and their families to COVID-19, or the work itself is abusive and demeaning… or all of the above.
Business chieftains wail that they’ve been advertising thousands of jobs for waiters, poultry workers, nursing assistants, and such, but they can’t get enough takers. So, corporate-serving governors have rushed to their rescue. Shouting “Whack ‘em with a stick,” these mingy politicians are stripping away jobless benefits, trying force workers to take any crappy job they’re offered. It gives new meaning to the term “workforce.”
But wait, there’s an honest way to get the workers they need: Offer fair wages! As the owner of a small chain of restaurants in Atlanta notes when he stopped lowballing wages he not only got the workers he needed, but “We started to get a better quality of applicants.” That translated to better service, happier customers, and more business.
The real economic factor in play here is not wages, but value. If you treat employees as cheap, that’s what you’ll get. But if you view them as valuable assets, that’s what they’ll be – and you’ll all be better off.
Let’s Create a Bank System That Serves People, Instead of Bankers
Corporate ideologues never cease blathering that government programs should be run like a business.
Really – what businesses would they choose? Pharmaceutical profiteers? Big Oil? Wall Street money manipulators? High tech billionaires? Airline price gougers?
The good news is that the great majority of people aren’t buying this corporatist blather, instead valuing institutions that prioritize the Common Good. Thus, by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans have stunned smug right-wing privatizers by specifically declaring in a recent poll that our US Postal Service should not be “run like a business.” Indeed, an overwhelming majority, including half of Republicans, say mail delivery should be run as a “public service,” even if that costs more.
In fact, having proven that this 246-year-old federal agency can consistently and efficiently deliver to 161 million homes and businesses day after day, it’s time to let the agency’s trusted, decentralized, well-trained workforce provide even more services for our communities. How about “postal banking?” Yes, the existing network of some 31,000 post offices in metro neighborhoods and small towns across America are perfectly situated and able to provide basic banking services to the one-out-of-four of us who don’t have or can’t afford bank accounts. The giant banking chains ignore these millions, leaving them at the mercy of check-cashing exploiters and payday loan sharks.
The Post Office can offer simple, honest banking, including small-dollar checking and savings accounts, very-low-interest consumer loans, low-fee debit cards, etc. The goal of postal banking is not to maximize corporate profits, but public service. Moreover, there’s nothing new about this – our post offices served as banks for millions of us until 1967, when Wall Street profiteers got their enablers in Congress to kill the competition.
We The People own this phenomenal public asset. To enable it to work even better for us, go to AGrandAlliance.org.
Your Dog Knows Better Than To Let The GOP “Fix” Our Postal System
When Donald Trump declared he would fix the US Postal Service, he was using the word “fix” the same way veterinarians do when you bring in your dog.
Trump wasted an inordinate amount of his presidential power and prestige in a failed attempt to neuter an agency that literally delivers for the people. Extraordinary postal workers move our letters and packages by truck, car, airplane, boat, motorbike, mule – and, of course, by foot – to any address across town or across the country. Both essential and effective, it’s the most popular federal agency, with 91 percent of the public approving its work. Thus, an uproar of protests killed Trump’s attempt to gut it.
When it comes to bad public policy, however, failure is just a way of saying, Let’s try the back door. Trump was defeated, but he left behind an undistinguished Postmaster General named Louis DeJoy, who had only two qualifications for the job: He was a Trump mega-donor, and he was a peer of corporate powers that’ve long wanted to privatize the Postal Service. In March, before the new Biden presidency had taken charge of the postal system, DeJoy popped through the back door with his own “10-year-plan” to fix the agency.
Rhetorically, his plan promised to “achieve service excellence” by making mail delivery more “consistent” and “reliable.” How? By consistently cutting service and reliably gouging customers. Specifically, DeJoy proposed to close numerous mail processing facilities, eliminate jobs, reduce Post Office hours of service, and cut the standard of delivering our first-class mail from three days to five. Oh, also: Raise stamp prices.
Delivering lousy service at higher prices is intended to destroy public support for the agency, opening up the mail service to takeover by private profiteers. That’s the real DeJoy plan. And who gets joy from that?
Banker Greed That Would Even Shock Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie had a lot to say about the greed of bankers who made crop loans at usurious interest rates to hardscrabble farmers, then foreclosed on them when they couldn’t pay off the loans, leaving thousands of farm families homeless. Woody mocked them with a sarcastic anthem, singing “I’m a jolly banker, jolly banker am I.” He also penned a stinging verse about their thievery: “Some’ll rob with a six gun/ some with a fountain pen.”
But even this populist poet of the people would be astonished by the shameless grabbiness of today’s farm lenders. After decades of systemic, scandalous discrimination by bankers against Black and other minority farmers, the Biden administration is now moving to pay off the onerous level of long-term bank debt that has shackled these good farmers, thus giving them a fair shot at getting ahead.
“Oh no!” squawked the American Bankers Association and other groups of ag lenders. Why? After all, they’d be getting back the money they had loaned out. Yes, say the fountain pens, but we would lose the interest payments each of those farmers would have had to send to us over the months ahead. We want American taxpayers to cover the total interest income we would’ve gotten from gouging Black, Latino, Native, and other minority farmers. They insist that their profits and the financial interests of their rich investors must take priority over the needs of a bunch of non-White dirt farmers.
Wait, the bankers’ greed intensifies! If the government doesn’t fully compensate them for their so-called “lost interest income,” the ag lenders (backed by Wall Street barons) are openly threatening that they will cut off future loans to farmers and ranchers of color.
So, the jolly bankers’ drumbeat of rank discrimination keeps pounding. To help stop it, connect with the National Black Farmers Association: BlackFarmers.org.
Funny and informative!!!
My wife and I have been listening for years. We have also been newsletter subscribers for years. With Jim’s background in Texas politics he also brings credibility to his the show.
I have been following Hightower since 1988 when I heard him at the Dem convention (I believe).. he is sharp, quick and HYSTERICAL! I love listening. I just wish they were 30x longer!! Keep up the good work.
Short and Sweet
He breaks down issues regarding the problems in America, from economic to racial. A true progressive patriot!