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Jim Hightower

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National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, "Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow," 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. Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hightower is a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, spreading the message of progressive populism all across the American grassroots. He broadcasts daily radio commentaries that are carried in more than 150 commercial and public stations and on the web.

Aug 162017
 
 By , August 16, 2017
A Corporate Supercell Spawning a Hailstorm of Special Interest Legislation

ALEC is sponsoring corrupt special interest bills across America

Just days after last November’s election, jubilant members and top staffers of the notorious corporate front group, American Legislative Exchange Council, gathered for a celebratory lunch and planning session at the group’s DC headquarters. But rather than looking toward Congress and the newly Republicanized White House, these schemers were drooling over so many right-wing state governments. “There’s a sea of red,” gushed an ALEC official, asking with delight, “What are we going to do with these new legislatures?”

Corrupt them, of course. ALEC — funded and run by such multinational giants as AT&T, Exxon Mobil, the Koch brothers and Walmart — essentially functions as a hush-hush escort service. Since 1973, it’s been hooking up high-dollar corporate customers with on-the-make state lawmakers willing and eager to sponsor special interest bills. In closed-door sessions convened by ALEC, state officials and corporate lobbyists make legislative whoopee, generating “model bills” that the participating legislators carry back and introduce almost simultaneously in their multiple states.

For the last few years, ALEC has provided a major, nationwide burst of energy that’s powering special interest state preemption laws. Its strategists realized that their corporate backers’ long legislative wish list (including holding down wages and freeing corporations to pollute water supplies) is repugnant and socially destructive. Preemption, however, provided a way for lawmakers to shift attention from the appalling substance of their corporate agenda to an arcane process debate about state-local governance. This back-alley channel lets corporations and the right-wing fringe outlaw or repeal progressive responses by our communities, nullify our elections and overturn court decisions favoring local people.

ALEC has pushed preemption with a vengeance, rapidly turning it from a cautiously used power to the corporate-politico cabal’s weapon of choice. In 2014, for example, Jobs with Justice, Fight for 15 and other activist groups began winning campaigns in major cities for minimum wage hikes. ALEC responded by holding a how-to forum on stopping such local actions and circulated a model bill called the “Living Wage Preemption Act.” Sure enough, nearly half of states have passed a version of it, with Ohio being the latest.

By a large margin, people in the Buckeye State favor raising the wage floor, and Cleveland enacted its own increase last year. But a small group of corporate profiteers, including the National Restaurant Association, howled in fury. So, last December, the state’s Republican leaders rushed to appease them with a most generous Christmas gift: The Ohio legislature overruled the people’s will by suddenly hammering a preemption amendment onto a completely unrelated bill. It was lawmaking by sneak attack, a crude political mugging that retroactively negated Cleveland’s increase and outlawed increases by any other locality.

Used properly, preemption can be a democracy-enhancing tool for balancing governing powers. But when perverted and used badly, as is increasingly the norm, it asserts corporate interests over public good. The anti-democracy extremism of corporate profiteers and their corrupted political hacks was bluntly expressed a couple of years ago by ALEC member, Howard Stephenson. The Utah state senator announced at one of the organization’s private forums: “We need to stamp out local control.”

It’s hardly news to the great majority of Americans, including most Republicans, that corporations already have way too much power over us. Letting elites quash our local decisions — by pulling the money strings they’ve attached to state officials — goes against all that America stands for. Yet the arrogance of these autocratic state officials has no limit — they’re grabbing for total domination over grassroots democracy. Greg Abbott, my state’s goofy governor, is one of those consumed by his own grandiosity:

“As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches to overriding local regulations, I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to preempt local regulations is a superior approach.”

People hate, hate, hate such pomposity and political overreach. So, let’s run right at them. Protecting corporate profits and special interest power by overruling democratically made local policies is a crime that’s easily understood and loathed by nearly all Americans. As progressives, let’s take hold of this issue; passionately challenge the preemption thugs at all levels of political action; rally a broad-based right-and-left, bottom-up coalition to reclaim our democratic rights; and beat the bejeezus out of these sorry bastards. Learn how to get involved by visiting www.DefendLocal.com.

Aug 082017
 
 By , August 8, 2017
Wall Street Thieves Find New Ways to Steal from Us

Only a decade later, here come the Wall Street burglars again! The self-described “Geniuses of Wall Street” are being stupid. Again. In 2007, their stupid schemes and frauds crashed our economy, destroying middle-class jobs, wealth and opportunities. Far from getting punishment, however, these financial scofflaws [more…]

Aug 022017
 
 By , August 2, 2017
A Deere in the Spotlight

Is John Deere trying to make outlaws of do-it-yourselfers? When I was a boy, I loved spending time with my Uncle Ernest and Aunt Eula on their small northeast Texas farm. They pulled a frugal living from their 50 acres, raising a little bit of [more…]

Jul 222017
 
 By , July 22, 2017
The Partisan Use of Preemption Is Surging

The greediest corporations and grubbiest of politicos have colluded to use preemption to take power from the people. We the People are being burgled. Again. The latest hit is just the latest in a long string of political robberies, a nationwide crime wave being pulled [more…]

Jun 142017
 
 By , June 14, 2017
The GOP Will Free You from Having Health Care

The public is ready for Health Care for All – where are our so-called ‘representatives’? When I think of freedom, I think of it in positive, aspirational terms — our First Amendment freedoms, for example, or FDR’s “Four freedoms” or the uplifting songs of freedom [more…]

Jun 102017
 
 By , June 10, 2017
Will You Enlist in Trump's War?

Trump might have dodged military service in his youth, but he is pondering a real shooting war now. Doggonit, Donald Trump missed the opportunity to become a General Patton-style military commander and glorious war hero back in the Vietnam era. He surely would’ve been the [more…]

May 312017
 
 By , May 31, 2017
Where Does Inequality Come From?

The vast inequality that’s rending our society is not a natural, inevitable or accidental phenomenon. The vast inequality that’s rending our society is not a natural, inevitable or accidental phenomenon — it’s caused intentionally by policy decisions that corporate and political officials make, often in [more…]

May 252017
 
 By , May 25, 2017
What is Worse Than Being Poor?

One especially ugly example of how poor kids are treated in school is an abhorrent practice called “lunch shaming.” These are hard times for America’s gold miners. They’re struggling to haul wealth out of the land, but seeing their pay dropping further and further down. [more…]

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