Interviews the Voice of the OTHER Texas -- Jim Hightower
...Yes, Lone Star State Populism Lives On!
think, deep down, Karl [Rove] is the one who's worried right
now. How could he not be? You've got a low approval rating
for a sitting president. You've got a record deficit, lagging
job growth, abysmal income numbers for American workers, and
a war machine spiraling out of control. Nearly every objective
indicator you can examine looks terrible. You can put lipstick
on a hog, but, in the end, would you want to kiss one? -- Jim
ever were a person who should know about the evil of the Bush Cartel,
it's the indefatigable Texas populist, Jim Hightower. Hightower
had a bright political future in Lone Star State politics until
Karl Rove teamed up with a rogue FBI agent to sabotage Jim's career.
Yes, Rove abused government powers to derail Hightower. By now,
we all know the modus operandi of Bush's Machiavelli, but Hightower
was one of Rove's first big-time victims -- and he never saw it
Maybe that's why Hightower has a photo of Bush with devil's horns on the cover
of his new book, Let's
Stop Beating Around the Bush. But it isn't a
book about the injustice done to Hightower; rather it's a well-argued chronicle
about the injustices done to us.
As Hightower notes: "They're insane. They're zealots totally dedicated
to implementing their plutocratic, autocratic, militaristic, and imperialistic
vision of America -- and it's time we stopped beating around the Bush about
Jim Hightower is one of America's great progressives, a barnburner of a speaker
and a rabble-rousing radio commentator. He's a damn good writer to boot, as
this book makes clear.
a husband and wife were arrested, handcuffed and removed from a
taxpayer-funded Presidential event in West Virginia because they
were wearing anti-Bush T-shirts. You have a section in your book
about "BushZones." Isn't the practice of excluding dissenters
from publicly-funded events kind of Sovietesque?
Hightower: As they say in Moscow, "Da." The offending T-shirts
declared: "Love America, Hate Bush." These folks, Jeff and Nicole
Rank, had proper tickets to the event, they proudly sang the National Anthem
with everyone else, they were in no way disorderly -- but they were not politically
correct, so they were summarily arrested, taken to jail, finger printed...and
charged with "trespassing." Others who were there wearing pro-Bush
T-shirts and Bush campaign paraphernalia at this public event on public property
were not arrested.
It seems that the Bushites define "trespassers" by their political
beliefs. What's worse is that Nicole, who worked for the Federal Emergency
Management Agency in Charleston, was promptly told that her services were no
longer required. Technically, she wasn't fired, but she was "released" from
her job and not reassigned -- meaning she no longer gets paid. The good news
is that this is STILL America, and Nicole and Jeff are not bowing to King George.
Despite the financial hardship, they're fighting Bush's absurd, un-American
assault on their constitutional right to dissent. They're not the only ones
being denied their right to speak out -- dissenters all across America are
being treated like this.
BuzzFlash: Speaking of civil liberties, you have a bit to say in your
book about Mr. Ashcroft. Is he acting like an Attorney General or a Commissar?
Hightower: I dare say that Bush's attorney general is acting like
an extremist sicko. Like a demented street preacher whacking his Bible and
shouting damnations at libertines, Ashcroft seems to hate America's liberties.
This is the guy who crudely threw a blue burka over the justice department's "Spirit
of Justice" art deco statue shortly after he took office. This is the
guy who rammed through the decidedly unpatriotic "USA Patriot Act" just
days after September 11th, erasing essential elements of our First and Fourth
Amendments. This is the guy who decreed that the FBI can resume spying on our
churches and political groups. This is the guy who has instructed agency heads
to deny We the People access to information under right-to-know laws. This
is the guy who has ordered prosecutors to seek executions in every case where
the death penalty is available, even when local authorities don't think it's
warranted. Now he's looking for ways to suspend the November elections -- further
proof that we need to get the Bushites out.
BuzzFlash: True to your populist roots, you devote quite a bit of Let's
Stop Beating Around the Bush to how the Bush administration is shafting
the American hourly wage earner. How can anyone earning less than $60,000
a year even think of voting for Bush?
Hightower: What's wrong with you people? Don't you know that the economy
is humming, that our very own president has declared "mission accomplished" on
his promise of prosperity, that the stock market is up by 40 percent over
last year, that jobs are cropping up like crabgrass, that the bluebird of
happiness is officially singing everywhere across our land, and that you
should be grateful, for godssake?
If you listen to the Republican politicians, corporate economists, and the
media barons, that's what you'll hear. And that's the problem. People hear
so much baloney from these jokers that they think their own high-wage job or
tax-cut windfall must be just around the corner, if only they keep the faith.
Meanwhile, they face such real-life pocketbook indicators as jobs that only
pay poverty wages, gasoline topping $2 a gallon, milk at $4.43 a gallon, health-care
costs rising three times faster than wages, and 401K's being shrunk to 1K's.
Democrats, in recent years, haven't helped themselves any. They've been almost
as guilty as Republicans, supporting NAFTA, corporate welfare, turning a blind
eye to 401K fraud. Fortunately, the Dems have been scared back to progressivism,
and it looks like we'll have a clear choice come November.
BuzzFlash: Your first chapter is on "Global Warming," yet
that's kind of been lost as a national campaign issue. As you point out,
Bush has been a disaster to the environment. How come this isn't getting
Hightower: Because it doesn't translate well to TV. We need death
and destruction to get our attention. Show me a deformed baby. Give me an
environmental disaster. That will get people's attention. Until then, we'll
have our hands full worrying about hanging on to our meager jobs or paying
our medical bills. That's a more immediate concern.
BuzzFlash: You're kind of the Texas Anti-Bush. Has he done to America
what he did to Texas?
Hightower: You can look at Bush's time in Texas as a test run. Tax
cuts for the wealthy, corporate welfare, environmental rape, regulatory prostitution,
bankrupting our public treasury, gutting our public education and health
systems -- we've seen it all here, and it's like déjà vu all
BuzzFlash: What does "rugged individualism" mean in terms
of ACTUAL Bush policies?
Hightower: Caveat emptor. I got mine, you get yours. Never give a
sucker an even break. "Adios, chump!" is more like it.
BuzzFlash: You have a section called "heroes." Who are some present-day
heroes in America?
Hightower: I've recently become a fan of Jim Sinegal, the CEO of Costco.
I know CEOs are hardly sympathetic characters these days, and I do my share
of bashing them. But here's a guy who could teach corporate America a thing
or two. He takes a shockingly heretical view of his job, paying workers well
above the industry average (read "Wal-Mart"). A full-time Costco
clerk or warehouse worker earns more than $41,000 a year, plus getting terrific
Wal-Mart workers get barely a third of that pay, plus a lousy health-care plan.
Costco even has unions! The bottom line is that Costco workers feel valued,
which adds enormously to their productivity and lowers employee turnover. And
even though Wal-Mart makes twice as much profit as Costco, Sinegal believes
it's better business to make a nice profit, but not a killing, and to invest
more in Costco's 92,000 workers -- Wall Street analysts be damned!
BuzzFlash: Your old nemesis, Karl Rove, has been kind of quiet lately.
Should we be worried?
Hightower: I think, deep down, Karl is the one who's worried right
now. How could he not be? You've got a low approval rating for a sitting
president. You've got a record deficit, lagging job growth, abysmal income
numbers for American workers, and a war machine spiraling out of control.
Nearly every objective indicator you can examine looks terrible. You can
put lipstick on a hog, but, in the end, would you want to kiss one?
BuzzFlash: This isn't in your book, but it always fascinates us. You
live in Austin. It's a liberal, progressive town that's also home to perhaps
the most wigged-out right-wing state government in the United States. How
do you all get along down there?
Hightower: We have a slogan here in Texas that says, "It's like
a whole other country." And it is. Texas is big and bold, and aside
from being born and raised here and having friends and family here, I love
the proud, agitating spirit of Texans. The Populist movement got its start
here in Texas, right up the road in Lampasas. Austin itself is a progressive
oasis in the middle of the beautiful Texas Hill Country. The relaxed, fun-loving
atmosphere and the warm climate are hard to beat. I've lived in New York
and Washington, DC, and I've traveled to just about every place in America
that has a zip code, and I've come to realize that Austin is about as good
as it gets. Fortunately -- and to answer your question more directly -- we
get along because we have plenty of space.
BuzzFlash: Finally, what happened to the sense of community that used
to bring Americans together? Bush is the ultimate divider, trying to make
America into a Christian paradise for the wealthy. Where did we make the
Hightower: In trying to make America into a "Christian" paradise
for the wealthy, he's done an amazing thing -- he's united everyone else
against him. If only we could get the rest of the global citizenry to vote
in our election this November.
But I go back to something I've been saying for years now -- we (meaning the
Democrats) went wrong when we stopped being Democrats and ceased to offer working
men and women a real voice in government to address their concerns.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Your Copy of Let's
Stop Beating Around the Bush from BuzzFlash.com.
You can learn more about Jim Hightower at: http://www.jimhightower.com