The Plan to Turn Medicare into ‘WeDon’tCare’

Paul Ryan is still stuck in the same old rabbit hole.

By Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower

Apparently, Rep. Paul Ryan missed the outcome of last November’s presidential election. Oh, wait — wasn’t he on the ballot in that election as Mitt Romney’s running mate?

Well, yes, but less than five months later, the Wisconsin Republican seems to have forgotten that he and the Mittster were soundly rejected.

Maybe the trauma of losing big — including failing to win a majority of the votes cast in his own hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin — has his memory slipping.

Whatever the cause, it’s embarrassing to see him now trotting out the very same Republican budget proposal that he wrote last year and put at the center of the Romney-Ryan presidential campaign — the same nauseating budget extremism that induced the great majority of Americans to throw up their hands.

Ryan recently headlined a Washington media event for the re-release of this bucket of right-wing hash. It includes turning Medicare into a “WeDon’tCare” privatized voucher scheme that would deliver seniors into the tender clutches of giant insurance corporations, forcing the elderly to pay more for less.

Also, to save the super-rich from even the slightest tax increase, Ryan again served up a mess of cuts to food stamps, Medicaid, and other vital programs for the poor, while simultaneously jacking up the tax burden on both the working and middle classes.

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Then, to make his package even more odious to the general public, he cluelessly re-issued the far right’s cry to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hello, Paul, it’s reality calling: Obama thoroughly thumped you and Willard on this issue last year. Remember?

And since the election, Obama’s signature health care reform has grown in popularity. Several Republican governors are now seeing the political light and embracing it.

Maybe it’s time for his family and friends to pull the gentleman from Janesville out of the rabbit hole where he’s gotten stuck.


OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org  | RMoney/RAyn Photo credit to DonkeyHotey/Flickr

Putting Some Real Pop in Populism

Washington should do more than the minimum on minimum wage.

— by Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower

“In the wealthiest nation on Earth,” President Barack Obama declared in his State of the Union speech, “no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.”

Right! Not only does his call to raise America’s minimum wage put some real pop in populism, but it could finally start putting some ethics back in our country’s much-celebrated, (but rarely honored) “work ethic.”

Kudos to Obama for putting good economics and good morals together — and for putting this long overdue increase on the front burner.

But then came the number: $9 an hour. Excuse me, Mr. President, but that means a person who “works full-time” would nonetheless “have to live in poverty.” Yes, nine bucks is a buck-seventy-five better than the current pay, but it’s still a poverty wage. It doesn’t even elevate the buying power of our wage floor back to where it was in 1968.

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This isn’t merely about extending a badly needed helping hand to people struggling to work their way out of poverty, but about letting them give a jolt of new energy to our economy, which it desperately needs.

Ironically, the rich save and the poor spend. While super-rich corporations are hoarding trillions of dollars in offshore accounts and refusing to invest in America, minimum-wage workers invest every extra dollar they get in America — spending it right where they live on clothing, food, health care, and other basic needs.

A 2011 Federal Reserve study found that a one-dollar hike in the minimum wage produces an additional $2,800 a year in spending by each of those households. This is no time to shortchange these workers.

Yes, I know that GOP lawmakers and corporate lobbyists oppose even a $9 wage. But a poll last June found that seven out of 10 Americans (including a majority of Republicans), support raising the wage above $10 an hour. This is a time, Mr. President, to think big and listen to the grassroots.


OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org

2012-11-23: What I’ve been reading

Mexico Officials: Allowing GM Corn Will Devastate Crops

Lisa Garber, News Report: None of us here likely know who Bill Gates truly is at the end of the day. But let’s be frank: at best, he’s yet another one of the billions funding biotech and Big Ag propaganda. Does he truly believe that genetic modification comes without consequences. At worst, however, Gates, Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow simply do not care that farmers across the world commit suicide in the thousands after going bankrupt thanks to overpriced, ineffective GM seeds.

Go Ahead, Talk Religion and Politics at the Table

Robert Jensen, Op-Ed: It’s difficult not to take disagreements about sexual behavior personally, but we can cultivate the ability to consider not just our own choices but the social consequences. For example, on the contentious subject of pornography, instead of immediately defending or condemning the use of sexual material, we can ask: “What stories about sex and intimacy does pornography tell, and what is the effect of those stories?” That opens up the conversation.

Why So Secretive? The Trans-Pacific Partnership as Global Corporate Coup

Andrew Gavin Marshall, Investigation: Dubbed by many as “NAFTA on steroids” and a “corporate coup,” only two of the TPP’s 26 chapters actually have anything to do with trade. The agreement stipulates that foreign corporations operating in the United States would no longer be subject to domestic U.S. laws regarding protections for the environment, finance or labor rights, and could appeal to an “international tribunal” which would be given the power to overrule American law and impose sanctions on the U.S. for violating the new “rights” of corporations.

Incidents Raise Suspicions on Motive: Killing of Journalists by US Forces a Growing Problem

Dave Lindorff, Op-Ed: The ruthlessness of the slaying of journalists was exposed for all to see when the whistle-blower outfit Wikileaks released the now famous video it obtained from the gunsight camera of a US helicopter, whose crew opened up with machine gun fire on a group of men and two children in a Baghdad square. Two of those killed were cameramen working for Reuters. One of the two was literally hunted down and machine gunned after, already gravely wounded, he tried to crawl away, unarmed, to safety. The crew could be heard laughing as they killed him.

Change? Learn? Compromise? Grow? Not These Republicans

Joe Conason, Op-Ed: Republican leaders also seem inclined to ignore voter sentiment on the issue of taxes, despite majorities of 70 percent or better that agree the rich should pay more (including many voters who identify with the GOP). Rep. Mike Pence, who will become the governor of Indiana next January, told the Republican governors that he remains firmly opposed any tax increase, especially on "those in the best position to put hurting Americans back to work,”

Amy Goodman | In Gaza, It’s the Occupation, Stupid

Amy Goodman, Op-Ed: “The Palestinian people want to be free of the occupation,” award-winning Israeli journalist Gideon Levy summed up this week. It is that simple. This latest Israeli military assault on the people of Gaza is not an isolated event, but part of a 45-year occupation of the sliver of land wedged between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, where 1.6 million people live under a brutal Israeli blockade that denies them most of the basic necessities of life. Without the unwavering bipartisan support of the United States for the Israeli military, the occupation of Palestine could not exist.

10 Things Progressives Can Be Thankful For

News Report: We’re thankful for the advocates who protected our right to vote. The past few years saw a raft of new voter suppression laws and tactics, but most of the worst laws were blocked at least temporarily by the courts or repealed by lawmakers. The challenge going forward will be to maintain these victories as litigation in several of these cases continues and the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge to the Voting Rights Act.

Jim Hightower | Lord Help Us – Bosses Gone Berserk

Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: The sky is falling! The end times are upon us! It’s all over for America! And it’s all because of you execrable voters. This is the wretched wail of a few corporate chieftains who claim to be somewhere between flummoxed and furious that Barack Obama is back in the White House. With his diabolical Obamacare and tax-the-rich attacks on us wealthy job creators, they moan, this president is out to destroy American business. "There’s a tsunami coming," cried one, so we must save ourselves.

Gaza Is A Pawn: Iran Is a Prize

Thomas Magstadt, Op-Ed: “None of the dead was the person the Israeli Defense Force said it was trying to kill when it struck the Dalu family house. It’s not clear that they had anything to do with him.” This is how Amy Davidson writing in the New Yorker describes one incident in the latest war between Israel and Gaza. It is a cliché to call it a tragedy, but what is missing in the reporting and what passes for mainstream “news analysis” is not the tragedy, but the travesty. The story line does not start or end with the status of Gaza or the Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands.

Homeland Security Has Spent $430 Million on Radios Its Employees Don’t Know How to Use

Theodoric Meyer, News Report: Getting the agencies responsible for national security to communicate better was one of the main reasons the Department of Homeland Security was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But according to a recent report from the department’s inspector general, one aspect of this mission remains far from accomplished. DHS has spent $430 million over the past nine years to provide radios tuned to a common, secure channel to 123,000 employees across the country. Problem is, no one seems to know how to use them.

President Obama Reelected – But Where Is the Pathway to Good Jobs?

Amy Dean, Op-Ed: With Barack Obama’s reelection last night, we witnessed the labor movement once again, as in every successful Democratic presidential race in recent decades, saving the president. Its ground troops and financial backing provided the bulwark to shore up Obama’s lead against Romney. By aiding in Obama’s victory, unions helped avert the crisis that the election of Romney/Ryan would have represented—an attack not only on organized labor, but on women’s rights and the whole of the social safety net.

The Price of Admission

Across our country, women are walking away from Regal Cinema’s pretentious abrogation of our Fourth Amendment rights.

By Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower
Gosh, I feel so much safer now that teenage ticket takers at the Regal chain of movie theaters have been directed by corporate chieftains to search the purses of their female customers.

Responding to that horrible mass murder in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, the Regalites say they’ve begun rummaging through movie-goers’ purses to protect us from…well, from what?

The Dark Knight Rises shooter had an armory of weapons that wouldn’t fit in any purse. And need I point out that he was a he? Yet, Regal’s rummaging is apparently reserved for women, even though practically all mass shootings have been committed by male specimens of our species.

Why should anyone surrender their privacy just to see a movie? Yes, we essentially get strip searched to board an airplane these days — but even that’s of very dubious value, and at least it’s done by trained security personnel. What’s a 17-year-old, low-wage, untrained corporate hiree going to do if he or she pokes into a purse and finds a Ruger Semiautomatic? Shriek? Wrestle the owner to the floor?

Also, if customers packing heat have a concealed handgun permit, won’t they have to be waved through — and maybe even given a free popcorn for being “authorized” gun toters?

Has our “Land of the Free” become such a scaredy-cat nation that we’ll succumb to the authoritarian nonsense of a corporate state that feels entitled to rifle through our personal belongings as the price of entry into a movie? The good news is “no.” All across our country, women are walking away from Regal’s pretentious abrogation of our Fourth Amendment rights.

“I don’t think we should be searched, not without a cause,” said a spunky Austin movie-goer, putting the Constitution over Regal — and putting a smile on the faces of Jefferson, Madison, and the other Founders. They never saw a movie, but they established our right to be free of such ridiculous searches.


Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.  Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Mother Nature Doesn’t Quit

So much of Monsanto’s poison was spread in the past decade that weeds naturally developed a resistance to it.

By Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower

Rather than find ways to cooperate with the natural world, America’s agribusiness giants reach for the next quick fix in a futile effort to overpower nature. Their attitude is that if brute force isn’t working, they’re probably not using enough of it.

Monsanto, for example, has banked a fortune by selling a corn seed that it genetically manipulated to produce corn plants that won’t die when sprayed with the Roundup toxic weedkiller. Not coincidentally, Monsanto also happens to manufacture Roundup. It profits from the seed and from the huge jump in Roundup sales that the seed generates. Slick.

But Mother Nature, darn it, has rebelled. So much of Monsanto’s poison was spread in the past decade that weeds naturally began to resist it. As a Dow Chemical agronomist explained, "The real need here is to diversify our weed management systems."

Exactly right! We need non-chemical, sustainable systems that work with nature and without genetically altered crops.

But, no, the Dow man didn’t mean that at all. He was calling for more brute force in the form of Dow’s new genetically altered corn seed that can absorb Dow’s super-potent 2,4-D weedkiller, which it markets under the "Enlist" brand name. Use this stuff, he says, and nature will be defeated.

Wrong. Nature doesn’t quit. The weeds will keep evolving and will adapt to Dow’s high-tech fix, too. By pushing the same old thing relentlessly, says an independent crop scientist, agribusiness interests "ratchet up [America’s] dependence on the use of herbicides, which is very much a treadmill."

It’s time to start listening to the weeds — and cooperating with Mother Nature. To advance this common sense approach, a national coalition is backing a California "Right to Know" initiative requiring the labeling of genetically altered foods. To help, go to the Organic Consumers Association at http://www.OrganicConsumers.org.


Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter,The Hightower Lowdown. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)