ACCESS News with guest Jim Hightower

ACCESS News  with guest Jim Hightower


Do you think influence is needed
to have your opinion heard? Well, one way to get
influence is to become a New York Times
Bestselling Author. Another way to have
your opinions known is to become a nationally
syndicated columnist. Another way to have
your opinion known is to be a guest on ACCESS News. We are pleased to have New York
Times Bestselling Author, nationally syndicated columnist, radio host, and
America’s #1 populist, Jim Hightower, in the studio for an exclusive
interview and down home chat about our Constitution; Republicans, Democrats,
Tea Parties, and other fun for the
whole family issues. You’re watching ACCESS
News, Hands on news! [Music] ACCESS News is pleased
to welcome Jim Hightower, national radio commentator,
writer, public speaker, and author of many books, including “Swim
against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can
Go with the Flow”. Jim is a regular visitor to
local Austin coffee shops where he can often be
seen in deep thought, pen and paper in hand, writing his opinions
to be published in one of many venues
across the USA. Welcome to ACCESS News! Thank you, Tamara.
I’m excited to be here and I am honored to be
your guest on the show. I’m very excited
about your show. Me too. Another well-known Texan,
the late Molly Ivins, she once said about you that if Will Rogers and
Mother Jones had a baby, that rambunctious child
would be you, Jim Hightower, mad as hell,
with a sense of humor. Are you a fan of Molly? Oh yes, I followed her as
Editor of the Texas Observer and we lived in
the same neighbor, over in South Austin,
and we were great pals. She was a wonderful, wonderful voice for just regular
people across the country. So tell us, what
makes you mad as hell? That the powers that be feel
entitled to run roughshod over the powers
that ought to be, the ordinary working day
people of this country. I have a deep belief and great
faith in the genius really of just ordinary folks, that if they get the
information they need, that they will do
the right thing, and that they have the
power at a grassroots level to move things. However, we’re having too many
of the Wall Street powers, the Washington elites to decide that ordinary
people don’t count. So they listen mainly
to corporate lobbyists and to the power
people in our country, and that’s doing great damage, not only economically,
but politically and spiritually. You call yourself America’s #1
populist; what is a populist? Well, it’s a belief that the central issue in
our society is that too few people have too
much of the money and power and they are using
that money and power to get more for themselves
at our expense. So it is a recognition that the
central issue in our politics is money and power and that, that has to be
addressed in every aspect, whether it’s about the
environment, it’s about jobs, it’s about business and economic
growth, it’s about war, it’s about every issue,
it really comes down to who is making the decisions and how does that
affect the rest of us. So you’re saying to be
a populist means more of people-centered or
people-focused, right? So if you are the #1
populist, who’s the #2? Well, you know, I’m just
called the #1 populist, I didn’t define that for myself, but there are a number
of people out there. You know, I think of
Michael Moore, for example. Molly Ivins certainly was. We’ve got people in the Congress that many of us here
in Texas might not know, but Donna Edwards is
a member of Congress from the Washington
D.C. area, Maryland. We’ve got Barbara Lee out
of San Francisco area, who is just terrific. Just a number of good
people out there, and including in our State, people who do stand
up for ordinary folks. I know you have strong
opinions about our current government and politicians
and how to get involved. If you could set up your
own political party, what would that look like,
and what would be your platform? Well, my party would be the
old-time Democratic party, the party of Franklin Roosevelt, the party of Lyndon Johnson, though I disagreed
with him on the war. You know, I spent my early youth trying get Lyndon
Johnson out of office because of the Vietnam War, not realizing he would be the
most progressive President in my lifetime, so that’s a bit disappointing. But… and my platform
would be to go to the people. You know, get out of Washington, get out of Wall Street, get out of the focus
on those at the top and focus on the many
out in the countryside, and invest, as we did, when I was Agricultural
Commissioner here in Texas. You know, the common theory of economic development,
economic growth, that’s being practiced
now by our State, Rick Perry is big on it. He’s got a slush fund
of millions of dollars that he uses to give to
out of State corporations to come here on the assumption that they’re going
to create jobs. It ends up they create job(ets), jobs that don’t
pay a living wage. They don’t have healthcare. They don’t have pensions
attached to them. Don’t have much in the way of
upward mobility built into them. But instead of
pouring the money into what I call
Tinkle-Down Economics, instead Percolate-Up Economics,
invest in the people themselves. And as Agricultural Commissioner I brought some people
in on the staff who did a terrific job of that. We invested in small farmers, helped to create
farmers markets, so farmers can
sell their product. We helped to link farmers
directly to supermarkets, to link them to restaurants, to link them directly
to consumers in numbers of different ways, to link them to
our school system. And then we helped rural areas develop their own
processing plants, so that instead of them
having to sell the commodity and getting a
pittance of the money of that the consumer spends, let them also get
that extra money of being the processor of the
product and the packager of it. And that’s been a
great success in Texas and you can go to any of the
wonderful farmers markets here in Austin on Saturdays and Wednesdays
and Thursday and Sunday, one right here in
this neighborhood, that are just terrific,
and you see that in action. You see not only
the farmers there and the consumers having
a wonderful experience, but you also see
the food artisans, or the people who
bring the cheeses and the good Texas
wine and local beer; I’m a big believer in
lubricating our economy, and you see people having
fun and getting together. And that’s what an economy is,
it’s also what a society is. It’s that sense of community. Yes, exactly! You know, it helps put
the unity in community to have direct contact. Absolutely! Now, your party sounds great. I’m curious, how
would you characterize today’s two major
political parties, how would you describe them? Well, there are two wings
of the corporate party. The Republican wing
is absolutely wedded to the money, the interest
in our State, in our country, and enthusiastically so. You see them now in
Washington, for example, trying to beat back
Barack Obama’s suggestion that he even dared to
suggest that maybe all companies don’t
need $4 billion in tax subsidies right now since they’re making
extraordinary profits, and instead we ought
to put that money into the needs of having
more and better schools, so having more in the way
of stronger infrastructure, our roads and our bridges and
our water systems, and etcetera, having more across the board
for the society, for people, for the common good. Yet, the Republicans
rise up and say, no, no, no, we want
you to cut Medicare. We want you to cut
Social Security. No increase in
taxes for anybody. Well, that’s who they are. The problem is that my party,
the Democratic Party, has gotten too tied to the
money interest themselves. You know when you begin to
take those corporate checks written on the back of them
is the corporate agenda. And so my party has quit,
over the last 28 years or so has quit being a strong voice and strong activist for
ordinary working people, for small businesses,
small farmers, or the environment, consumers, just the regular
people of our country, and as a result it’s not that
people have turned right wing. Rick Perry got
elected last year, reelected as a Governor here, he made a big point of that
now running for President, he said, look,
I got 58% of the vote. They love me in Texas. Well, in fact, what he doesn’t
tell you is we had only… we had the lowest voter
turnout in America. We had… only 33%
of the people vote. So he is actually the choice of about 18% of the
people of Texas. Now, the sad thing is the
Democrats couldn’t get 19%. So they’re not
going to get 19% until they start talking
again like real Democrats. And the good news is,
we have more and more people, State Legislative Candidates
and folks like that who are standing up and
beginning to understand that. Well, as you know, here on ACCESS News we
talk a little bit about our America’s founding documents, so I want to take a moment
to just watch a brief video about our US documents. We the People of United States, in Order to form a more perfect
Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,
provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the
Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish
this Constitution for the United
States of America. We’re back with America’s
#1 populist, Jim Hightower. So many young political hopefuls
talk about taking back America. Taking back America sounds like you want to exchange it at
the store, get a new America. Shouldn’t we be
moving forward? Exactly! You know, Rick Perry is big on,
and the Tea Party people say, we’ve got to take back America. Well, Perry is taking it
back to about the 4th Century. I agree with you that we’ve got
to move forward in this country, and the only way
you’re going to do that is not a handful of politicians
with corporate elites moving America, rather you’ve got to get
the people themselves to move. You know, when I first moved
here to Austin in 1976, a long time ago, there was a moving
company here in Austin. I think it was [inaudible]
Moving Company or some name like
that, you know? And they had an ad that I…
a slogan that I loved, and they actually had an
ad in the yellow pages and they said, if we can get
it loose, we can move it. The way you get it
loose in this country is at the grassroots level and
then the people will move it. So you were elected twice as
the Agricultural Commissioner and then lost to
Rick Perry in 1990, who we would love to have
here on ACCESS News. But clearly, it’s no secret that you’re not a huge
fan of Rick Perry, but what would you envision… if he were to win
the presidency, what would that look like? It would be a disaster. It would look like Texas. You know, he’s running
around saying that he’s created the Texas miracle,
a million jobs, he says, that he’s created in
his ten years as Governor. But, you know,
the issue is not jobs. Slaves had jobs. The issue is income, wages,
middle class possibility. You could go to any restaurant
or café or bar here in Austin and say to a waitress,
did you know Rick Perry has created
a million jobs, you know? And she’d say, yeah, I know,
I’ve got three of them. You know, it’s not jobs we need,
it’s middle class possibilities, and that has been knocked down
here by Rick Perry as Governor. You know, during his
term, for example, he has created more
minimum wage jobs in Texas than all other states combined. We now are tied
with Mississippi as having the most
minimum wage jobs in… the highest rate of minimum
wage jobs in the country. Mississippi though is a
poor State, we’re not. We’re a very, very rich State,
so we have no excuse for this. Perry, to me, he is a guy who
puts the guber in gubernatorial, I can tell you that. And, you know,
we need, you know… and I don’t think that… he’s
got a record so ugly of service to corporations
that give him money and appointing people to public
office who give him money, and then using slush funds
to give to corporations, he then does favors for
those moneyed interests. This is not what
America is looking for. Now, most Americans
don’t know Perry yet, but they say that the
higher the monkey climbs, the more you see
of its ugly side, and I think that’s going
to happen to Rick Perry. What about voter ID? You know, this is a
non-issue entirely. They have not been able to
come up with a single case of voter fraud, of ID fraud in
the State of Texas. The Republicans in the
Legislature talk about it. They talk about it nationally. But they don’t find this. This is not our
major problem. The real problem in America
voting is voter intimidation, people being
discouraged from voting. And, you know, we’re
supposed to want people to participate in
our democracy. Yet, we’ve got a system that makes it very,
very difficult to participate. You know, I grew up in a time
when you had to pay to vote. There was a poll tax,
and it amounted to like, probably about $25 today, and so that’s real money
for poor folks, you know. And so we don’t
have that anymore, but we do have the, you know, very, very
stringent, restrictive voter registration terms that you ought to be able
to just to show up and vote. If you get stopped by a
policeman here in Austin, they can check the computer and
they would know all about you, right there in the car; somebody could do that
at the voting booth. This is not an issue really, but the real issue is that we need to be enlisting
people, engaging people in terms of the information
that we put out in politics and in terms of the passion
that we have for politics, to cause them to want to
vote and then to welcome them as strongly as we
can into the polls. I’m also wondering,
I know that you’re probably… you were just blown away when Rick Perry decided
to run for presidency, how did that change your life? Has it affected your work, your
columns, your radio interviews? Well, it has put me more in
demand by national television who wants to have somebody who
knows something about Perry, that’s willing to
come on and say it. That’s why you’re here
with us today I guess. Exactly! So yeah, so
people… people are… you know, since he has
put himself out there, and he puts out what I
call little Perrytales about his record, we need to set that
record straight. I’m curious on your
opinion on… related to the US Constitution. We talk about that a
lot here on ACCESS News. 55 people back in
1787 came together for the constitutional
convention to discuss, debate,
and compromise, and they had the end result
of signing the Constitution. Now, what if we revisited
the Constitution today, came together, what would that look like
and could we even get it done? It would look a
lot like Congress, which is not a pretty sight. It would look a lot like the
House of Representatives is right now in Washington. And that’s the problem
with suggestions that we should have a
constitutional convention. No, we’re not ready for it. I think the public
could be ready for. But it takes a
lot of education. You’ve got to remember
the Constitution itself was not written at
that convention. We had the Continental Congress
before, we had much debate. We had State Constitutions
written and charters written, and so there was a
lot of give and take and a lot of exchange, the
Committees of Correspondence, and then when the
Constitution was proposed, the debates that went around
that, it was quite extensive. But I would also
add that in my talks to groups around the country, I point out that it
was not those founders, Jefferson, Madison,
Washington, Franklin, etcetera, who gave us democracy. The Constitution,
the Bill of Rights, made… the Declaration
of Independence, made democracy possible. But you… you know, the
first presidential election, only 4% of Americans
were eligible to vote. You couldn’t vote
if you were a woman. You couldn’t vote if you
were African-American, if you were Native American. If you did not own
land you couldn’t vote. So only 4% were even eligible. So the democracy has
come from ordinary folks, like watching this show today. It comes from the soldier in
a truce and Frederick Douglass from the Pamphleteers, Thomas
Paine, the Shays’ Rebellion. It comes from the populist. It comes from the Labor
Movement, the Women’s Movement, the Environmental Movement,
the Death Movement, it comes from progress, that just ordinary people
at a grassroots level build and make happen
over the years. And these people are
agitators, you know, and they try to make
that a pejorative, don’t they, in our society,
oh, you agitators. Well, agitation is
what built our country, and in fact, when they say,
well, you’re just an agitator, you can say, well, yeah, that’s the center post
in the washing machine that gets the dirt out. We need more agitators. Curious about your opinion
on two other issues, what is the greater
threat to America, terrorism or ignorance? Well, terrorism is ignorance,
so we start with that. And so I think, ignorance,
well, I mean, if you are… it’s ignorance kind
of across the board. I mean, the ignorance, that you think you’re going
to really make a big difference by suicide bombing or flying
airplanes into buildings, that you’re going to…
that you’re going to win people’s hearts and
minds doing that. But it’s also
ignorance in societies that don’t deal with
ignorance of their people. They don’t have education. They keep girls out of
school, for example, in terms of the
Taliban and Afghanistan and other nations
around the world. But, you know, ignorance
in our own right as well. The notion that… I saw a story this morning
in the New York Times about the police effort
in New York City to spy essentially on Moroccans, Moroccan-Americans
who live in… this story is out of New York,
so New York City. And the police had been
routinely snooping on, making notes of about,
just where people go; that they go to a bookstore,
they go to a café, they go to a mosque,
and keeping track of them, and they say that this
is necessary in case there is a Moroccan
terrorist who attacks us, then we’ll know where to go. Well, that’s not America, that is ignorance at a very
high level right there. Because the strength of country
is not in our authority, it is not in our police power,
it is in our values, and chief among those
values is freedom and the independence to
think what you want to think and to be able to espouse that. You know, Benjamin
Franklin said at the start of this little
democratic experiment that the destiny of America
is not power, it’s light. And the light he meant is
the light of those values, of economic fairness,
social justice, equal opportunity
for all people. That’s what America
really stands for. Unfortunately, we’ve got
too many 5 watt bulbs sitting in 100 watt
sockets these days, so we’re getting
too much dimness. I really appreciate that. And in closing,
just in one sentence, what would you want our viewers
to walk away with today? That you are the powers,
that you have the authority. Patti Smith has that great
song, People Have The Power, to dream, to rule, to
wrestle the world from fools. Thank you Jim for being
with us today on ACCESS News. A joy. You can learn more about Jim
and his work on the website, Jimhightower.com. You can also ask questions,
share your comments and opinions on our website, accessnews.us. Like us on Facebook,
follow us on Twitter. One beautiful thing
about America is that we, the people,
have power. The more we know, the better
decisions that we can make. For ACCESS News, I’m
Tamara, and that’s Austin. Really a pleasure! Executive Producers:
Dvorah Ben-Moshe, Ken Hurley. With Funding from The John S.
and James L. Knight Foundation, through the Knight
Community Information Challenge. Supported by the Austin
Community Foundation, fostering philanthropy
in Austin for 35 years, the Austin Community
Foundation for now and forever. Created and Written By
Dvorah Ben-Moshe, Ken Hurley. Hosted By Tamara Suiter-Ocuto. Interpreter for Tamara
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to the Producer – Susan Harper, Original Music –
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and The First Amendment: Kaci Ketchum, Tanner Ketchum. Coached By Mindy Moore. Special Thanks To: Susan Mernit, Lisa Williams,
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Russell Harvard, Cynthia Foss, Bill Stotesbery, Katelyn Mack,
Yitzhak Ben-Moshe, Bobbie Nord, Kenneth Gladish. [Muisc] Hi! I am Tamara,
host of ACCESS News. Join me as I talk with renowned
scientists, community advocates, powerful business leaders,
and politicians from both sides of the aisle. Jim Hightower,
Texas’ own unique voice, nationally syndicated columnist,
the people’s watchdog. Join me each Sunday at
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