ACCESS News with guest Jim Hightower

Uploaded by ACCESSNewsUS on 06.11.2011

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!
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.
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?
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,
You can also ask questions, share your comments and opinions
on our website,
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 Suiter-Ocuto, Jennifer Stoker.
Producer - Linda Litowsky, Director÷Editor - Orlando Lopez,
3D Animation - Doug Gray,
Technical Director - Karla Saldaña,
Director of Photography - Brian Blake,
Assistant to the Producer - Susan Harper,
Original Music - Aaron Jaques,
Camera - Doug Gray, Tim O'Neal, Ross Wilsey,
Production Sound Mixer - Rodd Simonsen,
Teleprompter Operator - Brandon "Toj" Mora.
Additional Crew:
Photographers - Eve Granick, Dvorah Ben-Moshe,
Intern - Brandon "Toj" Mora,
Additional Interpreters -
Jacob Stacy, Tracey Huguley, Jessica Graves,
Website Developed By - ElectricLeaf, Jonathan Braden.
Closed Captioning Provided By CPC
Closed Captioning and Subtitle Services.
Signing the Preamble and The First Amendment:
Kaci Ketchum, Tanner Ketchum.
Coached By Mindy Moore.
Special Thanks To:
Susan Mernit, Lisa Williams, MariBen Ramsey, Monica Williams,
Janice Klekar, Paula Lange, Jeff Garvey,
Claire Bugen, Bobbie Guerra, Russell Harvard, Cynthia Foss,
Bill Stotesbery, Katelyn Mack, Yitzhak Ben-Moshe,
Bobbie Nord, Kenneth Gladish.
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 1 p.m. on KLRU Austin
for ACCESS News, Hands on News!