Every morning I can't get out of bed until I've heard Jim Hightower on my local NPR radio station. It's my inspiration to face another day. So, it was a real treat to meet him at the Netroots Nation Conference in his home town of Austin, Texas. I asked Jim about the failure of conservative values. He said the failure is the ethic of greed and the alternative to this are the progressive values of fairness, social justice and equal opportunity for all people.
Failed Conservatives Values: Jim Hightower on Greed
Edwin: Have conservative values failed?
Jim: Yeah, because conservative values are essentially being expressed as an ethic of greed. I got mine, you get yours. You want education , go to a private school. You want health care – buy it. You want retirement – you make enough money during your life and retire in the South of France, or something. What’s wrong with you.
Rather than recognize that there will be no America if we don’t all share in the advantages that America does offer. And I’m not talking about people on the dole, people trying to ride the coattails of successful people. Folks are out there working their butts off. They’ve been productive. They have created wealth. Enormous wealth.
In just these last eight years, the Bushites, for example. But over the last 30, 40 years, we have been the ones creating the wealth, but we have not been the ones benefiting from that. For example, most people’s income has gone down in real terms over that period. Democratic Administrations as well as Republicans.
So that’s why there’s such a rebellion in the countryside these days. Not just political, but in all aspects of life. People are demanding change, and they are making change.
Edwin: Are they are fed up with greed?
Jim: Oh, of course. They don’t benefit from greed, and nobody really benefits, even those who are profiting from it. Henry Travis, the hostile takeover king in New York City, who makes his money by buying corporations with borrowed money from rich people to buy other people’s corporations, then selling off the assets of those corporations, firing thousands of people from jobs in that corporation – and then he pockets the money. And he was making $51,000 an hour in 2006.
So the people who are fired didn’t benefit from that. The people who founded the corporation didn’t benefit from that. The people who maybe enjoyed the products of that corporation didn’t benefit from that. That’s just raw greed, and it’s not serving America’s interests at all.
Edwin: If you made a metaphor for conservative values, what would it be like? For example, a piece of land, a machine, just anything. What are conservative values like?
Jim: Well, it’s a grasping.
There are conservative values that I share. There are conservative values of conservation of your resources, conservation of your personal wealth, old-time conservative values. Conservation of our democratic principles. The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. Those actually mean things. That’s a conservatism that I share. But that’s not the corporate conservatism that we have today, which is I got mine, you get yours.