Jim Hightower

The Best Idea Since Sliced Bread


Have you heard of Otto Rohwedder? He’s the guy who invented the bread slicer, back in 1928. If you can come up with the best idea since sliced bread, it could be worth $100,000 to you. That’s the top prize offered in a unique competition sponsored by the Service Employees International Union. SEIU is looking for fresh ideas to improve the lives of everyday Americans—from health care to education, from the offshoring of jobs to tax policies. The beauty of the approach is that it is totally grassroots, asking folks to come up with new policies that can actually help them. Nearly all of today’s policies come from the elites (CEOs, politicos, think tanks, and such) and you can see where that has gotten us! Their ideas are designed to benefit the elites. So, SEIU wants to reverse the usual order by hearing from you. Go to their contest web site (sinceslicedbread.com), and, in 175 words or less, put forth your brainstorm. Hurry—entries are due by December 5. On the site, you can also read other people’s ideas and comment. A panel of judges will choose 21 finalists, and, beginning in January, all of America can vote on their ideas. On February 1, the top vote-getter will win $100,000, and two runners-up will each get $50,000. The 21 finalists will be featured in a book, and their grassroots proposals will be delivered to the Powers That Be. This contest is an even better idea than Otto Rohwedder had, for it slices through the usual top-down nature of politics. Join the fun—and help shape America’s policy debate—by going to sinceslicedbread.com


It’s always reassuring to see that America’s scientific geniuses are busy solving the pressing problems that society faces—such as the need to turn the dark meat of chickens into white meat. I’m sure that you have spent many a sleepless night worrying about the fact that the average American consumer tends to disdain the dark-meat parts of chicken, preferring the white meat of the breasts. The unfortunate result is that most of the dark parts—the legs and thighs—end up being sold cheap by the giant poultry processors for export to Russia and the Middle East. You can see the urgent societal problem that this poses, can’t you? Obviously, America must find a way for chicken processors to make more money on dark meat. I’m delighted to report that our public investment in science has paid off! Daniel Fletcher, a University of Georgia professor of poultry science has resolved the chicken crisis by devising a formula and a process that turns the dark meat white. Here’s how: Dark meat is ground up and mixed with water to create a soupy slurry that is then spun around in a tub at very high speed. The centrifugal force separates the former chicken into layers of fat, water, and meat residue. The residue is whitish, and it can then be molded into breast-like patties and used as faux white meat in “chicken” nuggets—or whatever. But what about flavor? Well, the professor admits, “It tastes like something you would use with Hamburger Helper.” But, hey, that’s another problem, and I’m sure the flavor-science boys are all over it. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council says, “At the end of the day, the consumer’s going to be the one to say this is a good idea or not a good idea.” Leave Chicken Alone! Call the Chicken Council at (202) 296-2622. Give them a piece of your mind.


Let’s talk about that “inalienable right” that the Powers That Be don’t want us talking about: The pursuit of happiness. This basic human right, proclaimed by the founders on July 4, 1776, gets short shrift. It’s not taught in schools as a worthy goal, not mentioned by the mass media, not posed as a national objective by vote-seeking politicians, and is deliberately discouraged by corporate bosses who constantly demand more hours with less pay (as one T-shirt puts it, “Medieval Peasants Worked Less Than You Do”). Instead, the prevailing culture insists that you derive your happiness from staying hitched to the constant plow of work, making money so you can buy a car, watch TV, go to Disneyland. They’ve perverted the language, shifting the debate from real happiness to possessions, leaving a very big hole in our lives. It’s also leaving a gaping hole in our country, for it teaches that happiness is a function of individual attainment, not a community or national purpose. Merely measuring productivity and prosperity leaves most Americans empty; these crude measures ignore such essential human needs as public involvement, work-satisfaction, good health, free-time, environmental balance, spirituality, and connectedness to the common good. These are the true elements of happiness, for individuals and the country. Let’s put the pursuit of happiness back into political discussions. Even the straight-laced New York Times recently editorialized, “The world looks … as if it is being devoured by some grievous species—partly because of narrow economic assumptions that govern the behavior of corporations and nations. … A clearer understanding of what makes humans happy—not merely more eager consumers or more productive workers—might begin to reshape those assumptions [to better] the lives we lead and the world we live in.”

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.