More Tinkle-down Economics

Great news for you Horatio Algers! There are more than 10 million people in the world who are millionaires or better.

Those of you at the other end of the economy can take heart, too. The good news is that America’s minimum wage is up by 70 cents. Wow-if you work an eight-hour day, you could buy about a gallon and a third of gasoline!

While Washington has been lavish in its rush to bail out Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, it has been mingy in establishing a wage floor that allows people who do some of our country’s toughest jobs make ends meet. The new minimum wage-$6.55 an hour-doesn’t begin to deal with $4 gasoline, rising rents, utilities, child care, and other essentials. Just to bring the floor up to the value of the minimum wage of 40 years ago, it would have to be $10 an hour today.

Congress, which is talking about extending tax breaks to boost the incomes of millionaires and billionaires, is having no discussions about lifting the working poor to a living wage. Washington did pass that economic stimulus plan, sending onetime checks of up to $600 to most Americans. But while this took $100 billion out of our public treasury, it did nothing to stimulate the economy-the billions were largely swallowed up by gas pumps, further bloating the wealth of Big Oil.

America has been practicing “tinkle-down” economics for years, and it has failed us. It’s time for some percolate-up economics.


When Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae got in a financial crunch, George W. came rushing in with a bailout package of more than $130 billion.

But where is George when America’s wounded veterans need him? Last year the public was disgusted by the mistreatment of Iraq vets at the Army’s Walter Reed hospital and other VA medical centers.

Caught unaware by the furor, Bush hurriedly promised to do something, and in February he claimed success. His Army surgeon general told Congress, “We are entirely staffed at the point we need to be,” adding that “a key element of our warrior ethos is that we never leave a soldier behind on the battlefield-or lost in a bureaucracy.”

Great line! Mission accomplished!

Why aren’t veterans applauding? Because they know that claiming progress is not the same as making it. In June, congressional staffers investigated a wounded-vet center in Texas that was set up for 649 patients, but is now jammed with more than 1,300. Another 350 vets are stuck on a waiting list, and some will languish there up to a year. Instead of being “entirely staffed,” the center has only half the number it needs.

The Bushites claim they simply didn’t anticipate so many wounded soldiers coming out of Iraq. Excuse me! The war has been going on for more than five years, and the awful number of casualties has been reported daily. How could they not know?

I’ll bet that if our vets had names like Freddie, Fannie, and Bear, Bush would have covered all their needs, and pronto.


CEO-land is a wondrous kingdom. Denizens of this realm can do no wrong.

If you’re not quite clear on the concept, meet Vin Gupta, the founder and CEO of a database outfit named InfoGroup Inc. It’s a publicly traded corporation owned by thousands of shareholders, but Gupta has treated the Nebraska-based company more like GuptaGroup, using its revenues as his personal piggy bank.

For example, he owned another outfit called Annapurna Corp. that did business with InfoGroup. Annapurna received millions of dollars from InfoGroup to provide use of a jet plane, condos in Hawaii and California, and a skybox for University of Nebraska games. The CEO also dipped into the corporate kitty to provide a $3.3 million consulting contract for his old pal Bill Clinton.

Shareholders have sued, regulators are investigating, and three directors have been asked to resign, yet Gupta has kept his job. Oh, he did have to pay back some money, and InfoGroup’s general counsel now must sign off on any of his personal perks and any consulting contracts he hands out. But the bottom line is that he’s still CEO, still drawing his multimillion-dollar annual pay, still enjoying the skybox and condos, still being Mr. Chief-Executive-Officer-Who-Can-Do-No-Wrong.

The moral lesson here is clear: Don’t bother teaching your children the difference between right and wrong-teach them the path to CEO-land, where no abuse goes unforgiven.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work-and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown-visit His latest book, with Susan DeMarco, is Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow.

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Published at 12:00 am CST