JIM HIGHTOWER Work Less, Work Better How do you feel about work? Abraham Lincoln, the last good Republican president had this to say about it: “I never did like to work, and I don’t deny it Id rather read tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laughanything but work” Hey, he wasn’t called “Honest Abe” for nothing! These days, if you are a typical working person, you are working longer and getting less for it, and the fortyhour work week has become a joke. On average, American workers are on the job 160 hours more each year than workers were just twenty-five years ago. That’s an extra month of work each year added on to the full-time shift you’re already working. For what? Are wages up? Ha! For 80 percent of us, they’re down; you’re having to paddle faster and work longer just to stay even, and your spouse has to join you in the same rat race. Are we happier as a result, are our families better off? Hardlyour kids are in day care or left on their own, we have no time for leisure or volunteer activities, and we’re tired all the time. Oh, they say, you workers have to work more for America to be competitive in the New Global Economy. Really? Germans among our main competitorswork nearly eight weeks less per year than we do, get paid more for it and enjoy better benefits. Even the Japanese, notorious workaholics, now have a shorter work week than you do and are better rewarded. Meanwhile, our extra work has increased profits, stock values and CEO pay for the privileged few. One way to restore some fairness to our economy and some common sense to our lives is to begin to fight for our time by shortening the American work week to four days. Not only can this help working families regain some sanity, but it would create new opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed as well, and companies would benefit both by the renewed vigor of the workforce and by its increased purchasing power. THE CORPORATE FLAG Thomas Jefferson warned us 200 years ago that “Merchants give allegiance to no flag save their own.” He was not talking about little Main Street merchants, but about the sea-going Merchant Trading Companies of his time. Today, these companies call themselves “Multinationals” or “Global Corporations”and it would blow Tom’s powdered wig sky-high to see exactly how little allegiance these modern-day merchants have to the flag of their homeland. Indeed, the glibly global attitude of today’s multinationals was summed up not long ago by one corporate chieftain who said: “National Cash Register is not a U.S. corporation. It is a world corporation that happens to be headquartered in the U.S.” Even though these ingrates get enormous subsidies from us taxpayers and make billions in profits from us consumers, they now rudely thumb their noses at our nation, running off to China, Mexico and other cheap labor hellholes with our factories and jobs. Their businesses have become part of a “New World Order,” transcending such antiquated notions as national loyalty. How far have they gone in separating themselves from us and Old Gloiy? Listen to this: On May 24 at the annual stockholders meeting of General Motors Corporation in Detroit, a Pone stockholder in the audience respectfully addressed a question to GM top executive, John Smith, who was on the stage with all of GM’s powerful board members. This small shareholder asked if Mr. Smith and the board members would be willing to rise and pledge allegiance to the flag? Mr. Smith refused not once, but twice, ruling the questioner out of order. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, One Nation under God, indiVisible, with liberty and justice for all. WASTE COLLECTORS Do you know anyone who is a chronic collector? Maybe it’s your old Aunt Emma who finally had to have an extra room built on the house to hold her ever-growing collection of salt and pepper shakers, or that worthless brother-in-law of yours who still has the erector set he got in 1950, his original Mickey Mouse Club certificate, and the fuzzy dice he hung from the mirror of his ’57 Chevy. Or maybe it’s the Pentagon. According to Taxpayers for Common $ense, America’s military brass collects tons of supplies that it doesn’t need and will never use: some $37 billion worth of pump motors, antennas, clutchassemblies and other stuff with which it is massively overstocked. Indeed more than half of the military’s total inventory of parts and weapons is simply unneeded. Thirty-seven BILLION DOLLARS worth. Sitting there. Never to be used. The General Accounting Office uncovered this wealth of waste in 1993, but the Pentagon promised that it was making progress in reducing the excess. However, a 1996 update finds that the Blob has not been reducedit has grown by nearly a billion dollars more! How much useless stuff has the Pentagon squirreled away? Enough to fill 130 million cubic feet of space in 205 different warehouses around the country. They have a 100-year supply of many itemsincluding items that are already obsolete. And, to stack ignorance on top of ignorance, some of these obsolete, overstocked items are still being purchased by the military. Meantime, Congress says it must cut more from food stamps, job training, Medicare and even Social Security to help reduce the federal budget deficit. But before they whack the things that the middle class and the poor need, shouldn’t Congress whack the $37 billion worth of stuff the Pentagon doesn’t need? To get more information, contact Senator Jim Hightower is a former Observer editor and Texas Agriculture Commissioner. His nationwide radio show broadcasts daily from Austin, Texas. 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 31, 1997
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