The Hightower Report

Are We in Iraq to Stay?; and Time for Percolate-Up Economics

Are We In Iraq To Stay?

Aha! Now we're seeing the real reason that George W. pushed us into his Iraq war.

For years, Bush has hopped from one rationale to another, ranging from scare tactics (they have WMD!) to altruistic appeals (we're bringing democracy to those poor people). But lately, it has become apparent that the Bushites' reason for being there is, simply, to be there ... and stay there. Their goal was to establish in Iraq a U.S.-dependent government willing to be the base for our long-term military presence in this oil-rich region.

This goal turns out not to be as simple to achieve as they'd thought. Just as Bush & Co. grossly misunderstood what they were getting us into with their invasion, so have they grossly miscalculated the willingness of the Iraqi people to tolerate imperialistic designs on their land. With the clock ticking on their White House lease, the Bushites (including George himself) have been furiously lobbying Iraq's leaders to sign an agreement that keeps our military there for the long haul and opens up their oil fields to Western corporations.

But Iraqis are not buying it and, to Bush's astonishment, are not acting at all like puppets. Indeed, Iraqis of all political, religious, and sectarian stripes are unified on one goal: waving bye-bye to our military. Thank you, they're saying, but now we'll take over. Indeed, Iraqi leaders have written their sentiments in flashing neon by embracing Sen. Barack Obama's timetable for withdrawal. How soon should that be? "As soon as possible," said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, declaring that Obama's plan for doing it in 16 months is "the right time frame."

It's their country, after all. It's time for them to take responsibility for their future, and they are. The only ones wanting to keep our forces in their business are the Bushites and Big Oil – and that's no reason at all for us to stay.

Time for Percolate-Up Economics

Great news for you, Horatio Algers! There are now more than 10 million people in the world who are millionaires or better. See, it's easy to get rich, so join the club!

Meanwhile, those of you at the other end of the economy can take heart, too. While you might not be millionaires yet, the good news is that America's minimum wage is up by 70 cents. Wow – if you work an eight-hour day, you can buy about a gallon and a third of gasoline with that! See, everyone is doing well.

While Washington has been lavish in its rush to bail out Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and who-knows-who'll-be-next, it has been mingy in establishing a wage floor that allows people who do some of our country's toughest, dirtiest jobs to make even the barest of ends meet. The new level – $6.55 an hour (or a gross of about $13,000 a year) – doesn't begin to deal with $4 gasoline, $4-a-gallon milk, rising rents, utilities, bus fares, child care, and other essentials. Indeed, 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 level. Yes, Washington did pass that economic-stimulus plan, sending one-time checks of up to $600 to most Americans. Yet, while this took $100 billion out of our public treasury, it did nothing to stimulate the economy – indeed, the billions largely were 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 – both economically and morally. Time for some percolate-up economics.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.
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