Washington keeps handing massive bailouts to Wall Street giants and multibillion-dollar annual subsidies to the likes of Big Oil, which is a nice boost to the bottom lines of the one-percenters. But these giveaways do nothing to perk up America's grassroots economy, which not only is where the rest of us live and work, but also is the only place that can generate real national prosperity. Congress can't seem to grasp a basic law of nature: You can't keep a mighty tree alive (much less expect it to thrive) by only spritzing the fine leaves at its tippy-top. The fate of the whole tree depends on nurturing the grassroots.
Sadly, America's corporate and political powers today are content to be a bunch of leaf spritzers, blithely oblivious to the dangerous shriveling of the grassroots. To witness the damage they're doing, just look at our nation's desiccated minimum wage.
Set at $7.25 an hour three and a half years ago, its real value has since been gutted by inflation, reducing the wage's current purchasing power to a subpoverty level of $6.75 an hour. That's only $14,000 a year for full-time work! Not only would increasing it help these hardworking people make ends meet, but it also would provide a direct jolt of nourishment to our overall economy. It's been shown again and again that every dime of a minimum-wage hike is spent by its recipients, circulating upward in our local economies as they increase their purchases of such basics as food, kids' clothing, and health care.
This kind of percolate-up economics works for the many, not just the wealthiest few – and that helps (at least minimally) to restore a bit of moral balance to an economy and society now being torn apart by gross inequality. For more information on raising today's poverty wage, go to www.timeforaraise.org.
For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, "The Hightower Lowdown" – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.
Copyright © 2015 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.