The Hightower Report

Thank your local family farmer; and the military sets up camp in our schools.

A Thanksgiving Connection

It's Thanksgiving Day -- have you hugged a farmer yet?

Actually, we need to do a lot more than hug those family farmers who bring us such a bounty of good food, for they've become endangered species in the Brave New AgWorld of industrialized, conglomeratized, and globalized food production that our policy-makers are pushing. Thanks to such policies, those who till the soil are productive, efficient ... and broke!

They're being forced out of business by corporate profiteers. The price of everything from seeds to crop loans keeps going up, while the price farmers are paid for their commodities keeps going down. Few consumers know it, but very little of what you and I spend on food goes to the farmer. Out of each dollar we spend, farmers now get only 19 cents, with monopolistic middlemen like ADM, Cargill, McDonalds, Monsanto, Philip Morris, Tyson, and Wal-Mart grabbing an ever-larger share.

But the good news is that we don't have to buy in to the self-serving manipulative system of the monopolists. Instead, there's a growing mass movement among consumers, small farmers, entrepreneurs, communities, and others to take back control of our food economy and food culture by focusing on locally grown foods. Farmers' markets, for example, are flourishing, with some 2,800 of them across America, involving nearly 20,000 farmers selling in all kinds of neighborhoods to hundreds of thousands of consumers. There are also community garden projects, farm stands, and other direct farmer-to-consumer marketing outlets, as well as more and more grocers and restaurants proudly offering food fresh off local farms.

Check out these connections for everything from free-range turkey to organic tomatoes. Buying locally means you can get better food at cheaper prices, but it also means that the money you spend stays in your community and supports a revitalized family-farm economy.

To connect to markets near you, go to this Web site:

A Wealth of Retirement Benefits

Corporate CEOs are different from you and me: They get free toilet paper.

We have this bit of insider information thanks to Jane Welch. She's the estranged wife of super-CEO Jack Welch, and she filed a spectacular divorce suit against her adulterous hubby. Not only was it spectacular because of the huge settlement she won -- more than the annual budget of several small nations -- but especially because of the many juicy tidbits she revealed in court about Jack's finances, particularly his retirement package from General Electric.

Start with the big round number of half a billion bucks, which is his current net worth. Welch, who sits on personal retirement funds of nearly $250 million, also has two $10 million mansions where he can while away his golden years.

But GE adds to the golden luster by paying its retired CEO a monthly stipend to help make ends meet: $1.4 million a month, to be precise. Not that he really needs the cash, since GE also pays for all of his little necessaries, such as a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park, free din-din at the four-star Jean Georges Restaurant, primo box seats at Yankee games and the Metropolitan Opera, limousines, and helicopters to get around town, use of GE's 737 Boeing jet to scoot around the world, membership dues in 11 exclusive country clubs, and so many other perks of the corporate royalty.

But then it gets weird. General Electric also reimburses this multimillionaire for his mundane purchases, such as buying a bottle of wine, purchasing a CD, picking up a newspaper ... and, yes, bringing home a four-pack of toilet paper.

All this for a guy who prided himself on being a lean-and-mean, penny-pinching CEO. He slashed jobs, cut wages, moved factories abroad to exploit sweatshop labor, and depleted the nest eggs of thousands of GE's rank-and-file retirees -- even while negotiating a lush retirement for himself.

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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Thanksgiving, family farmers, ADM, Cargill, McDonalds, Monsanto, Philip Morris, Tyson, Wal-Mart, organic food, David Vitter, George W. Bush, No Child Left Behind Act, military recruiters, Center for Democracy and Technology

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