The Hightower Report
Newt Gingrich is back ... hooray! And, job numbers are up but wages aren't.
NEWT FOR PRESIDENT
Oh, please, please, pleeeeze, tell me it's true. Please tell me that Newt "The Newt" Gingrich really is mounting a political comeback and is planning to be the next Republican nominee for president!
What a goofball! What a political extremist! What a hypocrite! What a perfect symbol of how far to the ultra-right the Republican party has moved! Yes, give us Newt!
The former speaker of the house is renowned for having the personality of a hand grenade with the pin already pulled! He rose to power by demonizing Democrats and all things liberal, ranting regularly about family values, integrity in government, slashing federal spending, Bill Clinton's marital infidelity, and such. Yet, this "family man" divorced his first wife while she was undergoing cancer treatments, running off with wife No. 2. But he has since dumped her as well, scampering off this time with a former congressional staffer with whom he was having an affair.
Meanwhile, "Mr. Integrity in Government" was a willing whore for any corporate lobbyist waving campaign checks at him, literally allowing them to write laws. Also, he was a loud proponent of fattening the military budget and rattling America's sword even though he personally had dodged the chance to be a real soldier during the Vietnam War.
After he imploded politically and his own party ousted him in 1999, the Newt did not return home to Georgia, but became a hired gun for corporate interests in Washington. Now, 10 years after his political demise, Newt says he is newly arisen. He has a new book modestly instructing us on what America should do in the 21st century, and he's using it as a pulpit to launch himself into the '08 presidential race. His platform is pure Newt: Stop driving God from public life, fund "patriotic" education policies, triple the government's spy budget, and privatize Social Security.
Wonderful. Bring him on!
JOBS, WAGES, MERGERS, AND YOU
"A bumper year for U.S. jobs," exclaimed the headline in our local daily paper. Wow, good news, right? The boom must be back!
Uh-uh. Read further, and you learn that job creation is not even keeping pace with the increasing number of working-age Americans. And way down in the story you find this sentence: "The increase in jobs was not translating into increases in wages." That's good news for CEOs but bad news for the average American.
Yes, say corporate economists and the Bushites, but it's bound to get better soon, just like we've been promising. Trust us. Uh-uh, again. I was in Southern California recently, and a local paper offered its 2005 jobs forecast for Orange County, one of the most prosperous places in America. There will be new jobs, the story said, but don't expect to live high on the hog. The 10 occupations expecting the most job growth were: retail sales, security guards, cashiers, food service, janitorial, waitstaff, nurses, telephone customer service, laborers, and landscapers. Only one of these pays anything approaching a middle-class wage, and most pay what amounts to poverty wages in Orange County.
Meanwhile, the one boom that really is under way is a job crusher: corporate mergers. For example, Kmart is taking over Sears, Sprint is swallowing Nextel, and Oracle is absorbing PeopleSoft. Looking at the merger surge expected this year, one analyst gushed, "Corporate America has finally gotten a bit of swagger back in its step."
Dandy. We need economic growth, not economic consolidation. Corporate profits are way up, 70%, and cash flow is at a record rate of $1.3 trillion a year. But instead of increasing wages, and opening new factories, swaggering CEOs are diverting America's investment capital into buying out their competitors, shrinking both jobs and consumer choice.