The Hightower Report

Heretical entrepreneurs choosing community, quality of life over profits; and Perry comes to the rescue of our poor, hard-up judges, raising their pay to three times the average Texan's income


A BETTER BUSINESS MODEL

What if business people started saying no? No to megagrowth, no to the frenetic pace of trying to get superrich, no to dog-eat-dog economics ... no to the prevailing corporate ethic that your business must always be getting bigger to be a "winner."

Well, it's happening. It gets little coverage by a media constantly fawning over the barons who run the slam-bam expansionist operations like Amazon or Starbucks, but there is a quiet rebellion spreading among entrepreneurs who're choosing a heretical business path. These are folks who want to make a profit – but not a killing. They don't want to run over their competitor or become a far-flung chain. They want more control over their own lives, and they want their businesses to be based on genuinely satisfying customers and treating workers as valued partners.

One of these community-based entrepreneurs says he rejected the chance to buy out a competitor: "I'd rather pack my kids' lunch and walk them to school," he decided. Another, who runs a tea shop, isn't dreaming of 10,000 stores, but of making customers feel truly welcome: "You need to become part of the community and give people an alternative to the big chains," he says, adding that, "when I go to Starbucks ... instead of hearing 'Thank you,' I hear 'Next.'" Likewise, the owner of a natural food store that successfully goes head-to-head with the Whole Foods supermarket chain says, "We live in an isolated and lonely culture. People stop in our store for the social interaction as well as the products. We're an oasis."

These community-based entrepreneurs are creating an economic model that contributes much more to our society's pursuit of happiness than the suck-'em-dry Wal-Mart model so beloved by the corporate establishment. You can vote with your dollars: Either choose Wal-Mart, where they have to hire a greeter to give you a hokey hello ... or choose some real place, where they actually know your name.


A JUDICIAL SOB STORY

A lot of Americans are hard-hit these days. There's the devastation suffered by hurricane victims, of course, and the Census Bureau reports that America's poverty rate has risen for the fourth consecutive year, adding nearly 6 million more people to the poverty rolls since 2000, despite a growing economy. But for a truly sad tale of economic woe, consider the plight of Bill Bosworth.

Bill is a Republican partisan who was appointed to a state judgeship just two years ago. But recently he wrote to our GOP governor begging for a judicial pay raise, because, he said, the job was causing financial hardships for him. He pleaded that "absent the increase, I do not know that I will be able to continue the sacrifice." Bill, you see, was only making $108,000 a year.

Need a hanky?

Bill and other state judges wailed that judicial pay had not increased since 1997. Gosh, how ironic! That's also the last time the minimum wage was increased. Millions of full-time workers on minimum wage are still stuck at $5.15 an hour – but the judges didn't think to include these poverty-wage workers in their plea for government relief.

Nor did the judges waste any of their tears on the state's teachers, who were denied a long-overdue pay raise by this year's legislative leaders. Instead, the judges stayed focused on No. 1, lobbying only for themselves. Bosworth, noting that he could pull down $40,000 more than he's getting as a judge by returning to private practice, said almost tearfully, "You have to evaluate how much sacrifice you're willing to make."

Yeah, Bill, those of us paying your salary feel your pain. Gov. Perry felt Bill's pain, too, mercifully relieving it by signing a bill jumping judges' pay to $125,000 a year – three times the income of average Texans.

And the Powers That Be wonder why ordinary folks think these political elites are self-dealing slugs.

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.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

mega-growth, Amazon Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, community-based entrepreneurs, Census Bureau, Bill Bosworth, judicial pay raise, Rick Perry, minimum wage

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