The Hightower Report

Both the feds and the corporations are abandoning the middle class

America's real 'job creators' are broke

As narrators used to say in Western movies, "Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...."

Our policy makers in Washington have totally lost sight of what's happening at the ranch. Both John Boehner's GOP-controlled House and Barack Obama's White House are riveted on slashing trillions of dollars from the federal budget as though that's America's most important need. Bovine excrement! If they'd lift their vision to the countryside, even they could figure out that our great economic urgency is for the creation of good, middle-class jobs to get America moving again – moving upward and moving together.

Today, we are a dangerously divided society. Elite CEOs and big investors are grabbing all the gains, leaving the vast majority of Americans mired in the recession and facing falling incomes. Since the recession technically ended in 2009, corporate profits have zoomed, sopping up an unprecedented 88% of America's economic growth. Meanwhile, only 1% of the growth that we all help produce has gone to wages and salaries, which is the source of income for most of us.

Yet, those same CEOs say they won't invest in new jobs or raise wages until consumers start buying again. That's like saying, "The beatings will continue until morale improves." Hello – the consumers CEOs are waiting on are the workers whose jobs and wages the CEOs won't increase.

You see, despite the GOP's ideological claptrap about corporate executives being job creators, it is ordinary Americans who actually create jobs by spending from their paychecks. This is why our obtuse policymakers need to quit pampering the rich and fussing over budgets and start launching a national, FDR-style jobs program that will immediately increase paychecks, perk up consumer spending, and generate grassroots economic growth.

Mass marketing goes platinum

In today's fast-moving world of consumer styles, when you're out, you're out. Not just out of style, but so far out that you're no longer of interest to big marketers.

Thus it is that America's middle class itself (roughly 60% of us, depending on where you draw the income line) has now been deemed unworthy consumers by the cognoscenti of national product advertising. We're too poor to matter, they say. Indeed, even though America's workaday majority has produced a phenomenal rise in wealth during the past decade, the incomes of that majority have fallen – and there's no improvement in sight. Where did the gains go? Practically all of the new wealth that's been created has flowed straight up to the richest 10% of Americans, who reportedly own 80% of all stocks and bonds.

Instead of deploring this widening disparity, major hawkers of consumer products are choosing to embrace it. Advertising Age, the marketing industry's top publication, has curtly declared, "Mass affluence is over." Nearly half of consumer spending today is done by the richest 10% of households, and the richest of these richies are deemed the most desirable of consumers. "Simply put," says Ad Age, "a small plutocracy of wealthy elites drives a larger and larger share of total consumer spending and has outsize purchasing influence."

The magazine goes on to inform us that households with less than $200,000 in annual incomes are henceforth on the outs, holding little interest for advertisers. Sure enough, corporate executives in such diverse industries as airlines, banking, and health care are focusing more and more on the premium, platinum-level customers.

Gosh, does this mean they'll stop inundating me with ads and a flood of other come-ons? I could live with that.

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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federal jobs programsmarketing to wealthy, John Boehner, Barack Obama, labor, middle class, jobs programs

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