Column: A case of percolate-up economics
AUSTIN, Texas -- Washington keeps handing massive bailouts to Wall Street giants and multibillion-dollar annual subsidies to Big Oil. Those giveaways certainly boost the 1-percenters' bottom lines, but they do nothing to perk up America's grassroots economy. And that's not only where the rest of us live and work, it's 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 roots.
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 years ago, its real value has since been gutted by inflation, reducing the wage's current purchasing power to a sub-poverty level of $6.75 an hour. That's only $14,000 a year for full-time work!
Not only would increasing it help hard-working 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 to restore a little bit of moral balance to a society now being torn apart by gross inequality. For more information on raising today's poverty wage, go to www.TimeForARaise.org.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter The Hightower Lowdown.