Campus Populist

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

Campus Progress (CP), a program of the Center for American Progress, argues that “30 years of heavily-funded conservative organizing has made its mark” on universities and it’s time to push back. To that end, CP recently promoted a new book highlighting the successes of countercultural “uncorporations” and political activists.

“I come to you as a Democrat, by the way, but I get very disgusted with my party leaders sometimes. You know, like gratifying Bush’s illegal domestic spying program by making it legal. I got an email from a guy saying he hoped that Bush would get caught smoking marijuana because then Congress would legalize marijuana. [laughs] I don’t know,” said Jim Hightower, coauthor of Swim Against the Current. Hightower made several other disparaging references to President Bush and Vice President Cheney during his presentation, comments which were invariably met with peals of laughter by the CAP audience.

Hightower also called Milton Friedman a “guru of corporate excess.”

Hightower believes that progressivism and rebellion are “innate” American values alongside

• fairness,
• justice,
• equal opportunity,
• stewardship,
• and democracy.

(Corporations are, in turn, inimical to family time, personal satisfaction, fun, laughter, the common good, and self-esteem, Hightower argues).

Thieves in High Places, Hightower’s previous book, passionately lambastes a corrupt, Bush-led America, a “kleptocrat nation” in which corporate interests pervert American democracy and harm its working class. His populist newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, boasts a 135,000 subscription base.

In Swim Against the Current, Hightower writes that he is encouraged by the new generation of business students determined to “bridge the disconnect between corporate profit and the social deficit.” “So they realize that all is not well and, I don’t know, maybe they all had good mommas. They just have some values and are demanding it now in the schools, demanding that there be—that environmentalism, that ethics, at least those two—and to some degree, even worker rights, human rights be a part of the core mission of the companies that they are interested in working with,” he said at the event.

The reverse insinuation is, of course, that business students who do not follow the progressive model had bad mothers who taught them few-to-no values. In fact, Hightower writes in Swim Against the Current that “Fortune 500 CEO’s have a vision that extends no farther than their own snouts, which is to say to tomorrow’s stock price and their own platinum paychecks.”

When asked if he was anti-business, Hightower responded, “Well, hardly. As George W. would say ‘I are one.’” “The whole point that we’re making about business is that a corporation is not a synonym for business. It is a form of business and it is the most narrow, constipated form of business there is,” he said.

In his book, Hightower refers to corporations as “legal fictions” whose owners, enslaved to the bottom line, wake up in a sweat each morning worried about their stock price and “reap profits without having to be personally responsible for any harm done in pursuit” of profit. “If anyone or anything happens to be standing between top executives and an extra dime in profit, the ‘corporate ethic’ commands that the executives bolt for the dime,” he writes.

At the CAP event, Hightower blamed illegal immigration on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), expressed his approval for the abundance of 2008 antiwar candidates, and said that the polar bear was the new symbol for global warming.

He also expressed his high esteem for Campus Progress’ support of socially-conscious business students. “Well I think Campus Progress of course has been a leader in this and other values-driven matters among young folks,” he said.

Bethany Stotts is a Staff Writer at Accuracy in Academia.