Jim Hightower speaks to Simpson College, participates in Occupy World Food Prize

by Steffi Lee

Let’s talk politics.

On his way to Des Moines to call for the end of corporate control of the nation’s food system, former Texas commissioner of agriculture Jim Hightower made a stop at Simpson College to give a speech about the nation.

Hightower, a well-known populist, assessed the nation’s current political state and made a call to action on what citizens can do to make a change.

“People should not only be truth seekers but truth tellers,” Hightower told the audience. “America needs your feisty rebellious spirit more than ever before.”

He said darkness is slowly descending on the nation with a majority of the problems stemming from corruption.

“Something has gone terribly wrong,” he said.

He cited politicians in Washington throwing their dogma over the nation’s foundation. Hightower said Tea Party politicians and others in Washington “are trying to rule a hissy fit right now.”

“There are powerful forces, plutocracy, autocracy, theocracy and kleptocracy loose on our land in this country these days,” Hightower said. “The delusional is no longer marginal.”

He meant the leadership of the nation has turned into a monopoly. Hightower addressed both Democrats and Republicans making the same economic mistakes. He said the country struggles with economic fairness, social justice, corporate powers and media powers.

“Too many Democrats in Washington are taking the same corporate money the Republicans get,” he said. “The result is that they are weaker.”

Hightower said Wall Street is plagued by massive illegalities and incompetence, yet not a single top executive of a Wall Street bank has been charged of a crime. No one has been fired.

“Banks don’t commit crimes,” he said. “Bankers do.”

The only way to stop banks from committing fraud and economic corruption is to stop the bankers, he said.

Hightower also said the Koch Brothers’ economic policies put the nation at a disadvantage.

“In 30 years, we’ve done from Ronald Reagan’s ‘trickle-down’ economics to the Koch Brothers’ ‘tinkle down economics,” he said. “That’s not exactly progress.”

While people obtain minimum wage jobs at Wal-Mart, the Walton family still maintains its wealth while the middle class suffers.

“These six people who have never done any heavy lifting in their lives possess more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of American families,” Hightower said.

The bottom 40 percent of families accounts for 127 million people. And that’s not all.

A typical family saw their finances plummet by 39 percent over the years, but rich families such as the Waltons see their wealth soar by around 22 percent.

“They did nothing to do that,” he said. “Net worth has nothing to do with worthiness.”

According to Hightower, that’s a concept people need to understand. They don’t work, but rather, they inherit.

Hightower also analyzed police forces in his speech, concluding that police powers are acting based on rumors. He explained how an organic farm said to have been growing marijuana was examined, but police never found a trace of marijuana on the property.

“This is happening all across America,” he said. “Police are not SWAT team members. Police are supposed to be our friend. They’re supposed to be there to help us out.”

But instead of helping citizens, people are suffering from police caused damages.

The 2001 Patriot Act is also something our nation is facing trouble with, Hightower said. Although enacted under President George W. Bush, it has been put into effect multiple times under President Barack Obama.

Although Hightower said the nation has experienced detrimental effects of the leadership in Washington, there are things citizens can do to help each other and stay aware.

“We can’t be a world of button wearers,” he said. “We need to be a little more aggressive than that. Recognize your own strength. Take strength from ordinary people to make a difference.”

In an interview with The Simpsonian after his speech, he said Simpson’s students and faculty are doing the right things to stay engaged, but there is more that can be done.

“Reach out more,” Hightower said. “I know everyone’s involved in various things; you might be involved in church or something. There are farmers around here doing organic things. There are workers, there are plumbers, electricians or unions.”

Hightower said people should begin forging coalitions to help each other out.

“We can’t all do it ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got to join together and then we can do that ourselves.”

Hightower said Congress is down to single digits in public approval rating, but everyday citizens are the ones with the power to create change in politics and public policy.

“Expand your reach to meet with other people,” he said. “Make the initiative. Ask them, ‘What can we do for you? Can we get involved or help you in any way?’ That’s how you build a movement.”

Hightower said accomplishments and successes happen when people start getting involved in grassroots work again.

Occupy World Food Prize took place on Locust Street Oct. 16. Hightower helped protest the illegitimacy of companies like DuPont and Monstanto. Both companies produce genetically modified food, which Hightower spoke out against.

Supporters of the World Food Prize said they are facing the challenge of how to sustainably feed everyone on the planet.

However, according to protestors, these companies are monopolies hurting agriculture and family farmers.

“This is about justice,” he said. “It’s about ethics. It’s about integrity.”