by Jim Hightower
The very essence of populism is its unrelenting focus on breaking the iron grip that big corporations have on our country–including on our economy, government, media, and environment. It is unabashedly a class movement. Try to squeeze Lord Limbaugh into that philosophical suit of clothes! He’s just another right-wing, corporate-hugging, silk-tie elitist–an apologist for plutocracy, not a populist.
Fully embracing the egalitarian ideals and rebellious spirit of the American Revolution, populists have always been out to challenge the orthodoxy of the corporate order and to empower workaday Americans so they can control their own economic and political destinies. This approach distinguishes the movement from classic liberalism, which seeks to live in harmony with concentrated corporate power by trying to regulate its excesses.
We’re seeing liberalism at work today in Washington’s Wall Street bailout. Both parties tell us that AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America, and the rest are “too big to fail,” so taxpayers simply “must” rescue the management, stockholders, and bondholders of the financial giants in order to save the system. Populists, on the other hand, note that it is this very system that has caused the failure-so structural reform is required. Let’s reorganize the clumsy, inept, ungovernable, and corrupt financial system by ousting those who wrecked it, splitting up its component parts (banking, investment, and insurance), and establishing decentralized, manageable-sized financial institutions operating on the locally controlled models of credit unions, co-ops, and community banks.