In today's On the News segment: Scranton, Pennsylvania's mayor cuts police and firefighter pay to minimum wage, record-breaking heat wave can no longer be dismissed as "just summer," corporations continue to gobble the commons from Michigan's public schools to Greece's airports and other state properties, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Corporations are eating our commons. So-called Emergency Financial Managers in Michigan are selling off public schools to private charter school corporations – and laying off hundreds of public school teachers in the process. The "mini-dictators" who – appointed by Republican Governors – have unprecedented power to fire local elected officials, break union contracts, and sell off our commons to corporate interests have decided to eat alive the public school system in West Michigan and around the Detroit area. Study after study has shown that private, charter schools don't produce any better education results, but they do pay teachers less, have higher teacher turnovers, and - making Republicans happy - are union-free. Meanwhile, across the pond in Greece, the rich are devouring the commons at a record rate. Greece's new coalition government is trying to speed up the sale of state-owned assets including utility companies, airports and railways, and 28 other state properties. Far left SYRIZA Party leader – Alexis Tsipras – who was left out of the coalition government, blasted the privatization plans, arguing that the move was like putting a giant "for sale sign" on his country and that the, "government will have to account for its actions, the looting of public goods." It doesn't matter where in the world you are, the Libertarian one-world ideology of billionaires running nations into the ground while impoverishing the working class is on the move.
In screwed news...Republicans want police and firefighters to only make minimum wage and no more. Last week – the Mayor of Scranton slashed the pay of hundreds of city workers, including cops and firefighters, to $7.25 an hour – the lowest hourly wage currently allowed for by law. The Mayor says that his city is broke and, because he's unwilling to raise taxes on business or millionaires, can't afford to pay its workers anymore money. That's the problem in several cities across America, which have seen their revenues dry up during the Bush Great Recession. President Obama offered a clear solution to this problem with his American Jobs Act, which gave emergency federal relief to states to help struggling cities avoid massive layoffs or pay cuts to public worker salaries. Unfortunately, Republicans have blocked the American Jobs Act – so police and firefighters across America are joining Wal-Mart workers in the ranks of the working poor. To add insult to injury, Republicans are also fighting a Democratic effort to raise the minimum wage – which currently has less buying power today than it had in 1968.
In the best of the rest of the news...
President Obama is picking a fight with Republicans over taxes. In a speech from the White House today – the President urged Congress to act quickly and pass a one-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for all Americans making less than $250,000 a year. Republicans, however, are planning to vote on a bill this month to extend the Bush tax for the super rich as well – giving millionaires and billionaires another hefty tax break. That's likely to set up another showdown between the White House and Congressional Republicans, as Presidential adviser Robert Gibbs warned on Sunday that President Obama is 100% committed to not extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, noting that the last decade of a poor economy proves that such tax cuts don't work. The question ahead is simple: Should we continue with the Reagan and Bush tax cuts that crashed our economy and created wealth inequality levels in America not seen since before the Stock Market Crash of 1929? Or, should we make the Romney-level-super rich pay their fair share in taxes again – just like they did from WW2 all the way through the 1970's when the nation was booming?
Americans are desperately looking for relief from a record-breaking heat wave scorching the nation. In thousands of location across the country, all-time high temperature records were broken, and according to some reports as many as 45 people have died from the heat. Here in the nation's capitol, temperatures topped 95-degrees for 11 straight days – that's the first time that's ever happened in 141 years of record-keeping. And while Republican lawmakers will likely dismiss the freak heat as "just summer," the facts can no longer be ignored. We could be on pace for the hottest year ever on record, and it's no coincidence that the 12 current hottest years on record all occurred in the last 15 years. To anyone who's not bought off by oil, coal, and natural gas money, the picture is clear – our planet is changing and becoming and more and more dangerous.
A new report suggests that the state of Florida may have covered up the worst American tuberculosis outbreak in the last 20 years. Shortly after Governor Rick Scott signed into law legislation to downsize the state's Department of Health last year, officials in the state noticed a sudden spike in cases of tuberculosis and notified the Centers for Disease Control. Florida health officials believed the TB outbreak was only affecting homeless people, a group Governor Scott doesn't much care about, so it was kept secret from the rest of the population. Within a few months, however, the outbreak had killed 13 people, and infected 99 others including six children. Over the last two years, health officials believe as 3000 people may have been exposed to the TB strain – and the vast majority of them have not been located. Some might even include Scott's rich buddies. TB outbreaks have historically been common in developing nations like India and China, but the United States in recent years has become a new hotspot for TB – yet another sign that our healthcare system is failing us, and that we as a nation are un-developing - unraveling - at an alarming rate.
And finally...there is no new form of life after all. Back in 2010, NASA scientists claimed they'd discovered a new form of life that could thrive on arsenic – blowing a hole scientists long-held theory of the six most basic elements necessary for life. But now, two new scientific papers have disproved the claim – showing the organisms relied on more conventional elements – like phosphate, and not just arsenic – to survive as well. So there goes that alien theory. Meanwhile, Lizard people and robotic pigeons from the planet Zenu have yet to be disproven by science.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, July 9, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.