Unrest is rife in Spain as its government tries to ram through the biggest austerity package in the nation's history, a Republican amendment to the House farm bill threatens states' power to regulate food safety, dozens of Republican candidates around the country are refusing to sign the anti-tax Norquist pledge, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Time for the banksters to lawyer up. The New York Times reported on Saturday that the Department of Justice is building several criminal cases against major Wall Street banks related to the ongoing LIBOR rate-rigging scandal. Charges are expected to be brought against at least one bank and its employees by the end of this year. It's alleged that hundreds of billions – if not trillions – of dollars were manipulated in the global economy by a handful of banks colluding together to boost their own profits while screwing over working people, small businesses, and entire cities.
Meanwhile, across the pond in London, British financial regulators who turned a blind eye to the crimes are testifying in front of Parliament to determine their role in the scandal. That comes on the heels of news that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner caught wind of the rate-rigging scandal as far back as 2008 and notified the Bank of England recommending changes to how the LIBOR rate should be fixed...yet nothing was done either by the Fed or by British regulators. But just as this investigation into high crimes on Wall Street ramps up, time is running out for other investigations into Wall Street's fraud. According to federal law, there is a five-year statute of limitations within which the Securities and Exchange Commission can file charges against the banks for their crimes leading up to the 2007 and 2008 financial crisis. That leaves officials at the SEC scrambling to file lawsuits before their time window runs out. This is a critical moment in history – will "we the people" finally hold Wall Street accountable? Or will the Citizen's United-fueled corruption of our government and legal system give the banksters another free pass?
Working people in Spain are screwed. Spain is in the grips of unrest as the government tries to ram through the biggest austerity package in that nation's history. Thousands of Spaniards took to the streets at the end of last week protesting a proposed $80 billion austerity package that slashes public worker benefits, raises the retirement age, and increases sales taxes, the most regressive of all taxes. The crowd demanded that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy resign – and that the government should go after transnational corporations that don't pay taxes and the banksters who committed fraud, instead of targeting working people with austerity. With this round of spending cuts, Spain has officially committed itself to the downward spiral of economic collapse. Greece will have company.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Republicans may want to think about retroactively removing Mitt Romney from the top of their Presidential ticket. After evidence piled up last week that Mitt Romney was working at Bain Capital and laying off thousands of American workers for years after he claimed he left the company, the Romney campaign is out with its latest – and most desperate – attempt to put the issue to rest. Senior Romney campaign advisor Ed Gillespie on Sunday said that Romney had actually "retroactively retired" from Bain after 1999. That answer doesn't satisfy American voters – OR fellow Republicans – who are now calling on Romney to release more than two years of his tax returns to see just how much he may have been paid by Bain during the years he supposedly retroactively retired, and just how much in taxes he's avoided paying with his offshore bank accounts. But Romney's trying to put that issue to rest – saying this morning that he will not release any more tax returns. Senator Harry Reid said it best – this guy couldn't be confirmed as the neighborhood dog catcher with all his shady financial deals – let alone President of the United States.
House Republicans appear to love foodborne illnesses. Thanks to an amendment from Republican Congressman Steve King to the House Farm Bill, states will no longer have the power to determine the safety of agricultural products coming into their state. As the amendment says – states are not allowed to, "impose a standard or condition on the production or manufacture of any agricultural product sold or offered for sale in interstate commerce [if] such production or manufacture occurs in another state." Basically, states will no longer be able to protect the safety of their citizens' food, which is exactly what giant agribusinesses that hate government oversight have always wanted. Foodborne illnesses sicken more than 48 million American every years – and kill more than 3,000 – and Congressman King's amendment will make the problem even worse. But it's not too late to defeat it – call your Members of Congress and tell them to protect the safety of your food by stripping out the King Amendment.
Just a few days after a reported massacre took the lives of more than 200 people in Syria – the Red Cross has officially reclassified the conflict in that nation as a civil war. Thus, international humanitarian law under the Geneva Convention now applies to all conflict zones in Syria – and it also opens up the possibility that the leaders involved – including President Assad - could be charged with war crimes. Unfortunately, there is still no easy solution in Syria – stay tuned.
And finally...just who the hell is Grover Norquist anyway? That's the question former President George H.W. Bush asked, during an interview with Parade Magazine, when he was pressed on the Republicans' subservience to the multi-millionaire lobbyist and author of the no-tax pledge. Bush now joins several other prominent Republicans, including his son, Jeb, and former Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who've disavowed Norquist and his pledge to never raise taxes, which had been signed by nearly every single Republican currently in Congress. Not only that, dozens of candidates around the nation running on the Republican Party ticket are refusing to sign Norquist's pledge as well. Billionaires should be afraid.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, July 16, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.