In today's On the News segment: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau slapped Capital One bank with a $210 million fine today for using "deceptive marketing tactics" to lure customers into buying unnecessary financial products like payment protection and credit monitoring, the six Walton heirs have more wealth than 41 percent of all American families - combined, oil drilling in the Arctic is set to begin in the next three weeks, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Pressure is increasing on Mitt Romney to release his tax returns. Now, at least 15 prominent Republicans including George Will, Bill Kristol, and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele have joined the chorus calling on Romney to release more tax returns. It's become obvious in recent weeks that Mitt Romney is trying to hide something either illegal or embarrassing by not releasing his tax returns. And now, to distract voters on the issue, Romney is releasing his attack dogs to echo the same old racist talking points that President Obama is not really an American. Within just a few hours on Tuesday, Romney campaign co-chair John Sununu questioned the time the President spent in Indonesia as a child and said Obama needs to "learn how to be an American." Shortly after, another Romney surrogate referred to "Obama's America" as socialist. And then Romney himself later that afternoon called President Obama's policies, "extraordinarily foreign." It's obvious what's going on here. Mitt Romney doesn't want this election to be about what type of President he'd be with his offshore bank accounts, shady financial dealings, and tax dodging. He wants this election to be about one thing – motivating the far-right to get a black man out of the White House.
In screwed news...the heirs of the Wal Mart fortune – the Walton family – have gotten a lot wealthier since the Bush recession began in 2007, while the rest of us have gotten a lot poorer. According to data from the Federal Reserve, median family wealth in America dropped by nearly 40% between 2007 and 2010. But, during that same, the wealth of the Walton family increased 22% to nearly $90 billion. So now, the six Walton heirs have more wealth than 48 million American families – or more than 41% of all American families – COMBINED. And yet, despite the incredible wealth disparity – Republicans in Congress are pushing for even more tax breaks for the Wal Mart heirs – and other millionaires and billionaires who fund Republican candidates. This is a make-or-break moment for the American middle class, as Democrats try to extend tax cuts for working Americans, while cutting them off for the Walton heirs. We'll see if Republicans go along with this common sense solution, or if they hold the middle class hostage so that their billionaire buddies can hoard even more wealth. Stay tuned.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Here's a tale of two visions for American education. Today, President Obama unveiled a one billion dollar plan to increase American achievement in science, technology, and math. The program hinges on rewarding high-quality teachers with salary bonuses, and hiring more teachers to close the education gap between American students and their foreign peers. On the other side, Republicans have just released their vision for American education. Reviewing House Republicans funding bill for the Department of Education, Republicans have slashed funding for a program to turn-around low-performing schools, and eliminated funding for President Obama's top education reform imitative, "Race to the Top." Meanwhile, House Republicans have quadrupled funding for abstinence-only education – something that study after study has proven doesn't work. So while President Obama wants kids to learn more about math and science, Republicans want kids to learn about how bad sex is. So much for preparing the next generation for the jobs of the future. Then again, the Republican future might be one filled with "sex police" patrolling our streets like in Saudi Arabia.
Elizabeth Warren's newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau slapped Capital One bank with a $210 million fine today for using "deceptive marketing tactics" to lure customers into buying unnecessary financial products like payment protection and credit monitoring. Capital One is now the first bank to get hit by the consumer watchdog group created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. Capital One will have to reimburse customers to the tune of $140 million. This is what happens when consumers finally have an agency on their side, fighting back against the big banks. No wonder House Republicans are – RIGHT NOW – trying to defund this agency.
Oil drilling in the Arctic is set to begin in the next three weeks, despite warnings from scientists that it could lead to unprecedented environmental disasters. On Monday, activists with Greenpeace rallied across Europe, in the U.K, Denmark, and Germany, to protest future Arctic drilling plans. As many as 77 Shell gas stations were shut down, mostly in London. As one Greenpeace's Lead Arctic Campaigner, Jackie Dragon, said, "Shell can't keep its drill rig under control in a protected harbor, so what will happen when it faces 20 foot swells and sea ice while drilling in the Arctic?...Shell cannot be trusted, and President Obama should not let its Arctic drilling program move forward." The United States is currently in the midst of the worst-drought it's seen in over 50 years, on the heels of extreme heat and freak weather. If we let the oil barons get away with turning the Arctic into their latest Gulf Coast – we do so at our own peril.
And finally...meet Matt Drudge – the biggest purveyor of misinformation and wild conspiracy theories on the Internet. According to a report by the Center for American Progress – the Drudge Report has posted links to crackpot far-right conspiracy websites more than 180 times in just the last year alone. The Drudge Report is a go-to website for the Conservative movement, and the source for most of the far-right paranoia in this country. Mitt Romney himself admitted that Drudge is his favorite website. So exactly what kind of fake news is Drudge pushing? Well, things like how the President secretly worked for the CIA in Pakistan. And, how Andrew Breitbart was secretly assassinated. And, how the President is going to hunt down Conservative journalists in his second term. Oh, and, how Bill Ayers paid for Barack Obama's college education. Matt Drudge – doing his part to dumb down the electorate just ahead of the November election, and our nation is worse off because of it.
And that's the way it is, today – Wednesday, July 18, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.