In today's On the News segment: Corporations are on track to pay as much as $8 billion in fraud settlements this year to the US government; Texas Gov. Rick Perry executed a man who's mentally disabled, despite the Supreme Court ruling stating this violates the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment; America's ten most profitable corporations paid an average income tax rate of just 9 percent last year; and more.
Jim Javinsky in for Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Eight billion dollars is a lot of money, but a small price to pay to stay out of jail. As the New York Times reports today, corporations are on track to pay as much as 8 billion dollars in fraud settlements this year to the U.S. government. That includes military contractors, banks, and pharmaceutical companies who systematically defrauded American taxpayers. The 8 billion they owe is double the amount paid out in settlements last year – and an all-time record high. But the important story is, despite the multiple acts of blatant fraud by corporate America resulting in record settlements – almost never does an executive go to prison. Pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Merck and defense contractors like ATK Launch Systems admitted to stealing tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers, yet not one CEO is facing criminal charges. Of course, if you or I walked into a 7-11 and stole a two-dollar Slurpee, we're going to jail. But in America's two-tiered justice system – the corporate elite are untouchable.
Are you ready for the new American economy – where good jobs are as hard to find as Mitt Romney's tax returns? A new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that our economy has lost one-third of its ability to create what are defined as "good jobs." A good job is one that pays at least 37,000 dollars a year and offers health insurance and a retirement plan. And the data shows that since 1979, Americans workers of all education levels have lost these good jobs. That includes workers with less than a high school degree and workers with more than a college degree. Why is this happening? Well, the report concludes: "The real culprit is the systematic decline in the bargaining power of workers — reflected in a drop in... the minimum wage, a collapse in the unionization rate in the private-sector, the deregulation of previously well-paying industries, the privatization of state and local government jobs, a series of business-biased trade deals, a dysfunctional immigration system, poor enforcement of already weak labor standards, and high unemployment." In other words, Reaganomics is to blame.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Texas Governor Rick Perry did it – he executed a man who's mentally disabled with a 61 IQ, despite the Supreme Court ruling a decade ago that executing the mentally disabled violated the 8th Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Curiously, the same Supreme Court that ruled such executions are unconstitutional denied a last minute appeal by 54-year-old Marvin Wilson's attorneys in one final bid to save their client's life. Rather than employing science and medicine to determine if an inmate is mentally disabled, the state of Texas uses John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men – basically using Lenny from the novel as a benchmark for mental retardation. Marvin Wilson didn't meet the criteria – and now he's dead. At least Governor Perry will have another applause line at the Republican debate should he decide to run for President again.
The slow but steady exodus of corporations from the American Legislative Exchange Council continues. After ALEC, the corporate funded think tank that writes legislation to benefit corporate interests was exposed for being behind Voter ID laws and Stand Your Ground laws, corporations have been fleeing the group under pressure from a progressive boycott. The biotechnology firm Amgen became the 31st corporation to cut ties with ALEC – joining the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Amazon that have all ditched the Koch brother-funded think tank. Let's hope the flight from ALEC continues, because corporations shouldn't be writing our laws.
When corporations don't pay their fair share in taxes, the rest of us get screwed. As reported by the Huffington Post, America's ten most profitable corporations paid an average income tax rate of just 9% last year. The top two corporations not paying their fair share in taxes are oil companies – with ExxonMobil – the most profitable corporation in the history of the world paying a mere 2% income tax rate – and Chevron paying 4%. Those numbers clock in well below the 35% income tax rate corporations should be paying in America, but almost never do. Over the last few decades, corporate taxes as a share of government revenue have plummeted, forcing working people to pay more and more taxes to cover the gap. Plain and simple, giving tax breaks to corporations that pollute our skies, offshore our jobs, and deny us healthcare is not just crazy – it's immoral.
And finally...the Koch brothers have a new target – and it's not a Democratic politician. Actor Zach Galifianakis – the co-star of the upcoming movie The Campaign, which is about a pair of wealthy political donors named the Motch Brothers who bankroll a political campaign for buffoon – drew the ire of the Kochs when he said in a recent New York Daily News interview about the film, "Whether you are on the right or the left, everyone can agree that there are a lot of outside influences in American politics that are not good for the system. There's just too much money." Koch spokesperson Phillip Ellender responded to the comments by saying, "it's laughable to take political guidance or moral instruction from a guy who makes obscene gestures with a monkey on a bus in Bangkok." Ellender was of course referring to Galifianakis's role in the Hangover 2 movie. Then again, I'd rather take political advice from a movie actor who cavorts with monkeys – than a billionaire duo that doesn't believe in climate change. Just sayin'.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, August 08, 2012. I'm Jim Javinsky in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.