In today's On the News segment: BP pled guilty to 14 charges related to the 2010 gulf oil spill and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines; this year, the post office suffered its worst loss ever of nearly $16 billion; the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed complaints alleging that Karl Rove violated election law by not revealing his donors; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. BP gets off easy. On Thursday, oil giant BP pled guilty to 14 charges related to the 2010 gulf oil spill and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines. Despite being the largest settlement in our nation's history, it's nothing compared to the actual damage BP did to our nation two years ago. A senior investigator with Greenpeace said the settlement, "fails every aspect of the common accepted notion of penalty." And a spokesperson with Public Citizens responded to the settlement saying, "We're stunned. This settlement is pathetic...The point of the criminal justice system is twofold: to punish and deter. This does neither." Over the course of three months, BP's oil well spewed 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, choking marine life, blanketing coastlines, and ruining small businesses. Public Citizen estimates that total amount of damage caused by the spill at more than $50 billion dollars, yet BP is liable for $4.5 billion, which is less money than the corporation makes in just three months. There is still possibility that two workers at BP will face manslaughter charges and take the fall for the deaths of 11 men when the oil rig exploded. But ultimately, there will be no lasting punishment for BP, which has gone back to business as usual punching holes in our Gulf of Mexico. This was the worst environmental disaster in our nation's history, and if that isn't enough reason to give BP the corporate death penalty and revoke their corporate charter, then I don't know what is. Corporations have run roughshod over our nation for too long, it's time to restrain them like Teddy Roosevelt did after the Robber Baron Era.
In screwed news...the United States Postal Service is dying and Congress isn't willing to help. For 2012, the post office suffered its worst loss ever of nearly $16 billion – roughly three times bigger than last year's loss. All of this goes back to poison pill legislation passed by Congressional Republicans and signed by President Bush in 2006 that required the post office to devote billions of dollars every year to pre-funding a retiree health benefits plan 75 years out into the future. All Congress has to do is reduce the burdens of this payment and the post office will be self-sufficient again. The Postmaster General Patrick Donohue responded to the financial woes saying, "We cannot sustain large losses indefinitely...It's critical that Congress do its part and pass comprehensive legislation before they adjourn this year to move the Postal Service further down the path toward financial health." Republicans in Congress aren't budging though – primarily because the post office boasts a large unionized workforce that would disappear if the post office goes under. In other words, Republicans are willing to take down an institution older that the United States itself just to secure more victories in their war on labor. Call your Member of Congress and tell them they can't let this happen – it's time to save the post office!
In the best of the rest of the news...
The nation's largest retailer Walmart has good reason to be worried today. On Tuesday, warehouse and retail workers with Walmart stores in California and Seattle began walking off the job to protest unsafe working conditions and retaliation by management. These are just the latest strikes in a long series of worker actions against Walmart beginning in September. And these actions will continue through Black Friday. The organization Making Change at Walmart issued a press release on Thursday promising "more strikes, rallies, and online action at Walmart stores leading up to and on Black Friday." Over the next week, more than 1000 demonstrations are planned outside Walmarts across the nation in cities like Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, and Chicago. This year's Black Friday could mark the return of organized labor.
Democrats in the Senate are committed to filibuster reform. The last few years have seen record numbers of filibusters by the Republican minority, prompting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to admit the rules of the Senate have been abused and need to change. One of the leading proponents of filibuster reform, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkeley suggested in an interview with the Huffington Post that a key change to the filibuster next year could be forcing Senators to actually stay on the floor and talk in order to obstruct legislation. If the minority can't muster up enough people willing to physically filibuster the bill, then a simply majority vote would be needed to advance it in the Senate. Keep an eye on this upcoming fight, it's issue number one to be settled when the new Senate convenes next year.
Karl Rove doesn't just have disappointed billionaires to deal with after the Republicans resounding defeat on Election Day, he might also have to deal with the FBI. The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington – or CREW – filed complaints on Thursday with the Federal Elections Commission and the FBI alleging that Karl Rove violated election law by not revealing his donors. According to law, 501c4 groups like American Crossroads must disclose any donations that are intended for specific independent expenditures like TV ads. Yet, Bloomberg Businessweek reported in September that Rove received as much as $3 million from an anonymous donor to defeat Senate Democrat Sherrod Brown in Ohio. Rove's group spent more than $6 million specifically on the race, yet didn't disclose a single donor. Now it's up to the FEC and the FBI to determine if they want to pursue penalties or charges. Stay tuned.
And finally...say goodbye to Twinkies. In response to workers striking against pay and benefit cuts, Hostess Brands, which makes the iconic Twinkie, has announced it will file for bankruptcy, shut down all of its US facilities, and lay off all of its 18,500 employees. So now the latest casualty in corporate America's war on labor is the golden crème filled dessert that's been around since 1930.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, November 16th, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.