In today's On the News segment: Michigan workers can restore the unionization rights they lost yesterday by gathering enough signatures for a ballot initiative; China has already spent more than $10 billion acquiring US companies; the Department of Homeland Security is outfitting microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses in major US cities; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Now that Governor Rick Snyder signed Right-to-Work-for-Less into law in Michigan, the focus shifts to how working people can overturn the legislation. Unfortunately, Republicans purposefully designed the law to make this task more difficult. By attaching Right-to-Work-for-less to a budget appropriations bill, Republicans made it harder for Michigan voters to repeal the law down the road. According to the Michigan Constitution, voter referendums can repeal laws, but they can't be repeal budget appropriations. But, on the other hand, according to the Michigan Constitution, voters have "the power to propose laws and to enact and reject laws..." with a higher number of signatures to get onto the ballot. In other words, Michigan workers can restore the unionization rights they lost yesterday by gathering enough signatures for a ballot initiative. It would take roughly 260,000 signatures to put Right-to-Work-for-Less up for repeal by putting it to a citizen vote. So now it's time to get to work. Let's hope this was a "Todd Akin" moment, and that Governor Snyder and Republicans, who drastically overreached with this latest attack on unions, will live to regret it. If working people stay organized, then this right-wing assault on working people could end in Michigan, and organized labor in America might finally rise again from the ashes of Reagan's thirty-year-long war on workers.
In screwed news ... at this rate, America will soon be China's vassal state. Not only is China projected to have the world's biggest economy by 2030, according to the U.S. National Intelligence Council, but they may own everything in the United States by then, too. That's because - according to data from Dealogic – Chinese investors bought big pieces of a record number of industries in the United States just so far this year. With still a few weeks to go in 2012, China has already spent more than $10 billion acquiring U.S. companies – far exceeding their previous record-spending binge in 2007, which was nearly $9 billion. Following in the footsteps of Saudi, British, German, and French companies, Chinese companies, many state-owned, have bought up everything from electric car battery manufacturers to movie theater chains. This is all the direct result of failed so-called "free trade" policies. Flushed with hundreds of billions of dollars in extra cash - the flip-side of our trade deficits - China can use that money to buy up American industries one-by-one, until one day we're all going to work at the foreign-owned car manufacturer. Or we'll be buying groceries at the foreign-owned supermarket. Or going to see a movie at a foreign-owned theater. Americans have to accept the reality of a new world, in which the United States isn't the only economic superpower. But, Americans don't have to just stand by and watch our domestic economy be sold off to overseas business tycoons. It's time to ditch so-called free trade. Let's protect those industries at home that employ Americans and generate wealth for this nation.
In the best of the rest of the news ...
Is President Obama quietly setting up retirees for a Great Betrayal? In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday – President Obama hinted that he may support raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67-years-old. As though he was reading straight from Speaker John Boehner's talking points – when asked about raising the eligibility age, the President said, "what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations, the current path is not sustainable because we've got an aging population and health care costs are shooting up so quickly." If he goes along with Republicans and raises the retirement age now, the President will be complicit in shifting billions of dollars in extra healthcare costs to individuals, businesses, and states. On the other hand, by holding firm on raising taxes on the rich, and getting rid of waste in Medicare by letting that program negotiate discounts with big pharmaceutical companies, Medicare can be turned around. Someone needs to remind the President that it was Democrats who created Medicare – and it's up to Democrats to save it from the Republicans' austerity binge.
Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin is trying to rig the next election – and he's willing to spend a lot of money to do it. Currently, Wisconsin has one of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation – mainly because the state has, since 1976, let people register to vote at the polls on election day itself, something called "same-day registration." But, realizing that more people voting means better odds for Democrats, Scott Walker is trying to repeal his state's same day voter registration policy. He claims it requires too much paperwork for local election officials. But a new study by the state's Government Accountability Board disagrees – and finds that eliminating same day voter registration will actually lead to even more paperwork. It would also cost the state $5.2 million in extra overhead, since a lot of new federal requirements would kick in to protect voting rights on Election Day. Walker has always been a hawk when it comes to government spending – and has targeted teachers and other public workers with austerity to reduce his state's budget deficit. But when it comes rigging elections to keep Democrats from voting...well...that's just priceless to Governor Walker.
And finally ... be careful what you say next time you're on the bus. Microphone-enabled surveillance systems are being installed on public buses in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other several other cities at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security. They're being put there to eavesdrop on passenger's private conversations. While transit officials say the recording devices are to keep passengers safe and resolve disputes, privacy experts disagree and point out numerous civil liberties violations – the first being surveillance without a warrant. There's also concern that the audio recording devices can be pared with facial recognition software to immediately identify who's talking as well. The growth of the surveillance security state in America should trouble us all – and has our nation's earliest privacy advocates, like Benjamin Franklin, rolling in their graves.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, December 12th, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.