In this week's On the News Segment: Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner announced on Wednesday that the United States will hit its borrowing limit on December 31st; Netflix is one step closer to being able to sell your viewing history to whoever they want; a labor strike is looming on the East Coast; President Obama is developing a reputation as the deporter-in-chief; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. When it comes to the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the stakes just got a lot higher. Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner announced on Wednesday that in addition to the fiscal cliff deadline at the end of the year, the United States will also hit its borrowing limit on December 31st, meaning the debt-limit will have to be raised a lot sooner than previously believed. Unlike going over the fiscal cliff, which will have very little economic impact in the short-term, refusing to raise the debt-limit and forcing the United States to default, would have immediate and catastrophic effects. Not only would the US economy be hurt, but the entire world’s economy would as well. But that won’t stop Tea Party Republicans from using the debt-limit as leverage to force the President to agree to steep spending cuts that target working families across America. Between the manufactured “fiscal cliff” and the Republicans' refusal to compromise over the debt-limit, rarely in our nation’s history has Congress inflicted so many irresponsible economic wounds on our nation in one Congressional session. And we can blame the Koch Brothers-funded Tea Party for the chaos on Capitol Hill today, since Tea Partiers were elected by billionaire money in 2010, they clearly have no interest in governing, and many don't even know what the debt-limit even is. It is, by the way, the ability to pay off Bush's war bills, not the ability for Obama to spend more money. These often tragically-ignorant Tea Party congressmen are often here in DC because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which lets billionaires spend unlimited money electing their toady politicians, who are hell-bent on screwing the Middle Class while remaking America into a billionaires’ paradise.
In screwed news…Netflix is one step closer to being able to sell your viewing history to whoever they want. On Thursday last week, the Senate followed the House’s lead in passing an amendment to the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 – a law that originally banned publicly releasing consumers’ video rental histories. The amendment now allows Netflix to share their consumer’s viewing history with others on social media. The President is expected to sign this amendment into law – meaning you may want to think twice about what sort of “subversive” documentaries or soft-core flicks you decide to watch on Netflix. This law change will be a huge benefit for online advertisers, who can target users based on the movies they watch. But, more importantly, Americans are losing yet another layer of privacy and anonymity on the Internet. And in a time of social change and movement politics – when anonymity is so important – losing it could have disastrous effects for future peaceful revolutionaries. It’s not too late to call the White House and urge President Obama to veto these amendments that eat away at our online privacy.
In the best of the rest of the news…
A labor strike is looming on the East Coast. The International Longshoremen’s Association, which represents dockworkers from 14 ports in New York and New Jersey, is threatening to strike this weekend unless management abandons its plans to cut wages for future workers. Currently, in addition to their salary, as dockworkers productivity goes up, they receive royalty payments for every ton of cargo that’s shipped. Management wants to freeze these productivity payments for current workers, and end them altogether for future workers. According to the New York Times, if this issue can’t be sorted out, then the dockworkers are set to begin their strike on Sunday. It’s estimated that a strike at the ports could cost the region $110 million in economic output. While the dockworkers have it better than most workers across America, one of the last groups left who have union contracts that share increases in productivity and profits with the workers. We need more of that, not less.
President Obama is developing a reputation as the deporter-in-chief. New data out of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows that the Obama Administration has deported more than 400,000 undocumented immigrants so far in the single year of 2012 – more than any other administration in the nation’s history. Altogether, 1.5 million people were kicked out of the United States during the President’s first term in office. While the Administration applauds itself by saying 55% of those deported this year were criminals – convicted of misdemeanors and felonies – others are far more skeptical, like Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who told NPR, “this is nothing to be proud of.” According to Gutierrez, as many 90,000 undocumented immigrants who’ve committed no crime whatsoever, and are the main breadwinners for the family, are deported every year – leaving thousands of children to be raised in foster care without their parents. This is inhumane, and creating more problems in the future. It’s time for comprehensive immigration reform.
A movement is underway in America to classify members of the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group. A petition submitted to the White House to do just that has garnered nearly 250,000 signatures – making it the most popular petition yet to be submitted through the White House’s “We the People” digital platform. The Westboro Church has made a name for itself through shock antics, like protesting funerals of dead soldiers, and, most recently, picketing funerals of the children killed in the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. Unfortunately, free speech is free speech. But there is one thing that can be done to counteract the Westboro Church’s hate mongering, and that’s revoke it’s tax-exempt status. If Churches want to engage in politics, we the taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize their speech. And the same is doubly true for churches engaging in hate speech in the process.
And finally – a new Conservative administration is in power in Japan, and it's promising to reverse the previous administration’s plans to completely phase out nuclear power by 2040. The new government, led by Shinzo Abe, is also promising to restart nuclear reactors in his country, as long as they are “confirmed safe.” It’s been less than two years since the Fukushima disaster that triggered a nuclear meltdown and left hundreds of thousands of Japanese homeless – and an unknown number poisoned by radiation. Tragically, for the rest of the world, the lessons of how nuclear power danger have still have not been learned by Japanese politicians.