In this week's On the News Segment: House Republicans voted to use your taxpayer dollars to pay private lawyers to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in court; the battle for filibuster reform is heating up; a new law in Concord, Massachusetts bans the sale of plastic water bottles; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Thursday was the first day of the 113th Congress. In the House, John Boehner was narrowly elected to his second term as Speaker – surviving a mini-revolt by a handful of Tea Party Republicans. But the real action is in the Senate, where the battle for filibuster reform is heating up. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the Senate into session yesterday, then immediately recessed it until later this month, keeping alive the option to reform the filibuster in a few weeks with a simple majority vote of 51 senators. That gives time for Senators Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall to whip up support for their plan to establish the talking filibuster, which would force Senators to actually stand on the floor and talk the entire time they wish to filibuster. Meanwhile, a group of bipartisan Senators led by John McCain are trying to kill filibuster reform, with a watered down version that will actually make the problem even worse. That's because Republicans know their filibustering over the last few years has meant big money for their corporate donors. As the Public Campaign Action Fund found, huge money from corporate America, including Big Oil and Wall Street, is funding filibusters of bills that would have raised their taxes, cut their subsidies, or regulated them to protect average Americans. In other words, the filibuster is very profitable for Corporate America, which is why Republicans are desperately trying to keep it. But if Democrats want any chance at winning control of Congress in two years, then its critical they take up the Merkley-Udall filibuster reform plan, so some good, progressive legislation can get passed passed out of the upper chamber, showing Americans the clear contrast between the Democratic Senate and the Republican House. Go to reformthefilibuster.com.
Residents of Concord, Massachusetts are tired of being screwed over by private water corporations. A new law took effect in the city this week, which bans the sale of plastic water bottles. After years of campaigning by local activists – many inspired by past progressive activists from the area like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson – the local town hall finally approved the measure. Opponents of plastic water bottles cite the waste of plastic and the waste of water. They also point out the all the fossil fuels burned and used to create and transport the plastic water bottles. In an interview, the leader of the campaign, Jean Hill, said, "The bottled water companies are draining our aquifers and selling it back to us." Residents of Concord are encouraged to go back to drinking tap water. Concord is the first city in the nation to put in place this sort of ban – and other cities should follow suit. However, it will be an uphill battle, as bottled water companies sell about 50 billion bottles a year.
In the best of the rest of the news...
New jobs numbers for December show the economy added 155,000 jobs, but the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.8%. Altogether, 1.8 million jobs were added in 2012 – roughly the same number added in 2011. While the economy does appear to be improving, with layoffs declining and the number of people seeking unemployment benefits falling to a near four-year low, this new year could be very rough. With several Republican austerity spending cuts already in place, and the expiration of the payroll tax cut for working Americans, a big chunk of demand is about to be sucked out of the economy -- all thanks to banksters and their toadies in Congress demanding more spending cuts. In Obama's first term, Republicans tried to crash the economy, to rob President Obama of a second term. Now that they failed, their new plan is to crash the economy and blame Democrats in the midterms, so that they can take the Senate.
On day 1 of the new Republican House, the right-wing majority picked up where it left off in its war on voters. In its first vote on a rules package, House Republicans voted to use your taxpayer dollars to pay private lawyers to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in court. Meanwhile, they blocked an attempt by Democrats to pass the "SIMPLE Voting Act of 2013," which would have required states to provide early voting for all federal elections across the country. Republicans defeated the early voting bill on a largely party-line vote. This is a very ominous start for 2013, with Republicans in Congress doing everything they can to subvert democracy.
The NFL team the Atlanta Falcons is asking Atlanta taxpayers to cough up $400 million to build the team a new stadium. But new research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that sports teams don't actually help local economies – despite conventional wisdom that they do. In fact, a study from 2001 of 37 metropolitan areas with sports teams found that when games were cancelled there was no financial impact whatsoever, as people spent their money on other forms of entertainment around the city. Clearly, $400 million for a new private stadium in Atlanta isn't the best investment. Instead, Atlantans - and Americans - should invest in public infrastructure, like new roads, bridges, and high speed trains, which creates jobs and lasting wealth.
And finally...now you can legally flip the cops the middle finger. On Thursday, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that motorists cannot be pulled over for giving cops the finger. The case centered on an incident in 2006, when a couple was driving home and noticed a police officer on the side of the road using a radar gun. As the couple drove by, the man stuck his hand out of the window and flipped off the cop. In response, the cop followed the couple home and arrested the man for disorderly conduct. According to the court ruling, such an insulting gesture is not grounds for "reasonable suspicion that criminal activity or traffic violation was afoot." On the other hand, peacefully protesting on Wall Street IS enough to get you investigated by the FBI, and get doused with pepper spray and jammed in the gut with a nightstick.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, January 04, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.