In today's On the News segment: A California school shooting happened at exactly the same time television networks were covering Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks about gun control; the Center for Disease Control warns that we could be in the worst flu season in ten years; in a new study, the US ranks dead last among the 17 most developed nations when it comes to life expectancy; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. All around us, people are coming down with the flu – and the Centers for Disease Control warn that it could be the worst flu season in ten years. And to make matters worse, our national workplace policies are helping to spread the flu. Despite the CDC recommending people "stay home and avoid contact with other people," most workers don't have that option, as the United States is the only developed country that doesn't guaranteed paid sick days to its workers. As a result, 40% of private sector workers and 80% of low-income workers don't get any paid sick days. In the food industry, where the chances of the flu spreading are highest, 79% of workers say they receive no paid sick leave. Our lack of protections for workers is directly responsible for more flu illnesses around the nation. As a 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health found, there were as many as 5 million additional cases of the H1N1 flu in 2009, due to a lack of paid sick time. Giving workers what they have earned – which is paid sick days – isn't about workers rights. It's about national security, and saving millions of Americans from needlessly contracting the flu when they dine out or go to the grocery store. Unfortunately, the billionaire class running Corporate America has squeezed every bit of profit they can from their workers – denying them union representation, healthcare, and paid vacations and sick leave. This is insanity – and we should protest with our wallets and pocketbooks. Before dining out, call the restaurant and ask if they offer paid sick days to their employees. If not, then eat there at your own risk.
In screwed news...America is exceptional in one thing: poor healthcare. A new study, by the National Institute of Health, looks into health results in the 17 most developed nations in the world. And it finds that the United States ranks near the bottom of the list in several important indicators. Those include teen pregnancies, STDs, infant mortality, heart and lung disease, disability rates, and homicides. When it comes to life expectancy – the United States ranks dead last among the 17 other nation studied. On average, a man in the United States lives four years fewer than a man in Switzerland. Steven Woolf, the chair of the panel that wrote the report, said he was "stunned" by the results, noting, "the scope of the disadvantage covers all ages, from babies to seniors, both sexes, all classes of society." The study also notes that it's getting worse – as healthcare trends have moved downward ever since the 1970's. Of course, the easy solution to all of this is for the United States to do what the rest of the developed world is doing – and make healthcare a basic human right for all its citizens. That means outlawing the for-profit health insurance leaches, who make fortunes denying children life saving medical procedures.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Another school shooting in America. This time it happened in California, where a troubled student walked into a science class and shot two people before surrendering his weapon to a teacher. Both victims will recover and the shooter is in custody. The shooting happened at exactly the same time television networks were covering Vice President Joe Biden's remarks about gun control, following the last school shooting in Newtown. When a school shooting interrupts a news conference about how to prevent school shootings – then we definitely have a school shooting problem in America. And for the NRA's information, there was an armed guard at the school, who was unable to prevent the shooting. And in this case, an unarmed teacher was able to talk the student down – rather than an armed teacher who likely would have triggered a firefight in the crowded classroom.
Want to balance the budget? Then raise taxes! That's the lesson in California – a state that's been plagued by fiscal woes for years – but now has a balanced budget. During a press conference on Thursday, California Governor Jerry Brown announced, "The deficit is gone," and unveiled a new budget that will actually bring a $21 million surplus into California by next year. Compare that to the $26 billion deficit he inherited. California's improved fiscal situation is a direct result of a tax increase on the rich, which voters approved back in November. Not only were Democrats in California able to close the budget hole, as a result of the tax increase, but they were also able to restore critical education investment that has been cut in recent years. This is the same choice we face on a national level. Do we want to be investing in education, renewable energy, healthcare, and infrastructure? Or do we want to be investing in billionaires? I choose the first one – and so should you. Go to NoBillionaires.com.
And finally...Michele Bachmann has some secrets she doesn't want getting out. As Salon reports, five former staffers on Bachmann's presidential campaign are still waiting to get paid for their work, despite the campaign wrapping up nearly a year ago. According to Bachmann's national field coordinator, Peter Waldron, Bachmann has more than $2 million still in her campaign account, but is refusing to pay the $5,000 she owes to her former staffers, unless they all agree to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevents them from talking about any "unethical, immoral, or criminal activity" that may have witnessed on the campaign trail. So the question is – what happened behind the scenes of the Michele Bachmann for President campaign that she is desperately trying to keep secret?
And that's the way it is today – Friday, January 11, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.