In today's On the News segment: In New York City, more than 8,000 school bus drivers walked off the job in strike on Tuesday; a school shooting in eastern Kentucky claimed the lives of two people; Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to get rid of personal income and corporate taxes - and replace them with a higher sales tax in his state; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Working people are again on strike. In New York City on Tuesday, more than 8,000 school bus drivers walked off the job. It's the first time school bus drivers have gone on strike in New York City in 33 years – and it's the largest bus drivers' union in the nation. The union claims bus drivers' jobs are in danger as the city puts their contract up for bid in an effort to reduce costs. On average, the drivers make $35,000 a year – with starting pay at $14 an hour – barely enough to get by, especially in New York City. These school bus drivers in New York City are facing the same problem as police officers in Camden and sanitation workers in Detroit. This is made worse by their cities teetering on the edge of bankruptcy since Wall Street crashed our economy – and the Bush Housing Bubble loaded everyone with debt. Now, looking to get their balance sheets in order, cities are cutting public services and selling our commons off to private corporations that don't like unions and don't give a damn about paying their workers a living wage. Luckily, as we've seen over the last few years in Wisconsin, Ohio, at Walmarts across the nation, at fast food joints in New York City, and at shipping ports on the east and west coasts – American people are saying enough is enough, and are going on strike. And as we know, progressive change in America has always moved forward by the efforts of organized working people.
In screwed news...return of the reverse Robin Hoods! Louisiana Republican Governor – and potential 2016 presidential candidate – Bobby Jindal is pushing tax reform in his state. And, as you'd expect – it's the sort of tax reform that gives the super-rich a hefty break – while raising taxes on the poor. Jindal wants to get rid of personal income and corporate taxes – and replace them with a higher sales tax. According to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, this plan will raise taxes on the poorest 80% of Louisianans, while cutting taxes for the top 1%. To break it down, Jindal wants to hit the poorest 20% of taxpayers in his state with $395 a year in new taxes. The middle 20% would be hit by $534 in new taxes. But the richest 1% would get a not-too-shabby tax cut of more than $25,000. This is trickle-down economics on steroids. And it demonstrates what billionaire Leona Helmsley once said, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."
In the best of the rest of the news...
Another school shooting claimed the lives of two people on Tuesday. This time it was at a community college in eastern Kentucky. A gunman opened fire into a vehicle on campus – killing a man and a woman and injuring a third. The gunman was not caught. This latest school shooting paves the way for President Obama today to unveil his proposals for gun control. Reports indicate the President will call for a new assault weapons ban – including a ban on high capacity ammo clips – as well as universal background checks for all gun purchases. On those measures, the President will need to get Congress on board, too. However, he is expected to announce more than a dozen executive actions he can legally take on his own to stem gun violence across America. The President is putting forward a bold proposal to at least slow this scourge of violence on our society – and he's about to meet maximum resistance in Congress from Republicans and some Democrats who are in the pocket of the gun industry. It's up to us to get active and convince the President that this is a fight worth having.
26-year-old Internet activist Aaron Swartz was laid to rest on Tuesday just outside of Chicago after taking his own life over the weekend. At the funeral, Swartz's father told mourners that his son was "killed by the government." Swartz, who was caught tapping into the MIT network and downloading millions of online academic journals, was facing as many as 30 years in prison and a million dollar fine as a result of an overzealous Department of Justice. Under this pressure, and amid a long battle with depression, Swartz killed himself. On Tuesday, Republican Chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee Darrell Issa said he will investigate the DOJ's handling of Swartz. Speaking to reporters, Issa talked about the extreme sentence and then said Swartz was, "certainly someone who worked very hard...Had he been a journalist and taken that same material that he gained from MIT, he would have been praised for it." Congressman Issa has wasted taxpayer dollars and derailed President Obama's agenda with witch hunt investigations into Fast and Furious and Benghazi. But he's finally doing what he should be doing – and that's looking into the Department of Justice's extreme actions toward peaceful activists. As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
More than ten years ago, President George W. Bush launched a campaign to bring democracy to the entire world with bombs and guns. A decade later, we know the results of Bush's crusade – it was a failure. According to an annual report by Freedom House – democracy is on the decline around the world. Although there are three more nations enjoying full freedom than were in 2011, according to the report, 27 other nations have actually clamped down on their populations tighter – restricting speech and the media. Currently, about 3 billion people around the world enjoy full freedom living in a democracy. Another 1.6 billion enjoy partial freedoms, and 2.3 billion live in nations deemed not free. Reacting to this news, the report calls for a "critical need for leadership from the United States and other democracies." That doesn't mean forcing democracy through violence – it means strengthening our own democracy at home to inspire other people around the planet. As my friend Dick Gregory once told me, if democracy is so good, we don't need to force it on anyone – they will steal it for themselves. And all we need to do is be there to help when they do.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, January 16, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.