In today's On the News segment: More than 300 private schools teaching creationism receive taxpayer dollars, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. After President Obama unveiled his plans for gun control – including signing more than 20 executive orders – Republicans are reacting with calls for impeachment. Despite Presidents routinely signing executive orders – Republicans are accusing the President of high crimes. Republican Congressman Steve Stockman compared the President to Saddam Hussein, and previously threatened to impeach him. Also, Republicans Louie Gohmert and Trey Radel piled on – saying impeachment is one of a number of options that should be on the table to respond to the President's gun reforms. Of course, to the rational person, the President's executive orders are common sense reforms: including better record sharing between federal agencies – new studies on gun violence – and even providing incentives for schools to hire resource officers. But to the insane, these are tyranny, which is odd because these same Republicans didn't seem to mind when Bush signed a number of far more radical executive orders during his term, including: a ban on stem cell research – authorization of torture – creating more powers for the Vice President's office – and making it harder to get a hold of presidential records. All of these actions were taken without any consideration of Congress. But none of them were taken against the deep-pocketed gun industry – so Republicans were just fine with them. Enough with the rhetoric, it's time for Congress to do what the American people overwhelmingly support, which is take action to get weapons of war off our streets, and out of the hands of the mentally ill. And that also includes addressing the wealth inequality issue in America that is underlying all this violence in our society. Pass an Assault Weapons Ban – and repeal the Reagan tax cuts, too.
In screwed news...we can't say we weren't warned. Republicans in Pennsylvania have taken the boldest step yet in rigging the next Presidential election. On Monday, seven Republican state lawmakers introduced legislation to change the way Pennsylvania counts its Electoral College votes. Under the proposed scheme, rather than winner-take-all – Pennsylvania will dole out Electoral Votes to candidates per congressional district they win in the state – with two extra votes going to the state's popular vote winner. This is a huge benefit to Republicans that are now in control of these traditionally blue states, and have gerrymandered the Congressional districts, to carve out a bunch of safe seats for Republicans, while dividing Democratic strongholds. In fact, Had this Republican plan been in effect last November, then President Obama would have only collected seven of Pennsylvania 20 Electoral College votes, despite winning the popular vote in that state by 5-points. And had other swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin also passed this plan – then Mitt Romney would be our president today. This is blatant election rigging – and the fact that the Republican Party is allowing this to move forward, shows they really don't give a damn about American democracy anymore.
In the best of the rest of the news...
At a time when Republicans are so concerned about the debt, why are taxpayer dollars being funneled toward private schools that teach creationism, instead of evolution? According to new research by Zack Kopplin and MSNBC – more than 310 private schools that teach creationism are also receiving tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Thanks to voucher programs in states like Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma – critical money that could shore up public education budgets is being funneled toward religious, and corporate schools, that are only interested in either A) indoctrinating young people with radical religious ideology instead of actual science – or B) turning a hefty profit off each student. One school in Oklahoma receiving taxpayer dollars is called Life Christian Academy – and it advertises that its life science class will, "lead the student to recognize that God created all living things and that these living things are fearfully and wonderfully made." So, while students in China and the developing world learn actual science, and prepare themselves for jobs in the 21st century – American students are learning from the bible, and paying a lot more for this useless education.
Corporate America wants to make it harder for you to retire. Following in the footsteps of CEOs who've organized the "Fix the Debt" campaign, which promotes raising the retirement age for Social Security, another corporate front group – the Business Roundtable – is calling for the same thing. They want to raise the retirement age for Social Security up to 70 years. Of course, just like "Fix the Debt", the Business Roundtable is made up of wealthy CEO,s who have little use for Social Security anyway – and will do just fine on their multi-million dollar nest eggs when they retire. But, fearing that they might see their taxes go up if the payroll tax cap was lifted to make Social Security more solvent, these executives would rather see Americans laying bricks until they're seventy-years-old. And for the record, this argument that Americans are living longer is bunk. While the wealthy who work non-physical jobs – like banksters – are indeed living longer – the working people in physical jobs have seen very few gains in average life expectancy. It's up to Democrats in Congress to protect Social Security – a program they created.
And finally...seven Americans are among 41 hostages taken in Algeria, after an Islamist militant group attacked an oil field partially owned BP. According to the Algerian government, the heavily armed militants used three vehicles, and launched an attack in the early morning hours – apparently killing three people in the process. The group is affiliated with al-Qaeda, and claims the attack is revenge for the ongoing bombing of suspected militants in Mali by French forces over the last week. Tragically, this is what Chalmers Johnson would refer to as "blowback" – the consequence of decades of meddling in internal politics in the region, and extracting natural resources. Let's hope for the safety of the hostages.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, January 17th, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.