In today's On the News segment: a million Americans gathered to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama; we honored Dr. Martin Luther King; Republicans announced they will approve a short-term increase in the debt limit; the city of Chicago is taking important step to protect workers, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. As many as a million Americans gathered on our National Mall today, to watch Barack Obama be publicly sworn in to serve his second term as President of the United States. And he rides into his second term with a mandate – as the only President since Dwight Eisenhower to be elected twice with 51% of the vote. But if there’s one thing the President learned from his first term, it’s that Republicans will at all costs destroy whatever mandate he’s earned. In fact, on this day, four years ago, Republicans gathered at a fancy steakhouse in Washington, DC, just as President Obama was attending the inaugural balls. The likes of Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, and Frank Luntz all attended this meeting. And the purpose of the meeting was simple: How to destroy the Obama Presidency and retake the White House in four years. That night – Republicans committed themselves to four years of obstruction and economic sabotage. And that’s exactly what they did – even though it didn’t work out for them in the end. Today, the question is – what are Republicans plotting now? How will they sabotage the President’s second term? Let’s hope the President has learned lessons from the first term, and accepts that he’s facing a loyal opposition in the Republican Party. He’s facing economic terrorists – and the only way he can succeed is by taking the debate to the American people, using his bully pulpit, and shaming the fossils on the Right who serve the Billionaire Class.
Today – we also honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – a fitting tribute, as the nation’s first African American president is sworn in for the second time. And while President Obama’s ascendance to the highest office in the land is, without a doubt, a consequence of King’s legacy, the nation would be better served if both President Obama, and the rest of our Democratic leaders, acted a little more like Dr. King. Today we should remember that Dr. King was radical revolutionary, who marched and spoke out against war, against wealth inequality, and against the evils of unfettered capitalism. He was also a strong defender of organized labor. In fact, he was gunned down while supporting the striking public sanitation workers in Memphis. Dr. King wasn’t just focused on racial justice – but economic justice as well. And in a nation plagued by wealth inequality, mired in endless war abroad, and an increasingly hostile war against organized workers at home – the nation desperately needs a voice like Dr. King again.
In the best of the rest of the news…
Are Republicans actually coming to their senses, and caving in on the debt ceiling? Yes and no. House Republicans announced they would approve a short-term increase in the debt-limit next week – giving Congress an extra three months to pass a budget before we bump up against the debt-limit and, again, flirt with economic catastrophe. This is the definition of kicking the can down the road – but it’s an admission on the part of Republicans that their brinksmanship with the debt-limit was not helping them politically. So they’ll push it back three months, and see which way the wind blows. As ThinkProgress blog notes, this is “crisis politics” – and it’s no way a government should be managed. It’s also a direct result of Citizens United. It’s no coincidence that this House Republican majority was largely elected in 2010. That was the first election after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which was three years ago today. And they are now part of he most unpopular Congress in history. Consider the House Republican majority Exhibit A in why money in politics is a bad idea. This year we need to get active and organized, to fight for a constitutional amendment that says corporations are not people and money is not speech. Go to MoveToAmend.org.
The city of Chicago is taking important steps to protect workers from wage theft. Wage theft complaints around the nation have increased more than 400% over the last decade – as businesses force workers into overtime and don’t compensate them. A study out of the city of Chicago found that over 60% of its workers were underpaid by more than one-dollar an hour. And two-thirds of Chicago workers were not paid the overtime they were entitled to. But now, Chicago is saying enough is enough. The city council approved a measure that will revoke the charter of any business found to be guilty of wage theft. Essentially giving that business the corporate death penalty. This is a positive step forward for workers in that city. But workers all across America need help. The real wage theft that’s taken place over the last thirty years is that workers are no longer being paid for their increased productivity. Over the last thirty years, CEOs have pocketed all the gains from their workers’ increased productivity – so that today corporate profits, as a percentage of GDP, are higher than they’ve ever been – yet working wages, as a percent of GDP, are lower than they’ve ever been. To turn the tide, we have to empower labor unions – and get rid of the Reagan tax cuts, which have incentivized the Billionaire Class to steal more and more of their workers wages.
And finally...Democratic Congressman Ed Markey has declared war on Wall Street’s robots! By robots, I mean high-frequency trading machines that run on complex algorithms, and buy and sell stocks by the millions every single second. High-frequency trading is so prevalent now, that it makes up more than half of the entire stock market’s volume. It’s also extremely dangerous, which is why Congressman Markey is calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate the robots. He argues that the SEC has the power to do this under legislation he cosponsored in 1989 – and he wants the SEC to immediately come up with new rules, to “restrict or eliminate the practice” of high frequency trading. Let’s hope this happens soon, because as bad as the banksters are – their robots are even worse.
And that’s the way it is today – Monday, January 21st, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.