In today's On the News segment: We could be just hours away from filibuster reform in the Senate; working people aren't going on strike nearly as much as they used to forty years ago; the US Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Drug Enforcement Agency - and declined to change the official drug classification of marijuana; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. We could be just hours away from filibuster reform in the Senate. Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he's giving Republicans 24 to 36 hours to come to the table, and agree on some sort of filibuster reform. But, he said, if Republicans don't do it – then he'll proceed on his own. Democrats will fight to change the rules of the Senate, and curb some of the obstructionism we've seen over the last four years in the upper chamber. Reid must choose between two options for filibuster reform. There's an ambitious reform plan, promoted by Senators Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall, which would put in place a "talking filibuster" - requiring the minority to stand on the floor of the Senate, and actually talk the entire time they wish to filibuster legislation. And there's a more moderate reform plan, which preserves the minority's silent filibuster, but cuts down on how many times they can filibuster a particular piece of legislation. While most progressive organizations have endorsed the Merkley-Udall "talking filibuster" reform, it's unlikely Senator Reid has the votes among Democrats to pass such plan – and he will likely settle on a more moderate approach. But, if Democrats want to sweep the midterm elections in two years, and re-take the House of Representatives, then they have to pass legislation out of the Senate, and show the American people their agenda, and how it differs from the agenda of House Republicans. Strong filibuster may be the only way to accomplish this. Call your Senator today – and tell them to support the Merkley-Udall "talking filibuster" reform.
In screwed news...labor strikes are now a thing of the past. As Matt Bruenig has discovered, working people aren't going on strike nearly as much as they used to forty years ago – despite the fact that they've suffered through 30 years of flattening wages and watching their jobs be shipped overseas. Forty years ago, there was an average of nearly 300 work stoppages, involving more than 1,000 workers, every single year. But in 2009, that number dropped all the way down to five. Just five major work stoppages a year. On the flip side, lockouts are on the rise. Lockouts occur when management locks workers out of the job – and they now represent a record percentage of works stoppages around the nation. This is a result of less democracy in the workplace, stemming from Conservatives busting up unions since the time of Reagan. And when unions decline, so too, does the middle class' share of national income. The Billionaire Class has absolutely neutered organized labor. That's why it's so important to support and nurture those few labor strikes we've seen recently – from the Wal-Mart workers, to the fast food workers in New York City, to the Chicago Teachers Union. When working people get organized and get active – progressive change follows.
In the best of the rest of the news...
As much as Republicans want to call the President's inaugural speech "far left" – the reality is, the President is just agreeing with the majority of the American people. The President's speech featured homages to gay civil rights, to a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and to action on climate change. Where do the American people stand on these issues? A USA Today poll showed that 53% of Americans approve of marriage equality. An ABC/Washington Post poll showed that 57% of Americans approve of a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. And an AP poll found that 80% of Americans believe climate change is happening and it's a serious problem. America has been a left-leaning nation all along – it's just been led astray by thirty years of Reaganism. Now, the nation is finally finding itself again, under the leadership of Barack Obama. America is a liberal nation – it has been for a while – and Republicans need to come to terms with that, or their party will go extinct like the Whigs.
On Tuesday – the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Drug Enforcement Agency – and declined to change the official drug classification of marijuana. Currently, the DEA classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug – which is reserved for the most dangerous typed of drugs that have absolutely no medicinal benefit. In fact, drugs like cocaine, opium, and morphine are listed as Schedule 2 drugs – which they say are safer, and have more medicinal value, than marijuana. The plaintiffs in the case presented more than 200 peer-reviewed studies that show the benefits of medicinal marijuana. And Governor Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island, and Governor Christie Gregoire in Washington, both called for marijuana to be rescheduled. But the court wasn't swayed, ultimately ruling that they are "obliged to defer to the agency's interpretation" of controlled substances. It's clear that the battle for sensible drug reform will not be won on a federal level – it will be won in the states, and has already been won in Washington and Colorado.
And finally...the NRA is so full of itself, that it decided to deliver an official response last night to President Obama's inaugural address. The organization's foaming-at-the-mouth CEO, Wayne LaPierre, defended his organization's "absolutism", and called it a virtue. He also spread more lies about the gun control plans coming out of the White House, saying, "There are only two reasons for that federal list of gun owners – to tax them or take them." Of course, neither is true – not once has President Obama called for guns to be taxed, or confiscated. And the real reason for tracking firearms is for law enforcement to be more able to keep track of stolen guns, and to trace guns used in crimes back to their owners. The more Wayne LaPierre and the NRA speak up – the more we see just how out of touch they are with the mainstream in America. The best TV ad for gun control – is to play Wayne LaPierre speeches over and over and over again.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, January 23, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.