In today's On the News segment: Wisconsin's private sector unions are under attack; 26 states haven't set up their insurance exchanges - leaving it up to the federal government; people in forty cities across the globe will protest to mark the 1,000th day of Bradley Manning's imprisonment; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Republicans secretly love big government. At least, 26 Republican-leaning states sure do. Despite over 30 attempts to repeal Obamacare, and Tenth-er arguments for social programs to be run by the states, 26 states haven't set up their insurance exchanges – leaving it up to the federal government. As of last Friday's deadline, only 17 states submitted plans for their own healthcare exchanges, and seven states declared they'll partner with the federal government. Twenty-four of the 26 states that remain are led by Republican governors, many of whom have railed against the new healthcare law. Florida Governor Rick Scott has been one of Obamacare's loudest opponents, and even ran his own anti-Obamacare group, Conservatives for Patients' Rights, to pressure Democrats to oppose the legislation. But now I guess he's just fine with the federal government stepping in to administer healthcare exchanges in his state. Harvard Professor Theda Skocpol, an expert on healthcare policy and politics, said, "all of this has a political side, too, and the GOP states are surely trying to situate their officials to cry blame against the national government every time any little glitch happens." The Republicans think it's a win for them either way. When things go well, they'll take credit for allowing the exchanges to be set up, and whenever something goes wrong, they'll use it to attack Obama, and the federal government. As more benefits from Obamacare roll out over the next two years, we need to remind people that it was Republicans who tried to repeal it more than 30 times. But this isn't just about a political win. This is about 30 million people having access to healthcare – something that should be a basic human right. No matter who takes the political credit, the American people win when it comes to Obamacare.
In screwed news... Wisconsin private sector unions are under attack. In 2011, Republican Governor Scott Walker stripped public sector unions of nearly all their collective-bargaining rights, despite massive protests and Democratic legislators leaving the state in an attempt to block the legislation. At the time, Gov. Walker said he wouldn't target private sector unions, but apparently his Republican state legislators didn't get the message. The Wisconsin GOP has introduced and fast-tracked a new bill, which would allow employers to cut workers' hours without consent from the unions. According to the Think Progress Blog, "The bill wouldn't require companies to negotiate with unions about cutting back hours, in contrast to almost all similar laws in other states." State Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson said, "This bill is a clear opening shot at undermining private sector workers." And, to make matters worse, Wisconsin Republicans even want taxpayers to pay for their union busting scheme, as the state government will be picking up the tab for the hours workers miss. The Republicans can no longer say their union busting is about saving businesses, or the state, any money – they just want to give their corporate buddies more power.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Around the world, people are gathering in support of Bradley Manning. People in forty cities across the globe will protest to mark the 1,000th day of Manning's imprisonment, where he faces months more in jail just to go to trial. Imprisoned by the military three years ago, Manning served much of his time in conditions ruled to be "excessively harsh," which are prohibited under military law. According to the Bradley Manning Support Network, "supporters are gathering in cities across the U.S., Europe and Australia for marches, rallies, art installations, concerts, live theater, and other events to criticize the unjust prosecution and raise awareness about Manning's case." This case goes against everything we're supposed to represent as a nation. It's time we became the "Land of the Free". Let's show the world what democracy looks like, and finally free Bradley Manning.
The Supreme Court made not one, but two major headlines yesterday. First, the Court heard arguments between agro-giant Monsanto and 75-year old soybean farmer Victor "Hugh" Bowman. The case goes back to 2007, when Monsanto sued Bowman for violating their patent protection by planting second-generation soybean seeds. Bowman joins the list of 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses Monsanto has sued for planting seeds produced by the very plants the farmers grew. The company's patented seeds are already used in 93% of soybeans, 88% of cotton, and 86% of corn grown here in the U.S. This case could mean the Court finally puts some limits on Monsanto's power, or it could mean our nation's food supply rests in the hands of one corporation.
The other big news out of the Supreme Court is their decision to hear McCutcheon v. the FEC, which challenges federal limits on personal campaign contributions. This could be the most important campaign finance case since the 2010 Citizens United decision. According to Mr. McCutcheon, money is speech, and any limits on campaign contributions violate his First Amendment rights. This is insane. We need to get money out of politics, not put more in. Let's hope the Supreme Court rules against Mr. McCutcheon, and uses the opportunity to undo some of the damage caused by Citizens United.
And finally... Newt Gingrich broke Reagan's number one rule – thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican. According to Newt, the Republican party doesn't understand the rapidly changing demographics in our country. In an interview with CBS This Morning, Gingrich said GOP strategists have failed to respond effectively to the new demographic landscape. Well, this shouldn't come as a big surprise to Newt. Members of the GOP have also denied climate change, said a fetus is the largest organ in the body, and called evolution "lies straight from the pit of hell". Gingrich said President Obama and Democrats are "eight to 10 years ahead" of the Republican party... perhaps he meant to say eight to 10 centuries...
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, February 20, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.