In today's On the News segment: Some of our nation's biggest opponents to commonsense reforms, like a pathway to citizenship, happen to be recipients of prison industry cash; with the sequester deadline approaching, Republicans are changing tactics; Florida Senators will file a bill next week to require Florida utility companies to return profits to taxpayers, which were collected to fund the construction of a nuclear power plant; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. With the sequester deadline only a week away and Congress no closer to reaching a deal to prevent austerity, Republicans are changing tactics. They've spent the last month blaming President Obama for the looming cuts, but Americans didn't buy it, so now they're saying the sequester is really no big deal. A recent Pew Research poll shows that far more Americans blame Republicans for their failure to prevent impending austerity – despite the GOP's best efforts to shift the blame for this Congressionally-manufactured disaster to the President. So now Senators, like Rand Paul of Kentucky, are saying the sequester is a mere "pittance" and "will be in some ways a yawn." And Fox so-called News host Sean Hannity is there to help spread the propaganda. On a recent show, Hannity said the Republican austerity won't leave the country in dire straits, and that "the president's out there, he's using scare tactics and he's scaring seniors and teachers and first responders." Well, Sean, people are worried, and they should be. The Republican austerity debacle that begins March 1st means that 600,000 women and children will lose WIC nutrition aid. The cuts also mean 4 million fewer meals on wheels to seniors, and 30,000 kids will be denied affordable child care. And these cuts mean over 1 million Americans will lose their job. These are real people, who will face real pain, because Republicans refuse to end tax breaks for big corporations and billionaires. We won't fall for this ridiculous Republican spin blaming President Obama for the sequester. And when sequester cuts effect our daily lives in real and substantial ways, all the empty rhetoric in the world won't save Republicans or the billionaires they're trying to protect. Sooner or later, the rich and the corporate elite will have to pay their fair share in our nation. We can start by making it a crime to hoard huge sums of cash... outlaw the billionaires. Go to NoBillionaires.com.
In screwed news... Why are so many Republicans speaking out against comprehensive immigration reform? Perhaps because private prison executives told them to. Some of our nation's biggest opponents to commonsense reforms, like a pathway to citizenship, happen to be recipients of prison industry cash. For example, Republican immigration reform standard-bearer, Marco Rubio, has scored big with the private prison industry, raking in a whopping $27,300 in donations from the GEO Group. Contributions like that make sure members of Congress have a vested interest to keep the prison cells full of undocumented immigrants waiting to be deported. According to The Think Progress Blog, immigration detention has more than doubled private prison profits since 1995, and those sentenced for immigration offenses make up one of the fastest-growing segments of our overflowing federal prison population. It's time to get profit out of the prison industry, and money out of Congress, so we can get some honest immigration reform in our nation.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Four Florida State Senators say utility customers deserve a $1 billion dollar refund. Tampa-based legislators announced Thursday that they'll file a bill next week to require Florida utility companies to return profits to taxpayers, which were collected to fund the construction of a nuclear power plant. The 2006 Nuclear Cost Recovery Act allowed utility companies to collect additional payments to repair existing plants, and construct a new nuclear facility in that state. Although Florida Power and Light has used a portion of the money to upgrade its existing nuclear plants, there's been no announcement about construction of a new nuclear facility. State Senator John Legg says, "Times have changed. The time is now to evaluate the role of nuclear cost recovery." That's right Senator Legg, times have changed. But the cost of nuclear energy isn't the only thing we need to evaluate. We need to consider the environmental danger, and human cost, of nuclear energy. It's time to invest in green technology, and Florida's the perfect place to build a solar energy grid. Evaluate that. No Nukes!
Voters in Italy have the chance to say "no" to austerity. Or at least, they have an opportunity to elect a leader who will. The general election campaign in Italy is in it's final day, and voters will head to the polls starting Sunday. According to the BBC News, Pier Luigi Bersani currently leads in the polls, but former Prime Minister Silvio "Bunga-Bunga" Berlusconi has narrowed the lead in recent weeks. Mr. Bersani has pledged to continue Prime Minister Mario Monti's austerity measures, but suggests that current European policy needs to do more to promote jobs and growth in that nation. Berlusconi has been an open critic of the devastating austerity measures. Economists are keeping a close eye on the election, as they worry about the effect of Italy's future policies on the eurozone economy. The rest of the world is watching to see if voters in that nation will stand together against austerity. Will Italians reject the social service cuts, high unemployment, and privatization of their commons? Let's hope they stand together and reject the failed promises of austerity.
And finally... Donald Trump's Twitter account was hacked yesterday. Earlier this week hackers hit the Burger King – and now they've gone after the Birther King. Raunchy lyrics from rapper Lil Wayne were tweeted to Trump's 2 million followers, but his minions seemed to be back in control of his account by this morning, as all the rap-related tweets were deleted. The attention-grubbing Apprentice host then took a dig at the social network, writing, "Twitter will soon be irrelevant if lowlifes are so easily able to hack into accounts." I agree Donald, there are far too many lowlifes tweeting from your account already.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, February 22, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.