In today's On the News segment: Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act to regulate the Wall Street banksters; the Obama Administration says it has the right to kill you, and in response, Senator Rand Paul is mounting a real-live talking filibuster; minimum-wage workers in New York state could be getting a raise, and more.
You need to know this. In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act to regulate the Wall Street banksters, who crashed our economy in 2008. Despite the fact that many people believe the law doesn't go far enough, Republican lawmakers have spent the past two years working to undercut and water-down the legislation. And Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama thinks the banksters shouldn't be burdened with any regulations at all. Instead of working to prevent Wall Street's high-stakes betting from causing another economic disaster, Sen. Shelby plans to introduce legislation that would require a cost-benefit analysis on any new financial regulations before they can be enacted. This is more than just the typical watering-down of legislation we see from Republicans...this is an attempt to block Wall Street regulation altogether, and an effort to put bankster greed ahead of the needs of our nation. According to Shelby, "if a regulation's cost outweighs its benefits, it should be thrown out." Wouldn't it have been great if Wall Street had done a societal cost-benefit analysis before gambling with our economy? Or if they had to prove that their greed couldn't take down our entire financial system again? Seems to me that Wall Street, which hit a record high yesterday, is doing just fine under the current regulations. The Dodd-Frank Act doesn't go far enough. It's time to strengthen regulations, and implement a financial transaction tax to make Wall Street banksters pay for the risky bets they make with our economy.
In screwed news... The Obama Administration says it has the right to kill you, and in response, Senator Rand Paul is mounting a real-live talking filibuster on the floor of the Senate. Sen. Paul's outrage is in response to a letter he received from Attorney General Eric Holder, which claims it's possible "to imagine an extraordinary circumstance" in which the President could use drones against citizens right here at home. Holder wrote the letter to Rand Paul to avert holding up the nomination of Obama's pick for CIA director - John Brennan - over the legality and limits of the drone program. So, in the past two months, we've gotten the so-called legal reasoning for drone strikes in foreign countries, and the Administration's justification for taking out American citizens overseas. Now Eric Holder says it's "appropriate under the Constitution" for Obama to use drones within our borders. I guess the only question left is what "extraordinary circumstance" could the President use to justify the first in-country drone strike when and if it happens.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Minimum-wage workers in New York state could be getting a raise. Yesterday, that state's Assembly voted to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour, and include automatic increases tied to inflation. The bill passed 101-44 in the Assembly, but is now stalled in the State Senate. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called for the increase in response to President Obama's State of the Union speech last month. The proposal is not far off from a Governor Cuomo's recommendation, which calls for raising the minimum wage to $8.75 as part of a budget proposal later this month. State Senate Republican Leader, Dean Skelos, has spoken out against the increase, saying, "It just seems to be 'how high can you go?' with them." But some New York Republicans may be in the mood to bargain – trading an increase in the wage for some middle class tax cuts. It's about time for all workers get paid a living wage in our nation, and $9 isn't there yet, but it's nice to see New York moving in the right direction for low-wage workers.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez passed away yesterday, at the age of 58. Calls for peace and unity came from Venezuelan officials as the news broke in the deeply divided nation. Chavez supporters swept in to Caracus Square soon after the news that the leader had succumb to his long battle with cancer. Vice President Nicolas Maduro called on the nation to remain peaceful, saying, "we must unite now more than ever." Chavez was both praised and criticized by many during his time as President, which began in 1999. Despite a coup attempt, various alleged assassination attempts, and open criticism from some of our own leaders, Hugo Chavez was repeatedly reelected by the vast majority of voters in Venezuela. The government of Venezuela has declared a seven day national mourning period, and the voters will select a new president in 30 days. We'll have to wait and see who Venezuelans pick to lead their nation next.
A state judge in Pennsylvania is standing up for the poor. Governor Tom Corbett diverted funds from low-income health insurance programs to finance other items in his state's budget, but Commonwealth Judge Dan Pellegrini has ordered Corbett to reinstate funding to the vital health programs. William R. Caroselli, the attorney representing more than 100 program recipients, said, "What the administration did was reprehensible and we're pleased the Commonwealth Court ordered them to reinstate this important program." An attorney for House Speaker Sam Smith, one of the lawmakers responsible for diverting funds, said his client will try to get the ruling overturned. It's shameful that Republicans in Pennsylvania want to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, but thanks to Judge Pellegrini, they're not getting away with it for now.
And finally... Researchers at U.K.'s Durham University have finally answered one of life's most important questions.... do "beer goggles" really make people look more attractive? And as it turns out, booze doesn't actually make people look more attractive to a drinker, it just turns up their level of lust. According to the study's author, Dr. Amanda Ellison, "Alcohol switches off the rational and decision-making areas of the brain, while leaving the areas to do with sexual desire relatively intact." So, next time someone blames their drunken date-night on "beer goggles," feel free to tell them science shows otherwise.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, March 6, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.