In today's On the News segment: John Boehner said the GOP will refuse to raise the debt ceiling in May, unless the president agrees to more spending cuts; Colorado is now the 18th state to legalize some form of same-sex unions; Mexico is breaking up monopolies; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Republicans are already hatching their next plot to take our nation hostage. At his weekly press conference, John Boehner said the GOP will refuse to raise the debt ceiling in May, unless the president agrees to more spending cuts. President Obama already authorized $1.5 trillion dollars in cuts over the next decade as part of the fiscal cliff deal. In addition, the sequester amounts to an additional $1.2 trillion in cuts over that same period. But, that's not enough for Republicans. The last time the GOP played political games with our debt limit, economic growth slowed in our nation, and citizens and businesses alike faced increased borrowing costs - but the Speaker of the House doesn't seem to care. According to John Boehner, Republicans plan to wage economic terrorism again, unless the President agrees to cut spending dollar-for-dollar with the debt ceiling increase. So, unless President Obama is willing to further devastate our economy with Republican austerity, Speaker Boehner and House Republicans won't let him pay the bills that they have racked up. The debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. It only allows the President to pay for spending that the House has already approved. This is simply economic terrorism... and it's no way to run a government. Call John Boehner's office and tell him to stop playing political games with our economy.
In screwed news... Republican Congressman Steve Pearce wants to treat the unemployed like criminals. The New Mexico representative filed legislation yesterday, that subject requires mandatory drug testing for people collecting federal unemployment benefits. To add insult to injury, Representative Pearce even wants people to pay for these tests out of their own pockets. In a press release about the new legislation, Pearce said "Hard-working middle class Americans are struggling to make ends meet, and should not have to pay the way for those who have drug addictions." But his argument is completely bogus. Repeated studies have shown that unemployed people are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the population, and a similar law in Florida actually ended up costing the taxpayers over $45,000. Alternet reports that more than a dozen Republican state legislatures have pushed through similar plans, in a concerted effort to demonize people who collect federal aid. It's not a crime to be out of work, and Steve Pearce and the GOP need to stop treating the unemployed like criminals.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Colorado may become the most progressive state in our nation. In addition to recent bills legalizing marijuana and requiring background checks on gun purchases, that state has now approved same-sex unions. This new law makes Colorado the 18th state in our nation to legalize some form of same-sex unions, and comes just days before the Supreme Court hears arguments in two landmark gay marriage cases. The publisher of "Out Front Colorado", Jerry Cunningham, said, "It's kind of amazing. It's creating an awareness that we can have relationships. It validates it and legitimizes it, and says it's O.K." Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on the up-coming DOMA and Prop 8 cases, the tide in our nation is turning in the right direction. State-after-state is recognizing that gay rights are civil rights, and that everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love.
Yesterday, the Senate Energy Committee voted in favor of President Obama's nomination for Interior Secretary. It turns out, the easiest way to get a nomination approved is to abandon plans to protect the environment. Currently the CEO of outdoor retailer REI, Sally Jewell was approved to replace Ken Salazar in a 19 to 3 committee vote. If confirmed by the full Senate, she will oversee more than 1.5 billion acres of national parks, public lands, and offshore territories. However, the approval relied on current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's agreement to revisit a decision to block the construction of a road through an Alaskan wildlife reserve. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the committee, threatened to hold up Jewell's nomination unless the Obama Administration approved the construction. And, for now, it appears Murkowski got her way. Jewell's nomination will go before the full Senate next month. Let's demand that Republicans approve her nomination without any more destructive environmental ultimatums.
Mexico is breaking up monopolies. This morning, that nation's Congress approved a final bill, which gives regulators the power to break up companies that hold more than 50% of the telecom market. Mexican Congressman Julio Cesar Moreno said, "In our country there is just one territory, and it is not the territory or property of any one telephone company." The reform was introduced March 11, and it will increase competition in the Mexican telecom industry. Currently, one company, Televisa – owned by telecom tycoon Carlos Slim – controls 60% of the broadcast market. According to Reuters. the legislation is being hailed as one of biggest planned shake-ups of the telecom industry in decades. More competition will mean lower prices and better service for the Mexican people. It's great to see that Mexico is taking on monopolies... now, if we can only start doing the same thing right here at home.
And finally... The 2012 Republican primary was a circus of self-serving candidates. And while most of us knew from the beginning that Romney was the likely nominee, two contenders had other plans. Joshua Green of Business Week reports that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were planning to topple Romney with a so-called "Unity Ticket" that could have consolidated conservative support. Funny enough, the two were unable to unify on a single ticket, because they couldn't agree which one would get to be president. Gingrich thought his win in the South Carolina primary gave him the right to the top of the ticket, but the Santorum team thought it was "only logical" that Rick "had earned the right to go one-on-one with Romney." Who knows how that ticket could have changed the outcome of the 2012 race, but comedians everywhere are disappointed that the "Unity Ticket" never happened.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, March 22, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.