In today's On the News segment: After yesterday's landmark challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the pro-equality crowd is hopeful; corporations rake in record profits and pay half as much in taxes as they did just a few decades ago; the Senate will begin voting on gun-control legislation next month; at least 6.2 million children have at least one unemployed parent; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. After yesterday's landmark challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the pro-equality crowd is hopeful that the Supreme Court will strike down the discriminatory law. During the oral arguments, the majority of the Justices seemed ready to strike down DOMAs key provision, which denies same-sex couples the right to all the federal benefits of marriage. The liberal justices expressed obvious concerns over DOMA's impact on same-sex couples, and the usual swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, seemed to conclude that the law infringed on state's rights to define gay marriage. The Court's most conservative justice, Antonin Scalia, expressed frustration at the President and the Attorney General for refusing to defend the law. The most notable moment of yesterday's arguments came from Chief Justice John Roberts, when he attempted to make the case that the “gay lobby” was too politically powerful to warrant constitutional protection. Roberts suggested that lawmakers are “falling all over themselves” to legalize gay marriage, as if to imply the LGBT community doesn't meet the “heightened scrutiny” requirement to be considered a protected class. But the fact is, more than 30 states in our nation have laws on the books barring same-sex marriage. LGBT families still have a long fight ahead to achieve full equality. The Supreme Court is expected to issue their ruling on DOMA, and Tuesday's Prop 8 case, later this year. Let's hope they strike down both discriminatory laws, and pave the way for same-sex couples to marry in every state in our nation.
In screwed news... As corporations rake in record profits, they're paying half as much in corporate taxes as they did just a few decades ago. A recent analysis by the Washington Post found that in the 1960's and 1970's, federal taxes of major U.S. corporations represented 25 to 50 percent of worldwide profits. However, today 22 of the 30 companies in Dow Jones Industrial Average are benefiting from effective tax rates that are 10 points lower. Despite the Republican talking point that the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world, most of these major corporations utilize off-shore tax havens to stash away huge profits. These corporations use our roads, waterways, electric girds, and environmental resources to generate their historic profits, yet we're letting them get away with paying virtually nothing for that privilege. It's time to end the tax breaks for companies that ship jobs – and profits – overseas.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Next month, the Senate will begin voting on gun-control legislation, and advocates of stricter gun laws are out reminding legislators that it's time for real reform. Today, gun-control groups are staging a “National Day to Demand Action,” which will include more than 140 public events in 29 different states throughout our country. Mayors Against Illegal Guns will also be running a $12 million television ad campaign this week, to target senators in 13 states who have yet to voice their support for new gun control regulations. The Washington Post reports that today, President Obama held a press conference with mothers who support gun restrictions, and yesterday, Vice President Biden took part in a conference call with gun-control activists. On that call, the Vice President said “I think we're on the verge of getting a serious, thorough, universal background check system in place, and it will save lives.” It appears the gun-lobby may finally be losing it's grip on Congress, and we may finally see some real gun-control reform. It's about time.
Even before Republican austerity measures took effect, one out six children in our nation were already impacted by unemployment. According to a new study from First Focus and the Urban Institute, at least 6.2 million children have at least one unemployed parent, and a staggering 12.1 million kids live in homes with a parent who is underemployed. In 2012, the average weekly unemployment benefit was only $299, and the sequester cuts that amount by almost 10%. So, families struggling to survive now find life even more difficult to afford. As The Think Progress Blog points out, the effect of an unemployed parent can have long-term consequences for children. These kids will likely have lower math scores and poor attendance records, and they will be more likely to fall into poverty later in life. Children our are future – and that's more than a cliché. It's the truth. They are the people who will be running our country someday. There are many reasons we need to put a stop to the Republican austerity, and the devastating effect it has on our children should be reason number one.
And finally… Video game lovers have a new reason to attend minor-league baseball games in Pennsylvania. That's because the men's urinals at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs' Coca-Cola Park will soon feature the world's only, truly hands-free video game. Video screens mounted above the urinals in the park bathrooms challenge players to “steer” along a snowmobile course, and try to hit cartoon penguins along the way. The game is aimed at increasing men's awareness of prostate health, and features messages throughout the game reminding men to get a prostate exam. The new games will be available for use when the IronPigs' season starts next week. The team spokesman, Jon Schaffer, said they bought the restroom entertainment from a UK company, called Captive Media. He said, “They told us with certainty that it's not in any other sports venue in the world.” The games are already in use in bars in the United Kingdom, but the IronPigs will be the first to offer “p-controlled” video games in the U.S. The games will likely be a hit with men in the ball park, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them in more venues before long. Soon, men everywhere will have a new excuse for why they spend extra time in the bathroom.
And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, March 28, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.