On the News With Thom Hartmann: Eleven states have affirmed that gay rights are civil rights; President Obama will have to fight the GOP to raise our debt ceiling; the Louisiana Supreme Court voted to protect our public education system; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew appears to have the right ideas. But, it doesn't seem like any of our elected leaders are listening. On Monday, Secretary Lew sent a letter to members of the House financial services committee, urging them to uphold provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act that regulate derivatives. Yet one day later, a bipartisan group of law makers that including almost two dozen democrats, passed a bill through committee to do the opposite. In his letter, Secretary Lew explained that these provisions "constitute an important part of the reforms being put in place to strengthen our financial system by improving transparency and reducing risk for market participants." But, the bipartisan committee advanced legislation that would allow FDIC insured banks to trade in derivatives. That means, if and when they get into trouble, the tax-payers will be on the hook – again – for a bail out. And, legislation like this ignores the fact that derivatives trading was what caused our economic collapse in the first place. Thankfully, this legislation isn't likely to overcome a Senate filibuster, and the White House has expressed opposition. And, as important as his derivatives warning was, it's not the only wise statement our Treasury Secretary made this week. Yesterday, Jack Lew said, "deficit reduction alone is not an economic policy." He called for "expanding our economy and getting people back to work" with an ambitious infrastructure program. He knows that no nation, in the history of the world, has ever cut its way to prosperity – and we won't be the first. And our legislators need to start heeding his advice. We must invest in our nation, and our people. The question is, will lawmakers ignore Mr. Lew's warnings twice in one week? Let's hope not.
In screwed news... Once again, President Obama will have to fight the GOP to raise our debt ceiling – which only allows the Treasury Department to pay the bills Congress has already racked up. But, House Speaker John Boehner has a different plan. He wants to prioritize specific debt payments and obligations, leaving the rest to be paid if and when the government can come up with the money. His so-called "Full Faith and Credit Act" would pay China before paying soldiers and seniors, and it would leave the government unable to meet all of its obligations. Treasury officials are calling Boehner's plan "unworkable," because it would only allow the government to make payments as they receive revenue. This would mean that payments to creditors would be made at the beginning of the month, and seniors, veterans, and soldiers would just have to wait until additional revenue rolls in. It's time the GOP stop creating the "uncertainty" they're constantly complaining about. It Republicans want our creditors to be certain that our debts will be paid, all they need to do is raise the debt ceiling. It's that simple.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Eleven states have affirmed that gay rights are civil rights. Yesterday, after a lengthy debate, the Delaware State Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage, and Governor Jack Markell signed the bill into law. According to the bill, same-sex Delaware couples will be able to marry as of July 1st, and existing civil-unions will be converted into marriages. After the final vote, Governor Markel said, "I think this is the right thing for Delaware," as gay rights activists and supporters burst into cheers in the Senate chamber. This is the second state to legalize gay marriage since the Supreme Court heard the landmark Prop 8 and DOMA cases, and it shows that the tide is turning in our nation. Slowly but surely, states are guaranteeing everyone the right to marry the person who they love. Great work Delaware!
Yesterday, the Louisiana Supreme Court voted to protect our public education system. In a 6 to 1 vote, the Justices ruled that state funds can't be diverted to nonpublic schools. This was a huge blow to Governor Bobby Jindal's school voucher program, which was sucking money out of the public school system, and funneling it into the hands of private and parochial schools. Jindal has been a long-time critic of teachers unions and our public education system, saying that students and parents need more "school choice." He said, "the bottom line is that our kids only get one chance to grow up," but, rather than increasing funding to improve Louisiana's education system, Governor Jindal supported efforts to divert education money to religious schools. Thankfully, the Louisiana Court has put a stop to it. This ruling is a huge victory in the battle against so-called school vouchers. For now, our public education system is safe in Louisiana, but we must keep up the fight in that state, and in every other state in our nation.
And finally... What's the most rare, sought-after occupation in Britain? Lego builder. That's right, more Britons have been to space than have made a full-time living building Lego structures. Warren Elsmore made the career switch six months ago, when he gave up his IT consulting job to become a professional Lego builder. Last week, Elsmore made 1,500 Euros for one 18 inch-long, Lego corporate logo, and he can earn up to 25,000 euros for a replica of a major building. He just unveiled a 5-foot by 5-foot model of St. Pancras Station and Hotel, which includes working trains, passengers running down escalators, and a cut-away that allows you to see Lego-guests splashing in the bathtub. The model is made up of over 180,000 Legos and took Elsmore about 500 hours to build. He says that professional Lego building is "not just for grown-ups, but anyone who feels grown up." And here, we were foolish enough to believe Legos were children's toys... who knew?
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, May 8, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.