In today's On the News segment: The Associated Press reports that the Internal Revenue Service has issued a formal apology to conservative political groups for “singling them out for additional review”; the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first of many hearings on comprehensive immigration reform; the Florida state legislature has passed a bill to prevent foreclosure victims from recovering their property, even when a bank's actions are ruled fraudulent; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first of many hearings on comprehensive immigration reform. In the seven and a half hour hearing, senators debated 32 of the three hundred proposed amendments to the bill, and adopted 21 of the changes. The proposals ranged from plans to correct technical immigration issues, to Sen. Ted Cruz's amendment to triple the number of border control agents, to Sen. Jeff Sessions' proposal to construct a 700 mile, double-layered fence along our Southern border. Thankfully, most of the extreme amendments were voted down, but there's still cause for concern over the proposals they accepted. One of the most contentious changes was Republican Senator Chuck Grassley's mandate, that the Department of Homeland Security submit a plan to stop 90 percent of illegal border crossings in high-risk areas, before undocumented individuals already living here can even apply for so-called "provisional immigrant" status. This provision is only slightly better than Grassley's rejected, poison-pill amendment, which set unattainable benchmarks that DHS had to meet before any pathway to citizenship would be considered. After losing the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election, Republicans have attempted to paint themselves as pro-immigration, but it's all an act. The racist and unrealistic GOP amendments in this legislation show they have no real desire to fix our nation's immigration system. As the Senate Judiciary Committee debates the hundreds of remaining amendments over the coming months, we must prevent these poison-pill provisions from making immigration reform meaningless. Call your Senators and tell them to fight these poison-pill amendments, and support provisions that actually fix our broken immigration system.
In screwed news... This year alone, Florida Republicans have already denied healthcare to millions of Floridians, fast-tracked executions, and hiked up tuition prices on college students. But, it looks like those bills didn't screw over enough people, so now they're taking a whack at victims of foreclosure fraud. The Republican-led Florida state legislature has passed a bill to prevent foreclosure victims from recovering their property, even when a bank's actions are ruled fraudulent. Republican state senator Nancy Detert expressed her lack of sympathy, saying, "People are victims of fraud, the fraud was the bank robo signing, but those people were already in default on their loans, so they had not made their payments." But, that is not always the case. For example, one Connecticut family was threatened with foreclosure despite never missing a payment, a Massachusetts man was told that his home would be taken because of an outstanding balance of zero dollars, and a senior couple in Pasco County, Florida faced eviction for making loan payments too early. And these are just a few examples. This bill is nothing but another give-away to the banks. Lawmakers shouldn't be preventing foreclosure victims from getting their homes back, they should be helping to make that happen.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The fast food workers' strike has spread to Detroit. Last month, workers in New York and Chicago walked off the job to demand livable wages and the right to unionize. And earlier this week, fast food employees in St. Louis also walked off the job in protest. Today, workers from at least 60 Detroit restaurants plan to walk off the job to show their support for the movement. This is the fourth major city in five weeks to join the fight for a $15 dollar an hour wage and the right to form a union without intimidation. And it's doubtful that Detroit will be the last. As more workers, in more cities, stand together for better working conditions, other low-wage employees will realize they're not alone. This is how movements are born, and this is how organized people can defeat organized money. Hopefully, even more fast food workers will join the fight, and they'll finally get the living wage that they deserve.
Why is the IRS apologizing for doing their job? The Associated Press reports that the Internal Revenue Service has issued a formal apology to conservative political groups for "singling them out for additional review." According to the report, groups with the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their names were subject to extra scrutiny during their attempts to gain non-profit status. The additional reviews were conducted during the 2012 election, to verify that the groups were not violating non-profit status. Under IRS rules, so-called charitable organizations can conduct political activities, but it can not be their primary focus. Lois Lerner, who oversees the tax-exempt IRS division, said that the additional scrutiny was conducted by low-level employees only, and that it was not motivated by political bias. The fact is, any non-profit group, regardless of political affiliation, should be following the same rules on political activities. Tax payers should not be subsidizing political think tanks. The only issue here is whether only conservative groups were targeted. If politicians want taxpayers to pick up the tab for campaigning, they should give up the corporate money and move to publicly financed elections.
Every year, Maxim magazine releases their so-called "Hot 100" list, but one ranking this year definitely stood out among the rest. Next to an image of an invisible silhouette of a black bikini was the "name" of number 69 - "Manti Te'o's Fake Girlfriend." The blurb next to the ranking stated, "we think it might be nice to have an invisible girl of our own to love. Why not? She's got a ton of great qualities, including looking awesome in a bikini." There are plenty of views one can take on the Maxim rankings. Beyond the obvious question of whether women should be ranked on appearance at all, there's some debate on whether Miley Cyrus should really be ranked number one. There's also the question of whether number 70 appreciates Maxim's sense of humor.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, May 10, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.