In today's On the News segment: In response to recent IRS admissions, President Obama called the enhanced investigation of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status "intolerable and inexcusable"; The Senate Agricultural Committee agreed to cut over four billion dollars of food aid from the Farm Bill yesterday; The European Union is going after Big Oil; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Yesterday, in response to recent IRS admissions, President Obama called the enhanced investigation of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status "intolerable and inexcusable." And, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a criminal investigation into the allegations against the IRS. But both of them are missing the point. The scandal here is not that political groups were targeted by the IRS, it's the fact that political groups are being subsidized by John Q. Taxpayer. Groups that are politically motivated, and not really "social welfare" organizations, shouldn't receive preferential tax treatment in the first place – regardless of their political affiliation. A report by the Inspector General stated that "ineffective management" at the IRS allowed conservative groups to be targeted for over 18 months, and resulted in substantial delays in the processing of their non-profit applications. But, the real "ineffective management" here was Congress's failure to regulate these organizations, and enforce transparency. And, what's truly "intolerable and inexcusable" is the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizen United decision, which opened the campaign-finance floodgates in the first place. The IRS shouldn't be apologizing for investigating phony "non-profit" organizations, they should be investigating all politically-motivated groups who want to be subsidized by the tax payers. Congress has repeatedly rejected campaign finance reform, and Citizens United moved oversight from the Federal Elections Commission to the IRS. It's impossible to create and enforce reasonable guidelines based on an unreasonable Supreme Court decision. The only way to really fix this problem is to amend our Constitution to say that money isn't speech, and corporations aren't people. Let's make it happen. Join the fight at MoveToAmend.org.
In screwed news... The Senate Agricultural Committee agreed to cut over four billion dollars of food aid from the Farm Bill yesterday, and the House Agricultural Committee is about to make that look like a pittance. Republicans in the House have proposed legislation to cut the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP, by a whopping 21 billion dollars. That draconian cut would eliminate food aid for nearly 2 million low-income people, many of whom are seniors or working families with children. Overall, GOP House members have proposed almost 40 billion dollars of cuts to the farm bill, meaning more than half of their so-called "savings" come directly from SNAP. The Republican austerity has already imposed huge cuts to unemployment insurance, meals on wheels, public housing, and public education...and now, they're going after another vital program that millions of struggling Americans rely on. The Republicans are hell-bent on devastating every bit of our social safety net they can get their hands on, all so that the wealthy elite don't have to pay a little more in taxes. Call Congress today, and tell them to stop cutting programs that prevent our neighbors from going hungry.
In the best of the rest of the news...
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is outraged that the Department of Justice secretly obtained the phone records of the Associated Press. As it turns out, however, Representative Issa was one of only 21 "No" votes in the House of Representatives against a measure that would have prevented this whole ordeal. A 2007 bill, called the Free Flow of Information Act, would have forbidden investigators from forcing journalists to provide information without a court order, and would have protected journalists' phone records to the same extent the law protects the journalists themselves. And Darrell Issa voted against it. Yet, almost immediately after the AP subpoena story broke, Congressman Issa issued a statement accusing Obama Administration officials of thinking they're above the law, and said they are "emboldened by the belief they don't have to answer to anyone." This is all an act. Darrell Issa isn't concerned with protecting the freedom of our press, he's just using the opportunity to wage another attack on our president. The freedom of our press does need to be preserved – it's one of our most important institutions – but we don't need a hypocritical political witch-hunt waged by Darrell Issa. It's simple Congressman, if you really care about the press, stop politicizing it, and start protecting it.
The European Union is going after Big Oil. According to BBC News, the offices of multiple oil firms were raided by European Officials investigating collusion. The Commission has not named the firms involved in the investigation, but BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Norway's Statoil, and the pricing agency known as Platts all confirmed to the BBC, that they were working with authorities. The Commission is examining company documents for evidence that the oil giants worked together to control prices, and keep competitors out of the market. According to European officials, "Any such behavior, if established, may amount to violations of European antitrust rules," and they suspect this practice has been going on for over a decade. There's little doubt that oil companies around the world collude to set oil prices, and it's refreshing to see the EU taking these oil giants to task. They're proving that it is possible to stand up to Big Oil. Perhaps our leaders can learn something from the European Commission's investigation, and start fighting back against the oil lobby here at home. Or better yet, let's make Big Oil's collusion meaningless by making the move to green energy.
And finally... Police in North Carolina have arrested 58-year-old Evelyn Mills Moore for an assault on another woman. The Gaston Gazette reported yesterday that Moore was charged for striking another woman with her Bible. That's right, Miss Moore literally used the holy book as a weapon. She's also charged with assaulting another man, and causing abrasions on his head, face and arms, but it's not clear if her Bible was also used as a weapon in that attack. Police have not revealed the reasons for Miss Moore's assaults, and they say she's currently being held for a $105,000 bond. It sounds like they're really "throwing the book" at Miss Moore over the attack, and for bringing a whole new meaning to the term "Bible-thumping."
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, May 15, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.