In today's On the News segment: After weeks of threatening filibuster reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had a closed-door meeting with the entire Senate last night; As if getting paid minimum wage wasn't bad enough, now McDonalds wants to tell employees how they should budget their own money; The University of Michigan isn't waiting for Congress to do something about immigration; and More.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. After weeks of threatening filibuster reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had a closed-door meeting with the entire Senate last night. Lawmakers met for nearly four hours to resolve the stalemate over presidential nominees, but expressed a mix of opinions after that meeting. This morning, Senator Reid announced that lawmakers had reached a tentative deal to avoid a filibuster showdown. The plan requires GOP Senators allow votes on most of President Obama's nominees, in exchange for Democrats replacing two of the nominees for the National Labor Relations Board. Essentially, Republicans demanded that the President give up his constitutional right to make appointments, in order to get the GOP to agree to do their jobs. After agreeing to this so-called compromise this morning, lawmakers finally began the process of considering stalled confirmations. They started off by advancing the consideration of Richard Cordray, the nominee for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Later today, the full Senate will finally vote on Cordray's appointment, which Republicans have filibustered since 2011. Majority Leader Reid is expected to call for votes on several other controversial nominees, but it is uncertain if those votes will be blocked by the GOP. Senator Reid had previously pledged to employ the nuclear option, which would bar Republicans from blocking presidential appointments, if they continue to delay confirmations. However, it is unclear if he will keep that promise after giving in to Republican demands on two NLRB appointments earlier today. Many Americans around our nation are fed up with the GOP's refusal to confirm the President's nominees. They're watching this fight closely, and hoping that Majority Leader Harry Reid won't concede to more Republican demands just get these appointments confirmed.
In screwed news... As if getting paid minimum wage wasn't bad enough, now McDonalds wants to tell employees how they should budget their own money. The fast-food giant has partnered with Visa to create a new website, to convince workers that they should be able to get by on fast food poverty wages. The site presents a sample "budget journal" that suggests how workers should pay for rent, electric, phone and other expenses. In addition to being grossly unrealistic, like suggesting a $150 car payment and a $90 electric bill, the site also factors in income from a second job – because even the ridiculously low budget isn't possible for someone who works for minimum wage. And, the budget even low-balls expenses, like health insurance, at less than half the price a worker can get through a McDonalds coverage plan. The site reads, "You can have almost anything you want as long as you plan ahead and save for it." Apparently, it leaves out "as long as you work two jobs and spend no more than $600 on your monthly rent." Also, the budget suggests that their employees freeze during the winter – the budget for heating is zero dollars. A McDonalds spokesperson defended the budget journal, and said the example is intended to help workers. However, most would argue that the real purpose of the site is to imply that if workers are struggling to make ends meet on their meager wages, they're just not budgeting correctly.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The University of Michigan isn't waiting for Congress to do something about immigration. Yesterday, the university proposed "significant revisions" to their eligibility requirements, to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates. As it stands now, undocumented students are forced to pay out-of-state rates, which are three times as high, even if they grew up in Michigan. And, these students don't qualify for financial aid or education grants. University officials want to change these tuition requirements, so that anyone who attended Michigan middle and high schools is eligible for the less expensive rates. Although Congress may be considering immigration reform, it's unlikely that the college tuition issue will be addressed in a final bill. Students are hopeful that more schools will follow the University of Michigan's lead, and make college more affordable for everyone.
The government of Bangladesh has made it easier for workers to form unions. A new law passed in that nation on Monday, requires companies contribute to a central fund to improve living standards for workers. The law also requires that factory owners deposit 5 percent of yearly profits into an employee welfare fund, and assure workers they won't be transferred to different factories because they joined a union. Many activists argue that the new law doesn't go far enough to protect workers, and say it was rushed through to appease foreign governments. But, the chairman of the parliamentary sub-committee on labor reforms said, "the aim was to ensure workers' rights are strengthened and we have done that." The new law may not offer enough protections yet, but as domestic and international pressure continues, workers in Bangladesh may have more rights before long.
And finally... They say a small act of kindness goes a long way, and customers at a doughnut shop in Massachusetts proved just that. When Eileen Taylor paid for the customer behind her in line at the drive through, she set off a long chain of good deeds. The customer she paid for picked up the tab for the following car, and the car after that did the same. The chain of kindness continued for all 55 cars that came through the drive through that morning, with each one paying for the next customer in line. Employees said that the only reason the chain broke was that there were no more cars in line behind the last customer. The story was picked up by several local news agencies, who asked Miss Taylor how she felt about setting off the chain of good deeds. She said, "It was the best $12 dollars I ever spent."
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, July 16, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.