In today's On the News segment: Contrary to GOP rhetoric, our national deficit is actually shrinking; weather-related power failures cost our nation between 18 and 33 billion dollars every year, and much more during years with super-storms like Sandy; the Justice Department says "no" to another airline monopoly; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. Most Americans may not know it by listening to Republicans, but in reality our national deficit is shrinking. And, if you didn't know that, you're not alone. A new Google poll found that nearly half of Americans think that the deficit is actually increasing. During the first ten months of 2012, the government spent 973 billion dollars more than it took in. The deficit for this year is currently $600 billion, and projected to wind up at a total of $670 billion at the end of the fiscal year. That's about 30% less than last year. And, as a percentage of our GDP, the deficit is less than half of what is was in 2009, when President Obama took office. No matter how you calculate it, the numbers show that the Republicans' ominous warnings about deficits are nothing more than fear mongering and excuses to slash spending on social programs. In addition, these figures show that we don't have to destroy our social programs to improve our nation's fiscal woes. According to Daniel Gross of Newsweek, “the miracle cure for deficits, it turns out, isn't ripping up the social safety net, or a grand bargain. It's growth.” It's highly unlikely that these figures will have any impact on the Republicans' effort to shrink government to the size it can be drowned in a bathtub. But, the evidence is clear, and it shows that investing in our nation is the best way to stimulate our economy, and further-reduce our nation's deficit. We can't cut our way to prosperity, but we can stimulate our economy to spur more economic growth.
In screwed news... On the tenth anniversary of a massive blackout in the Northeast, our nation's electrical grid still needs an update, but work to prevent more power outages is not getting done. According to a new report from the President's Council of Economic Advisers and the Department of Energy, weather-related power failures cost our nation between 18 and 33 billion dollars every year – and much more during years with super-storms like Sandy. Right now, about 70 percent of our nation's power lines and transformers are over 25 years old. The Think Progress Blog points out that the 2009 stimulus allocated 4.5 billion dollars to electrical grid investments, but that's less than 25 percent of the repairs we should be doing in one single year. Massoud Amin, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Minnesota said we should be investing 21 billion dollars every year for the next two decades just to get our electrical grid up to date. That level of investment would give us a safer power grid, and put thousands of Americans back to work, but it's doubtful that Republicans in Congress will let that happen any time soon.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Justice Department says “No” to another airline monopoly. On Tuesday, the U.S. Government filed a lawsuit to stop the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, saying that it would give the new carrier too much power. The DOJ said that if the merger went through, just four airlines would control over 80 percent of the commercial travel market in the U.S., and it would lead to higher fares and fees for consumers. A former antitrust attorney for the Department of Justice spoke to Reuters about the case, and said, “The [DOJ] complaint tells a compelling story of how the airlines acted together to increase fees and reduce services, and how US Airways and American had a blueprint to increase prices through the merger.” Both airlines say they will launch a “vigorous and strong defense” against the lawsuit, and argue that somehow it would increase competition. The Justice Department lawsuit is joined by six states, including Texas and Arizona, where the two airlines are headquartered – and it has the support of many consumer advocates. After decades of consolidation and big-business greed, many Americans are happy to see our Justice Department standing up to corporate power.
Democratic Senator Kay Hagan wants Attorney General Eric Holder to review North Carolina's new voter suppression ID law. In an open letter to Holder, Senator Hagan wrote that the new law will “restrict the ability of minorities, seniors, students, the disabled, and low and middle income citizens” to take part in the democratic process. She contends that “protecting the fundamental right of our citizens to vote should be among the federal government's highest priorities.” It's only been days since Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed the measure into law, and already, multiple lawsuits have been filed challenging it. Since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision in the Voting Rights Act, several Republican-controlled states have enacted measures designed to make it more difficult for people to vote. There's little doubt that the Republican Party's war on voting rights is in full swing, but it's clear that Americans won't sit back and let the GOP steal their right to participate in our democracy.
And finally… According to the environmental action group Bold Nebraska, denying climate science is “like believing in unicorns.” And, the advocacy group Organizing for America decided to use that logic to single out members of congress who they say are the best at denying science. Local OFA volunteers handed out trophies adorned with silver unicorns to climate-denying congresspeople, in a ceremony dubbed “The Congressional Climate Denial Awards.” Volunteers took photos of the unicorn awards being presented, however, OFA said that most were accepted by “shamed staffers.” The climate denial awards are part of OFA's month-long campaign to get Americans involved in important issues, like global warming. President Obama kicked off the ceremony with a tweet Monday night, writing, “Gravity exists. The Earth is round. Climate change is happening. Science says so.”
And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, August 14, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.