In today's On the News segment: A new study found that the premium hikes in many red states are actually the result of Republican lawmakers who refuse to expand Medicaid; Congress is rushing to authorize up to three months of military action in Syria; Kansas is challenging the citizenship of more than 15,000 would-be voters; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. When it comes to food stamps, the debt ceiling, or any other legislation, Congress isn't great at meeting deadlines. But apparently, they have no problem putting a rush on going to war. On Tuesday, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed on the wording of a resolution to authorize a military strike in Syria. The committee will start debating the measure on Wednesday, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may schedule a vote on it early next week. According to the Washington Post, the resolution permits up to 90 days of action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and prohibits deploying combat troops into Syria. Both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said that the strike in Syria would be limited, and would likely only last a few days. Yet, Congress is rushing to authorize up to three months of military action. This all seems eerily familiar. And, at the very same time that the U.S. Senate was speeding to put together an authorization proposal, President Obama boarded a plane for the G20 summit in Russia – where President Vladimir Putin has warned the U.S. not to strike Syria without United Nations approval. President Putin argues that the case against Syrian President Assad doesn't stand up to scrutiny, yet our legislators think the evidence is strong enough to rush into another war. President Obama may be in for some very uncomfortable conversations in the coming days, as our lawmakers will start to debate military authorization while the G20 summit is underway. With each passing day, the strike in Syria seems more likely, and more complicated. Americans across the country are calling their lawmakers to make their positions known, and people around the world are monitoring this situation closely.
In screwed news... Kansas is challenging the citizenship of more than 15,000 would-be voters. Thanks to that state's new voter surpression ID law, thousands of people who recently registered to vote are being forced to prove they are US citizens. Nearly 90 percent of the new registrations took place at the DMV, where people had to show birth certificates or similar documents to obtain a driver's license. But, no one at the DMV asked for those documents when people signed up to vote. Now, months later, these potential first-time voters are being asked to jump through hoops and submit proof of citizenship that they already provided when they signed up. With no great surprise, a large portion of the voters being challenged live in counties that voted for President Obama in the last election, or where Mitt Romney barely eked out a win. Of course, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says that the law is about preventing voter fraud. But, it appears that it's really about preventing democrats from voting.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a wage discrimination bill into law, but don't tell the Republicans. The measure is essentially a carbon copy of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has been blocked twice by Republicans in Congress. And, it's a near replica of a measure vetoed by Governor Christie last year, when it was known as the Wage Transparency Act. This time around, the bill was simply identified with the words "concerns disclosure of certain information," and Governor Christie signed it into law without ceremony. The new bill protects workers who try to uncover wage discrimination, and makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who share salary information. The potential 2016 candidate may have been trying to hide the bill from his fellow Republicans, who typically oppose wage fairness legislation. Many progressive groups are applauding the governor's actions. But, unfortunately for Chris Christie, in the GOP, no good deed goes unpunished.
After 40 votes to repeal Obamacare, and countless hours of fear mongering – it turns out that Republicans are really the ones to blame for premium increases. A new study by RAND Health found that the premium hikes in many red states are actually the result of Republican lawmakers who refuse to expand Medicaid. In fact, residents in states like Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, and Texas may see insurance costs go up 8 to 10 percent because of their Republican legislators and governors. According to the Dallas Morning News, "Texas's refusal to expand Medicaid will cause private health insurance premiums to rise by an average of 9.3 percent for people who buy their own coverage." In addition, if the full healthcare law was implemented, 1.3 more Texans would have health insurance by 2016 because of the Medicaid expansion. Republican lawmakers aren't just obstructing Obamacare, they are working to fulfill their own prophecies about it. And, they are making Americans pay for it with their checkbooks and their health.
And finally... Eventually, almost everyone gets called to perform their civic responsibility of jury duty. Apparently, that even means Santa Claus. That's right, last week, the Suffolk County Criminal Court in New York summoned the world's beloved jolly fellow to serve his constitutionally mandated duty. Of course, "Santa Claus" wasn't this Long Islander's born name, but he legally changed it last year because of his love for performing his yearly role as St. Nick. Mr. Claus said he arrived in blue jeans and a red dress shirt, which bore a picture of him and his reindeer on the back. He said, "I wasn't going to wear the suit – they'd lock me up." When he arrived for duty, several court police officers asked if they were on the naughty or nice list. According to the New York Post, he said "My reply was, 'If you have to ask, you already know'."
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, September 4, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.