In today's On the News segment: Today, Republicans in both the House and Senate met to consider a temporary increase in the debt ceiling; our nation is starting to feel the pain of the government shutdown as people lose access to important services; if confirmed, Janet Yellen will be the first woman to ever lead the Federal Reserve; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Complete economic disaster may be avoided, at least for the short term. Today, Republicans in both the House and Senate met to consider a temporary increase in the debt ceiling. After that meeting, House Speaker John Boehner will bring a delegation of Republicans to the White House, to negotiate a deal with President Obama over our nation's borrowing limit. But, no plans have been announced to put an end to the government shutdown. Although President Obama has called for a debt limit increase that extends the Treasury's borrowing ability through the next election, he stated this week that he would sign a short-term extension. If the president accepts the deal, the House could vote on a debt limit increase today, but it would only extend until November 22nd – just days before Congress leaves for Thanksgiving recess. Once again, we would be setting up the next opportunity for Tea Party Republicans to hold our nation hostage. And, there's no telling what ransom demands that Republicans will ask for in exchange for this temporary extension, or the next one. A small faction of ultra-conservative members of the House are forcing President Obama to choose between economic disaster now, or a future manufactured crisis. In addition, it still leaves Republicans the option of keeping the government shutdown until their ransom demands are met. Some experts believe that a short-term plan is better than the fallout from defaulting on our debt, while others want President Obama to continue the fight. It's extremely important to avoid an economic disaster. But, Americans are exhausted by these back-to-back manufactured crises, and they don't want a short-term deal that simply schedules the next one.
In screwed news... Our nation is starting to feel the pain of the government shutdown. In addition to parks closing, WIC benefits being cut off, and domestic violence shelters running out of funds, now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will shut its doors. That agency announced that Wednesday would be their last full day of operations until a funding bill is passed. In addition, other important agencies, like the one investigating the deadly explosion at a West, Texas fertilizer plant, are having to suspend operations until further notice. Children are being turned away from Head Start early education programs, free health clinics can't operate without the government funding they rely on, and private businesses surrounding parks and monuments have no customers. These important government functions can't happen without the appropriation of funds, yet House Republicans continue to hold out nation hostage. Many on the Right said that Americans would finally have a chance to see that they could survive with a lot less government. However, it appears that plan has backfired, and Americans are seeing just how important government really is.
In the best of the rest of the news...
On Wednesday, President Obama nominated Janet Yellen to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to ever lead the institution. According to the Think Progress Blog, Janet Yellen has many years of experience with central banking. For the past three years, she served as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. She also spent six years as the CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and served on President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers. Although Ms. Yellen's career has included a few questionable decisions, like backing the repeal of Glass-Steagall, she has a solid track record for predicting the next financial crisis. And, she appears to have learned from her past decisions, and hasn't been afraid to change positions. Many experts believe that the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which tore down the wall between traditional banking and investment banking, was a primary factor leading up to the 2008 economic crash. While Janet Yellen supported that decision back in the 1990s, she has said that the financial crash made her "strongly inclined...toward tougher standards and built-in rules that will kick into effect automatically."
The Pittsburgh Steelers will help promote the Affordable Care Act. The Steelers will be the second team to help spread the word about healthcare, despite the fact that the National Football League declined to partner with the White House. The Baltimore Ravens agreed to help boost enrollment back in September. The Obama Administration believes that pairing up with sports teams is a great way to promote the healthcare law, as they can reach a large portion of the population. As the White House is just beginning the enrollment fight, which will continue for at least the next six months, they will need all the help they can get encouraging Americans to sign up. And, it turns out that the NFL players themselves may benefit from the new healthcare law. The NFL's health coverage for former players expires five years after they leave the team, but injuries from the sport left many players denied coverage because of preexisting conditions. Thanks to Obamacare, many former football stars will finally have a chance to purchase insurance, which makes them great spokesmen for the new law.
And finally... On Tuesday, Congressman Alan Grayson took to the floor to call for a government funding bill. Of course, the "congressman with guts" was not timid in how he approached the subject. He said that the ongoing government shutdown "is a mark upon the dignity of the House", and read from a national poll that asked Americans about their opinions of Congress. Representative Grayson quoted the Public Policy Polling survey, and said, "What do you have a higher opinion of? Congress, 32 percent; Witches, 46 percent." The Congressman tried to continue, explaining that Americans like hemorrhoids and dog poo more than they approve of our Congress, but Grayson was cut off by Speaker pro tempore Steve Womack, who was not amused. Congress currently has its lowest approval rating in history, so you can't blame Congressman Alan Grayson for trying to point it out, and shame Republicans into doing something about it.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, October 10, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.