In today's On the News segment: Federal workers, who were furloughed during the shutdown, will receive backpay for the time they weren't able to work, but many others won't be so lucky; the state of Oregon has cut its uninsured population by ten percent in just two weeks; Newark Mayor Cory Booker was elected as the fourth African-American to the Senate, and the first since Barack Obama was elected in Illinois; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. The government shutdown may be over, but that doesn't mean that life has returned to normal for many people around our nation. Federal workers, who were furloughed during the shutdown, will receive backpay for the time they weren't able to work, but many others won't be so lucky. And, many businesses, research projects, and government contractors are now struggling to make up for the lost time and income. For example, small businesses that rely on federal clients, like the consultant group Business Management Associates, will likely be paid late on outstanding invoices, and forced to finish projects in much less time. NASA researchers who were conducting experiments may have to re-do preliminary work, which means they may miss their scheduled time to use important equipment. Private contract employees, like line-cook John Anderson, were temporarily laid off during the shutdown, and they now find themselves short on much-needed income. The list of stories like these goes on and on, as we learn about Americans who were hurt during the economic standoff. These are real people, and real businesses, who are suffering because the Tea Party held our government hostage – and they could be hurt even worse if a small faction in Congress is allowed to do this again. The debt limit deal provided a temporary solution to long-term political gridlock, and Congress is tasked with agreeing on a larger deal by December. For the sake of our nation, and for the thousands of Americans suffering because of the Tea Party, our leaders must find a way to prevent this from happening again.
In screwed news... The ever-widening income gap in our nation is now effecting students. According to a new report by the Southern Education Fund, 48 percent of all school children come from low-income families. And, in 17 states, that number is even higher. In comparison, only four states in our nation had similar statistics in the year 2000, indicating a long-term trend of more families living in poverty. Researchers were not specifically trying to identify the number of low-income students, they were analyzing the number of kids who qualified for free or reduced-price lunches when they discovered the shocking statistic. Considering that students can only qualify for those lunches if their families make less than 185 percent of the poverty line, the researchers were able to identify the increase in struggling families. These students aren't just at a disadvantage when it comes to income, but they are more likely to live in poverty as adults, and less likely to be successful in school or later in life. To give students the best possible chance at success, we must start working to lift more families out of poverty.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The state of Oregon has cut its uninsured population by ten percent in just two weeks. That state has enrolled more than 56,000 low-income residents up for health coverage thanks to a fast-track enrollment system that helps people sign up easily. In addition, more than 250,000 food stamp recipients have been notified that they are now eligible for the Oregon Health Plan, which is the name for that state's Medicaid program. This is the type of success that Obamacare is having in states that see the new healthcare law as an important benefit. Rather than blocking the law's Medicaid expansion, or trying to obstruct it in other ways, Oregon fully embraced the Affordable Care Act. And, the amazing results are proof of how successful the law could be if some state lawmakers weren't obstructing it. Oregon's Governor John Kithaber said, "We're showing what's possible when a state is committed to fundamentally changing the health care system to provide better access, better health, and lower costs." Oregon is still having some glitches with their online insurance exchange, but state officials aren't letting that stand in the way of people finally getting access to long-awaited health coverage.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker is the next U.S. Senator from New Jersey. The democratic nominee won in a special election yesterday, beating out Republican candidate Steve Lonegan. The final tally was 55 to 44 percent, making it an overwhelming victory for democrats. Cory Booker is only the fourth African-American to be elected to the Senate, and the first since Barack Obama was elected in Illinois. Despite their frustration with Washington, voters came out to support the famous mayor, who has become a popular figure in politics and social media. In his victory speech, the senator-elect thanked his staff and volunteers, and said, "If you voted for me, I will make you proud. If you didn't vote for me, I will work every day to earn your trust." His victory was also somewhat bitter-sweet, as Mayor Booker's father passed away last week, but was said to be "here in spirit." Now, Cory Booker is off to Washington, where he will fight for the state of New Jersey, and for our nation. He said, "I will bring more voices to the voiceless, and I will be dogged, determined, relentless, and unfaltering in my sense of service to all of New Jersey."
And finally... Not everyone is happy that the government shutdown is over... and I'm not talking about the Tea Party. The White House squirrels were enjoying the fact that gardeners were away from the first lady's organic garden. During the 16-day shutdown, no one was allowed to trim, fertilize, or harvest from the White House garden, so the squirrels helped themselves to a feast. According to one of the gardeners, "the bushy-tailed residents [were] feasting on the ripe Sungolds on the vine, as well as on other tomatoes and peppers littering the ground." Once the staff was furloughed, gardeners said that the squirrels were like "kids in a candy store, gorging themselves" on the organic produce. No word yet on how the squirrels reacted to their 16-day feast coming to an end, but we may have now identified the few DC residents who approved of the Tea Party's obstruction.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, October 18, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.