In today's On the News segment: A coalition of public interest groups wants Congress to stop the Trans Pacific Partnership; the cost of Tea Party obstruction keeps getting bigger; Bank of America was found liable for mortgage fraud, but don't expect any banksters to go to jail; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. A coalition of public interest groups wants Congress to stop the Trans Pacific Partnership. The groups sent a letter to several ranking members of Congress, asking them to deny President Obama's request to fast-track the T.P.P., and hold on to their Constitutional authority to oversee trade deals. The letter is signed by 14 organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amnesty International, and the Free Press Action Fund. They argue that the massive trade deal has been negotiated in "near-total secrecy," and say that public concerns about the agreement have been marginalized. In addition to a massive increase in unbridled international trade, which poses a serious threat to American jobs, the TPP includes several speech-restricting provision that the public has already rejected. And, a leaked version of the trade deal indicated that corporate interests are being put ahead of public concerns. In their letter, the coalition wrote, "Corporations cannot be the only interests represented in this agreement, since they do not advocate for policies that safeguard or even represent the interests of the public at large." Many public interest advocates have demanded that the Trans Pacific Partnership be completely blocked. This latest coalition is simply asking that Congress make negotiations transparent, and ensure Americans have access to the details of the plan. They wrote, "The American public has a right to know the contents of the international agreements its government is crafting." This trade deal could have a dramatic impact on the American people, yet we're being kept in the dark about what it contains. Thankfully, some groups are standing up for our right to know the details of the TPP.
In screwed news... The cost of Tea Party obstruction keeps getting bigger. A new report from the White House's Council of Economic Advisers states that the government shutdown cost our nation about 120,000 jobs – in addition to the 900,000 jobs we've already lost because of perpetual manufactured crises. And, that these numbers could still "underestimate the full economic effects of the episode to the degree it continues to have an effect." Even though the government has been reopened, the decline in consumer and business confidence could still cost us more jobs and economic output. While earlier analysis focused on the decline in the so-called "Weekly Economic Index," the CEA report examined the actual performance of our economy during the shutdown. They found that "a range of indicators show that sentiment, job creation, consumption, and some elements of production grew more slowly in the first half of October than in previous months." And, the damage could have a lasting effect. The Tea Party held our government hostage to get their way, but it looks like all they got was what they deserve – the blame for damaging our economy.
In the best of the rest of the news...
On Wednesday, Bank of America was found liable for mortgage fraud, but don't expect any banksters to go to jail. The Department of Justice says they will seek about $850 million dollars in settlements, to recover the government's losses from fraudulent mortgages sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, Senator Elizabeth Warren says that fines are not enough. In a letter to Wall Street regulators, Warren said it's time to punish the people responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown. She wrote, "There have been some landmark settlements in recent weeks for which your agencies and others deserve substantial credit. However, a great deal of work remains to be done to hold institutions and individuals accountable for breaking the rules, and to protect consumers and taxpayers from future violations." Senator Warren highlighted that fact that although there had been some prosecutions of small mortgage brokers, and a few settlements with other institutions, there has not been a single CEO thrown in jail. And none of the people who caused the 2008 crash have faced criminal charges. She made clear that letting them off the hook is not acceptable. The American people want to see the banksters held accountable, and Senator Elizabeth Warren is fighting to make that happen.
The city of Chicago is making it easier to go green. At a solar energy event this week, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel announced that the Windy City is cutting the red tape for people who want solar panels. It used to take about a month for people to get a permit to install solar panels, but that is being cut down to one day. And, the price of the permit will be cut by 25%. All this and more is being done thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, and it's explained at a new website called Chicago Solar Express. Mayor Emmanuel said that the program will "encourage more and more people to have solar here in the city of Chicago on a residential and commercial level." And, he said, "It will be cheaper, quicker, and more efficient for people to put solar in." More and more cities around our nation are encouraging the use of renewable energy, by making it easier and more affordable for local residents. Little by little, programs like this are transforming our nation, and helping us kick the habit of toxic fossil fuels. This is great news for the city of Chicago, now let's make it happen everywhere.
And finally... The business community is not happy with Ted Cruz. Recently, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donahue was asked about Cruz, and he had some very interesting thoughts about the freshman senator. Although Donahue is no fan of Obamacare, he said that Cruz and other Republicans should work on actual results, rather than political grandstanding. In other words, the Chamber president essentially said it's great that Ted Cruz wants to stand up for so-called Republican values, but it means nothing if he can't get anything done. One reporter asked Donahue, "People are assuming that the business community would kind of like him to sit down and shut up." And Donahue replied, "Well, that might be one thing we could work on." Well said Mr. Donahue, perhaps Senator Cruz should work on that.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, October 234, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.