In today’s On the News segment: Five different regulatory agencies are expected to adopt the Volcker Rule; experts say that you shouldn't pay more than 30 percent of your income on housing, but a record number of Americans are doing just that; some of the largest tech companies in our nation are calling for government surveillance reform; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this... Regulators want to start making banking boring again. Today, five different regulatory agencies are expected to adopt the Volcker Rule, which would redraw a line between regular banking and Wall Street gambling. The rule is one of the centerpieces of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, and it is seen as a litmus test for the overall strength of the financial reform law. By rebuilding the wall between banking and investing, regulators hope to reduce the risk of another financial meltdown fueled by Wall Street speculation. The banksters have been fighting against the implementation of the Volcker Rule, but for once, the regulators appear to have gotten their way. This new rule includes some very important changes, like banning banks from trading for their own benefit, requiring hedged risks to be "specific" and "identifiable," and ending the practice of reward CEOs for "prohibited proprietary trading." In other words, it won't be so easy for banksters to make trillions by placing bets against bets against bets, and they won't be able to reward CEOs for illegal activity. But, Wall Street is already searching for loopholes in the proposed law, and they will continue to fight this regulation in court. And, the Volcker Rule is still a far cry from the banking regulations that existed before the repeal of Glass-Steagall. By passing this rule, regulators are proving that they want real Wall Street reform, but they're not going far enough to prevent another financial meltdown. Nearly two years after the 2008 financial crash, Congress passed Dodd-Frank to reign in the banksters, but two-thirds of those regulations have not yet been enacted. To protect the American people, and prevent another banking crash, we need to rebuild the wall between banking and gambling. The Volcker Rule is a start, but we need to bring back Glass-Steagall, and make banking a safe and boring business once again.
In screwed news... Experts say that you shouldn't pay more than 30 percent of your income on housing, but a record number of Americans are doing just that. According to a new study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, more than 20 million people were paying more than a third of their income on rent. And, over 70 percent of those living on $15,000 dollars a year are paying more than half their income. As American wages have stagnated, and more and more people have struggled to survive on poverty wages, the cost of housing has continued to go up. That predicament has left people with no other choice but paying a larger and larger share of their income to put a roof over their heads, which means they have even less money to spend on other things. That means less money for basic necessities, like food and clothing, and it means that people have virtually nothing left over to save or invest. This is just a problem for people trying to get by on poverty wages, it has a broader effect on our entire economy. The solution is simple – continue the fight to ensure that everyone gets paid a living wage.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Some of the largest tech companies in our nation are calling for government surveillance reform. Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, AOL, Twitter, and Yahoo sent an open letter to President Obama demanding big changes in government spying programs. They wrote, "We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent, and subject to independent oversight." These companies have faced a major customer backlash for their compliance with government spying, so they are asking the President to protect our Constitutional right of privacy. These tech giants explain that government surveillance "undermines the freedoms [that] we all cherish." Since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on massive government spying programs, Americans have woken up and demanded reform. In the words of our nation's largest tech companies - "it's time for a change."
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels around our nation are fairly close to yesterday's readings, but the Southeast is reporting higher readings. Taylors, South Carolina is reporting an average of 65 counts per minute, with spikes of 74, and Sharon, Georgia is up around 40, with spikes of 69 counts per minute. In the midwest, Frederic, Wisconsin is hovering at 48 counts per minute, with spikes of 74, and Colorado Springs is sitting at 63, with spikes of 89 counts per minute. In the Southwest, Borger, Texas is averaging 39 counts per minute, with spikes of 65, and Tucson, Arizona is reporting 50 counts per minute, with spikes at 79. And, in the Northwest, Seattle, Washington is hovering at 30, with spikes of 49 counts per minute, and North Portland, Oregon is at 33, with spikes up to 60 counts per minute. RadCast.org reminds us that their alert level is 100 counts per minute, and some areas are spiking closer to that number than they'd like to see.
And finally... The War on Christmas is in full swing, and Florida is the latest battle ground. Governor Rick Scott has approved the installation of an 8-foot tall Festivus pole in front of the Florida State Capitol Building. After learning that there was a nativity manger and Three Wise Men display in front of the Capitol, Florida-resident, and self-proclaimed "militant atheist" Chaz Stevens asked permission to erect her own holiday monument. When Mr. Stevens was asked why he wanted to install the pole, he simply said, "I figured [that] one ridiculous act required another." The 8-foot pole is made up of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans, and it commemorates the parody holiday based on the TV show Seinfield. Fesitvus is celebrated on December 23rd, and it's a non-commercial holiday "for the rest of us" who don't follow typical religious traditions. Regardless of how we feel about Festivus, we should still be thankful to Chaz Stevens for getting Fox so-called News to cover anything besides Obamacare. That is a true holiday miracle.
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, December 10, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.