In today's On the News segment: The richest 400 people in our nation have as much wealth as the entire African-American population in the United States; almost 50 years ago, the federal government declared that everyone had the right to vote; even if you're not a sports fan, you may have a reason to celebrate this year's Super Bowl; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. The richest 400 people in our nation have as much wealth as the entire African-American population in the United States. According to a new analysis by Bob Lord of the Institute for Policy Studies, the so-called "Forbes 400" has as much wealth as 41 million people. Mr. Lord called this stunning statistic, "Dr. King's Nightmare." Wealth inequality is a huge issue in our country, but the racial wealth divide is even worse. While the home-ownership rate for White Americans is over 73 percent, only 43 percent of African-Americans and 47 percent of Lations own their property. This persistent divide between whites and minorities is the long-lasting result of our nation's history of discrimination, and it persists because many of these deep-rooted policies are engrained in our society. Decades of racial disparity have kept minorities from catching up financially, and the most recent recession erased many of their modest economic gains. Those at the top have continued to hoard billions and concentrate wealth, while the net worth of African-Americans and Latinos has actually shrunk. The median wealth for White Americans is $97,000, while African-American families average less than $5,000. People can claim that racism is dead in American, and that Dr. Martin Luther King's Dream has been fulfilled – but these facts show otherwise. Our kids may drink from the same water fountains these days, but their families still have different opportunities based on the color of their skin. It's been more than 50 years since Dr. King dreamed of a better future for our nation, and it's about time that we start living up to it.
In screwed news... Almost 50 years ago, the federal government declared that everyone had the right to vote. However, Republicans in North Carolina have managed to undo much of that work in the mere five years that they've had control of the legislature. African-Americans were guaranteed the right to vote with the passing of the Voting Rights Act and the 24th Amendment, although many still had to fight to cast a ballot. After decades of fighting, minorities finally has equal access to the polls, and by 2009, North Carolina had made huge gains in minority turnout. Thanks to Republicans, that has all changed. Right-wing legislators enacted a strict voter ID law, which disproportionately harmed black and minority voters. They ended Sunday voting – which always had a high African-American turnout – and they prohibited paying canvassing organizations to get more people registered to vote. Republicans know that their policies typically alienate minority voters, so they're doing everything that can to keep these people from the polls. Our nation fought for decades to end these discriminatory laws, and we can't let Republicans return to the era of Jim Crow.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Even if you're not a sports fan, you may have a reason to celebrate this year's Super Bowl. According to the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee, this year's event will be the "greenest Super Bowl ever." All of the oil waste from that day will be converted into biodiesel, and all food scraps will be turned into compost. With 200 restaurants serving up to 100,000 people – that's a lot of clean fuel and compost. In addition, New Jersey's largest utility company, Public Service Electric & Gas, will buy one renewable energy certificate for each megawatt hours of electricity used during the event. They say that they'll be buying 240 solar energy certificates and 5,700 wind certificates to offset electricity used for the big game. We don't know yet which team will come out on top in this year's Super Bowl, but it looks like our environment is already a winner.
According to RadCast.org, there was a fire over the weekend at Harris Nuclear Power Plant in North Carolina, but of course, officials say it poses no risk to residents. Radiation levels near that plant seem to be normal, but RadCast will be keeping a close eye on the area, just in case. Durham, North Carolina is reporting levels of 32 counts per minute, with spikes of 54, and Hellertown, Pennsylvania is averaging 52, with highs of 81 counts per minute. Lakewood, Colorado is sitting at 64 counts per minute, with spikes of 91, and Phoenix, Arizona is hovering at 43, with highs of 70 counts per minute. Oakland, California is reporting 29 counts per minute, with spikes of 53, and Seattle, Washington is averaging 30, with highs of 48 counts per minute. RadCast.org's alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no safe level of radiation.
President Obama says that pot is less dangerous than alcohol. Although many Americans have argued that point for decades, this is the first time that our President agreed. In an interview with the New Yorker, President Obama also spoke about the disproportionate impact that cannabis prohibition has had on minority youth. He said, "Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do. And, African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties." Addressing this point is important, and now it's time to legalize pot, enact some reasonable regulations, and keep our kids out jail for smoking a joint.
And finally... In December of last year, the city council of Shreveport, Louisiana banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But, right-wing councilman Ron Webb said that he opposed the law because, "The Bible tells you that homosexuals are an abomination." Mr. Webb drafted a measure to repeal the legislation, prompting Pamela Raintree, a transgender woman from Shreveport, to stand up for equality in her community. She showed up at a City Council meeting, and read the Bible right back to Mr. Webb. She quoted from Leviticus and said, "I brought the first stone, Mr. Webb, in case your Bible talk isn't just a smoke screen for personal prejudices." Wouldn't you know it... moments later, Mr. Webb withdrew his measure without even calling for a vote. Well done Miss Raintree, well done.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, January 20, 2014. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.