In today's On the News segment: Economic inequality is a major threat to human progress; the Supreme Court appears ready to deal another blow to unions; the Medicaid expansion is bringing millions of Americans more than just health insurance; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. Economic inequality is a major threat to human progress. According to a new report from Oxfam, 85 people control the same amount of wealth as half the population of the entire world, and the top one percent has 65 times the wealth of the bottom half. This concentration of money gives a few people way too much power over our economic and political systems. Oxfam's “Working for the Few” report says, “Wealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game.” We know that economic inequality is a major issue in our nation, but the Oxfam report shows that this is a actually world-wide problem. Their calling on the attendees of the World Economic Forum to fight this inequality by enacting progressive taxation, instituting a living wage, and pushing governments to provide every citizen with universal healthcare. Oxfam says that it's time for the rich to pay their fair share, and that we must limit their power over government. These are same arguments that many of us have made for decades, however, those at the top have fought hard to hold on to their power. For decades, the wealthy elite have continued to hoard money, and pushed lawmakers around the world to cut education, healthcare, and social services for the rest of us. The rich getting richer hasn't created more jobs or more prosperity, it made a very small number of people more powerful and left half of the world population out in the cold. It's time to turn these ideas into action, take our power back from those at the top, and ignite an era of progress.
In screwed news... The Supreme Court appears ready to deal another blow to unions. On Tuesday, the Court heard arguments in Harris v. Quinn – a case challenging the “agency fees” charged by public sector unions. The unions charge these fees to non-union members who get the benefits of unions bargaining on their behalf. Even though some employees choose not to join the union in their workplace, they still reap the rewards of higher pay, better benefits, and worker protections that those unions negotiate. Without these agency fees, non-union members get a free-ride, and dues will go up for those that opt to join the union. Unfortunately, it looks like our nation's highest court will rule that these fees are unconstitutional. If they do, as Ian Millhiser of The Think Progress Blog explains – that “could potentially set off a death spiral” for unions. We may not be able to stop the Supreme Court from ruling against unions, but we can try to make their decision irrelevant by joining or forming unions, and voluntarily paying all our union dues.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Medicaid expansion is bringing millions of Americans more than just health insurance. In the states that haven't refused to expand health insurance for low-income residents, Medicaid is also bringing people a new peace of mind. Thanks to the expansion, many newly-insured Americans no longer have to worry whether they can afford much-needed medical care, and no longer face the stress of living with out it. People like Sharon Mills, a disabled nurse with Type 1 diabetes, can finally get the medication she needs to deal with her illness, and she says, “the heaving thing that was pressing on me is gone.” For far too long, people have gone without much-needed medical care, and they've been forced to live under the constant stress of worrying. The Medicaid expansion is changing lives for millions of Americans, and we must push to bring this relief to all our citizens – including those who live in Red states.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are still spiking way above average in several areas today.
They say to avoid being outside where levels are over 100 counts per minute, and wash off pets after they have been outside. Asheville, North Carolina is averaging 36 counts per minute, with spikes of 86, and Shreveport, Louisiana is sitting at 32, with highs of 147 counts per minute. Lakewood, Colorado is hovering at 65 counts per minute, with spikes of 107, and Spearfish, South Dakota is averaging 48, with highs of 109 counts per minute. Henderson, Nevada is sitting at 47 counts per minute, with spikes of 76, and Turlock, California is reporting 40 counts per minute, with highs of 67. RadCast.org
's alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
Texas residents from a rural community north of Fort Worth are calling for an immediate ban on fracking. On Tuesday, dozens of people from Azle, Texas protested at a Texas Railroad Commission hearing at the state capital, saying that the 30 earthquakes they've had since November are the direct result of hydraulic fracturing. Reno Mayor Lynda Stokes told the commission, “No disrespect, but this isn't rocket science here. Common sense tells you [that] the wells are playing a big role in this.” Last year, research found links between fracking and similar earthquakes in Ohio, and these Texas residents don't want to wait on new studies before action is taken in their state. Sharon Wilson of the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project said, “If Texas regulators want to show that they're not owned by the oil and gas industry, act now. Study later.”
And finally... Sean Hannity is not a fan of New York's new Governor. Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that “extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, [and] anti-gay” aren't welcome in his state. On Tuesday, Hannity fumed about those comments on his radio show, and announced that he's moving. He said, “I can't wait to sell my house to somebody who wants it. I can't wait to pay no state income tax down in Florida or Texas.” We'll have to wait and see whether Hannity will follow through with his threat to leave the Empire State, but I bet that there are plenty of New Yorkers who would be happy to help him pack.
And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, January 22, 2014. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.