You need to know this. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he opposes giving the President new fast-track powers. In his the State of the Union, President Obama asked Congress to work on “tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority” - the name of proposed fast-track legislation. However, on Wednesday when asked about it, Harry Reid said “I'm against fast track.” Reid told reporters that he would not guarantee floor time for the proposal, saying “everyone would be well advised not to push this right now.” So, does this mean that the TPP is as good as dead? The middle class is toast unless we radically rethink our country’s trade policy. And the best way to start rethinking our trade policy is to ditch the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. For over 200 years after the founding of the Republic - our economy was built on a system of tariffs. Everything worked fine until the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan abandoned the system of tariffs that had worked so well for centuries and ushered in the golden era of so-called “free-trade.” Nixon had already put the United States on the "free-trade" path in the 1970s - but things really took off in the Reagan years. Every President since, including Democrats like Bill Clinton, has followed Reagan's lead by slashing tariffs and signing us on to free-trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA. This has been a disaster for the American working people and that disaster would worsen under the TPP. If President Obama doesn’t get fast tracking powers it’s going to be very hard - maybe even impossible for him to get Congress to pass the TPP. Democrats and Republicans alike oppose the deal, and without party leadership on board, getting the TPP through Congress will cost a lot of what remaining political capital he has left. Thankfully, Harry Reid who is a former boxer, may have just given the TPP a knockout punch.
In screwed news...
A shortage of lethal injection drugs has many lawmakers thinking about bringing back more brutal forms of execution like gas chambers and firing squads. At 10:20 PM two nights ago, the state of Missouri executed 56-year-old Herbert Smulls - a convicted murderer. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had granted him a stay of execution. Smulls and his legal team argued that the drug cocktail Missouri planned on using to kill him would cause unnecessary suffering, in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. However, The Supreme Court rescinded its stay yesterday afternoon. Smulls' case highlights a growing problem in the American justice system. Many of the companies that make the drugs used in lethal injection executions have stopped selling those drugs to prisons because they don't want them used to kill people. This has created a shortage of lethal injection drugs. As a result, death penalty states like Missouri have started experimenting with new lethal drug cocktails - cocktails that many civil rights activists say cause more painful deaths than the normal lethal injection drugs. The shortage also has state lawmakers across the country talking about abandoning lethal injection altogether and bringing back more brutal forms of punishment like firing squads and gas chambers. Instead of moving backwards, this could be the moment that Americans finally wake up and realize that the death penalty needs to be banned for good.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Senate appears ready to reverse $6 billion in cuts to veterans' benefits that were part of the December 2013 budget deal. After Congress passed the spending plan, which cut cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees, veterans groups voiced their opposition to the Congressional action in a mass-mobilization. Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, is proposing a broad measure that would restore the cut benefits and expand their access to health and educational benefits. According to The National Journal, Senator Sander's legislation got a “leg up” on Wednesday when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took steps to bring it to the floor for debate. Keep up the great work, Senator Sanders!
According to RadCast.org, cameras at the crippled Fukushima Nuclear power plant showed leaking from reactor number 2 a few days ago, and that radiation is now making it's way to the United States. Seattle, Washington is reporting 31 counts per minute, with spikes of 60, and Fresno, California is averaging 41, with highs of 69 counts per minute. Frederick, Wisconsin is sitting at 47 counts per minute, with spikes of 75, and Layton, Utah is hovering at 47, with highs of 73 counts per minute. Chandler, Arizona is reporting 49 counts per minute, with spikes of 77, and Lakewood Colorado is sitting at 73, with highs all the way up to 139 counts per minute. Paso Robles, California is hovering at 40 counts per minute, with spikes of 102, and Rapid City, South Dakota is averaging 45, with highs of 68 counts per minute. RadCast.org's alert level is 100 counts per minute, however they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
And finally... Billionaires are being bullied. At least that's what Tom Perkins thinks. Perkins, who is a billionaire venture capitalist, penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last week where he compared "the progressive war on the American one percent" and "demonization of the rich" to the policies of Nazi Germany. Not surprisingly, Perkins received widespread criticism for his comments. But not from Conservative columnist and Fox So-Called News talking head Michelle Malkin. In her syndicated column Malkin wrote that, "Perkins barely scratched the surface of the War on Wealth that has spread under the Obama regime.” She added that, "The deadliest threats come from the men in power in Washington who stoke bottomless hatred against "millionaires and billionaires.” It's high time to shame the wealth-shamers and their cowed enablers. Silence is complicity.” It's hard to understand how record high profits, a skyrocketing stock market and sweetheart trade deals amount to a “war on wealth”, but reality is not Michelle Malkin's strong suit.
And that’s the way it is today – Friday, January 31, 2014. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.