In today's On the News segment: More and more food pantries are popping up at universities all around our nation; the "Give America a Raise" bus tour kicked off in Bangor, Maine; a basic minimum income makes sense economically, and it could lead to important social benefits too; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News
You need to know this. All around the world, people are talking about a basic minimum income, and what they're saying makes a lot of economic sense. Regardless of whether you want to fight poverty, stimulate the economy, shrink the size of government, or simply ensure everyone has a sense of human dignity – you should be calling for a no-strings-attached basic income for all. Since it's inception, Social Security has been incredibly successful at fighting poverty. So rather than slashing it, or means-testing it, we should expand it to every American. In addition to helping low-income workers, a basic income would provide a huge boost to our economy. When people have money to spend, demand increases, and businesses see faster growth and higher profits. Even those who believe that the size of government is our biggest problem should be all-in-favor of a minimum income for all Americans. Rather than administering a huge patchwork of overlapping social programs, our nation could save time and money by simply issuing every citizen a monthly check. A basic minimum income makes sense economically, and it could lead to important social benefits too. Crime rates would likely decrease because people wouldn't need to steal to survive. More Americans would have the opportunity to raise families or complete their education when they're not working three jobs just to get by. And, a minimum income would ensure that no one would be denied their basic human dignity by being forced to live in squalor in the richest nation of the face of the Earth. These are not extreme ideas. When you consider the economic, social, and moral benefits, a basic minimum income just makes sense.
This week, the organization Americans United for Change hit the road to call out lawmakers who refuse to raise the minimum wage. The "Give America a Raise" bus tour kicked off in Bangor, Maine on Monday, and the 16-ton, 45-foot long billboard on wheels will be making its way to Washington, DC over the next week and a half. During their trip, the bus tour will be stopping in front of the offices of several Republican lawmakers who would rather hand out corporate welfare than help rebuild the American middle class. The tour is being co-sponsored by several labor groups and social welfare organizations, like the SEIU, the UAW, the National Employment Law Project, and various others. These organizations are calling on Congress to support President Obama's plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The tour will be stopping in cities from New Hampshire to West Virginia, and you can come out to join the fight for higher pay. The vast majority of Americans agree that no one who works full time should live in poverty. This bus tour is a great way to show up, stand together, and tell our lawmakers that it's time to give America a raise.
Getting a college education has become so expensive that students are turning to food banks to fill the gap. In fact, the problem is so common that more and more food pantries are popping up at universities all around our nation. According to the organization College Board, tuition rates at private universities have increased 14 percent over the past five years. When you factor in costs like books, housing, and other necessities, it's easy to understand why some students are forced to choose between learning and eating. To make matters worse, most college students don't qualify for food stamps. In response to this growing problem, Nate Smith-Tyge co-founded the College and University Food Bank Alliance. His organization represents about 50 university food banks, and he says that many more schools are opening food pantries to help students. Although it's great news that schools and individuals are stepping up to help struggling students, once again we are treating the symptom rather than fixing the problem. Students shouldn't have to take on mountains of debt, or go without a hot meal, to pay for an education in the richest country in the world. Higher education should be a right, not a privilege, and letting someone go hungry should not be acceptable under any circumstances.
Labor unions are known for protecting workers, raising wages, and standing up to corporate power. But, there are many social benefits for organized labor that go far beyond the workplace. In Seattle, teachers joined together to fight against standardized testing, and they sparked a nationwide movement to provide all kids with a better education. Education advocates and teachers unions from all over our country were inspired by the Seattle teachers, and began speaking out against ineffective standardized testing. The movement, which is being called the "Education Spring," argues that these tests waste countless hours in the classroom, demoralize students, reduce time for teachers to focus on the arts, and provide an inaccurate measurement of student and teacher performance. Without the solidarity among teachers, it's possible that this movement would not have made it past Seattle. These teachers simply want to make sure that our children get the best education possible, and labor groups are helping these educators be heard.
And finally... Extreme Republican policies in North Carolina sparked the now-well-known Moral Monday protests. Demonstrators came out in droves to protest the Republican attack on unions, the war on women, and the Red-state refusal to expand Medicaid to the poor. Well, as those extreme policies have spread throughout other states, the protests are spreading right along with them. Similar actions are now taking place in Georgia and South Carolina, and groups are starting to form in Florida, Alabama, and Wisconsin. People are standing up and speaking out in all of these states, and they're demanding an end to extreme right-wing policies in their states. You may not see much about these groups in the corporate-owned media, but don't be fooled. All around the country, people are fighting for progressive ideas, and the media cannot ignore them forever.
And that's the way it is - for the week of March 24, 2014 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.