In today's On the News segment: Last year, median CEO pay jumped to $10.5 million, an increase of about 13 percent, however most workers didn't see their paychecks go up by a single dime; corporate lobbyists say that most Americans support the Trans Pacific Partnership, but it turns out that their claims are a bunch of hype; Oregon state Sen. Mark Hass says, "Higher education for kids should not break families down"; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News
You need to know this. Last year, median CEO pay jumped to $10.5 million – an increase of about 13 percent. However, most workers didn't see their paychecks go up by a single dime. According to an analysis by USA Today, corporate executives scored huge pay bumps thanks to big gains in the stock market. But, earnings for average workers stayed pretty much stagnant – only increasing 1.4 percent in all of 2012. According to the myth of Reaganomics, when those at the top make tons of money, some of that wealth should trickle down to the rest of us. But, for more than three decades, we've seen how that could not be farther from the truth. Last year, degenerate gamblers on Wall Street made 20 billionaires $81 billion dollars richer, but that did nothing to boost our real economy, or provide more financial security for the average American. Our economy is so rigged that the very banksters who crashed our economy – and the CEOs who pay workers poverty wages – continue to be rewarded, while hard-working Americans can't even keep up with the cost of living. If we don't change this system, the billionaires will keep raking in hoards of cash, and we can kiss the American Dream goodbye forever. As it stands, the middle class is shrinking day by day, and the super-rich control the very lawmakers who should be working to protect us. We need to get money out of politics. We need to ensure that workers share in our nation's prosperity. We need to stop rewarding the very folks who've rigged the system. That's why we need progressive policies that will strengthen the middle class, stand up to the banksters, and rebuild the American Dream.
Progressive groups just had a week of action for better wages! According to Americans United For Change, last Monday, state lawmakers in 20 states and the Progressive States Network kicked off a week of action to raise the minimum wage. Americans United For Change's Brad Woodhouse, said "The issue of the minimum wage is pretty simple, if you work full-time in America you should not be living in poverty. This is something so obvious to most of us – so fundamentally decent and so clearly in line with what the American people want – that it's hard to believe we have to have this call, to have a campaign, to have a bus tour to convince Republicans to do the right thing." Let's just hope that the week of protests, bus tours, and rallies was enough to make lawmakers finally act on minimum wage.
Corporate lobbyists say that most Americans support the Trans Pacific Partnership, but it turns out that their claims are a bunch of hype. Back in February, two pro-TPP lobbying groups deceptively worded poll questions so that they could claim that 80 percent of Americans support this massive trade agreement. According to the magazine, In These Times, the lobbying groups, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable, never specifically mentioned the Trans Pacific Partnership, or the controversial "Fast-Track" authority that would cut Congress out of negotiating any details of that agreement. The poll asked respondents misleading questions like, "Do you support the United States negotiating trade agreements to open foreign markets for America-made goods and services to ensure fair and enforceable rules for U.S. trade with other countries?" No where in that poll did they ask whether people support more American jobs being shipped over seas, or whether Americans want to compete with the slave wages of foreign workers. And, these lobbyists certainly didn't explain how they know the agreement includes "fair and enforceable rules" when the whole thing has been negotiated in secret. These so-called polls are nothing but hype, and we need to make sure that our lawmakers know how we really feel about the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Documents discovered by Nashville's News Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams apparently show that millions of dollars in tax incentives were used as leverage to keep Volkswagen workers from joining a union. And, United Auto workers' Gary Casteel said that the documents show that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam's administration took part in coordinating the anti-union campaign. Of course, the governor has denied this, but these documents are said to be damning. News Channel 5 also says that they have emails showing that Senator Bob Corker's chief of staff worked with anti-union organizations to influence the outcome of that vote. Even before these discoveries, the United Auto Workers had asked the National Labor Relations Board to overturn the outcome of that election. This new information has only strengthened their argument that politicians actively worked to negatively impact that vote. No one should get away with conspiring against workers, and hopefully the NLRB will agree that these politicians don't have the right to block the Volkswagen union.
And finally... Oregon state Senator Mark Hass says, "Higher education for kids should not break families down." More and more students are graduating college with mountains of debt, and Senator Hass wanted to do something about it. So, he sponsored recent legislation in his state to make community college free for Oregon high school graduates. Hass explained that in previous generations, Oregonians could earn a decent living with only a high school education, but these days, even jobs in manufacturing and the service sector require some technical training. Free community college makes it possible for students to get the training they need, without facing a lifetime of debt. And, Senator Hass says that this change also means cost savings for middle-class families whose kids can attend two years of college for free before transferring to a four-year university. Oregon joins Tennessee, where Governor Bill Haslam has also put forward a plan to provide free community college, and other states have considered similar measures in recent years. Lawmakers are finally realizing that higher education should a right, not a privilege, and hopefully more of them will be brave enough to do something about that.
And that's the way it is - for the week of April 14, 2014 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.