Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. The Tea Party got what they wanted on Friday – our nation’s credit rating was downgraded. For the first time in American history – the S&P credit rating agency stripped us of our AAA credit rating – signaling that the United States is now a less safe investment than most of Europe, Canada, and Singapore. S&P then warned there is a 1 in 3 chance that our rating could be downgraded again. The White House blasted S&P’s decision – arguing the agency made a two trillion dollar mistake looking at the numbers – and noting that S&P has a history of bad ratings dating back to the 2008 financial crisis when they gave junk bonds a solid AAA rating. But looking at the actual S&P report – it’s clear this downgrade has little to do with our actual debt and spending habits – it was, as John Kerry said, a "Tea Party downgrade." As the report read, the downgrade came because, “The majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.” The act S&P is referring to is last week’s debt-limit deal in which Speaker of the House John Boehner bragged he got 98% of what he wanted. Sure – the United States is still fiscally the safest bet in town. But now that the Tea Party has signaled to the rest of the world that they will use our debt as a political tool and threaten default just to push their right-wing agenda – our word is in question. This debt downgrade didn’t occur on Barack Obama’s watch – it occurred on John Boehner’s. Time to buckle up and prepare for a wild ride on Wall Street – the Republicans plan to crash the economy is in full swing.
Looking closer at last week’s unemployment numbers – that showed a 17th straight month of private sector job creation – it looks like Republican Governors are contributing to the jobs crisis more than anyone else. 24 states around the country – the ones primarily controlled by Republican Governors and state legislatures – have slashed state government spending and laid off hundreds of thousands of public sector workers – dragging down the unemployment rate. Even though the private sector created 154,000 jobs last month – 37,000 mostly-state government workers lost their jobs. And since June of 2009 – well over one million federal, state, and local government workers have been kicked out of their jobs thanks to Republican spending cuts. If these people still had a job – unemployment would be down to 8.4% instead of above 9% like it is today. No nation in the history of the world has ever cut its way to prosperity – yet cutting is all Republicans will do – and it’s screwing American.
In the best of the rest of the news…
Saturday was the single deadliest day ever for American troops in Afghanistan – our nation’s longest war. A NATO helicopter with 38 people board was shot down by Taliban insurgents – killing 31 American soldiers and 7 Afghan soldiers. Among the 31 Americana killed were 22 Navy SEALs – many of who participated in the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden back in May. A decade into the war – it’s becoming increasingly clear that a prolonged US military engagement in the region is not producing peace and stability – but more violence and death. It’s time to pack up and send our soldiers home.
45,000 Verizon workers are on strike today – demanding better benefits and working conditions. New labor contract negotiations hit a wall over the weekend – forcing nearly a fifth of Verizon’s entire workforce to hit the picket lines. As the Communications Workers of America union said about the impasse, “Verizon continues to seek to strip away 50 years of collective bargaining gains for middle-class workers and their families." Verizon claims the company is in decline and any new labor contract, must reflect, “today’s economic realities.” But the reality is that in the second quarter of this year – Verizon’s profits were up to 2.8% - and the company raked in more than $27 billion. This all about taking pay from working people and jacking up CEO pay – that’s why unions are so important.
Civil unrest is hitting the UK. Over the weekend – a massive riot in Tottenham left police cars, buildings, and a double-decker bus on fire – as well as several stores looted – and 26 police officers injured. The youth-led riot was in response to the death of a local man who was shot by police – but reflects an underlying desperation among young people in the area who have been hardest hit by the austerity agenda passed by the UK government last year. With deep spending cuts – and government layoffs – youth services are drying up and unemployment numbers among young people are skyrocketing. As one rioter said, "This is the ghetto, this is the slums, they don't care about us…There's no jobs ... but still they want to cut benefits…There's injustice and we've had enough." Now that similar austerity has hit America thanks to Republican spending cuts – expect similar social unrest to follow.
No Child Left Behind has been left behind. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is exempting states from having to comply with George W. Bush's signature piece of education-reform. That law put public schools in a free-market-style competition with each other for federal dollars, as if the commons of our public schools should be run like a for-profit business, and Secretary Duncan called the program a, “slow-motion train wreck.” Big surprise coming from the legacy of George W. Bush.
Crazy Alert! Sarcasm hits the Internet. In an effort to bring greater clarity to future online conversations – three New York interns have created a new font called “Sartalics.” Responding to the numerous times that someone tries to be sarcastic on the internet but gets burned because it’s impossible to pick up on their tone when reading it off a computer screen – sartalics is a useful tool to let people know that you don’t actually mean what you just wrote. By simply putting your sarcastic comment in between two back-slashes – your words will slant to the left – that way whoever you’re chatting with online knows you are saying the exact opposite of what you just wrote. But I can see a bunch of other uses for Sartalics. From now on – every single piece of legislation that Republicans claim will help create jobs and improve the economy could be written in Sartalics.
And that’s the way it is today – Monday, August 8th, 2011. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.