In today's On the News segment: In the richest nation on Earth, tens of millions of Americans are struggling to find enough to eat; should our government have a "kill switch" to turn off cell phone communication?; billionaires in the US are fine with exploiting workers, but Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim wants to strengthen the Latino middle class; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. In the richest nation on Earth, tens of millions of Americans are struggling to find enough to eat. According to the new "Hunger in America" report from the organization Feeding America, 46.5 million people in our country rely on food assistance programs to survive. As if that isn't bad enough, one out of five families who need assistance include a current or former member of the military, and forty percent of these households include a child. Despite these staggering statistics, food assistance programs like SNAP have been hit with massive cuts in recent years, and many people aren't even told that they're eligible for benefits. Many people are turning to food charities to find enough to eat, but those programs are stretched far beyond their capabilities. In fact, these charities are so over-extended, that one in six is worried that they may have to shut down. The "Hunger in America" report shows exactly how dire the situation is in our nation. The authors explain that more than 50 percent of families who use food assistance are forced to eat expired food, about 35 percent have had to sell belongings to eat, and almost 80 percent have to buy cheap, unhealthy food just to survive. Those who do qualify for nutrition assistance are not fairing much better. One in five households who receive food stamps say that they use their entire monthly benefit with a week. Republicans in Congress have no trouble finding the money for bombs and tax cuts and corporate welfare, but they can't seem to find an extra cent to feed hungry Americans. This is not how the wealthiest nation on earth should treat its citizens. It's time to stand up for our fellow Americans. Before Congress authorizes one more dollar for war profiteers or oil companies, we must demand that they make sure every American has enough to eat.
Should our government have a "kill switch" to turn off cell phone communication? Well, if you live in California, that may soon be reality. Last week, the legislature in that state passed a bill requiring all new smartphones to include the ability to remotely render them inoperable. Although the measure was introduced as an effort to fight against smartphone theft, the Center for Democracy & Technology warns that this "kill switch" could also be used to disrupt protests. The new law includes a provision that allows the government to shut down cell phone communication with court approval, and an "emergency" exception that allows officials to bypass the courts. During the Arab Spring in the Middle East, we saw how smartphones and social media connected protesters and strengthened a movement. And, the past few weeks in Ferguson, Missouri have shown how social media and cell phone cameras are just as important here in the United States. No government should have the power to limit communications between its citizens, especially not here in the "home of the free." Our Constitution guarantees the right of free speech and free exchange of ideas, and we must say "no" to any kill switch bill that threatens these important rights.
Billionaires in the United States are fine with exploiting workers, but Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim wants to strengthen the Latino middle class. Last week, Mr. Slim gave a speech to the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders, and said more must be done to help Latino workers and businesses. Among his proposals, Slim suggested a three-day work week, and increased access to funding to help Latino-owned companies grow and expand. He said, "What is important is that people earn more and that more middle classes are formed," and he called for strengthening health care and education systems. Carlos Slim knows that when working people are thriving, economies thrive too, and that there's still plenty of opportunity for wealthy people like him to make a fortune. These suggestions are important for Latinos and other minorities, but they're also important for all working people. Let's build a stronger middle class for all workers by investing in our education system, our infrastructure, and our future.
For-profit universities lure students in with promises of an education. However, it turns out most of them only deliver higher debt and worthless degrees. A new study by the organization CALDER found that graduates of for-profit universities have no better chance at getting an interview than people who never even went to college. The researchers sent out about 9,000 fake resumes to businesses and found "little evidence of a benefit to listing a for-profit college relative to no college at all." Community college grads actually fared a little better off, but the authors of the study said that the difference was too small to draw a conclusion. However, these for-profit universities often charge students much higher tuition, and use private funding that excludes students from federal repayment assistance programs. It's immoral that any organization – including our government – should make a profit off of students trying to work for a better future. It's time to invest in our students and stand up to these predatory for-profit universities.
And finally... Another state's gay-marriage ban has been ruled unconstitutional. Last week, a federal judge in Florida ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was "an obvious pretext for discrimination." The case involved 22 individuals who sued after that state refused to recognize their marriages, or failed to provide them with marriage licenses. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle sided with the plaintiffs, and wrote, "The institution of marriage survived when bans on interracial marriage were struck down, and the institution will survive when bans on same-sex marriage are struck down." In response to those who argued that allowing gay couples to marry would somehow destroy opposite-sex marriage, Judge Hinkle wrote, "Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts." In state after state, these bans are being struck down all throughout our nation. Although some are being appealed, the overall progress shows that sooner or later, every person, in every state, will be able to marry the person who they love.
And that's the way it is - for the week of August 25, 2014 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.