Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
The Wisconsin recall election was the first major test of the new era in American politics. That new era began in January of 2010 when the US Supreme Court ruled in “Citizens United v. FEC” that the political voice of We The People was no longer as important as the voices of billionaires and transnational corporations. Now we know the result, and it bodes ill for both 2012 and for the tattered future of small-d democracy in our republic. A few of America’s most notorious oligarchs – including the Koch and the DeVos (Amway fortune) billionaires – as well as untraceable millions from donors who could as easily be Chinese government-run corporations as giant “American” companies who do most of their business and keep most of their profits outside the US – apparently played big in this election. I say “apparently” because the Supreme Court has ruled that we no longer have the right to know who is really funding our election commercials, or even our candidates themselves. Thanks to an irrational and likely illegal Supreme Court ruling, we have moved into an era of oligarch-run politics. As much as $40 million of oligarch’s money was spent in Wisconsin in a handful of local races – a testing laboratory for strategies that will now be used against Democrats nationwide in 2012. And so now we enter the battle of the oligarchs over the next fifteen or so months. America is now – demonstrably, as proven by Wisconsin – just a few years away from the possibility of a totally corrupted, totally billionaire- and corporate-controlled political system. Political scientists call it oligarchy. The Citizens United election experiment is over, and the oligarchs won in Wisconsin.
A fourth night of rioting gripped the UK yesterday– and now it’s turned deadly. Three Muslim men were killed last night in Birmingham when they confronted rioters who were closing in on their mosque. Witnesses say the men were protecting the area when they were run over by a car. Unrest has also spread to the cities of Liverpool where a fire station was firebombed – and Manchester where the chief of the Manchester police described the levels of violence in the city as “unprecedented.” Prime Minister David Cameron – whose government passed last year’s austerity measures that triggered these riots – said, “nothing is off the table” for police to confront the rioters. He also spoke to the British people today vowing to clamp down on the unrest. So far 1,100 people have been arrested since the chaos started on Saturday. Meanwhile – other parts of the world are descending into riot. Spain – Greece – Portugal – and Israel are all suffering from civil unrest as more and more people believe their governments are only looking our for the wealthy and not the working class. Not to mention the continued unrest in China and the Middle East. The oligarchs are clamping down all over the world.
In the best of the rest of the news…
After downgrading our nation credit rating because Republican refuse to raise taxes – the S&P credit rating agency had some more bad news for Republicans yesterday. In an interview with CNN – the Director of S&P – John Chambers – was asked if a Republican Balanced Budget Amendment could save our triple-A rating. Chambers immediately threw water on the idea saying, “It would just reduce your flexibility in a crisis.” Speaker of the House John Boehner boasted that he got 98% of what he wanted in the debt-limit deal last week that downgraded our credit – the only thing he didn’t get was a Balanced Budget Amendment. Who knows how bad things would be if he got 100% of what he wanted.
The Tea Party is going extinct. Yesterday – the Koch funded Astroturf Tea Party organization American for Prosperity held an event in Jacksonville, Florida to call for greater off-shore oil drilling in the state – something that will directly benefit the Koch brothers. Turns out though – only 15 people showed up for the rally – just 15 people! The Florida director of American for Prosperity called the turnout “shocking.” Last weekend in St. Louis only 3 people showed up for a Tea Party event. So with the Tea Party disappearing around the country – who exactly are the all-powerful Tea Partiers in Congress representing? Just the Koch brothers – and other billionaire oligarchs in America. It’s a third party made strictly out of corporate cash.
Soaring student loans may be driving our economy off the next cliff. That’s according to Moody’s – the credit rating agency that hasn’t downgraded our government debt…at least not yet. A new report by Moody’s suggests that a record number of college students in America are going deeper and deeper into student loan debt – and can’t find a job to pay it off. While other forms of lending have declined since the recession – student loans are increasing steadily as more and more students choose to stay in school rather than compete in a weak job market where youth unemployment is above 15%. As a result – student loan debt now outweigh credit card debt in America. To make matters worse – the Republican debt-limit plan last week chopped up Pell Grants – forcing student to pay even more for student loans beginning next year. To Republicans – that’s small sacrifice to make sure billionaire corporate jet owners don’t have to pay a few more taxes.
We now know three members of the Gang of 12. Yesterday – Harry Reid announced his picks for the “Super Congress” - the gang of 12 Senators and Representatives who will decide the fate of the Middle Class. Getting the nod – Senators John Kerry – Patty Murray – and Max Baucus. Let’s at least hope that these Senators are listening to a new CNN poll that shows 2/3 of Americans oppose cuts to entitlement programs – and 2/3 of Americans support increasing taxes for the rich. We’ll see if the peoples’ voices are heard this time around – or if the oligarchs hijack the debate again.
And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, August 10th, 2011. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.