In today's On the News segment: In the five years since the Citizens United decision was made, some alarming trends have emerged; here in the US, we're known for working hard, but some of us may be working ourselves right into an early grave; most lawmakers refuse to fight for single-payer health care, but most voters say that they should; and more.
Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. It's been five years since the United States Supreme Court made their infamous ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC. That ruling turned a century of legal precedent on its head with the declaration that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend money in elections. And, that ruling opened the floodgates to massive spending in our political process. In the five years since the Citizens United decision was made, some alarming trends have emerged, and they show exactly why that ruling was disastrous for our democracy. According to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, three of these dangerous trends were foreseen by the justices, but virtually ignored nonetheless. In the election cycles since the ruling, we've seen "a tidal wave of dark money," despite the Supreme Court's claim that "prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable." And, those shareholders - the ones that our Supreme Court said would hold corporations accountable - have had a difficult time standing up to corporate spending that they know nothing about. In between elections, wealthy donors and corporations found new ways to collaborate with so-called outside groups, and work around regulations that limit direct campaign contributions. The Supreme Court claimed that those remaining regulations would prevent corruption, but donors simply went around them and continued trying to weaken them further. In the last five years, the rich and the powerful have found new ways to buy off our politicians and they've made it possible for lawmakers to ignore everyone except those at the top. In 2014 alone, the top 100 donors to Super PACs spent almost as much as 4.75 million small donors combined. There is just no other way to say it - the Citizens United ruling gave the rich control of our democracy and it's up to us to take it back. We must get money out of politics - go to MoveToAmend.org to find out how.
School districts all around our country are doing more to make sure kids aren't going hungry. Thanks to a pilot program running in 13 states, more than 1 million children now receive dinner and a healthy after-school snack as part of their free lunch program. The goal of this program is to make sure that all kids have access to a healthy dinner, especially those who come from low-income communities. Making sure that children have enough to eat is one of the most important things we can do to ensure they get a good education, and providing healthy food is one of the best ways to fight childhood obesity. Far too many children in our nation are forced to skip dinner, and many more aren't provided with any nutritious options. In the richest nation on earth we can afford to do better, and feeding kids a healthy dinner seems like a common sense place to start.
Here in the US, we're known for working hard. But, some of us may be working ourselves right into an early grave. A new article by Alexandra Bradbury over at AlterNet says that we need to think about more than just adding more jobs to our economy. In fact, Ms. Bradbury says, "I think we need less work." After learning about Maria Fernandes, a fast food worker who died last year while trying to juggle three jobs, Alexandra realized that our problem isn't that we don't have enough work. It's that the work we have is not being shared among those who want it. Instead of one person working 60 hours or more, that job could provide a 30-hour job to two different people. To do this, our nation would have to demand higher wages and a stronger social safety net, but we have the money to make this idea a reality. For many of us, our work is our life, but that doesn't mean we should give our life just to get enough work.
Most lawmakers refuse to fight for single-payer health care, but most voters say that they should. According to a new poll by the Progressive Change Institute, more than 50 percent of those surveyed said that they would support a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health-care system. In response to Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin's recent decision to abandon his state's plan for a single-payer system, the Progressive Change Institute conducted this poll to get a feel for public opinion. Out of the 1,500 likely voters who were questioned, more than half supported single-payer, and that even included one out of every four Republicans. Although Governor Shumlin and other lawmakers say that we can't afford single-payer, we already way spend more on health care than other developed nations that have national health care. In fact, we would likely save money by switching to a Medicare-for-all type system. This new poll shows that Americans know we need to get the profit motive out of health care, and now we've got to push our lawmakers to make that happen.
And finally... If New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets his way, low-wage workers in his state will be getting a raise. At a recent press conference, Governor Cuomo proposed raising the minimum wage in his state to $11.50 in the city, and $10.50 in the rest of the state. Although the proposal calls for a lower wage than Governor Cuomo called for last spring, it would still be a substantial increase from the current rate of $8.75 an hour. In order to become reality, this pay increase would have to win approval in the state legislature, which includes the Republican-controlled State Senate. Business groups are already making the Republican argument by warning that higher wages will cost the state jobs. However, that claim is not supported by the data in the 14 states that raised wages in the last year alone. Those states actually saw better job growth and the higher wages improved the lives of millions of workers. A higher minimum wage would likely have the same effects in New York State, so let's hope that New York legislators help Governor Cuomo give workers a raise.
And that's the way it is - for the week of January 26, 2015 - I'm Thom Hartmann - on the Economic and Labor News.