In today's On the News segment: CEOs are fighting hard to keep their taxes low and keep our fellow Americans from making a living wage; California politicians could be forced to wear the logos of their top corporate donors; Colorado has proven that legal cannabis is beneficial; and more.
Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. It's only the second full week of the new year, but many corporate CEOs have already made more money than most of us will make for the rest of the year. Despite those exorbitant salaries, many of those same CEOs are fighting hard to keep their taxes low and keep our fellow Americans from making a living wage. According to the Washington Post, by 8:30 am on January 1, 2013, the CEO of Walmart had already made as much as his typical employee did in a year. And, considering that CEO pay has been rising, it's likely that it took even less time to reach that amount in the 2016 new year. With all that cash floating around, it's hard to believe that most Americans have seen their incomes flat-line over the last few years, and that our middle class continues to fall behind. But, when all the income goes to one group - and they refuse to pay their fair share of taxes - it leads to the economic inequality that's destroying our middle class. According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, the US middle class has shrunk by more than 10 percent since 1971, and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to get wider. In 1965, CEOs made an average of 20 times the salary of their average worker, but today, many top executives bring home more than 300 times as much as they pay their typical employee. That's why our middle class keeps shrinking, and why the average American feels like it's impossible to get ahead. And, that's exactly why we have to change our broken system. We need to continue the fight for a living wage and force those at the top to pay their fair share of taxes. We need to strengthen our unions and rein in the salaries and bonuses of corporation executives who commit crimes or send jobs overseas. We need to invest in putting Americans back to work and reboot the "American Dream." And, all of that starts when we stand together and elect those who will stand with us. This election year, let's prove that when we fight - we win. Just like democracy, equality is a participatory sport. Tag you're it!
Last March, then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced a plan to rein in the federal government's asset forfeiture program, but his efforts didn't go far enough. Thankfully, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking up the issue where he left off. Although Holder effectively shut down the so-called "Equitable Sharing Program," he left open certain exceptions. And, unsurprisingly, law enforcement agencies used those exceptions to keep right on taking people's property, regardless of whether or not those assets were illegally obtained. So, back in December, a DOJ representative sent a letter to state and local agencies explaining that the forfeiture program is now insolvent, and the agency will no longer help local law enforcement share confiscated assets. Unfortunately, this change does not stop local officials from simply keeping the assets they collect or the federal government from doing the same. But, we can keep pushing until those changes are made as well. No law enforcement agency should take someone's property without a court order - anything less is a clear violation of our constitutional rights.
As of 2014, there were twice as many women in corporate board rooms in the US as there were in 1997. But, gender equality in boardrooms is still a long, long way off. According to a recent article over at the ThinkProgress blog, if that rate of change continues at the current pace, it will be another 40 years before women have an equal presence corporate boards. In interviews with the Government Accountability Office, many people said that they think this problem stems from the fact that board members don't make it a priority to select diverse candidates. Instead, most corporate boards select members from their existing networks. Other countries have fixed this problem by selecting diverse candidates, and their businesses have benefited as a result. Let's push for more board room equality here at home.
When Colorado voted to legalize cannabis back in 2012, the naysayers predicted that drug addiction and crime would skyrocket in their state. However, those predictions were completely wrong. On January 1, Colorado celebrated their two-year, legal pot anniversary, and the benefits of that vote are stacking up. Thanks to the new law, criminal charges for cannabis possession and distribution have dropped by more than 80 percent, which means lower costs for taxpayers. More importantly, it means that thousands of people won't be haunted for the rest of their lives with a criminal record. In addition to reduced arrests, legalization has brought in an enormous amount of revenue for that state. In 2015 alone, Colorado brought in an estimated $125 million in marijuana tax revenue, which is being reinvested back in to the state to improve public schools, youth development programs, and much more. And, these benefits don't even begin to touch on the incredible impact legalization has had on residents who use pot for medical purposes. Colorado has proven that legal cannabis is beneficial and they've debunked the anti-pot myths. Hopefully more states soon will follow.
And finally... California politicians could be forced to wear the logos of their top corporate donors. That's the gist of a measure being pushed by a wealthy Republican businessman in the Golden state. John Cox has submitted a proposed ballot measure to that state's Attorney General, and he hopes to start gathering signatures to put the proposal before voters in November. If it's approved, the ballot measure would require political candidates and elected legislators to wear the logos of their top-10 largest corporate donors. Although it's a long way from becoming law, this proposal would make it very easy for voters to see who their lawmakers really represent. And, it would make politicians think twice before accepting corporate funds. If we want to take back control of our democracy, we're going to have to get creative, and this would be a great way to take on corporate power in California and every other state.
And that's the way it is - for the week of January 11, 2016 - I'm Thom Hartmann - on the Economic and Labor News.