In today's On the News segment: Republicans in Congress released their budget blueprint today, new bill in Florida would require all state workers to submit to random drug testing, legislation introduced would bail out students from their debt, and more.
You need to know this. Republicans in Congress unveiled their vision for America today – and if they succeed, the 99% of us are condemned to live like serfs. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, himself a multimillionaire, released his blueprint budget for fiscal year 2013 – which includes massive cuts to food stamps, student loans, Medicaid, and Social Security. The budget also dismantles Medicare as we know it – transforming an insurance program into a voucher program, leaving millions of senior citizens on their own to deal with for-profit health insurance companies. And in a nod to the Republican Party’s super-rich members like himself, Ryan proposes enormous tax breaks for the 1% - lowering the top income tax rate from 35% down to 25%. According to the Tax Policy Center – Ryan’s budget would give $3 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans – all paid for by cutting spending on education, healthcare, and Medicare. Congressman Ryan said about his budget, “It’s up to the people to demand ... a choice between two futures. The question is which future will you choose?” That is the question indeed – will we choose the future in which a middle class can thrive again in America like it did for 50 years after the New Deal until Ronald Reagan blew everything up? Or – will we choose Paul Ryan’s path to an Ayn Rand dystopia, in which only the super-wealthy can go to good schools and see doctors, and everyone else is left with what trickles down from the tables of the rich?
Florida's big government is screwing over Floridians. Republican Governor Rick Scott signed into law a new bill on Monday that would require all state workers to submit to random drug testing. Last year - Scott signed into law legislation that would also force welfare applicants to pass a drug test before receiving benefits. Studies show that the rate of drug use among welfare recipients is actually far lower than among the employed population – and drug testing is proven to be a waste of time. But Governor Scott, himself the former CEO of medical clinics that do drug testing, is now forcing his state employees to submit to the same sort of big government intrusions. The ACLU is expected to challenge the new law in court. Does anyone else find it odd that Republicans yell and scream about big government when new pollution regulation are coming down the pike – but don’t say a word when the government they run wants to inspect your bodily fluids?
In the best of the rest of the news…
Cut it out with the austerity! That’s the message Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner had for Europe – as technocrats and banksters continue to drive the continent into collapse with more and more austerity measures. Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, Secretary Geithner broke down the situation in Europe to lawmakers, and warned about too much austerity by saying, “If every time economic growth disappoints, governments are forced to cut spending…this would risk a self-reinforcing negative spiral of growth-killing austerity." Unclear if Republicans controlling the House Financial Services Committee are listening – as they push their own austerity agenda here in the United States that’s laid off over 600,000 government workers since President Obama took office. Unless we want riots, high unemployment, and more suicides, like Greece is experiencing right now – then we need to say “no” to the Republicans’ austerity agenda.
Germany is eating our lunch when it comes to renewable energy. That nation is set to invest over $260 billion - 8 percent of their GDP - into a massive renewable energy program to phase out the use of nuclear power. Responding to a public outcry against nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster last year – Germany will be replacing 17 nuclear reactors with renewable energy sources like wind and solar – with an aim of creating an energy economy runs on 80% renewables, radically cutting fossil fuels and eliminating nuclear power. It’s the biggest investment in energy that Germany has made since World War 2. Meanwhile in the United States – Congress is debating the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport last century’s fossil fuels to the Gulf for export. We better wake up to a rapidly changing world soon – or we’ll be left behind in the global economy.
The Department of Justice and the FBI have opened an investigation into the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin down in Florida. Martin was shot and killed last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, who claimed he was acting in self-defense. But new 9-1-1 tapes and eyewitness accounts paint a much different picture – one in which Zimmerman murdered Martin in cold blood on the street. Zimmerman has yet to be tried for any crime – and is currently protected by Florida’s new “Stand Your Ground” law,” which allows Floridians to use deadly force against perceived threats. Former Homicide Detective Rod Wheeler said on Monday, reacting to this case – that the “Stand Your Ground” law now makes it illegal to shoot and kill dogs, but if you shoot and kill a black kid in Florida, “you can walk away.” The FBI is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime.
And finally...the banks got bailed out – now it’s time to bail out the students. Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke from Michigan introduced legislation to enable students to be forgiven on their student loan debt. The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 – will allow any student who’s made ten years of payments to be forgiven on the rest of their loans. It also caps interest rates. Student loan debt in American is now over one trillion dollars – and outweighs credit card debt in American for the first time in history. Just last week – a former executive at the Education Management Corporation – the nation’s second largest for-profit college company - admitted that it routinely bilked students into loans that they couldn’t afford to repay. If we don’t do something about student loan debt soon – not only are condemning our next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs to a lifetime of debt – but we will also experience another financial crisis when the student loan bubble eventually pops.
And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, March 20th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann - on the news.