In today's On the News segment: New leftist party in Lithuania promising higher taxes on the rich and a higher minimum wage; libertarian candidate Gary Johnson could be a spoiler for Mitt Romney as presidential race gets even tighter; Japanese company's looming acquisition of 70 percent of Sprint exemplifies how free trade policies imperil the US economy on the telecommunications front, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Corporate CEOs are turning their employees into Republican foot soldiers. Over the weekend, labor reporter Mike Elk with In These Times magazine revealed that the Koch brothers sent political fliers to all of their 45,000 employees at Georgia Pacific – hinting that their jobs might be on the line if they don't vote for Mitt Romney. The letter warns that if employees elect Barack Obama, then "many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences." The letter goes on to list political candidates that the Kochs support – all of which were Republicans. Elk also exposes social media rules at Georgia Pacific that try to limit the political speech of their workers as well as intimidate workers who are too politically active against Republicans. The Kochs are the latest in a long line of CEOs who've made veiled threats against employees who don't vote for Mitt Romney. Last week – Westgate Resorts billionaire CEO David Siegel warned his employees that should Barack Obama raise his taxes, then he would be forced to downsize his company. Also – ASG Software Solutions CEO Arthur Allen sent an email to his employees warning there will be "fallout" if Barack Obama wins the presidency again. And then there's Murray Energy – the largest private coal company in the nation – which, according to The New Republic, has coerced its employees to donate money to Republican politicians. Unbelievably – coercing employees like this to support certain political candidates is not illegal. And it's just the latest example of how the super-rich have a lot more free speech rights now in America than working people do. And since many Americans are desperate for a job – then they have to go along with what their bosses say just to be able to keep food on the table, knowing full well that a vote for Mitt Romney is against their own best interests. This is how the corporatocracy operates today.
In screwed news... Since the courts are overturning their radical Voter Suppression ID laws, conservatives are adopting new strategies to keep Democrats from the polls. In Pennsylvania, where a judge recently struck down the state's Voter ID law for this election, billboards and TV commercials are still warning voters that they'll need an ID at the polls. One billboard, written in Spanish, features a woman holding an ID card next to the words, "If you want to vote, show it." And, as recently as just a week ago, five different counties in Pennsylvania were still reporting on their websites that IDs will be necessary to vote – even though they aren't. And in battleground Ohio, billboards have gone up in minority areas that warn of the penalties for voter fraud. Similar billboards have been seen in minority neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, too, to intimidate voters. The goal of Republicans is simple: steal the election by keeping Democrats from the polls.
In the best of the rest of the news...
More socialists are taking power in Europe. On Sunday – Lithuanian voters hit the polls to elect a new government – and early returns suggest voters have ousted their center-right austerity government in favor of Social Democrats. Lithuania was hit hard by the global economic recession in 2009 – when its economy dropped 15%. What followed were harsh austerity measures that cut pensions, social services, and public sector jobs. But over the weekend – the people said, "Enough is enough." The new Leftist government in Lithuania is promising higher taxes on the rich – and a higher minimum wage for working people. Talking about the differences between the two parties – the Social Democrats' leader said, "Their ideology leaves a person to their own fate and to the markets which, it claims, solve everything...We say the government needs to be responsible for everyone: for the sick, the old, the young who cannot find work."
Another American company is about to be sold off to foreign investors. Telecom giant Sprint has reached a deal with Japanese company Softbank to sell 70% of its company in what will be the largest foreign acquisition by a Japanese company is history. Softbank is spending more than 20 billion on the deal – which will likely be approved next year. The buy-out will make Softbank the third largest mobile phone company in the world – tied with AT&T. And it will suck billions in future revenue and profits out of the American economy – and into the Japanese economy. Every single second, over $4,000 worth of American industry is sold off to foreign investors. Thanks to insane so-called "free trade" policies, we're being eaten alive by foreign transnationals.
When it comes to the outrageous bankster LIBOR-manipulation scandal – the chickens are coming home to roost. As many as 1,000 U.S. homeowners have filed a class-action lawsuit against 12 of the biggest banks in the world – alleging that their mortgage repayments were made more expensive by LIBOR rate-rigging. An attorney for the homeowners suggested his clients will be seeking damages for thousands of dollars. Of course, the LIBOR rate doesn't just determine mortgage repayment rates – it determines practically everything in the global economy. So this lawsuit could just be the first of many that might take down some of the world's largest banks for committing massive fraud. Stay tuned.
And finally ... Will Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson be a spoiler for Mitt Romney this year? Now that the race has tightened up considerably, Johnson may have a real impact on who our next President will be. According to the latest polling from Zogby – Mitt Romney now leads the President nationwide by a slim margin 45.1% to 44.5%. However, when Gary Johnson's name is included in the polling – Romney actually trails the President by a half-point. These are obviously small margins, and there's still a lot of time for the polls to change. But if you're a conservative who prefers the corporate state but doesn't like drones, the drug war, indefinite detention, and surveillance – then Johnson is your guy.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, October 15, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.