On the News With Thom Hartmann: After Recession America Remains in a New Gilded Age, and More

In today’s On the News segment: According to a new report from economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, based on numbers from the internal revenue service, the top ten percent of income earners in our nation took home more than half of all of the income in 2012; even the banksters know that the sequester was a bad idea; Senator Chuck Grassley wants to cut three seats from the DC Circuit Court; and more.

You need to know this. It’s no longer just an expression – the rich are getting richer, and the rest of us are being shut out of the game. According to a new report from economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, based on numbers from the internal revenue service, the top ten percent of income earners in our nation took home more than half of all of the income in 2012. That is the highest percentage ever recorded in the 96-year history of data collection. As if that statistic wasn’t bad enough, more than 20 percent of all income in 2012 went directly to the top one percent. And, 95 percent of all income gains have gone straight to those at the top since the recession ended. According to the New York Times, “The figures underscore that even after the recession, the country remains in a new Gilded Age.” Three decades of Reaganomics widened the divide between rich and poor, and since the economic meltdown of 2008, the rich have sucked up billions in soaring corporate profits, rising stock prices, and increasing home values. All the while, the majority of Americans continue to be bogged down with stagnant wages and high unemployment. And, our nation’s regulation and tax policy isn’t helping. The economists point out that the meager tax increases on wealthy Americans, which went into effect in January, “are not likely to have a major effect.” The concentration of income at the top won’t change, “unless drastic regulation and tax policy changes are implemented and [we] prevent income concentration from bouncing back.” As the Think Progress Blog notes, our nation suffers from more drastic income inequality than Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Pakistan, the Ivory Coast, and Ethiopia. Many Americans are well aware – we must pursue real economic change, and start closing this gaping wealth divide.

In screwed news… Even the banksters know that the sequester was a bad idea. According to a Goldman Sachs economist, the across-the-board budget cuts are already hurting our economy. If cuts aren’t reversed, we will see 100,000 more federal-employee layoffs, and more economic pain for most Americans. Economist Jan Hatzius said that financial pain can be seen in nearly non-existent growth in personal income, which he blamed on hundreds of thousands of federal employees being furloughed. According to Mr. Hatzius, those furloughs reduced wages by $7.7 billion dollars in July alone, and that has a rippling effect throughout our economy. Already, the sequester has forced cuts to preschools, Meals on Wheels, domestic violence shelters, low-income housing, and scientific research – just to name a few. Now it looks like even Wall Street will feel the effect of billions being stripped out of our economy. Perhaps Republicans in Congress will listen to the banksters and reverse the budget cuts, but even Mr. Hatzius said, “we assume that Congress will not reverse sequestration.”

In the best of the rest of the news…

Senator Chuck Grassley wants to cut three seats from the DC Circuit Court. But, thanks to an ultra-conservative, Bush-appointed judge, Grassley’s plan may be dead in the water. The senator proposed eliminating those seats on our nation’s second most powerful court, claiming that the DC Circuit has a lighter case load than other courts. However, Judge Timothy Tymkovich, who is also the chair of the federal judicial committee, didn’t recommend eliminating even one seat, and actually proposed increasing the number of judges in other circuits. It looks like Grassley’s claim isn’t even supported by a judge who’s ruled in favor of allowing conservative groups to ignore laws they object to on religious grounds. Judge Tymkovich may think it’s acceptable for employers to deny birth control coverage, or ignore gender equality laws, but he isn’t buying Grassley’s argument. As many legal scholars have pointed out, Sen. Grassley only wants to cut seats from the DC Circuit to maintain conservative control of the important court. Thankfully, it looks like he may have a hard time finding support for his partisan proposal.

Law enforcement agencies want banking services for marijuana shops. Since many states have legalized the sale of marijuana, people have set up shops to provide the product. But, shop owners have been unable to get banking or credit card services, as earlier laws prohibit banks from handling any proceeds from pot sales. Deputy Attorney General James Cole recently spoke at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and asked lawmakers to change the legislation. He explained that forcing marijuana shops to operate on a cash-only basis exposes shop owners to higher risks of robbery or fraud. And local law enforcement officials, like Sheriff John Urquhart of Washington, have additional concerns. He said, “Cash-only businesses are very difficult to audit, leading to possible tax evasion, wage theft, and the diversion of resources we need to protect public safety.” Supporters say that if bank regulators refuse to change the banking laws, they will call on Congress to amend federal legislation. One way or another, supporters say they will help marijuana shops be recognized as the legitimate businesses that they are.

And finally…If you’ve ever left a book or a cell phone on an airplane, you’re not alone. Nearly one quarter of airline attendants report finding at least one of those lost items. But, it’s a safe bet you’ve never left a glass eye, a live parrot, or your prosthetic leg on board. A survey of 700 international cabin crew members said these are just a few of the completely bizarre items people have left behind on a flight. Crew members also reported finding dentures, underwear, and even a falcon abandoned by passengers after a flight. Leaving behind your passport or electronic device is understandable. However, crew members who discovered the underwear, the glass eye, and the prosthetic leg could only ask, “how did the passenger manage to forget them?” And many of us can’t help asking how on earth someone manages to forget their falcon.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, September 12, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.