On the News With Thom Hartmann: All Eyes on Michigan for Critical GOP Primary, and More

In today's On the News segment: Polls show a dead heat between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in Michigan, the Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could give corporations the power to commit genocide with no consequences, Wisconsin moved one step closer to a recall election on Monday, the world’s most infamous whistleblower Julian Assange is in the crosshairs of the United States, and more.


You need to know this. All eyes are on Michigan today for a critical primary in the Republican Presidential race. Polls show a dead heat between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in the Wolverine State. Arizona is also holding a primary – which Mitt Romney is expected to win – but Michigan is the crucial contest. And the state’s native son – Mitt Romney – is getting hammered from an op-ed he wrote back in 2008 entitled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” – opposing the auto bailouts. Rick Santorum has leaped on this gaffe – and is now robo-calling Democrats in the state to head to the polls – declare themselves Republican – and vote Santorum – a tactic that’s perfectly legal in Michigan. But if somehow Mitt Romney pulls out a win tonight – then there’s one special person he needs to thank – Ron Paul. As ThinkProgress uncovered – Paul has never once attacked Mitt Romney in any of the 20 Republican debates. Paul has routinely attacked the other candidates though – prompting the Santorum campaign to accuse Paul and Romney of working together. So does that mean that the Libertarian rebel has actually sold out to the Moderate Republican establishment? It remains to be seen – but should Rick Santorum pull off a victory tonight – then expect calls for a brokered Republican convention to hit a fevered-pitch.

In screwed news…the Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could give corporations the power to commit genocide with no consequences. The High Court has agreed to hear the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum which could give corporations immunity from any civil suits for engaging in some of the worst violations of human rights around the world that you can think of. According to the Alien Tort Act law – private parties are responsible – and can be sued – for violations of international law. However – a recent Second Circuit court decision – ruled that corporations are not considered “private parties” and thus cannot be sued or held liable for breaking international law. The ironic thing here is this is essentially a corporate personhood case. If corporations are people – and can spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections – as the court ruled in Citizens United – then as people corporations should be held liable for atrocities committed abroad. But should the Supreme Court reconsider corporate personhood in this case – strictly to benefit corporate interests – then the consequences could be disastrous. As Second Circuit court judge Pierre Leval wrote last year in his dissent, “So long as they incorporate, businesses will now be free to trade in or exploit slaves, employ mercenary armies to do dirty work for despots, perform genocides or operate torture prisons for a despot’s political opponents, or engage in piracy – all without civil liability to victims.” Welcome to the corporatocracy – where life is – to quote Thomas Hobbes – nasty, brutish, and short.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Wisconsin moved one step closer to a recall election on Monday. The deadline for Governor Scott Walker to challenge the more than one million signatures gathered to recall him from office came and went on Monday – with the Governor declining to challenge any of the signatures. That means the recall petitions only have one more hurdle to clear before a recall election date is set – and that’s state election officials who have until March 19th to validate the signatures. Then the stage will officially be set – grassroots activism versus big corporate money. The Koch brothers have already pledged to do all they can to help Walker stay in office – and in a post-Citizens United world – they have a much, much louder voice than ordinary Wisconsinites. But something tells me the millions of working people across Wisconsin who spearheaded this effort won’t let democracy be stolen.

It sure is nice to be a transnational corporation in America. According to a study by the Center for Tax Justice – General Electric earned $81.2 billion in profits over the last decade – yet paid an average tax rate of just 2.3%. In fact – for four years during that time – GE actually had a negative tax rate – receiving billions in tax refunds. Unfortunately – when corporations like GE don’t pay their fair share in taxes – then working people have to pick up the slack. Over the last 40 years – corporate taxes have accounted for a smaller and smaller slice of the federal revenue pie – while payroll taxes – or regressive taxes on working people – are bigger and bigger slices. In American – poor people finance tax cuts for the rich. It really is voodoo economics.

The world’s most infamous whistleblower – Julian Assange – is in the crosshairs of the United States. According to emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor recently leaked by Wikileaks – US prosecutors have a “sealed indictment” on Assange. For months while fighting extradition back to Sweden – Assange has claimed that the Justice Department will try to have him extradited to the states of face espionage charges. Now it looks like Assange is right. When you speak truth to power – power fights back.

And finally…not only did the 1% crash our economy – they’re also more likely to steal candy from children. That’s according to a new study published on Monday that revealed wealthy people are more likely to break laws while driving, lie for financial gain – and of course – steal candy from children. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley and University of Toronto conducted a series of experiments – one of which was observing people at 4-way stop signs, and found that those who were wealthier broke more traffic laws and were more likely to cut off pedestrians walking across the road. In another experiment – wealthier people were more likely to steal candy from a jar sitting in front of them – even after they were told the candy is for children in the next room. As the lead researcher of the study concluded, “It really shows the extreme lengths to which wealth and upper rank status in society can shape patterns of self-interest and unethicality.” In other words, lobbying Congress, buying off politicians, and peddling corruption just comes with being rich.

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, February 28th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.