In today's On the News segment: GOP plans to uphold Grover Norquist pledge and reject Obama's budget proposal, Rick Santorum’s Super PAC lets the truth slip out about politics in this post-Citizens United age, Republicans in the House resurrect the Keystone XL pipeline as environmental activists mobilize on the Internet, ACLU takes on the myth of voter fraud, and more.
You need to know this. Billionaire hedge fund manager – and primary contributor to Rick Santorum’s Red, White, and Blue SuperPAC – Foster Friess let the truth slip out about politics in this post-Citizens United age during an interview with Politico. Friess was among several billionaires who attended the Koch brothers secret meeting last month where over a hundred million dollars was pledged to beat President Obama. Trying to get other oligarchs on the side of Rick Santorum – Friess said, “There isn’t a person at the Koch brothers events who would not get a good return on their investment by investing in [Santorum] as president, because of what they believe about the free enterprise system.” The key word there: investment. These aren’t campaign contributions – these are investments that millionaires and billionaires are making to keep their tax breaks, their subsidies, and their lax regulations in place. We no longer have actual people running for President – we have a few very, very rich people like Friess and the Kochs investing in stooges to do their bidding – and hoping to see major returns in their bank accounts. So who will you vote for this year? Big Oil, Big Casinos, or Wall Street?
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House Republicans caved last night – or did they? As negotiations stall out in the Gang of 20 charged with extending the payroll tax cut and emergency unemployment benefits for the rest of the year – House Republicans are offering their own compromise that, on the surface, looks like a major concession. Barring a complete insurrection within his party – Speaker John Boehner laid out a plan to extend the payroll tax cut for the rest of the year – without paying for it – just a clean bill. Boehner is desperately trying to avoid the same tax cut debacle that happened last December. But really what this means is – that Republicans have simply let one hostage go, while holding on to another. By de-linking the payroll tax cut from unemployment benefits – Republicans can avoid looking like they are about to raise taxes on 160 million working Americans – but at the same time quietly hold millions of unemployed Americans hostage until they get the spending cuts they want. So far – Republicans have proposed cutting emergency unemployment benefits down from 99 weeks to 59 weeks – and have called on states to drug-test those seeking benefits. This isn’t a cave – this is how the Republican Party plans to further screw the unemployed in America.
In the best of the rest of the news…
One day after President Obama released his 2013 budget proposal – the top ranking Republican in the Senate – Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – is declaring it dead on arrival. McConnell called the budget a “charade” and argued that it has no chance of passing the Senate. In reality – the budget has no chance of passing because Republicans will have to stay true to the pledge they signed with millionaire lobbyist Grover Norquist to not raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires like himself – rather than the oath they all took to uphold the Constitution and the general welfare of all Americans.
As Republicans in the House resurrect the Keystone XL pipeline – and plant to stick it in an infrastructure spending bill – environmental activists are mobilizing on the Internet. The site 350.org is launching a 24-hour effort to collect a half-million emails calling on the Senate to hold firm and not give in to Republicans who are trying to reverse President Obama’s decision on the Keystone Pipeline. As lead environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote on Monday, “We’re going to war at noon eastern today–non-violent war, but a powerful, unified fight against the heart of right-wing power, the fossil fuel industry…It’s going to be the most concentrated burst of environmental activism this millennium–and it needs you.” Activism – namely 1,200 people getting arrested in front of the White House in protest – helped kill the pipeline the first time around – and the same sort of activism will be necessary to kill the pipeline once again. Get involved at 350.org.
The ACLU is taking on the myth of voter fraud. The head of the organization is offering up $1,000 to anyone who can give an example of a prosecuted case in which someone successfully committed voter fraud by voting under someone else’s name. Republicans claim this sort of fraud is rampant – and new Voter ID laws are needed – laws that will disenfranchise 5 million eligible Democratic voters next election. Studies however show that voter fraud happens less often than people getting struck by lightning. Now with the cash incentive – let’s see if Republicans can REALLY find that voter fraud bogeyman.
More bad news for Europe. Moody’s slashed the credit ratings of six European nations on Monday – including Spain, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, and Slovakia. The U.K., France, and Austria were also all given negative credit outlooks by Moody’s. This downgrade follows similar credit downgrades in the last few months by S & P and Fitch. And it comes on the heels of massive riots in Greece against austerity. Clearly, the technocrats’ use of disaster capitalism is wreaking havoc on the entire European economy.
And finally…in our “What sort of crazy legislation is the Arizona state Legislature considering now?” news – five state senators have cosponsored legislation that would ban books and restrict teachers’ first amendment rights. SB 1467 calls for teachers to be fined, suspended, or even fired if they “engage in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the Federal Communications Commission concerning obscenity.” That means no assigning books that might contain words that are unmentionable on television – books like The Catcher in the Rye, The Canterbury Tales, and the Dictionary. Since the legislation is so poorly drafted – it doesn’t just extend to the speech within in the classroom – but all speech used by teachers whether they are at school or in their homes. In other words – no sex for teachers anymore in Arizona if this bill passes. It’s a sideshow down in Arizona – and Governor Jan Brewer is the ringleader.
And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, February 14th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.