On the News With Thom Hartmann: GOP Leaders Now Trying to Skirt Around the Tea Party, and More

I'm Jacob Dean in for Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. The days of the Tea Party controlling Congress may be numbered. Congressional aides are suggesting that Speaker of the House John Boehner is planning to work around his Tea Party members and negotiate with Democrats on a deal to extend the payroll tax cut when Congress reconvenes later this month. Afraid of another payroll tax cut embarrassment – and afraid of a long debate that could distract Republicans trying to defeat President Obama in the next election – Boehner is uneasy about giving Tea Partiers a say in the upcoming debate. As one aide to a member of the House Republican leadership team said, ““I think Boehner will seek a more accommodating approach to get a good percentage of Democrats to vote for it – even if it costs him a lot of House Republican freshmen…His instincts will be, not to be so reliant on House Republican freshmen.” Let’s hope this means an end to government by hostage-takers.

Retirement? We don’t need no stinkin’ retirement. According to data from the Labor Department more Americans age 55 and over are working that ever before. There are 3.1 million more workers over the age of 55 than there were before the recession – that’s a 12% increase. As a result – there are fewer jobs for younger people – with 6.5 million less people employed between the ages of 25 and 54. As the Washington Post reports – since the recession, more seniors are worried that they don’t have enough money to adequately retire. A lot of blame for that financial uncertainty can be traced back to the 1980’s – when more Americans started moving their retirement from company pensions to market 401ks. And since the market went into a tailspin – a lot of that money was lost. This just goes to show that the Republican plan to privatize Social Security – and move over everyone’s retirement to Wall Street is a dangerous idea.

In the best of the rest of the news…

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is off and running. Newly appointed head of the bureau – Richard Cordray – unveiled a set of guidelines yesterday to combat the ongoing housing crisis. The bureau will examine whether lenders are offering up risky, sub-prime mortgage loans to homebuyers – and whether those potential homebuyers can actually repay. Also – the lenders will be subject to rules prohibiting fine print that misrepresent the terms and conditions of their loans. It’s about time the middle class has someone on their side against the banksters.

Even in the post Citizens United world – there still is such a thing as illegal campaign donations. And based on research by the National Business Ethics Survey – illegal corporate campaign contributions are up 400% since 2009. (Surprised?) According to Roll Call – the spike in illegal donations probably has something to do with the perceived lack of strict campaign finance rules since the Citizens United decision. So we can thank the Supreme Court for giving us the best so-called democracy money can buy.

There’s another attack on the free and open Internet coming from Congress. Republican Congressman Darryl Issa – with the help of Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation to require online users to pay to read biomedical research published by the National Institutes of Health. This research is funded by taxpayer dollars – and since 2008 – this has been published on the Internet for free for taxpayers to read. But under the new Research Works Act – the articles would instead be published on pay sites – costing as much as 35 bucks to review. Turns out that both Issa and Maloney have received contributions form a company called Elsevier – which calls itself the worlds leading publisher of scientific and medical journals – and would directly benefit from the Research Works Act.

Smoking marijuana isn’t all that bad for you after all. Medical researchers followed 5,000 people over 2 decades to determine the effect of chronic marijuana use on the lungs. Turns out – smoking a joint a day for 2 decades does not impair lung function. Even among heavier users – up to three joins a day did not appear to impair lung function. A similar study also found little impairment in brain functions as a result of prolonged marijuana use. Of course the same can’t be said about alcohol. So the question is – why is marijuana still illegal and alcohol isn’t? For the first time ever – more than 50% of the nation supports legalizing marijuana. It's time to end Nixon's War on Drugs – and put in place a responsible drug policy in America.

The gropers at the TSA are rich! Last year – the TSA collected over 400,000 dollars in unclaimed spare change at security checkpoints. Most of the money was collected at JFK and LAX airports. Under legislation proposed by Congressman Jeff Miller – the TSA would have to donate any spare change to United Services Organizations. In the meantime though – it will likely go right into the pocket of Michael Chertoff – for the purchases of one of his x-ray porno scanners.

Finally – Could the new anti-Romney Republican candidate be…Stephen Colbert?! The comedian and host of the Colbert Report on Comedy Central announced that he is forming an exploratory committee to run for President in South Carolina. Yesterday – Colbert handed off the reins of his SuperPAC to Jon Stewart – the host of the Daily Show – to get rid of any possible conflicts of interest. According to a recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling – Colbert is actually beating Jon Huntsman in South Carolina – so he might not be a long shot after all. Here's to far more entertatining Republican debates in the future.

And that’s the way it is today – Friday, January 13th, 2012. I’m Jacob Dean in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.