On the News With Thom Hartmann: Indiana Becomes First Right-to-Work State in Ten Years, and More

In today's On the News segment: Indiana became the first state in ten years to become right to work, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to extend the pay freeze for federal workers, 2012 might be the year for marijuana legalization, the size of the so-called terrorist no-fly list more than doubled last year, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels took his state backwards on Wednesday – signing legislation to make Indiana the 23rd “right-to-work” state in the nation. It’s the first state in ten years to go right-to-work and also the first state in the nation’s manufacturing belt to adopt a right-to-work law, which starves labor unions of much-needed funding. So what can workers in Indiana expect now? First off – lower wages. It’s really right-to-work FOR LESS – as the average worker makes more than $5,000 less in wages a year in right-to-work-for-less states versus free-bargaining states. They can also expect less healthcare – as 21% fewer workers on average receive employee-sponsored healthcare in right-to-work-for-less states. And finally – workers can expect more workplace injuries. Without unions to ensure safe working conditions – right-to-work-FOR-LESS states experience 51% more workplace injuries and deaths. So the only winners here are transnational CEOs who don’t give a damn about their workers – and don’t give a damn about democracy. That’s what unions are – democracy in the workplace – and they are just as essential to creating a stable middle class as democracy in our government. So Republican Governor Mitch Daniels didn’t just declare war on unions in Indiana – he also declared war on the middle class.

Federal workers are screwed. Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to extend the pay freeze for federal workers – preventing average Americans who work to maintain our commons from getting a modest pay increase to keep up with the cost of living in America. President Obama proposed a meager half-percent pay increase for federal workers – but even that was too much for Republicans who’d rather just see all government workers fired – as many Republican Governors around the nation have already down. Since the President took office – over a half-million government workers have lost their jobs thanks to Republican budget cuts. We need to end this war on public workers – and realize that government jobs like being a teacher and police officer – or a meat inspector – are not second-class jobs – but instead are some of the most essential jobs for our nation’s safety and prosperity.

In the best of the rest of the news…

2012 might be the year for marijuana legalization. After California voters narrowly voted down marijuana legalization in 2010 by a 53-46 margin – marijuana advocates will have another shot at it this year – when the “Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act of 2012” goes on the ballot in November. According to the most recent poll – a whopping 62% of Californians support the act that would essentially legalize marijuana. The poll also showed that 80% of people in Golden State believe state and federal drug laws have “failed” and a “new approach” needs to be taken. Votes will also be taken in November in Colorado and Washington state for marijuana legalization. Expect the alcohol and tobacco industries to gear up for a fight, as they hope to continue to corner the market on mind-altering substances.

California’s San Onofre nuclear plant had to be shut down unexpectedly this week after radioactive water was discovered leaking out of the unit 3 reactor within the plant. Nuclear officials claim the leak is fully contained within the concrete dome of the plant. Meanwhile – the Nuclear Regulatory Commission warned that nuclear plants in the eastern and central United States might not be able to withstand earthquakes. The NRC is giving operators at 96 vulnerable plants across the nation 4 years to conduct seismic tests to determine if their plants can withstand new earthquake projections. But nuclear critics worry that the NRC is moving too slow to address this threat that has the potential of bringing a Fukushima-like disaster to the United States.

America is afraid – very afraid. The size of the so-called terrorist no-fly list more than doubled last year. The government lowered the standard for how one gets one the list – expanding it from 10,000 people in 2010 – to over 21,000 people today. Still – federal officials will not disclose who exactly is on the list – and how exactly someone gets on the list in the first place. As long as our security is based on the erosion of civil liberties – then we’ve lost sight of who we are as Americans. We shouldn't be acting like terrified Dick Cheneys – we’re the home of the brave.

All eyes are on Wall Street as Facebook filed an Initial Public Offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The social networking giant is trying to raise $5 billion – and estimates are the company is worth between $75 and $100 billion. It’s the largest IPO since Google went public in 2004. The Wall Street Journal speculates the IPO could create 1,000 millionaires overnight – as if that’s what our nation REALLY needs right now – more millionaires. The nation’s focus shouldn’t be on creating a handful of millionaires – it should be on creating a million strong middle class by bringing back manufacturing jobs to the United States – by ending tax breaks for transnational corporations that ship American jobs overseas – and putting back in place protections for domestic industries.

Reality TV Star Donald Trump will endorse Newt Gingrich for President today. Gingrich’s is coming off a landslide loss in the Florida Primary where he was outspent on TV ads – airing only 200 ads compared to over 13,000 funded by Mitt Romney's rich Wall Street friends. So Newt could use more than Trump’s endorsement – he could use some of Trump’s money. The Donald meanwhile still seems pretty sour on Romney, who declined to attend Trump’s debate last December. It’s unclear why monkey-hair is getting so close to Gingrich, who has little to no chance of winning the nomination – let alone the presidency. Some are speculating it sets up perfectly for Trump to announce a run as a third-party candidate when Gingrich loses. I think the Donald just needs divorce lawyer advice – and Newt’s the guy to turn to for that.

And finally…Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning – meaning we’re in store for 6 more weeks of winter. But with an unseasonably warm winter that’s seen average temperatures 5 degrees above normal in the Northeast – who needs summer anyway?

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, February 2nd, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.