On the News With Thom Hartmann: Indiana Might Become a “Right-to-Work” State, and More

In today's On the News segment: President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address tonight, Indiana's state Senate has passed legislation turning it into a “right-to-work” state, Supreme Court delivers victory for Americans' privacy rights, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. The President is set to deliver his State of the Union address tonight. Early reports indicate the President will focus on the issues that are absent from most Republicans debates, which are help for the middle class, ways to reduce wealth inequality, and a plan for renewable energy. Despite 22 straight months of private sector job creations, glimmers of hope in an economic recovery, and one fewer war abroad since the President took office three years ago – the state of our union is still weak. There’s massive inequality – rivaling that of third world nations. There are still 5 million homeowners on the verge of foreclosure. There are 49 million Americans living in poverty, including 1-out-of-5 children. There’s instability in the Middle East as a result of our addiction to foreign oil. The list goes on. We need revolutionary change in America as the millions who’ve taken to the streets since the 99% Movement began have demanded. Unfortunately – until we get money out of politics, end corporate personhood, and say that money is property, not speech – real change will be hard to come by. And sadly – it’s unlikely the President will call for a Constitutional Amendment tonight to end the great sell-off of our democracy. But we can still keep the pressure on him – go to MoveToAmend.org.

Workers in Indiana are screwed. On Monday – the state Senate passed legislation turning Indiana into a “right-to-work” state. In other words – a right-to-work FOR LESS state. Currently – there are 22 right-to-work-for-less states in the nation that don’t require union membership as a condition of employment when workers have decided to unionize. The law essentially breaks up labor unions – leading to a downward spiral of wages. According to the Economic Policy Institute – wages are over 3% lower in right-to-work-for-less states – also, the rate of employee health insurance coverage is 2.6% less in right-to-work-for-less states – and there are nearly 5% fewer pensions offered in right-to-work-for-less states. If the Republican-controlled Indiana House passes the Senate’s right-to-work-for-less law – and Republican Governor Mitch Daniels signs it – which is likely – Indiana will be the first state in America’s manufacturing belt to pass a right-to-work-for-less law. So tonight – when Governor Mitch Daniels gives his response to the President’s State of the Union address – know that he’s currently in the middle of a war against labor unions at the same time.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Last night’s Republican debate in Florida featured a battle between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich over who is the most flawed candidate. Today – Romney released his tax returns showing he pays a far lower tax rate – just 13.9% – than most working American families on income that most Americans won’t make in their lifetimes. And yesterday – Newt Gingrich released his records from his time “advising” – or lobbying – for Freddie Mac – showing that he collected $1.6 million while millions of Americans were being thrown out of their homes. In last night’s debate – both candidates attacked each other over these skeletons in their closets – leaving voters left to decide who’s the lesser of two evils: the tax evader or the philandering lobbyist.

Police are going to need a warrant from now on if they want to plant GPS systems on your car to track you. So says the Supreme Court in what many are calling a huge victory for privacy rights. In the case of United States v. Jones – the high court found that the police violated the Fourth Amendment rights of suspected drug kingpin Antoine Jones when they installed a GPS tracking device on his car and monitored his activities for 28 days without a warrant. Still, there are questions left unanswered as to what really are unreasonable searches in an age where people are using 332 million cell phones that can be tracked, and surfing the Internet visiting websites that can be tracked too. Regardless, the nation took one step back from Orwell’s 1984 with yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling. Unclear if the ruling applies to the Fourth Amendment rights of corporations as well.

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee want the Kochs to appear before Congress. On Wednesday – the Committee is expected to hold its first hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline since President Obama officially rejected it last week. And ranking Democratic Member of the Committee Henry Waxman is calling on someone form Koch industries to testify about what type of financial stake the Kochs have in the Keystone pipeline. The Koch brothers have previously denied any financial gain from the pipeline – but according to papers filed with the Canadian Government – a subsidiary of Koch Industries does stand to gain quite a lot from that oil flowing into the United States. And looking at the way bought-off Republicans have reacted to the Keystone pipeline – even threatening to hold tax cuts for millions of middle class Americans hostage unless the President agrees on the pipeline – it’s hard not to wonder if the Kochtopus is lurking somewhere below the surface.

The White House will soon have to weigh in on allegations of bribery made against the Motion Picture Association of America – or MPAA – headed up by former Senator Chris Dodd – and lead supporter of anti-piracy legislation like SOPA and PIPA. A petition has been submitted to the White House “We the People” site – and according to promises made by the White House – if any petition gathers 25,000 signatures, it will issue an official response. Previous petitions have been focused on alien invasions and marijuana legalization. So far – the MPAA bribery petition has 24,000 signatures. It states that Chris Dodd made “an open admission of bribery” when he appeared on Fox so-called News to warn President Obama that he risks losing campaign contributions from Hollywood if he opposes SOPA and PIPA. The petition reads, “ “We demand justice…Investigate this blatant bribery and indict every person, especially government officials and lawmakers, who is involved.” I’ll be looking forward to hearing what the White House has to say about this say.

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, January 24th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.