Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. The Republican Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee is under investigation for breaking insider-trading laws. No one holds a more influential position on Capitol Hill when it comes to Wall Street than Congressman Spencer Bachus – whose job as Chairman is to keep tabs on financial institutions. But the Office of Congressional Ethics is looking into Bachus to see if he’s profited off all his insider information in a first of its kind investigation. As the Washington Post reports, “In recent years, Bachus has made numerous trades, some of them coinciding with major policy announcements by the federal government and industries under his congressional oversight.” In 2008 – records show that Bachus made more than $30,000 in short-term investments. Beyond allegations of insider-trading – Bachus is also leading the effort to defund critical Wall Street reforms intended to prevent another crash like we saw in 2008. Bachus has received 44% of his campaign donations from the very same financial industry he oversees. Apparently, Republican Spencer Bachus is Wall Street’s inside man on Capitol Hill, and well paid for it.
Low-income children are screwed when it comes to getting a good education. New studies show that a quality education in America is now increasingly only available to the very rich. A study out of Stanford shows that the gap in standardized testing scores between rich students and low-income students has increased 40% since the 1960’s. And another study out of the University of Michigan shows that gap between rich and low-income students when it comes to college completion – which is the single biggest factor when it comes to succeeding in the economy – has grown 50% since the 1980’s. As the New York Times reports, “The changes are tectonic, a result of social and economic processes unfolding over many decades.” Those social and economic processes are called Reagan, Clinton, and Bush-onomics. In the last 30 years, thanks to the Reagan Tax Cuts, Clinton’s attack on welfare and embrace of Free Trade, and Bush’s Great Depression – our economy only benefits the very rich. And with public education budgets being slashed around the nation – and taxpayer dollars being diverted to for-profit schools – the one great equalizer in America – our education system is under attack.
In the best of the rest of the news…
The President will announce some changes today to his recent decision to force religious institutions to offer contraceptive coverage in their employee health plans. Republicans manufactured a controversy around the decision this week after the economy improved – and they needed to seize the news cycle. The exact details of the changes are still unknown but may involve letting religious institutions refer female employees to a third-party to offer contraceptive services. Of course – the bigger picture here is that this wouldn’t be a controversy at all if “we the people” controlled our healthcare with a strong national single-payer system. Healthcare should be a basic right for all Americans like it is for citizens of every other developed country in the world. Ironically, the official position of the Catholic Church is that healthcare is a right and not a privilege, and the United States has signed UN treaties that should have made that the law here.
As Greece pursues more austerity measures – the Greek people are taking to the streets. Major labor unions started a 48-hour nationwide strike to protest against yet another round of austerity enforced by unelected technocrats and banksters. Demonstrations in the streets of Athens turned violent as hundreds of young people clashed with riot police – with gasoline bombs being hurled at cops who in turn fired tear gas canisters back into the crowd. After several years of austerity now – the Greek economy is STILL on the brink of collapse. Similarly in the UK – where austerity was put in place a year and a half ago – the British economy is on the verge of a double-dip recession. Austerity only does one thing – create poverty and civil unrest.
Despite a tumultuous year for nuclear power – and clear indications that our nuclear plants aren’t as safe as we once believed – the United States is doubling-down on nuclear power. In a 4-1 vote – the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the construction of two new nuclear reactors in Georgia – the first new approvals in decades. The one dissenting vote on the NRC was chairman Gregory Jaczko who argued, “I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima has never happened… In my view that is what we are doing.” Beyond Fukushima – here in the United States, a nuclear plant came within inches of being flooded outside Omaha,Nebraska, and a nuclear facility in Virginia came dangerously close to disaster after an unexpected earthquake. Ninety-four different plants across America have been ordered to re-test how they can withstand earthquakes in the future. Nuclear power is the most expensive – and most dangerous form of energy on the planet – and needs to be ditched.
Virginia is set to become just the second state in the nation to allow private adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective parents based on religious beliefs or sexual orientations. The Virginia State legislature passed a law to keep gay and lesbian parents from adopting children in the state – and Republican Governor Bob McDonnell is expected to sign it. So, despite major steps forward this week for gays in California and Washington State – bigotry is still alive and active in states like Virginia.
And finally…anytime it snows in America, Fox so-called News likes to pretend that global warming must be hoax – but they’ve been pretty silent lately. That’s because new numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that the nation was drastically warmer in the month of January compared to most other years in recent history. The average temperature across America 36.3 degrees – that’s a whopping 5.5 degrees above the 20thcentury average – and it made for the fourth warmest January on record in over 118 years. The evidence for global weirding mounts – and the skeptics still have their fingers in their ears.
And that’s the way it is today – Friday, February 10th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.