On the News With Thom Hartmann: Time to Cut the Oil Barons Off, and More

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. With oil barons making record profits – it’s time to cut off their taxpayer subsidies. That’s essentially the message the President is trying to get across as gas prices continue to climb. Despite the fact that domestic oil production is running on all cylinders with the number of oil rigs in operation around the country at an all time high – and demand for oil is at it’s lowest level since 1997 – prices continue to tick up. That’s partly because speculators on Wall Street are artificially driving up the price by placing billions of dollars on derivative bets that create fake demand for oil. Not only that – oil companies are selling much of the gasoline produced in the United States overseas – our nation just became a net-exporter of oil products for the first time in over 60 years. And don’t’ expect the Keystone Pipeline to help with gas prices. Bloomberg just reported that the Keystone Pipeline will boost oil industry profits by $4 billion each year – while raising gas prices for Americans across the nation. That’s because Keystone’s oil isn’t bound for American gas tanks – it’s bound for shipping lanes to be sold to foreign nations. In the last 5 years, the oil industry has raked in $500 billion in profits while laying off ten thousand American workers – and the higher gas prices climb – the higher their profits climb, too. So don’t blame President Obama for gas prices, blame those who are benefiting the most – the Koch brothers, Wall Street, and executives at ExxonMobile, BP, and Shell.

Mistreated workers are screwed in Georgia, where the Peach State has opened a new front in the war on working people. This week – legislation was passed by a state Senate Committee that would criminalize union picketing outside places of business. The new law would definite union picketing as, “interfering with the resident's right to quiet enjoyment,” and hits union picketers with jail time. The law also applies ONLY to unions and labor organizations. One of the main opponents of the legislation is Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson who said the law would, “overburden an already stressed prison system,” and that the role of the police shouldn’t be to, “police free speech.” The war against workers is getting truly nasty – first they cut the right to bargain, then they cut wages and pensions, and now they want to put union picketers in prison. Welcome to the Plutocracy.

In the best of the rest of the news…

There’s some good news coming out of Detroit. U.S. auto industry sales rose more than 15% – putting the industry on pace to sell 15 million cars and trucks this year. That’s the highest sales pace the industry has seen in 4 years – since 2008 – and more proof that President Obama’s decision to rescue Detroit in 2009 was the right call. Somewhere Mitt Romney’s campaign staffers must be desperately trying to scrub the Internet of the 2008 New York Times op-ed he wrote titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

As Detroit rebounds, Wall Street is losing customers. With Bank of America considering new fees for its customers, more and more Americans are moving their money out of the big banks’ vaults and into local credit unions. According to a new report from the National Credit Union Administration – credit unions added 1.3 million new customers in 2011 – bring its total number of customers to 91.8 million – the most ever recorded in history. In just the last 3 months – 5.6 million people have transferred their money – with most leaving the big banks that now have lost around 10% of their customers. Bank of America may want to think twice about new fees, as it saw a 20% increase in account closures in the fourth quarter of last year. Today, 11.1 million Americans are still underwater on their mortgages as a result of what the banksters did – that’s nearly a quarter of all homeowners. And since the federal government refuses to crack down on banksters and hold Wall Street accountable for their crimes – then consumers have to.

Maryland is now the eighth state in the nation to embrace equal rights for gays and lesbians. On Thursday, Maryland’s Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley signed into a law a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. The law is set to take effect next year – but Republican anti-gay bigots are already trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. They recently submitted language for a referendum to repeal the same-sex marriage law – and are trying to collect 56,000 signatures to put it on the ballot in November. The journey to equal rights in America always includes setbacks – but as Martin Luther King said, “the arc of human history bends toward justice”.

Move over Orly Taitz – the birthers have a new hero. In a contentious press conference on Thursday, Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that after a months-long investigation – he and his team of investigators – known as the “cold case posse” – have concluded that President Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery. “The document is a fake,” Arpaio said, pointing out what he believes is evidence that the birth certificate was made on Adobe Software. He went on to say he has an obligation to the people of Arizona to get to the bottom of this. Last December – the Department of Justice accused Arpaio of civil rights abuses – and evidence was uncovered that his office failed to investigate hundreds of child-sex crimes because the kids were Hispanic. I suppose Arpaio STILL thinks that taxpayer money is better spent going on a witch hunt against the President than protecting abused children.

And finally…while testifying before a House Subcommittee – NASA’s Inspector General Paul Martin admitted to lawmakers that a laptop was stolen last year containing unencrypted, Space Station command and control codes. Martin went on to say that this was one of 48 laptops stolen from NASA between 2009 and 2011. Despite the theft of sensitive information – Martin assured lawmakers that at no time was the Space Station in any danger. Unclear who the NASA thieves were – and what they plan to do with the Space Station – but rumor has it that pigeon droppings were found near the scene of the crime.

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