Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. In a crisis – we're seeing democracy die in Europe. Led by France and Germany – a new treaty was worked out between Eurozone nations in an effort to halt the growing financial crisis sweeping the continent. The treaty – written mostly by banksters – imposes strict new rules on individual European nations including: capping how high annual budget deficits can run – agreeing to “automatic consequences” if deficits get too high – changing national constitutions – and forcing contributions to a continental bailout slush fund. In other words – handing over national sovereignty to bankster rules. The new treaty was too much for the U.K. – as Prime Minister David Cameron refused to sign on to it – meaning it will have to be a treaty among Euro nations individually – and not one binding the Eurozone as a whole. A year ago – if you would have asked the proud people in Italy – if their elected Prime Minister could be replaced by an unelected bankster to impose harsh austerity measures on them without a single vote – they would have called you crazy. Similarly – if you would have asked the Greeks – the cradle of democracy – if their elected Prime Minister could be run out of office for just asking for a national referendum on a bailout – and replaced by a bankster – they too would have called you crazy. Yet – that's exactly what's happened – and is continuing to happen in Europe. Democracy is under attack around the world – including the United States – where Republican Governor Rick Snyder in Michigan has given himself the power to appoint unelected “financial managers” to take over cities struggling with budget deficits – fire elected city council officials – void union contracts – and sell off large chunks of cities to private corporations. Other Republican governors are thinking this is a good idea.These are very dangerous times.
Who's screwed? Not just the middle class – but the environment too. Republicans in the Senate quenched their thirst for filibusters yesterday – blocking two votes that would have helped the middle class. First – the nomination of Richard Cordray to head up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – an agency designed to make sure consumers aren't screwed over by banksters – received a majority of votes in the Senate – but couldn't overcome a near unanimous Republican filibuster, meaning middle-class Americans still don't have a financial watchdog on their side. Then – Republicans filibustered a payroll tax-cut extension that would have shielded 160 million Americans from $1,000 tax hike next year – all because Republican wanted to protect millionaires and billionaires from a 3 percent surtax on any incomes they make over a million bucks. Now – Republicans in the House of Representatives are getting in the game too. Next week – they'll vote on a bill that extends the payroll tax cut – but only if the controversial Keystone XL toxic-oil pipeline is approved – and key environmental regulations that make sure the air we breathe is safe are repealed. In other words – the middle class can have their tax cuts – but only if they're willing to choke on pollution.
In the best of the rest of the news…
The payroll tax cut for the middle class isn't the only thing set to expire at the end of this month – so too are extended unemployment benefits. And taking a cue from Speaker of the House John Boehner, who said Republicans will try to “reform” unemployment insurance before extending it again – Congressman Jack Kingston this week introduced legislation to require mandatory drug testing in order to receive unemployment benefits. As in – empowering so-called “Big Government” to analyze your body fluids if you lose your job and need help. This has already been tried in Florida by right-wing Governor Rick Scott – and it was discovered that mandatory drug testing like this actually costs a lot more money that it saves. That's because people on welfare tend to use far fewer drugs than other people. In Florida – only 2.5% of welfare recipients tested positive for drug use – the national average is nearly 9%. Still, Republicans aren't going to miss any opportunity to continue their war on the poor.
Two people are dead in Texas as a result of what happens when our social safety net fails us. Texas mother Rachelle Grimmer and her two kids fell on hard times – just like tens of millions of other Americans – and needed food stamps to get by. But when she applied for them – she was denied by Governor Rick Perry's Texas Department of Health and Human Services. The desperation – and her history of untreated mental illness – drove Grimmer to shoot her two kids then take her own life right inside the Texas welfare office. One child died at the hospital – the other is in critical condition. Currently – 46 million Americans are at the end of their rope and depend on food stamps just to get by. This is a national tragedy – and highlights how crucial our social safety net is – and why it must be protected at all costs against this unprecedented assault by conservatives.
The rich get richer – the poor get poorer. Last summer – U.S. household wealth plummeted 4% – it's the biggest drop since the financial meltdown of 2008. Looking strictly at homes values – Americans are $5 trillion poorer today than they were in 2007. Meanwhile – for corporate CEOs – it's an entirely different story. At the end of last summer – corporations had record-breaking stockpiles of cash in their vaults – over 2 trillion that they're just sitting on – while not opening up new factories – not hiring new workers – and not giving their current workers – who are rapidly dropping out of the middle class – better wages. And we call these guys the so-called “job creators”?! It's been a tale of two recoveries for the last three years – one in which Wall Street is doing better than ever thanks to a multi-trillion dollar bailout – and one in which Main Street is sinking deeper and deeper into debt thanks to ongoing Republican filibusters.
Memo to the Chamber of Commerce: Hold off on the lavish holiday parties when the 99% Movement is in town. After three days of storming Congressional offices on Capitol hill and shutting down lobbyist offices on K-Street – the 99% Movement and it's “Take Back the Capitol” days of action did a little party crashing last night – showing up outside the DC Headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce for their annual holiday party. Once there – patriots laid on the ground, unfurled a red carpet over themselves and chanted, “You walk on our rights, now walk on us.”
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And that's the way it is today – Friday, December 9th, 2011. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.