On the News With Thom Hartmann: America’s Pensions Are Under Attack, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Politicians, corporations and even our courts are all chipping away at retirement benefits and promised healthcare that workers paid into throughout their careers; Republicans in the US Senate stayed up all night to delay a vote on a federal appeals court judge; millennials could be the next great generation; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Last night, Republicans in the U.S. Senate stayed up all night to delay a vote on a federal appeals court judge. The vote to approve Judge Nina Pillard happened at 1am, and several other nominations will be considered before the upper chamber leaves for vacation next week. Republicans say that they will delay every vote as long as possible to punish Democrats for the so-called nuclear option, which prevented the filibuster from being used to block certain federal appointments. Because they can no longer completely block the President’s nominees for federal courts and agencies, Republicans are determined to use up to 30-hours of debate for each nominee to slow down the process. Just to put this in perspective, the Senate Republicans did not force all-night debates when considering immigration bills, food stamp cuts, or many other important pieces of legislation. But, they think blocking the President’s choice for an appeals court is worth holding up the entire legislative process. This Congress is the least productive in history, because of obstructionist tactics like this – which are more about childish vendettas than about doing The People’s business. We elected this President, and it’s his job to appoint qualified people to courts and federal agencies. It’s the Senate’s job to approve or deny those nominees based on their qualifications, and then get to work on all of the other pressing issues our nation faces. If Republicans in the Senate want to spend all night debating an issue, why don’t they make it one that Americans actually care about. Otherwise, they’re simply wasting our time and taxpayer dollars to play politics.

In screwed news… America’s pensions are under attack. Politicians, corporations, and even our courts are all chipping away at retirement benefits and promised healthcare that workers paid into throughout their careers. For decades, cities, states, and large corporations have skipped out on making payments to employee pension plans, and looted pension funds to shore-up budgets or pad their balance sheets. And, the courts have gone along with all of it by allowing companies – and now cities like Detroit – to declare bankruptcy to screw over their workers. Karen Friedman of the Pension Rights Center, said, “The assault on retirees is greater now than at any other time. We’re seeing it in Detroit. We’re seeing it in states that are trying to get rid of good pension plans. We’re seeing it in major corporations that are transferring pensions to insurance companies.” She said, “We’re [even] seeing it in Congress, where members are being heavily lobbied to introduce legislation that would allow multi-employer plans to cut retire pensions.” The attack on workers has left wages stagnant and union membership declining, so now their going after the only thing left – our retirement. We simply can’t let this happen.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Millennials could be the next great generation. According to a new Pew Research study, our nation’s youngest voters have progressive views on social issues, immigration policy, and they believe that government should do more to solve our problems. This is a direct contrast with older, whiter voters, who tend to be more conservative, and who believe the government is already too involved in things they believe should be left to the private sector. The Millenial generation may just be the generation that helps us usher in a new – New Deal. And, they’re the reason that Republicans have gone to great lengths to keep young people from voting. From closing voting prescincts at colleges, to making a college ID an unacceptable form of identification, the GOP keeps coming up with new ways to keep millenials away from the polls. But – they can’t do it forever, and eventually these young voters will get their say. When they do, our country just may find it’s way back to a government that works for the people, and not for corporations.

According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are holding steady around our nation today, with only a few areas rising from yesterday’s numbers. Near the East coast, Taylors, South Carolina is sitting at 41 counts per minute, with spikes of 64, and Chicopee, Massachusetts is at 42, with spikes of 66. The Midwest is reporting elevated readings, with Colorado Springs hovering at 61, with spikes of 86, and Frederic, Wisconsin at 47, with spikes of 70 counts per minute. The Southwest is also reporting some concerning spikes, with Chino Valley, Arizona hovering at 53, with spikes of 77, and Henderson, Nevada at 47, with spikes of 72 counts per minute. The Northwest is slightly calmer, with Vancouver, Washington at 38, with spikes of 57, and Seattle at 30, with peaks of 41. RadCast.org reminds us that their alert level is 100 counts per minute, and they’re monitoring levels closely to provide us this important information.

And finally… After the 2012 elections, the Republican party’s so-called autopsy report showed they needed to find a way to connect with minorities. Well, one of the best ways to do so may be to make sure there are actual minorities at your “minority outreach” events. Last week, Senator Rand Paul was asked to speak at the Michigan Republican Party’s “African-American Engagement Office.” But, as pictures from the event show, pretty much everyone who showed up for the event was white. Even in Detroit, which is roughly 83 percent African-American, it’s not that surprising to see Rand Paul have an issue connecting with minorities. After all, he’s spoken out against long-term unemployment benefits, even though the African-American unemployment rate is substantially higher than white unemployment, and he’s expressed strong criticism of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Just a word to the wise…. If the Republican Party of Detroit – or any city, for that matter – wants to connect with minorities, they may not want to invite a speaker who says private businesses should be able to discriminate and employees staffers who nickname themselves the “Southern Avenger.”

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, December 12, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.