In today’s On the News segment: Supreme Court now deciding the fate of Obamacare, the recall vote of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is set, new oil subsidies sail through Congress, natural gas platform disaster continues to unfold in the North Sea, Egyptian courts censor Internet pornography, and more.
You need to know this. The nation of Spain ground to a halt yesterday – as working people across that nation went on strike and took to the streets to protest an austerity budget being pushed by their new government. It’s the same sort of social unrest that’s followed austerity measures in Greece, the U.K., and Italy. And it’s the same sort of austerity budget that Republicans just passed out of the House of Representatives yesterday, approving multi-millionaire Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget. In a vote of 221 to 191 – the Ryan Budget passed the House – but is dead on arrival in the Senate. Ten Republicans joined the unanimous Democratic opposition – although many of those Republicans likely voted “no” because the budget doesn’t go far enough in crashing the economy. Under the Ryan Budget – government discretionary spending will fall to its lowest level in 50 years – that means benefits for veterans, senior citizens, the poor, the sick, students – all of it will be slashed. Meanwhile – big oil gets $40 billion in corporate welfare – and Paul Ryan would give American billionaires a $3 trillion tax cut. If you think what’s happening in Europe can’t possibly happen in the United States – think again. If the Republicans win in November – their radical billionaire/bankster/oil agenda will tear this nation apart.
In screwed news…despite a majority of Senators voting to cut off tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil on Thursday – the corporate welfare spigot is still flowing as Democrats couldn’t get the 60 votes needed to stop a near-unified Republican filibuster. Only two Republicans defied the oil industry and voted to cut off the subsidies – Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. Meanwhile – four Democrats sided with Big Oil, including Senators Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich, and Jim Webb. So how were the oil barons able to keep their welfare despite overwhelming public opposition to the subsidies? The answer is…$23 million. The 47 Senators who voted for big oil collected more than $23 million in campaign contributions from big oil and gas companies. That’s more than four times the amount of contributions that the 51 Senators who voted against big oil collected. We saw this same same thing with Wall Street reform – as banksters contributed four-times more money to Senators opposing tough regulations on the banks than to Senators supporting regulations. That’s what the “best government money can buy” looks like.
In the best of the rest of the news…
Let the Wisconsin recall begin. After reviewing the million-plus signatures to recall Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch – Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board has validated 97% of the signatures and is allowing the recall election to move forward. After one final hurdle today – the Government Accountability Board will vote to order the election – the dates of May 8th for a primary election and June 5th for a general election will officially be set. Democrats in the Badger State also successfully set up recall elections against four Republican state senators – on top of the two state Senators who were recalled last year. Expect Scott Walker to make a lot of out-of-state trips out to Texas and Wall Street to boost his campaign war chest with donations from banksters and oil barons – it’s his only chance of beating the grassroots activists who’re on the verge of kicking him out of office.
The fate of Obamacare will be settled today – as the Supreme Court gathers behind closed doors to hold a preliminary vote on the constitutionality of the law. The public will not know the outcome of this vote until June – and the Justices will have time to change their opinions – and even change the larger ruling in the coming weeks as each prepare their own opinions and dissents. Of course – no industry is watching the high court closer than the for-profit health insurance industry whose existence hinges on the individual mandate being upheld by the Supreme Court. Without the mandate – the for-profit health insurance market will fall into chaos with skyrocketing premiums to cover all the new people who’ll have access to health care. That could be just the thing to start a new conversation on a national single-payer system like Medicare Part E – for Everybody.
Big energy has once again scarred planet Earth. For nearly a week now – natural gas has been spewing out of an offshore platform in the North Sea – shooting a massive plume of gas into the sky – and layering a six-mile sheen of gas byproducts in the Sea. The French Energy company – Total – which owns the platform – says it has finally discovered the source of the leak – but are not entirely sure how they will plug it. Moreover – there are fears growing that the leak could trigger a catastrophic gas explosion – and an enormous environmental disaster. Scientists are also concerned about the toxicity of the gas leaking into the ocean – warning that it could kill off marine life – or even poison humans. There has never, ever been a solar panel leak – or wind turbine spill. It’s time to responsibly manage the resources on this planet – before the planet turns on us.
Speaking of the environment – the Center for Disease Control has identified a 78% increase in cases of Autism in American from just a decade ago. The Environmental Working Group blames the spike in autism cases on neurotoxic chemicals and mercury polluting the environment. And a 2011 Stanford University study found that 62% of autism risk was a result of environmental factors. So just like we’re poisoning the planet – those same poisons are now making us sick.
And finally…no more porn in Egypt. On Wednesday – an Egyptian court ruled that in order to protect society and its values – the government must ban pornography. Human rights groups are criticizing the decision as a violation of freedom of information – and more liberal voices within Egypt are worried this ruling could signal a shift toward a more fundamentalist government. In a related story – Rick Santorum reportedly is ready to make a major announcement in the coming weeks – his candidacy for President of Egypt in 2014.
And that’s the way it is today – Friday, March 30, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.