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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Arkansas Law Signals Revival of Debtors’ Prisons in US, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Vermont leads the fight to protect unions, and more.

In today’s On the News segment: Vermont leads the fight to protect unions, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. The man-hunt for cop-turned-killer Christopher Dorner continues in California. As of today, the Navy veteran and former LAPD officer has eluded police for over a week after the killing three people on February 3rd. The LAPD have even offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest. Most of the discussion in the media has focused on a multi-page manifesto, which Mr. Dorner posted to his Facebook page, describing the alleged reason behind the killings. Mr. Dorner claims that the LAPD unjustly fired him for leveling allegations of police brutality. Despite an investigation at the time finding Dorner’s brutality accusations false, the LAPD has agreed to reopen the investigation. The media, and the public, have taken a variety of views about the cop-turned-killer – with some labeling the man as a homicidal maniac and others supporting him for taking on a system he believes is tyrannical. Many questions surround the firing, and the on-going man-hunt. We’ll have to see what answers materialize in the coming days, and hope that no additional lives are lost in the process.

In screwed news…There are less than 20 days until the March 1st Sequester deadline. And Washington is gearing up for a major fight. If politicians can’t come to a compromise, the looming $85 billion of Republican austerity is set to make devastating cuts to programs many Americans depend on. Despite non-defense spending being 14% lower than it has been in a half-century, deficit hawks in the Republican party want more austerity imposed on the working poor in our nation. Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee estimate that additional cuts will have a devastating impact on food safety, aviation safety, early education, disaster relief, and law enforcement. And vital programs like WIC, which helps low-income women provide food for their infants and toddlers, may be forced to tell 600,000 women and children to go hungry. In his weekly YouTube address over the weekend, President Obama again called on Congress to act now in order to avoid “deep, indiscriminate” cuts. He called out the Republicans directly saying, “they would rather ask more from the vast majority of Americans and put our recovery at risk, than close even a single tax loophole that benefits the wealthy.” Rather than working to avert the impending crisis, House Republicans like Speaker John Boehner are simply using it to attack our President…coining the ridiculous term “Obama-quester.” No country, in the history of the world, has ever cut it’s way to prosperity. We can only hope that Congress starts considering a smarter approach – like the Sanders-Schakowsky Corporate Tax Fairness Act – and prevent devastating austerity. Stay tuned.

In the best of the rest of the news.

Vermont is leading the fight to protect unions! “Right-to-work-FOR-LESS” legislation was recently rammed through in Michigan, and has even been purposed as national legislation by Sen. Rand Paul. But now, Vermont is setting the opposite example with the introduction of the “Fair Share Bill.” The state’s Senate Committee on Economic Development voted 5-0, to ensure that people who reap the benefits of union representation pay their share into the bargaining process. In an interview with Vermont Public Radio regarding the so-called “Anti-Right-to-Work” law, State Senator Philip Baruth said, “If you enjoy the benefits of your union and collective bargaining, you will have to pay a percentage of what a fully paid up member of the union would pay.” From increased wages – to safer working conditions – to the 5 day workweek, unions are responsible for many aspects of employment that people today take for granted. And we’ve seen unions virtually destroyed in states where “Right-to-Work-FOR-LESS” has been enacted. Those states consistently have lower wages, more dangerous working conditions, and a lower likelihood of sharing in the economic growth created by employee production. Kudos to Vermont for standing up for the rights of unionized employees in their state. Let’s follow their lead and push for a national “Fair Share Bill.”

Don’t be late on your rent in Arkansas! Because if you are, you could wind up behind bars. According to a new report by Human Rights Watch, landlords and corrupt public officials abused an Arkansas “failure-to-vacate” law to bring charges against more than 1,200 tenants in 2012 alone. And the number of people who’ve actually been effected by this law, which charges people as criminals simply on a landlord’s say-so, could be much higher. While most states handle late rent payments and evictions as civil matters, Arkansas’ new use of the “failure-to-vacate” law could put you in jail for being as little as 10 days behind on rent. One woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch said she was only three days behind when her landlord ordered her to move out, and threatened to have her arrested. This law is clearly a revival of debtors’ prisons in America – something that we outlawed in this country in 1833! More Americans than ever are finding themselves behind on bills. If more states adopt this policy, who knows how many more of us will wind up in jail. Perhaps someone needs to start researching the private prison industry’s role in all this.

And finally…It’s always sunny in Germany. At least, that’s what some on Fox so-called News would have you believe. Last week, a trio of want-to-be journalists on Fox & Friends used that ridiculous reasoning to explain why Germany’s solar industry is so far ahead of our own. So, instead of considering the obvious reasons – like the fact that Germany’s government has long supported the solar industry – Fox would rather ridicule Obama’s “failed” solar subsidies. In fact, every single state in our nation except for Alaska gets more annual sunshine then Germany. In addition to that, Obama’s solar subsidies have vastly improved solar output, and expanded the industry’s reach throughout our nation. Perhaps it’s time we shine a little more light on Fox news…. maybe it’ll eventually stop them from trying to push us back into the dark ages.

And that’s the way it is today – Monday, February 11, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.

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