On the News With Thom Hartmann: Big Corporate Money Is Heating Up in Wisconsin, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Battle between grassroots organizing and big corporate funding heats up in Wisconsin, new study from the Commonwealth Fund shows why the nation needs comprehensive health reform, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that former Bush legal adviser John Yoo can’t be sued by victims of torture, and more.

You need to know this. The battle between grassroots organizing and big corporate money is heating up in Wisconsin. A new poll by Marquette Law School shows Governor Scott Walker and likely Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett, in a dead heat among registered voters in the upcoming recall election. The poll shows Walker losing popularity among voters as his numbers have declined each month since January. At the same time – Walker has dumped millions into TV advertising and announced that he raised a mind-boggling $13 million for his campaign in just three months. Most of that money comes from fundraising trips Walker has taken to New York and Texas to collect checks from out-of-state banksters and oil barons. But so far – the big cash haul isn’t helping Walker – which is a promising sign for “we the people” heading into a multi-billion dollar general election this year. As long as working people stay organized, get active, and vote – then it doesn’t matter how much the billionaires spend. They still just have one vote – and there’s a lot more of us than there are of them.

In screwed news…while Republicans desperately try to repeal Obamacare – a new study by the Commonwealth Fund shows why the nation needs comprehensive health reform. Looking at 12 of the most developed OECD nations – the United States leads the way in healthcare spending – at about $8,000 a year per person. Norway and Switzerland are second – but they only spend $5,000 a person. And the study finds that more spending on healthcare in the U.S. doesn’t translate into better healthcare results. As the study concludes, “despite high costs, quality in the U.S. health care system is…not notably superior to the far less expensive systems in the other study countries.” The U.S. ranks toward the bottom of the list in annual doctor visits and length of hospital stays. Unlike other nations like Japan that put in place strict price controls on their medical services, the United States doesn’t – and as a result – soaring medication and medical service prices are driving up total healthcare costs. It also doesn’t help that a third of our nation is obese – further driving up medical care costs. Whatever we’ve been doing to treat sick people in this country isn’t working. We need a single-payer system like “Medicare for Everyone” to join the developed world in guaranteeing that healthcare is a basic right – without bankrupting the nation.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Another war criminal walks. On Wednesday – the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that former Bush legal advisor John Yoo – who wrote legal memos giving cover to the President to commit the war crime of torture – can’t be sued by the victims of that torture. Jose Padilla was declared an “enemy combatant” in 2002 – and claims he was subjected to three years of torture while in custody. But the court rejected Padilla’s claim that he suffered “gross physical and psychological abuse,” and ruled that interrogation techniques did not necessarily amount to torture, despite how “appalling” they may be. So once again the gaping moral wound left by

the torturous Bush administration goes unhealed.

The Illinois state Senate knows how an economy works. Senators there are working on legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $10 an hour. An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found that more than a million workers will have more money in their pockets thanks to the minimum wage hike, and thus will have more money to spend in their local economies. What technocrats in Europe and Republicans in the United States who are pushing austerity don’t understand is that economies function best when people are spending money – not when rich people have a lot of money sitting in the bank. Raising the minimum wage, building new infrastructure projects, and broadening the social safety net will all be effective in getting working people spending money again and getting our economy growing again. Let’s hope other states follow Illinois’ lead.

According to religious groups in California – raising taxes on the rich is the moral thing to do. Two hundred religious leaders in California have endorsed Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to raise taxes on people in the state with incomes above $250,000 rather than make painful cuts to schools and education programs. According to polls in the state – 60% of Californians also agree with raising taxes on the rich in their state – and voters will likely have final say on the issue – as the proposal is expected to qualify for the state ballot. Somewhere Grover Norquist is locked in a closet sobbing.

Florida Governor Rick Scott thinks it’s a good idea to arm up the Republican National Convention in Tampa later this year. With an eye on safety, the city of Tampa has banned foreign objects like crowbars, water guns, and string. However, an attempt by the Mayor of Tampa to also ban handguns during the RNC was shot down by Governor Rick Scott his week. A 2011 law passed in Florida prevents cities from regulating firearms, and Governor Scott refused to offer an exemption in this case, arguing that it would violate the Second Amendment. So get ready for this year’s RNC – where Occupy protestors can

be arrested for carrying string or water guns – but Republican delegates are encouraged to stick a .38 in their pants.

And finally…Germans are getting used to saying, “Argghh, Matey.” The Pirate Party in Germany building on electoral victories last month to become a legitimate political party in Germany. Running primarily on a platform of internet privacy and copyright reform, the Pirate Party has made big gains with young voters who care about protecting file-sharing, and a free and open internet. Picking up four seats in regional parliament elections last month, the Pirate Party is now Germany’s third most popular party. If lawmakers in the United States keep pushing legislation like SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA – it might not be long before we get our own Pirate Party stateside.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, May 3rd, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.