On the News With Thom Hartmann: Big Pharma to Become One of Nation’s Biggest Tax Cheats, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Two of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world are about to merge; bus drivers in Silicon Valley are benefiting big time from collective bargaining; as cities criminalize homelessness, homeless people are fighting back; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…

You need to know this. Big Pharma is about to become one of our nation’s biggest tax cheats. According to a recent article over at Common Dreams, two of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world are about to merge, and they’re going to skip out on paying their fair share of taxes while they’re at it. Pfizer and Allergan, the makers of medications from Botox to Viagra, have announced that their merging into the world’s largest drug manufacturer. As if that news isn’t bad enough, the companies will also pull off the biggest corporate inversion ever, just so they can skip out on US taxes. By moving their new corporate headquarters to the lower-tax nation of Ireland, Pfizer will sell-out the taxpayers who helped build that company for the last 160 years. And, they haven’t even announced yet how many US jobs that they’ll be slashing in the process. This massive new pharmaceutical company will control many of the medications that Americans rely on, but their new monopoly will give them limitless power to raise prices and rake in more profit off of the sick. Of course, Pfizer officials claim that US tax rates prevent them from competing overseas. But, an analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness shows that the company only paid out 6.4 percent of their income over the last four years, and their lengthy patents protect them from any real competition. This move is all about money and power. As Gustav Ando of IHS Life Sciences explained, “This merger isn’t meant to benefit patients, it isn’t meant to innovate in any kind of way… and certainly, the benefits won’t be passed on to consumers.” President Obama, Democratic senators and various watchdog agencies are calling on Congress to make corporate inversions like this one illegal, but so far, very little has been done to reign in these tax-cheating schemes. It may be too late to stop Big Pharma from getting even bigger, but we can continue the fight against corporate monopolies, and we can let companies know how we feel about tax cheats.

Bus drivers in Silicon Valley are benefiting big time from collective bargaining. Earlier this month, drivers from a company called Compass Transportation ratified a new labor contract which will bring higher wages and better benefits. That contract is the latest development in a multi-year struggle with tech giants like Google and Facebook, who hire the drivers to bring their employees to and from the tech-company offices. As drivers ferried highly-paid workers back and forth, they quickly realized that they were being denied the health insurance, paid holidays and overtime pay that was bring provided to their passengers. So, they stood together and joined the Teamsters Union to fight for their workplace rights. Their new contract will bring all of the overtime pay, holiday pay and health insurance benefits that they deserve, and it will give drivers like Tracy Kelly a raise from $18 to $25 an hour. These drivers recognized that they have more power by standing together, and they are inspiring workers around our nation to do the same.

Cities around our nation have criminalized homelessness, but now, the homeless are fighting back. According to a recent article over at the Think Progress Blog, four homeless men in Manteca, California have filed a suit against the city, saying that the anti-homeless ordinances violate their constitutional rights. About a year ago, that city made it illegal for anyone to sleep or set up camp outside. Then, they passed an ordinance against using the bathroom outdoors at all. When asked whether the new laws were intended to ban homeless people, the city’s chief of police said that they were only to “correct the wrong,” and “if the correction is [the homeless] leaving Manteca, then that’s their choice.” However, rather than simply leaving, four of the homeless men impacted by the ordinances filed suit, saying the laws were passed with, “a discriminatory purpose of driving the homeless from the city.” And, these brave men are not alone. A lawsuit has also been filed on behalf of the homeless in St. Augustine, Florida, and the Justice Department has filed a memo against similar laws in Boise, Idaho. The fact is, virtually no one is homeless by choice and it’s wrong to prosecute someone simply for being stuck out on the street.

The ACLU wants Florida cops to stop seizing people’s personal property. In a recent press release, the civil rights group is calling on the Florida legislature to address that state’s out-of-control civil asset forfeiture practices. According to a stunning new report from the Florida Legislature Office of Program policy Analysis and Government Accountability, only 16 percent of individuals ever challenge an asset seizure, and only about 1 percent ever get the benefit of a full trial before their possessions are taken. In fact, there are so many asset forfeitures that the sale of them accounts for more than 2 percent of police agencies operating budget. As bad as these facts are, these statistics could be masking an even larger problem because it is voluntary for Florida police departments to report civil asset forfeitures – and half didn’t bother to participate in the recent study. The ACLU said, “Now that OPPAGA’s report has documented how often Florida’s police agencies are seizing personal property, it is time for the legislature, which commissioned the report, to take action to bring an end to abuse of the system.”

And finally… The AFL-CIO wants to be a part of your holiday season. That’s why the national union is calling on all of us to look for the union label while we’re shopping this year. According to their press release, the average American will spend more than $700 on gifts this year, and all that holiday shopping could help support a heck of a lot of union jobs. And, there are a still many gifts that are produced with union labor. For example, all Hasbro toys and games are made by union workers, and all the cell phone service at AT&T is provided by unionized service workers. Although the holiday season shouldn’t be all about gifts, if you’re going to be buying, be sure to support your favorite labor groups in the process.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of November 30, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.