On the News With Thom Hartmann: Obama Announces Legislation to Combat Oil Speculation, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Obama announces legislation to combat oil speculation, Harvard Professor Jim Yong Kim made head of the World Bank, the scramble for polar petroleum reserves, Julian Assange’s controversial new show, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Republicans in the Senate did what their millionaire and billionaire overlords told them to do – block the Buffet Rule. On Monday evening – a majority of Senators voted in favor of the Buffet Rule requiring people like Mitt Romney to pay at least the same tax rate as working Americans. But the bill failed – because a near-unanimous Republican filibuster stopped Democrats from getting the 60-vote supermajority they need to pass anything in the Senate nowadays. A recent CNN poll found that 72% of Americans – including a majority of Republicans – support the Buffet Rule. Unfortunately – those 72% of Americans don’t have multi-millionaire lobbyists like Grover Norquist working on their behalf and therefore can’t get bought-out lawmakers to listen to them. And now that a millionaire can walk up to a Member of Congress and threaten to give their opponent ten million dollars in the next election if he or she doesn’t vote the way the millionaire wants – then don’t expect the oligarchs’ grip on power to loosen. We need a constitutional amendment right now to overturn Citizens United and explicitly say that corporations are not people and money is property – not speech. Go to MoveToAmend.org.

Americans are getting screwed by high prices at the gas pump – and now the President is trying to do something about it. Today – President Obama unveiled a $52 million plan to curb oil speculation on Wall Street. Under the President’s watch – we now drill for more oil domestically than at any other time in the nation’s history – yet the prices continue to go up thanks in large part to oil speculation by the banksters. The President’s plan involves empowering federal regulators to keep a closer eye on commodity markets and increasing penalties for banksters who artificially jack up the price of oil. Republicans are unlikely to support the plan – given that they’ve already blocked efforts to cut off oil subsidies for oil barons – and have defunded and blocked regulations to rein in the banksters too. There’s nothing courageous about standing up for the rich and powerful at a time when the middle class is – as President Grover Cleveland said in 1888 – being “trampled beneath an iron heel” of corporate power.

In the best of the rest of the news…

The backlash against the American Legislative Exchange Council has now made it to the pages of the New York Times. The Times editorial board took on ALEC as its members flee under pressure from several progressive organizations. On top of that – according to the group Progress Missouri – 30 pieces of legislation introduced in the Missouri General Assembly over the last decade were written by ALEC – and as many as 40 state lawmakers have financial ties to ALEC. And we’ve seen similar numbers in several states across the nation. ALEC – which gets a huge chunk of its funding from the billionaire Koch brothers – has been undermining democracy for thirty years in the shadows – but now – in the face of grassroots activism – ALEC has been exposed for what it really is – a corporate political machine. Let’s keep up the pressure.

The oil barons of the world – and the militaries that rely on that oil – are seeing new opportunities in the North Pole as global climate change kicks into high gear. Warming weather is leading to the Northern ice cap melting – uncovering a treasure trove of oil and natural gas reserves. Scientists believe that the Arctic is storing 13% of the world’s untapped oil – and nearly a third of the world’s undiscovered natural gas. As the ice melts – access to these resources becomes easier and shipping lanes open – so now Northern nations are scrambling to stake out their chunk of Arctic resources as well as running military operating in the area should they have to fight for these resources in the not too distant future. Two months ago – military leaders from the United States, Canada, Russia, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland met to discuss security issues around the Arctic. But Greenpeace sees what’s happening in the Arctic as a tragedy for the planet. As the organization reported last year, “The terrible irony of it is that instead of seeing the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a spur to action on climate change, the leaders of the Arctic nations are instead investing in military hardware to fight for the oil beneath it. They’re preparing to fight to extract the very fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place. It’s like putting out fire with petrol.”

Meet your new World Bank President – Jim Yong Kim. Kim was President Obama’s nominee to head the bank – and he continues the streak of Americans who’ve headed up the World Bank every year since it was formed 68 years ago. The decision to choose another American for the top spot didn’t sit well among other nations that believe the United States has an unfair stranglehold on the position. But Kim is not like past world bank presidents – for one, he’s not a banker. As a doctor who’s devoted his life to medicine – including working to give AIDS treatment to 3 million people around the world – Kim may bring a new developmental perspective to the World Bank. Let’s hope so.

And finally…Julian Assange is back – and not many people are happy about it. Today – the network RT aired the first episode of Julian Assange’s new TV show in which the Wikileaks founder and whistleblower – who remains under house arrest – Interviews newsmakers from around the planet. Already the show is drawing criticism as Assange interviewed the leader of Hezbollah – Hassan Nasrallah – who is considered to be the leader of a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe. Assange defended his show saying he’s allowed to say things on it that he “could not say on a mainstream TV network.” If you really want a different perspective of the world – then this may be something worth watching.

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, April 17, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.