On the News With Thom Hartmann: Congress’ Approval Rating Lowest on Record, and More

In today's On the News segment: Mitt Romney won Puerto Rico Sunday night, most conservative Congress in history also has the lowest approval rating on record, Julian Assange will run for Australian Senate, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. The warm weather is back – and so is Occupy Wall Street. Hundreds of demonstrators returned to Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan on Saturday to celebrate the six-month anniversary of the movement. But as the sun went down, the peaceful crowd was once again broken up by NYPD officers. In all – 74 people were arrested, and there were widespread allegation of police brutality against peaceful demonstrators. One woman was taken to the hospital after appearing to suffer a seizure. So it looks like the grassroots activism that swept the nation last fall is set to bloom again in the spring. Unfortunately – so is the violent suppression of free speech, as the oligarchs and banksters desperately cling to power and to their enormous wealth, amid economic instability and social unrest.

The bottom 90% of us are screwed. Unlike the years following the Great Depression in the 1930’s – today’s economic recovery has been one exclusively for the super rich – the top one-tenth of one percent. As economist David Cay Johnston reveals – during the early recovery from the Great Depression – between 1933 and 1934 – the bottom 90% of Americans saw their incomes grow by 8.8%, while the richest of the rich Americans saw their incomes decline by 3.4%, thus lessening the wealth inequality in America that had been built up over the 1920s decade of Republican economic policies. But today, the opposite is true. During the 2010 recovery – 93% of all new income gains went to just the top 1% of Americans. As a result – the bottom 90% of Americans saw their incomes shrink .4% – while the super rich in America – saw an enormous 21.5% increase in their incomes. Not only did banksters on Wall Street crash our economy – and erase trillions of dollars of wealth held by the middle class – they also made massive profits during that swindle. And today, with Wall Street doing better than ever, and not one bankster in prison for his crimes, Republicans in Congress continue to filibuster or ignore legislation that could help the middle class recover from Bush’s Great Recession.

In the best of the rest of the news…

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, warned the world against over-confidence in recently improved economic conditions. Despite, economic gains in the United States and a historic debt swap deal in Greece holding off an immediate default – LeGarde warned a group of Chinese officials and business executives that the world still needs urgent financial reforms, saying, “The world economy has stepped back from the brink and we have causes to be a little bit more optimistic. But,” she added,” optimism should not give us a sense of comfort and certainly should not lull us into a false sense of security.” Of course, Legarde is speaking on behalf of banksters who are seeing their enormous profits rolling in once again. But the Greek people, who are suffering from austerity and rioting in the streets – and the 49 million Americans who are living in poverty – know full well that this economy is still in big trouble.

Things are looking up once again for Mitt Romney. Romney won the Puerto Rico primary on Sunday – and is expected to add the territory’s 20 delegates to his widening lead over Rick Santorum. And looking ahead at Tuesday night – when Republican voters in Illinois will hit the polls in a crucial primary – it looks like Romney is eyeing another win. Polls show Romney with big leads in the state – with Rasmussen reporting a 9-point edge for Romney over Santorum, and Public Policy Polling reporting a 15-point lead. This is welcome news for Romney, who’s hoping to begin healing soon from a brutal Republican Primary season featuring millions of billionaire dollars in SuperPAC-funded negative ads. Senator John McCain even said that this is one of the, “nastiest campaigns” he’d ever seen. So, as Romney strengthens his grip on the nomination – it’s time voters start asking themselves if they trust a man who thought it was fine to strap his sick dog to the roof of his car during a 12-hour road trip. Something tells me the long-departed Seamus the dog might get the last laugh this year.

Congress has its lowest approval rating ever recorded – just 11%, and a team of political scientists might have figured out why that is. Professors Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal examined the votes taken by the House of Representatives during this Congress, compared to previous Congresses dating all the back to 1879 – and found that this House is the most Conservative it has ever been in the last 133 years. Democrats have even made some of their most Conservative votes in the last 100 years. Of course – this is the House of Representatives that was elected with the help of over $300 million in outside, corporate spending thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. So the best way to look at the uber-conservative policies coming out of the House and benefiting only the top 1% – is that they are simply the returns that the Republican Party’s investors were expecting when they threw all their money in the 2010 election in the first place. Small wonder that the American people are sick of Congress.

And finally…Wikileaks founder Julian Assange – infamous for speaking truth to power – now wants to be part of the power. Over the weekend – Assange announced he’d be running for a seat in the Australian Senate. Assange is an Australian citizen, but is currently on house arrest in the UK while he fights extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges. He could also face extradition to the United States – as the Justice Department tries to tie Assange to Bradley Manning – the soldier accused of leaking top-secret military and state department files. Wikileaks also announced that it is recruiting a candidate to run against Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in her home seat. That’s certainly one way to bring a little more transparency to government.

And that’s the way it is today – Monday, March 19th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.