On the News With Thom Hartmann: FEC Head Says She’s Given Up Hope of Regulating 2016 Election, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The person in charge of our Federal Election Commission says she has pretty much given up hope of regulating the 2016 election; Republicans are responsible for underfunding our crumbling infrastructure; another state is working to demonize people for being poor; and more.

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

You need to know this. The person in charge of our Federal Election Commission (FEC) says she has pretty much given up hope of regulating the 2016 election. That agency has been unable to reach a conclusion on any key vote, because they are perpetually locked in a 3-to-3 tie along party lines. In an interview with the New York Times, FEC Chairwoman Ann M. Ravel said, “The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim.” She’s not even talking about dealing with new rules to address the massive level of corruption in our political system. She’s saying that they can’t even hold anyone accountable for violating the inadequate rules that are already on the books. According to that recent piece in the Times, “Some commissioners are barely on speaking terms, cross-aisle negotiations are infrequent, and with no consensus on which rules to enforce, the caseload against violators has plummeted.” So, the FEC recognizes that groups and individuals are violating election laws, but they can’t get along long enough to do anything about that, let alone protect the integrity of our elections in 2016. This amounts to telling a thief that you’re leaving the front door unlocked, and that you’ll be too busy arguing with your neighbors to worry about who might get inside. Since the earliest days of this great nation, protecting our democratic process has been paramount. Without the right of “We The People” to select our representatives and decide on issues, this country would have been no different than the monarchies and dictatorships that came before our democratic republic. And, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United ruling, it’s more important than ever that we hold people accountable when they violate the law. It’s the FEC’s job to protect the integrity of our elections, and it’s about time that we put pressure on that agency to make sure that they stop bickering and start doing their job.

You probably didn’t need a report to tell you this, but Republicans are responsible for underfunding our crumbling infrastructure. Last week, the progressive research organization known as American Bridge 21st Century released their report on the effect that Republican obstruction has had on our nation’s roads and bridges. That report explains how GOP leaders have repeatedly blocked efforts to extend or increase transportation spending, and how that has led to the current state of disrepair. The authors wrote, “Republicans kicked the can down the road on the highway bill last summer by funding a short-term solution that is set to expire at the end of May.” Like so many other issues, paying for our national infrastructure has fallen victim to governing-by-crisis. And, even if Congress prevents the Highway Trust Fund from running out of money, Republicans still want to slash the budget for highways and infrastructure projects in the future. We can’t be the innovative and advanced nation we strive to be while our roads and bridges crumble around us. A stronger infrastructure means a stronger nation, so let’s make sure that Congress funds the roads and bridges of our future.

The Student Debt Strike began when 15 brave students refused to pay back loans they took out to pay for school at the for-profit Corinthian College. However, that strike quickly grew to over 100 students, and more people are joining every day. In order to open the movement to students from other universities and people who support the cause, the Debt Collective has announced the Solidarity Strike. The new movement will help keep pressure on Congress and the Department of Education to reform our broken student loan system and provide real relief to the millions of Americans struggling under a mountain of student debt. With student loans in our nation topping well over one trillion dollars, and more and more students ending up in default every day, it’s imperative that we get real reform on this issue. The Corinthian 15 inspired many to take a stand against for-profit college, and they may have started a national movement to ensure that higher education is a right, not a privilege.

Another state is working to demonize people for being poor. According to The Think Progress Blog, Republicans in Wisconsin want to mandate precisely how low-income families can spend their meager food stamp benefits. Although the average household only receives about $220 a month, Republican State Representative Robert Brooks wants to be sure that they don’t spend much of that on pasta sauce, potatoes or fancy cheeses, or that any of those benefits are spent on shellfish. Representative Brooks recently introduced legislation that would prohibit stores from accepting SNAP benefits for these items, and create a lengthy list of rules that recipients must follow to use their benefits. And, his legislation is actually less extreme than other proposals that have been introduced. This legislation in Wisconsin is just the latest attempt to make life harder on those who need a helping hand, and an effort to make poor people – not billionaires – into the bad guys. Wisconsin lawmakers should be ashamed.

And finally…Even in this day and age, many women continue to earn about 76 percent of what men make in the same jobs. In an effort to bring attention to this disparity, one Pittsburgh artist is charging men more than women. After eight years of living in New York City, Elana Scholenker moved to Pennsylvania and opened a store named “76.” She sells local artisan products like honey and ceramics, but the prices for each depend on gender. To highlight the persistent gender pay gap, Elana charges women 76 percent of what she charges men, but she’s still getting tons of support from her male customers. She says that when male shoppers learn the reason for the policy, they often share stories about the strong women in their lives. And, she’s hoping to open a new store soon in New Orleans, Louisiana, called “66,” to highlight the wider gender pay gap in that city. Regardless of whether you agree with Elana’s store policy, the fact is that many women pay more for items despite earning less. It’s great to see that at least one store is working to change that.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of May 11, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.