On the News With Thom Hartmann: We Spend 90 Times More on the Military Than on Head Start, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Despite the fact that we’re in the heat of election season, the agency charged with protecting the process is lying down on the job; one giant conglomerate is about to control 70 percent of the beer market in the US; we spend 90 times more on the military than we do on the Head Start education program; 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. Despite the fact that we’re in the heat of election season, the agency charged with protecting the process is lying down on the job. That’s why groups have begun calling on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to get to work. According to a recent article over at CommonDreams.org, the FEC’s failure to update rules and regulate election spending have created a “unprecedented flow of so-called ‘dark money’ into the US political process.” In a letter to the commission, groups like Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, the Center for Media and Democracy and many others demanded that the FEC address vital regulatory shortfalls. They wrote, “Since the 2010 Citizens United decision, each election system has seen dramatic changes in the campaign finance environment.” However, they added, “the rules and regulations of the Federal Election Commission have not kept pace.” Specifically, they want the FEC to update their rules to address three important issues. The groups say the agency must re-establish the disclosure rules that existed before the commission destroyed them, strengthen rules that keep foreign money out of our political process, and ensure that unregulated super PACs and outside groups are not working directly with political candidates. These suggestions are simply common sense, and they would help put our democracy back into the hands of “We, The People.” Ever since that disastrous Citizens United decision back in 2010, our democracy has slipped further and further into the hands of the billionaires. It is the job of the Federal Election Commission to address this corruption, and put in place rules that make all our voices have equal value. By ignoring their duty, the FEC is directly responsible for the unfettered purchase of our democracy, and they should be held accountable. If the commissioners can’t get their acts together and stand up to big money, it’s time to throw them out and appoint people who will.

Back in April, the CEO of Gravity Payments announced that he was raising the pay for each of his employees to at least $70,000 a year. When Dan Price went public with that decision, he sparked a media storm, and even a lawsuit from his own brother, who is a minority shareholder in the company. Despite the backlash, Mr. Price says that his decision is paying off big time in profit and productivity. Just six months after he hiked employee pay, Gravity Payment’s revenue is growing at twice the rate it was before the raises. And, the company’s profits have actually doubled in that short time. Better paid employees have also made for better workers, which has led to a customer retention rate of 95 percent. In fact, in the two weeks after his announcement, Mr. Price received more than 4,500 new résumés, and his new customer inquiries skyrocketed from 30 per month to 2,000. Dan Price and Gravity Payments are proving that higher wages are a win-win for businesses and their workers. Hopefully, more companies will follow suit and realize it benefits them to pay all workers a living wage.

Get ready for the beer-opoly. According to a recent article by Jim Hightower, one giant conglomerate is about to control 70 percent of the beer market in the United States. SABMiller, the company that makes Miller Lite, Coors and other brews, has agreed to a $104 billion merger with Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Budweiser, Corona and many more. Not only is this bad news for beer lovers, it’s also a raw deal for workers. The companies have already announced that they plan to cut thousands of jobs, but they say such decisions are all about “future growth.” To borrow a word from Jim Hightower, that claim is nothing by “hog-swill.” As Hightower said, the new conglomerate “won’t hesitate to use this monopolistic muscle to shrink consumer choice by squeezing independent breweries out of bars and retail outlets.” Whether you care about saving someone’s job or your own specialty brew, it’s important to stand up to this brewing company monstrosity.

We spend 90 times more on the military than we do on Head Start. When it comes to bombs and tanks, no amount of money is too high. But, when it comes to giving our kids the best possible start in life, suddenly we can’t find enough money. A recent article by Lindsay Koshgarian of Moms Rising says that we can’t continue to wait for someone else to fix this problem. She laid out several reasons why now is the right time for universal preschool. As Lindsay explained, preschool is good for children. Giving kids a chance to socialize and experience the world is essential to their development. In addition, preschool is one of the best equalizers. Regardless of family income, a quality preschool can increase the likelihood a child will graduate from high school, and make them less likely to wind up in jail or prison. However, many parents can’t give their kids these benefits because of the soaring cost of childcare. The fact is, investing in early education is wildly popular in our country, and we can easily cover the cost of such investments. In the richest nation on earth, every child should be guaranteed the best start in life, and that means making universal preschool a reality.

And finally… While many workers will be fending off the crowds on Black Friday, one sporting goods company is encouraging their employees to go out and play. REI, the Seattle-based company that specializes in outdoor recreation, just announced that they will be closed on the biggest shopping day of the year. Instead, they are giving 12,000 workers the day off with pay and reminding them of the company’s mission: “Being outside makes our lives better.” According to the President and CEO of the member-owned cooperative, “We’re a different kind of company – and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.” REI joins the growing list of companies that are making a commitment to value workers. Hopefully this trend goes beyond the retail industry so that all workers get the chance to “opt outside” on Black Friday.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of November 2, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.