On the News With Thom Hartmann: Higher Education Was an All but Absent Topic the First Day of the RNC, and More

In today’s On the News segment: On the first day of the RNC, there was very little talk about how our nation can send more kids to college; corporations can force their employees to campaign for politicians whether they like it or not; corporations are fleeing America at a blistering rate; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave the keynote address at last night’s RNC – and someone forgot to tell him that he’s not running for President this year – Mitt Romney is. Christie talked about his family, his style as a politician, and touted his accomplishments as Governor – conveniently leaving out his state’s 9.6% unemployment rate, one of the worst in the nation. But it wasn’t until his speech was two-thirds done that he first mentioned Mitt Romney’s name, suggesting Christie was actually there to unofficially launch his 2016 bid for the White House. But Christie also had an interesting message about love and respect – and how politicians should seek respect instead of love. And that means knowing how to say, “no.” As Christie said, “Our leaders today have decided it is more important to be popular, to do what is easy and say ‘yes,’ rather than to say no when “no” is what’s required.” Christie and Republicans have a record of saying, “no” a lot – but mostly to working people, poor people, women, seniors, the sick, and so on. But who can they not say “no” to? Millionaires, billionaires, banksters, defense contractors, oil barons, the Koch brothers, corporate CEOs, private health insurance corporations, big PHARMA, big agribusiness – you get the point. There’s nothing brave or courageous about saying “no” – when the only people you’re saying “no” to are the most vulnerable among us.

In screwed news – corporations can force their employees to campaign for politicians whether they like it or not – and then fire them if they choose not to. A recent decision by the three Republicans on the FEC affirmed the right of corporations to use their employees as political pawns – saying restrictions against such use would violate a corporation’s right to free speech. And Mitt Romney is benefiting from this. Earlier this month, Romney spoke at a campaign rally in Ohio where he was joined by hundreds of soot-covered coal miners. We now know many of those coal miners were forced to attend the rally and feared they would be fired by their employer if they didn’t show up. Not only that, they lost a day’s worth of pay. The owner of the coal mine – Robert Murray is a staunch Republicans – who funneled more than $150,000 to Republican candidates between 2005 and 2009. And apparently his free speech is more important that the rights of his workers to not be coerced into supporting Mitt Romney.

In the best of the rest of the news…

On the first day of the RNC – there was very little talk about how our nation can send more kids to college. Similarly, there was very little talk about how our nation can send fewer kids to prison. But these are two huge problems facing the nation. According to a recent Pew Research Center report – between 1987 and 2007 – nationwide spending on prisons increased 127%. But nationwide spending on higher education only increased 21%. In the state of Pennsylvania, prison spending is double education spending. Thanks to the failed war on drugs – in the last thirty years the incarceration rate in America has jumped from 220 people out of every 100,000 to 743 out of every 100,000. That equates to 2 million more prisoners in America – a quarter of whom are non-violent drug offenders. For the first time in history – both prison spending and student loan debt topped one trillion dollars. This should be a wake-up call. Time to end Nixon’s failed war on drugs – and devote that money to sending Americans to college for free. That’s exactly what we did with the returning World War 2 generation with the GI Bill, which led to the greatest period of economic growth in our nation’s history.

Austerity-ravaged Europe is a breeding ground for new, experimental economies. In Spain, where a recession is expected to get even worse after the government passed $80 billion worth of austerity measures, new economies are springing up all around the country that aren’t dependent on the crippled euro. The economies are based on barter and exchange. For example, “time banks” are popping up around Spain – that allow workers to trade in their services in hours – and receive services in return. Labor and services are thus exchanged through hours – and not through currencies. Tens of thousands of citizens are participating in more than 325 time banks all around Spain – making it one of the largest modern economic experiments in recent history. Similar time banks can be found in Greece and Portugal, too – as alternatives to the corporate free-market, austerity recovery being pushed by banksters and technocrats. As the Washington Post describes these new economies, “These experiments aim to take communities back to a time when goods and services were bartered, before things such as interest rates, market speculation, and derivatives complicated the financial world.” Clearly, the globalized, free market experiment of the last thirty years has failed us and it’s time to look for new alternatives.

Corporations are fleeing America at a blistering rate. As the Wall Street Journal reports, since 2009, ten U.S. public companies have left the United States and reincorporated overseas to avoid paying taxes to the United States. Currently, the top corporate tax rate in the U.S. is 35% – though it’s well known most corporations pay for less – or pay nothing at all. In fact, corporate taxes as a percentage of government revenue is lower than ever. What’s really happening here is that even American corporations no longer have an allegiance to the United States. They have allegiance to profit – and that’s it.

And finally…Wall Street has been put on notice. In just a few weeks, the Occupy movement will celebrate its one-year anniversary by attempting to actually occupy Wall Street. In the last year, we’ve seen the LIBOR scandal, JP Morgan Chase’s massive gambling losses, and numerous other instances of bankster crimes. Clearly, Occupy is needed now more than ever. Stay tuned.

And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, August 29, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.