On the News With Thom Hartmann: House Republicans Pass Earmarked Payroll Tax Cut Extension, and More

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Republicans in the House of Representatives wasted everyone’s times yesterday – passing their version of the payroll tax cut extension. Since Republicans can’t pass a clean bill to protect 160 million Americans from a $1,000 tax hike – they instead attached poison pills to the tax cut extension – repealing regulations that keep our water safe from polluters – and fast tracking the environmental “ticking time bomb” known as the Keystone XL pipeline. After the vote – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blasted House Republicans saying, “The bill passed by House Republicans tonight is a pointless partisan exercise. The bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. It was dead before it got to the Senate.” The President also threatened to veto the bill. So what exactly did Republicans do yesterday to help our economy and help the middle class? Absolutely nothing.

If you’re in Pennsylvania – and you need help from the police – you’re screwed. That’s because Republican Governor Tom Corbett – who already slashed $900 million out of his state’s education budget – is now targeting the police budget. According to Patriot-News, Corbett wants to cut the police department budget by 5% – essentially laying-off 500 cops. That could result in Pennsylvanians who need 9-1-1 emergency help having to wait DAYS before police can respond. Pennsylvania State Trooper Association President Bruce Edwards acknowledged the disastrous consequences of Corbett’s latest proposed budget cuts saying, “I don’t want to sugarcoat it. That’s what’s going to happen.” Of course – all of this could be avoided – if only Governor Corbett made gas fracking corporations pay their fair share in taxes. Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that doesn’t tax frackers. One reason why: Corbett got $835,000 in campaign contributions from oil and natural gas companies. Choosing big polluters over public safety makes Governor Tom Corbett officially the worst governor money can buy.

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In the best of the rest of the news…

Here’s a newsflash to the Free Traders – we’re already in a trade war with China – and China is winning. Today – China’s Commerce Ministry announced a slew of brand new trade tariffs on American auto manufacturers. Beginning tomorrow and lasting two years – automakers like General Motors and Ford will have to pay a tax – ranging anywhere between 2% and 21.5% – to do business in China. The Ministry defended the move saying subsidized U.S. car imports are doing, “substantial damage to China’s domestic industry.” So the real question here has to be…Why aren’t we protecting our domestic industries here in the US the same way the Chinese protect theirs in China?? It’s time to just drop out of the WTO and all these so-called Free Trade Agreements. In fact – if we'd dropped out 20 years ago, we'd have 100,000 more factories here right now!

Time for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to lawyer up. The ACLU and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed federal suits yesterday against Scott Walker – arguing that his radical new voter ID law is unconstitutional. A report earlier this month found that one out of five Wisconsin voters at the polls don’t have a photo ID – meaning they would be ineligible to vote in the next election. As Larry Dupuis – the legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin said, “The state….has created a voter ID system that is making it very hard or impossible for residents to exercise their cherished right to vote.” The ACLU is arguing the new law violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause – and it also amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax. Similar laws have been passed in several states headed up by Republicans – and the Brennan Center for Justice warned that 5 million eligible voters could be turned away at the ballot box next election because of these new laws. I guess we’re seeing in Wisconsin how an unpopular and radical governor stays in office despite a massive recall effort – he just keeps people from voting.

Is our military under attack by cyber warfare? Two high-tech unmanned spy drones have crashed in the last two weeks – leaving the Pentagon scrambling to find explanations. One was lost above Iran – and is now being paraded around Iranian television – and another was lost yesterday morning after it inexplicably crashed in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. Earlier this year – there were reports that several drones were contaminated with an unknown computer virus. So is our military really as invincible as we are told? Or has letting defense contractors use foreign factories to build critical and highly sensitive weaponry and technology finally catching up with us?

The oil and coal barons are poisoning us. A new report by the Environmental Integrity Project identifies 19 sites across America where coal ash from power plants is poisoning groundwater wells with arsenic and other toxic waste. Back in 2007 – the EPA had already identified 67 sites across the nation where lax regulation on dumping waste has led to groundwater contamination. At one site in Indiana – soil was found to contain arsenic at 900 times above the legal limit. And in Labelle, Pennsylvania – which sits right next to a coal ash dumpsite – 44 of the city’s 244 residents have died in the last 5 years of cancer – and many of those still alive are currently battling cancer. Meanwhile – Republicans are fighting regulations that would stop the oil and coal barons from poisoning us. As one resident of Labelle said, “It’s time for us to think about the safety and wellness of the people, not greed.” We need to get coal and oil money out of politics and off TV – and then maybe our lawmakers will actually respond to the voters, and not just big campaign donors.

Donald Trump may have finally jumped the shark. The “Presidential Apprentice” has been called off – after every single Republican candidate except for Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – declined to participate in Trump’s debate hosted by the right-wing blog NewsMax. But Trump deflected criticism by saying he cancelled the debate because he is considering make his own run for the White House as an Independent. So…here we go again…

And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, December 14th, 2011. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.