On the News With Thom Hartmann: IMF Calls Inequality “Defining Issue of Our Time,” and More

In today’s On the News segment: According to the International Monetary Fund, income inequality is the “defining issue of our time”; Republicans in Wisconsin think that more privatization is the answer for some of their failing schools; Missoula, Montana, has declared victory over corporate control of its water supply; 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. According to the International Monetary Fund, income inequality is the “defining issue of our time.” That’s the finding in their new report on how the gap between the rich and poor is harming people and economies all over the world. That new study was conducted by five of the IMF’s top economists, who surveyed data from different economies from 1980 forward, and urged governments to enact policies that help the bottom 20 percent of citizens. In addition to the obvious human cost of high levels of inequality, this study confirmed that the massive wealth gap actually harms the overall economic growth of a nation. The authors wrote, “If the income share of the top 20% increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down.” They added, “In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20% is associated with higher GDP growth.” In other words, if we want our nation’s economy to grow and prosper, our government needs to work for more than just the one percent. While the economists acknowledge, “there is no one-size-fits-all approach to tacking inequality,” they do lay out some meaningful reforms to address the problem. They suggest more progressive tax policies, which means higher taxes on investment income, and better living standards for those at the bottom of the income ladder. It’s all about making those at the top pay their fair share and making sure those at the bottom don’t fall through the cracks. For more than three decades, Reaganomics has made the few extremely wealthy and left the many trying to catch up. We don’t need any more proof that all that wealth is never going to trickle-down. Andrew Jackson once said, “We should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base.” And, it’s time to strengthen that base by fighting income inequality and recreating that just society that gave birth to the “American Dream.”

Even after a disastrous review of their school voucher program, Republicans in Wisconsin think that more privatization is the answer for some of their failing schools. Last week, dozens of parents and teachers protested a plan by Republican State Sen. Alberta Darling to hand over struggling public schools to charter and for-profit companies. In an effort to protect the Milwaukee Public School system, the protesters chanted things like “Education is a civil right!” and “Down with privatization, up with MPS!” These parents and teachers don’t want their schools to end up like the schools that have been shut down abruptly because of illegal behavior, and they don’t want their kids to end up like 400 private school students who couldn’t read or do math proficiently. They know that privatization is just a stepping stone toward the complete destruction of Milwaukee’s schools. That school system is already feeling the pinch because of privatization of some schools, which has decreased their funding and increased the number of kids in every classroom. More privatization will not fix those problems. Quality education is an investment in our nation, and access to it should be a right, not a privilege. Good on the Milwaukee parents and teachers for recognizing that fact and fighting to save their public schools.

Many of us know that there shouldn’t be a profit motive in health care. But, that hasn’t stopped Wall Street banksters from cashing in on injury and illness. According to a new report published in the journal Health Affairs, 49 of the 50 hospitals that have the highest mark-up are for-profit chains. In other words, these hospitals charge more than 1,000 percent over what Medicare allows for many items. In comparison, the other 4,400 hospitals that were reviewed charge about 340 percent more than the Medicare allowable, because most of those facilities are nonprofit. The vast majority of these 50 high-priced hospitals are owned by Hospital Corporation of America and Community Health Services, better known as HCA and CHS. So, two massive, for-profit corporations continue to get away with charges patients and insurance companies many times more than the average hospital. And, because these charges are regulated by states, these companies will continue to rake in profit. It is definitely immoral to make money off of the sick and the injured, but it’s not illegal. That’s what we need to change. No person or corporation should get rich off of sick Americans, and hospitals like these should be investigated for price gouging.

Missoula, Montana, has declared victory over corporate control of their water supply. Last week, District Court Judge Karen Townsend agreed that the city was correct to use eminent domain to take back control of their water. That fight dates back to December of 2010, when The Carlyle Group announced they were purchasing the Park Water Company. In order to approve that sale, the Montana Public Service Commission wanted a stipulation that the city would be given a chance to buy the water system in the future. But, when Missoula attempted to purchase the water system as planned, Carlyle refused to sell. That corporation left Missoula with no choice but to attempt an eminent domain acquisition. The city went to court in April of 2014 to regain control of their water, and more than a year later, they were able to declare victory. Corporations should never control our commons, and it’s great to see that Missoula has taken their water supply back from Carlyle.

And finally… If you want your employees to be more productive – have them watch cat videos. Seriously! A new study from researchers at Indiana University says that watching cats-be-cats in online videos, “boosts viewers’ energy and positive emotions and decreases negative feelings.” So, what some bosses may call procrastination could otherwise be known as a productivity boost. One of the study’s author’s said, “Some people may think watching online cat videos isn’t a serious enough topic for academic research, but the fact is that it’s one of the most popular uses of the Internet today.” Any study that inspires more love and appreciation for animals and boosts productivity should certainly be considered serious. And, if it gives us all another excuse to watch cat videos, well, that’s just an added bonus.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of June 22, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.