On the News With Thom Hartmann: Living in Poverty Affects More Than a Person’s Physical Health, and More

In today’s On the News segment: President Obama announced that he will ask Congress for authorization for a military strike in Syria; Harvard scientists found that the constant strain of worrying about finances can actually lower someone’s IQ by as much as 13 percent; days before the Labor Day holiday, low-wage workers in more than 50 cities walked off the job to demand a living wage; and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Over the weekend, President Obama announced that he will ask Congress for authorization for a military strike in Syria. In a press conference on Saturday, the president said, “While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.” Only one week ago, it appeared that President Obama would make this important decision alone, but instead he has laid the issue at the feet of a divided Congress. And, the outcome is far from certain. The president’s proposal may pass the democratically-controlled Senate, with the help of a few Republicans like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. However, Tea Party senators like Rand Paul, and liberals like Bernie Sanders, could join forces to block the measure. In the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the president may have an even tougher time getting approval to strike in Syria. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has come out in favor of President Obama’s plan, saying it’s “in our national security interest and in furtherance of regional stability and global security.” But, it’s doubtful that House Speaker John Boehner can get his party together for a rank-and-file vote in either direction. Some congressional Republicans have shown support for the President’s policy, but Representatives Tom Cole and Mike Turner have already expressed their opposition to the plan. Just considering congressional approval is extremely complicated, and that doesn’t even begin to address all the questions surrounding this possible strike. Many Americans, and their elected leaders, have strong feelings about how we should proceed in Syria. President Obama hasn’t yet explained why our nation should police the world, but at least there will be debate about bombing a foreign nation.

In screwed news… Living in poverty effects more than a person’s physical health. According to a new study by Harvard scientists, the constant strain of worrying about finances can actually lower someone’s IQ by as much as 13 percent. Researchers say that’s about the same mental strain as losing a night’s sleep. Apparently, when people are focused on how to divvy up the little money they have, they spend very little time thinking about anything else. That lack of cognitive “free time” can lead to bad decision making, which, in turn, often leads to poor health and economic choices. We’ve known that the mental stress of being poor can lead to health issues like high blood pressure, obesity, and mental illness. Now we understand some of those connections. In an interview with the Washington Post, on the study’s authors said, “Poverty is the equivalent of pulling an all-nighter. Picture yourself after an all-nighter. Being poor is like that every day.”

In the best of the rest of the news…

Only days before the Labor Day holiday, low-wage workers in more than 50 cities walked off the job to demand a living wage. It was hailed as the largest fast food workers’ strike in our nation’s history. Thousands of restaurant and retail employees joined forces from California to New York, and called for $15 dollar an hour, and the right to organize without retaliation. According to a press release from organizers, the timing of the strike was intentionally “pre-Labor Day,” and turnout far exceeded workers’ expectations. The images of large crowds of marching workers are quite powerful. Protestors standing together illustrates how the decline of the traditional labor movement has lowered wages and benefits, but they also represent the bright future of a new workers’ rights movement. With every strike, more fast food and retail workers realize they’re not alone, and they are finding the courage to demand a living wage. Their ongoing fight isn’t just about their future in the fast food industry, but about every worker’s right to stand together and stand up to big business.

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder put one more nail in the coffin of Richard Nixon’s failed drug war. Holder announced that the Department of Justice would no longer undermine states’ efforts to legalize marijuana. In a phone call with the governors of Washington and Colorado, the attorney general said that the DOJ is taking a “trust but verify” stance on state marijuana laws. The federal government will not file lawsuits to block legalization efforts, as long as states enact and enforce marijuana regulations that meet a few basic guidelines. A DOJ memo outlined eight priorities that must be met by state or local legislation. They include commonsense provisions, like preventing the sale of marijuana to minors, ensuring that gangs or criminals aren’t profiting off pot sales, and stopping the transport of pot to states that have not yet legalized it. These new guidelines are fair and reasonable, and they may very well lead to the legalization of marijuana in more states.

And finally… It must be hard work to keep up with all the talking points on Fox News. At least, for Tucker Carlson it is. The “Fox & Friends” host was caught on camera taking a nap on the set of his morning talk show. When co-host Alisyn Camerota finished reading the headlines, the cameras panned the studio, and found Carlson fast asleep on the infamous “curvy couch.” Camerota couldn’t help but laugh at her co-host, waking Carlson from his nap. He stretched and said, “I know we’re not on television, so it doesn’t bother me. Is this honestly live?” Unfortunately for Carlson, it was. Carlson explained that he was extremely tired after staying up late to fill in for Sean Hannity the night before. I guess it’s exhausting keeping up with the Fox News spin.

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, September 3, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.