In today’s On the News segment: Last week’s election was the most expensive midterm race in history; the Federal Communications Commission is trying to split the baby on net neutrality; when many people in the US wake up to cook Thanksgiving turkeys later this month, Kmart workers will be at work; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…
You need to know this. There’s a new price tag for buying control of the U.S. Senate. Last week’s election was the most expensive midterm race in history, coming in at nearly $4 billion dollars. Democrats and their respective groups spent about $1.76 billion, and Republican candidates and their outside groups dished out about $2 billion. And, as usual, the party that spent the most ended up winning. Starting in January, Republicans will control the Senate, and Mitch McConnell is likely going to be the new Majority Leader. Despite the Republicans’ record of obstruction and complete lack of any new ideas, the 2010 Citizens United ruling allowed billionaires and special interests to put the GOP back in charge of two-thirds of our government. The Republicans may have won more seats in the Senate, but the American people and democracy itself lost on November 4th. Once upon a time, our votes and small donations allowed us to pick the candidates that we believed were best for our nation. But thanks to Citizens United, the vast majority of the Super-Pac money that swung the election came from only 42 people. And, you better believe that those big donors will expect a return on their investment. The super-rich will be calling in those favors, pressuring their bought-and-paid-for lawmakers to pass legislation that’s in the their best interests – and to the detriment of the rest of us. Money in elections has become a cancer on our democracy, and our only hope is to cut it our of our body politic. We have two years before the next election, and we must fight to take our democracy back. If the billionaires win again, there’s no telling what damage they may continue do to our great nation.
The Federal Communications Commission is trying to split the baby on net neutrality. Instead of pushing for common carrier status, which would regulate internet providers like other utilities, the FCC is considering a so-called hybrid proposal. Their new approach would classify the relationship between ISPs and content providers like Netflix as a telecommunications service, which would be subject to strict regulation. However, the relationship between internet providers and consumers would not be protected under those common carrier regulations. In other words, internet companies could not restrict huge content providers like Netflix, but you and I wouldn’t be offered the same protections. And, there’s no guarantee that this idea would hold up to scrutiny in the courts. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has already come out against this new proposal, saying, “Given all of these problems, and the fact that relatively few people on either side of the debate seem to want a ‘hybrid’ approach, we’re scratching our heads on this one. There’s a better way forward, and the FCC should take it.” That better way is to regulate our internet providers the same way we regulate our phone, electric and other utility companies. Internet service providers should be classified as common carriers. Big businesses shouldn’t be the only ones protected by the FCC.
When many Americans wake up to cook Thanksgiving turkeys later this month, Kmart workers will be at work. That company has announced that they will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and stay open for 42 hours straight. Kmart claims that the Thanksgiving Day shifts will be covered by employees who volunteer to work on the holiday, despite many of their workers saying that last year their requests to take the day off were denied. Kmart joins the list of companies that believe holiday profits are more important than treating workers with a little respect. Kohl’s, Sears, Macy’s, and Walmart will also be open on Thanksgiving, even though last year’s sales showed that the stores didn’t benefit from starting Black Friday sales a day early. Most consumers will be home on Thanksgiving Day, and many said they were less likely to do their Black Friday shopping at stores that refused to give workers the day off. Every worker should have the right to time off on our national holidays, and companies that refuse to recognize that do not deserve the holiday profits.
The World Health Organization has a new focus on “universal eye health,” and a British businessman is helping to achieve that goal. James Chen and his company Adlens are teaming up with an international nonprofit called Vision for a Nation to send millions of pairs of glasses to visually-impaired Rwandans. The amazing new design from Chen’s company costs less than two dollars a pair, and there are plans to expand the program to other low-income nations. Because of the high cost of corrective lenses, most people in developing countries are forced to go without the glasses that they really need. Even here in the United States, many people lack access to affordable eye care, and vision coverage is not included with most health plans. As Justine Greening, U.K.’s International Development Secretary, said, “These affordable, self-adjustable glasses are a real game changer.” James Chen’s invention will improve the lives of millions of people in developing nations. Hopefully, people in our nation will soon be able to access this affordable design as well.
And finally… Last week’s election may have been bad news for Democratic Senators, but there was some good news for American workers. In four different places, voters approved measures to guarantee that employees get paid sick days. Three major municipalities and one entire state now require companies to provide employees with paid sick time, which means that more than one million workers will now be able to stay home when they’re not feeling well. Less than a year ago, there was only one state and six cities in our nation that guaranteed paid sick time, but as of last week, the total is now three states and sixteen cities. The United States still has a long way to go to catch up to other developed nations, but we’re moving in the right direction. Every worker should be able to stay home when their sick, and customers shouldn’t have to worry that they’ll get illness as a side with their meals. Hopefully more cities follow suit, but we should still celebrate last week’s victory for workers.
And that’s the way it is – for the week of November 10, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.