On the News With Thom Hartmann: Minimum-Wage Workers Are Screwed, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Minimum-wage workers are screwed, more police brutality against students yesterday in California, a radioactive wave is headed toward the United States, and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. The proverbial fat lady is about to sing. Mitt Romney swept Tuesday night’s Republican Primaries – winning in Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington, DC. He’s now added to his already sizeable lead in delegates – meaning it’s just a matter of time now before his main rival Rick Santorum has to leave the race. That could be three weeks from today – as Santorum is putting all his remaining chips in his home state of Pennsylvania, which holds a primary on April 24th. However, even a Santorum win there would do little to stop Mitt Romney at this point. Now it’s time for the millionaires and billionaires in the Republican Party to start pooling their money and investing in Wall Street’s favorite candidate – Willard Mitt Romney.

Minimum wage workers are screwed. While Republicans in Congress want to drop or throw away the federal minimum wage – new data shows that the minimum wage in America is woefully inadequate. The current minimum wage is pegged at $7.25 – but given the price increase of pretty much everything over the last few decades – from healthcare to housing to education – that $7.25 doesn’t get you very far. In fact – today’s minimum wage needs to be nearly ten dollars to have the same buying power as it had in 1968. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that somebody earning the minimum wage would wipe out an entire year’s income JUST to pay for a family health insurance plan. During the heyday of the middle class – from the 1940’s to the 1970’s – one good union job could support a family of four and provide all the basic essentials. That doesn’t exist anymore – and now we’re a nation made up of the working poor who are collecting wages that give them no chance of chasing down the American Dream. Economies grow when working people have money in their pockets – not when the super-rich are given trillions of dollars in tax cuts and are expected to trickle that money down to the rest of us. It’s time to put in place a real living wage that a family can actually live on.

In the best of the rest of the news…

More police brutality against students – this time, yesterday in California. As many as 30 Santa Monica College students were pepper-sprayed Tuesday night when they attended a Board of Trustees meeting to protest a plan to charge more money to take classes. Reportedly one campus police officer used pepper spray against the students when they started chanting “shame on you” at the trustees. The vapors spread around the room – forcing dozens of people to flee the building, choking on noxious chemicals. Paramedics were called to the scene to treat five students for pepper-spray exposure – and two other students were taken to a nearby hospital. Our First Amendment to assemble, protest, and speak freely is under growing attack in America as our nation moves closer and closer to becoming a police state.

Pressure is growing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to put an end to rampant oil speculation by banksters. Banksters speculating on Wall Street are driving up gas prices – and Democratic Senator Bill Nelson wants the Chairman of the CFTC to do something about it. In a letter to President Obama – Senator Nelson called for CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler to essentially be fired, writing, “Mr. President, if CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler doesn’t act soon to implement rules that will cut down on speculation in the oil futures markets, then you should consider not reappointing him.” According to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law – more than a year ago, the CFTC should have put into place rules to curb oil speculation – unfortunately, Wall Street lobbyists and Republicans in the House have delayed these new rules from taking effect, and Gensler hasn’t taken them on. And now, Americans are suffering at the pump as a result.

The world has a problem with human trafficking. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – 2.4 million people around the planet are victims of human trafficking at any given moment – with 80% of them trafficked as sex slaves, and the rest used as forced labor. It’s a $32 billion a year industry – and only one out of every one hundred trafficking victims is ever rescued. The UN is calling on individual nations to take a tougher stance against human trafficking. In the United States – only 10% of police stations have the training or ability to crack down on trafficking.

A radioactive wave is headed toward the United States. Scientists with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are tracking debris from last year’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami as it makes its way across the Pacific Ocean. The debris – which carries with it extremely high levels of radiation – is currently 186 miles off the coast of Japan and could start lashing the coast of the United States within a year, depending on the currents. Scientists are immediately concerned about marine life being hit with radiation levels millions of times above normal, but by next year it’ll be in our marine food supply, our rain, and our coastal waters. So more than a year after the Fukushima nuclear crisis began – the world is still suffering its effects, with more to come. It’s time for a worldwide ban on the most expensive and most dangerous form of electricity generation on earth – nuclear power.

And finally…sticks and stones aren’t allowed – but hand guns sure are. The city of Tampa, Florida will host the Republican National Convention in August. And to defend themselves against Occupy protesters – the city is banning water pistols, masks, plastic pipes, and any piece of string more than six inches long. But, in true Republican fashion – guns will be allowed! So – if you’re an occupy protestor wearing a Guy Fawkes mask – you’re going to jail. But if you’re a Tea Partier strapping a Colt .45 to your thigh – you’re A-OK.

And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, April 04, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.