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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Minnesota GOP Legislation Written by ALEC, Funded by Koch Brothers and Wal-Mart, and More


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is demanding Congress comes back from its vacation – and pass a clean funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration. Taking over the White House briefing yesterday – an angry LaHood said, “End your vacation for a couple days, get off the beach, get out of your mobile homes or whatever you are traveling in, get back to Washington…and pass a bill.” The FAA partial-shutdown is now in its 13th day – leaving 4,000 FAA workers furloughed – another several thousand FAA safety inspectors working without paid overtime or expenses – and over 70,000 construction workers without a job as $2.5 billion worth of airport infrastructure projects are on hold without funding. As President Obama pointed out yesterday – Congress has passed a clean FAA funding bill 20 times since 2007 – but this time around – Republicans decided to use the routine funding measure to advance their war on unions by slipping in language that makes it harder for federal air and rail workers to unionize – language the Senate isn’t willing to pass. Speaker of the House John Boehner pushed back on calls to return to Capitol Hill and get the job done saying, “All it will take to end this crisis is for the Senate to pass the House-approved FAA extension.” In other words – pass the Republicans’ anti-union bill – or tens of thousands of American will remain out of work. So here we are in the midst of another Republican hostage scenario that is destroying our economy. Only this time – Republicans can hold the economy hostage while sitting by the pool on vacation.

People who eat food are screwed. Giant, transnational agribusiness corporation Cargill announced yesterday that it is recalling 36 million pounds of contaminated ground turkey – that has killed at least one person and sickened 76 others across 26 states. Cargill is just now announcing the recall even though the outbreak started back in March. Coincidentally – back in June – House Republicans passed legislation that gutted the federal food safety budget – slashing $87 million from the FDA – and another $35 million from the USDA’s food safety inspection programs. As Republican Congressman Jack Kingston said in defending the bill, “the food supply in America is very safe because the private sector polices itself.” Right – go tell that to the family of the person who died from Cargill’s contaminated turkey. Or tell it to the other 50 million Americans who get sick from foodborne illness every year – or the 3,000 other Americans who die every year because of contaminated foods. Unlike millionaires and billionaires who fund the Republican Party and push for libertarian legislation that does away with food safety – the rest of us can’t afford food tasters to make sure what we’re about to eat is actually safe.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Last year – more than 3,000 people were killed along the Mexican border in the city of Juarez. And it turns out – that 70% of the firearms used in that violence came from right here in the United States. Illegal guns are pouring across the border – which has prompted the Department of Justice to enact new regulations on gun sellers in border states to ease the violence. But now the NRA is vowing to “fight them every step of the way,” arguing that the new regulations – which simply require gun sellers to report bulk purchases of guns – are, “a blatant attempt by the Obama administration to pursue their gun-control agenda through back-door rule making.” Just like they did after the Gabby Giffords shooting – in time of extreme gun violence – the NRA springs into action to advocate for more gun violence. I guess where the rest of see Mexican border violence as tragic – the NRA sees it as good for business.

The Minnesota state government may be open for business again after a shut down a few weeks ago – but the legislators aren’t working on new laws. Instead – transnational corporations are. The group Common Cause just released a report that shows a number of bills passing out of the Minnesota state legislature last session were actually written by the shadowy, non-profit organization known as the American Legislative Exchange Council – or ALEC. The organization – which is funded by the likes of the Koch brother and Walmart – is comprised of current and former lawmakers – as well as the heads of some of the biggest transnational corporations in the world. And ALEC’s job is to write corporate-friendly legislation to pass on to state lawmakers to turn into law in their respective states. Among ALEC’s successes in Minnesota: legislation that makes it harder for people to vote – legislation that protects corporations from consumer lawsuits – legislation that prevents regulations of greenhouse gases – and legislation that gives tobacco companies tax breaks. So here we have elected lawmakers outsourcing their jobs to corporate interests – still don’t think the corporatocracy has replaced our democracy?

President Obama just threw another bone to the Tea Party. On Tuesday – the White House nominated David Barlow to fill the vacant the U.S. Attorney seat in Utah. But Barlow is currently the top legal advisor to one of the wackiest Tea Partiers in the Senate – Mike Lee. According to Lee’s stance on a number of constitutional issues – one has to wonder if Barlow is a good fit to serve as a U.S. Attorney – or even a civics teacher in middle school. Senator Lee has declared Social Security and Medicare unconstitutional – He’s called child labor laws and food safety regulations unconstitutional – and he even said disaster relief unconstitutional. Yet – President Obama thinks the legal brain behind these positions would make a great fit as the top attorney in Utah. That would be like hiring one of the nation’s biggest job outsourcers to lead up your job creation council. Oh wait – the President did that too.

And finally…Iowa’s Republican Governor Terry Branstad LOVES tax cuts – but only if they’re for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations. With bipartisan support – the Iowa state legislature passed new tax cuts for families making less than $45,000 a year – a measure that was supposed to save low-income families $28.5 million over the next 2 years. But Governor Branstad vetoed it last week. Why? Because the package didn’t ALSO include massive tax cuts for corporations. Branstad’s spokesman defended the veto – arguing the governor would have supported the package if it were part of a “larger effort” to also lower taxes for corporations. Democratic State Senator Joe Bolkcom fired back – saying Governor Branstad, “has again shown that he will only consider tax cuts that benefit Iowa’s wealthiest citizens and corporations…huge, unaffordable tax breaks for Wal-Mart and other wealthy out-of-state corporations.” I guess the Republican tax-cut club is very exclusive – you can only get in if you have six zeroes in your bank account.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, August 4th, 2011. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.

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