On the News With Thom Hartmann: More Than 1.3 Million People Have Lost Their Unemployment Benefits, and More

In today’s On the News segment: More than 1.3 million people have lost their unemployment benefits; voter ID laws are blocking the poor and minorities from the polls; more than 1.4 million Americans will get a raise; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

I’m Jim Javinsky – in for Thom Hartmann – on the news…

You need to know this. One point three million people have lost their unemployment benefits. Americans who have been out of work for six months or longer are suddenly without the vital lifeline that kept them from ending up homeless and hungry. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that extending these benefits will be a priority when Congress returns on January 6th, but some Republicans are already indicating they may try to block an extension. If those on the Right keep long-term unemployment from being reauthorized, another 850,000 Americans will find themselves without financial support within the next three months. The current unemployment cuts alone may cost our economy as much as 0.4 percent of our GDP, and that number will only get larger as more Americans loose their financial assistance. And, these cuts won’t save taxpayers any money, as our government will have to dramatically increase spending on programs like food stamps and housing assistance as more people have no where else to turn. If Congress doesn’t act fast, more Americans will soon find themselves without any income, and many could wind up on the street. As if that wasn’t bad enough, without this meager financial assistance, out-of-work Americans will no longer be able to contribute anything to their local economies. That, in turn, can pose a serious risk to our modest economic recovery. Allowing unemployment benefits to expire isn’t just immoral and un-American, it’s also a bad idea for our nation as a whole. We shouldn’t be imposing more austerity – we should be investing in our nation. And, our government should step in as the employer of last resort. If Republicans really want to lower spending on unemployment benefits – the answer is not slashing aid – it’s helping out-of-work Americans find a job.

In screwed news… Voter ID laws are blocking the poor and minorities from the polls. A new study from the University of Massachusetts Boston says that strict voter ID laws have little to do with preventing so-called voter fraud. These laws are really about keeping Democrats from winning elections. The study’s authors, sociologist Keith Bentele and political scientist Erin O’Brien, found strong evidence that these laws “collectively reduce electoral access among the socially marginalized.” In other words, these laws make it more difficult for the poor and minorities to vote. The researchers also found that states that passed voter ID bills were more likely to have Republicans in control of state government, show a strong possibility of becoming a swing state, and have an increase in minority turnout in previous elections. Republicans know that they can’t win elections fairly, so their best hope is to keep voter turnout as low as possible. We must make these laws irrelevant with overwhelming turnout in future elections.

In the best of the rest of the news…

On January 1st, more than 1.4 million Americans will get a raise. Minimum wage increases in four states will take effect, and nine other states will see wages increase because they’re tied to the cost of living. These higher wages will help millions of struggling Americans make ends meet, and they will help boost our GDP by as much as $620 million dollars. As these wage increases will go into effect, Democrats in Congress have also promised to fight for a hike in the federal minimum wage – to $10.10 an hour. That increase alone would lift nearly six million people out of poverty, and boost our GDP by more than $22 billion dollars. However, it would still leave millions of low-income Americans earning less than they would have in 1968. In terms of buying power, most workers in our nation haven’t seen a real raise in the last three decades, and these modest wage hikes should only be the starting point towards a real living wage.

According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are calm around most of our nation, but high spikes are still being reported in the Midwest. Durham, North Carolina is averaging 30 counts per minute, with spikes of 47, and Philadelphia is reporting levels of 44, with highs of 69 counts per minute. Rapid City, South Dakota is hovering at 46 counts per minute, with spikes as high as 78, and Lakewood, Colorado is sitting at 70, with peaks of 89. Tucson, Arizona is averaging 50 counts per minute, with highs of 71, and Taos, New Mexico is averaging 68. Portland, Oregon is hovering at 30 counts per minute, with spikes of 51, and Bellingham, Washington is sitting at 31, with highs of 43. RadCast.org’s alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no safe level of radiation.

And finally… As seniors and the disabled have to survive on less, many of the organization’s volunteers were saddened to find out that their clients were sharing their delivered meals with their pets. So Meals on Wheels volunteers teamed up with shelters and pet groups to add dry dog and cat food to their meal delivery service. The program, “AniMeals on Wheels,” serves more than 1,000 animals a month, and ensures that their senior and disabled clients aren’t skipping out on meals to feed their animals. Charles Gehring, the CEO of a Columbus, Ohio Meals on Wheels group, explained, “Pets are so important to our seniors. They are social workers, depression counselors, [and] a lifeline for a lot of [seniors].” Thankfully, these volunteers recognized the value of furry family members, and they went to great lengths to make sure that these animals are fed.

And that’s the way it is today – Monday, December 30, 2013. I’m Jim Javinsky – in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.