On the News With Thom Hartmann: More Than 31 Percent of All American Homeowners Are Underwater on Their Mortgages, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Europe is now drawing up plans for the departure of Greece from the euro zone, the housing crisis continues, the pharmaceutical industry is the single biggest defrauder of Americans taxpayers in history, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Europe is now drawing up plans for something that was unthinkable just a few months ago – the departure of Greece from the Eurozone. As Greece prepares for elections next month which will likely give anti-austerity parties control of the government – putting further bailouts in jeopardy – European nations are quietly drafting plans to mitigate the economic pain from a Greek default and exit. While most of the planning is on the hush for fear of leaks, Reuters is reporting it has seen memos drawn up by Eurozone member states outlining what each nation should consider following a Greek departure. The memo outlines plans for the EU and the IMF to give Greece a $50 billion life-line to ease what will likely be an economically devastating exit from the euro. Also included in the memo is a warning that “markets will definitively distrust the euro,” after Greece leaves, which could lead to economic damage for other Eurozone members and even the United States. This mess was created by Goldman Sachs more than a decade ago when they cooked the books to make Greece eligible to join the euro. It was a mess that was made worse by Goldman and other banksters when they gambled big on derivatives and lost, creating the global financial meltdown in 2007. And then it was made even worse – again by the banks – when they demanded austerity instead of pro-growth policies to get out of the recession. Now here we are – on the economic precipice – and the banks are still out of control.

Speaking of the banksters – in screwed news – the housing crisis continues. A new report by Zillow shows that nationwide more than 31% of all American homeowners are underwater on their mortgages – meaning they owe more on their house than what it’s worth. That’s slightly higher than in the last quarter of 2011. In major metropolitan areas – the numbers are even worse. In Las Vegas, the underwater rate is 71% – in Phoenix it’s 55% – in Atlanta it’s 55% – and in Orlando, Florida it’s 54%. Homeowners all across the nation are in desperate need of help after Romney’s bankster buddies wrecked our economy. Unfortunately – in the Bush years banks lobbied to get laws that make them more money foreclosing on a home than they make working with a homeowner to refinance the mortgage, so this won’t end anytime soon.

In the best of the rest of the news…

The pharmaceutical industry is the single biggest defrauder of Americans taxpayers in history – surpassing the defense industry for the first time. As a 2010 Public Citizen report found: over the last twenty years the pharmaceutical industry has accounted for 25% of all violations of state and federal law when it comes to the False Claims Act. Among the crimes include illegally promoting drugs for purposes not approved by the FDA – which is a criminal offense since it can lead to serious illnesses – and even death. Also, the pharmaceutical industry routinely overcharges federal programs like Medicaid for their prescription drugs – stealing billions of dollars from you, me, and other taxpayers. Since 1991 – over 165 pharmaceutical settlements with state and federal governments have led to $19.8 billion in penalties. According to Taxpayers Against Fraud – pharmaceutical companies are expected to pay out another $9 billion in fraud settlements this year. This is the consequence of a for-profit health care system in America – drug companies who are supposed to be manufacturing products to help us live longer and be healthier – are ACTUALLY more focused on screwing us than our well-being. It’s time to join the rest of the developed world – create a non-profit healthcare system – and kick the money-changers out of our hospitals.

Japan is one earthquake away from an unbelievably catastrophic nuclear disaster. As the Fukushima crisis – now in its 16th month – continues, experts are warning that spent fuel pools stored in the crippled reactor 4 building won’t be able to withstand another earthquake. Reactor 4 holds the most radioactive spent fuel of any of the reactors on the site – and another earthquake could lead to a loss of cooling water – causing a radioactive fire spewing more radiation into the atmosphere than was originally released when the crisis began last year. It could also trigger a chain reaction of fires across the site – leading to a nuclear crisis far worse than the Chernobyl disaster. This is a scenario that would not only leave Japan facing irreversible damage – but the entire planet as well. Keep an eye on this – because the same thing could happen here unless we shut down the most dangerous form of energy on the planet – nuclear.

Senate Democrats will give Republicans another chance to stop their war on women. Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to bring to the floor the Paycheck Fairness Act to deal with the problem of women still making 77-cents to every dollar that men make in the workplace. The Act is an update to the Equal Pay Act signed nearly 50 years by President Lyndon Johnson – and it makes it more difficult for employers to discriminate based on gender – outlines punitive damages against employers – and makes it illegal for employers to punish workers for asking co-workers about their wages. Back in 2009 – the bill passed the Democratically-controlled House and got a majority in the Senate – but was two votes shy of breaking a Republican filibuster. Stay tuned – we’ll see if once again Republicans double-down on their war against women – and deny them equal pay for equal work.

And finally…Mitt Romney is making a bold prediction – saying that the unemployment rate will be below 6% by the end of his first term should he be elected President. Of course, based on President Obama’s policies – the Congressional Budget Office is already predicting unemployment to be around 6% by 2016 anyway. Not only that – Romney’s numbers don’t add up, since he gave a glowing endorsement to the Paul Ryan Republican budget – which according to the Economic Policy Institute will kill 4.1 million American jobs. I’ve said it before – and I’ll say it again – the only way Mitt Romney can win the White House is by lying.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, May 24, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.