On the News With Thom Hartmann: New Legislation Would Place a Tax on Carbon Emissions, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The world is on the brink of a major food crisis, Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott introduced legislation last week to place a tax on carbon emissions, tensions are flaring up in debt-crisis plagued Europe, and more.


Jim Javinsky here in for Thom Hartmann– on the news…

You need to know this. The world is on the brink of a major food crisis. For the first time in recent history, humanitarian organizations are responding to three major food crises – one in West Africa, one in East Africa, and one in Yemen. Accelerating climate change and dwindling resources have created several severe food shortages – adding 43 million more people around the world to the ranks of those who will go hungry this year alone. As Barbara Stocking, the chief executive with OxFam Great Britain, warned, “without urgent action, things will only get worse, and multiple major crises could quickly move from being an exception to being the norm.” If the United States doesn’t take the lead in using resources and energy more responsibly soon, then the rest of the world is going to descend into chaos, and we as a nation will go down with them.

Speaking of climate change, Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott introduced legislation last week to place a tax on carbon emissions. The Managed Carbon Price Act of 20-12 would require major producers of greenhouse gases, like the coal, oil, and natural gas industries to purchase carbon credit from the Treasury Department depending on how much pollution they emit into the air. According to the Brookings Institute – carbon credits would run at a price of roughly $15 per ton of carbon. The revenue generated from the tax will then be put to paying down the deficit, and giving energy consumers subsidies to deal with slightly higher prices as the economy transitions from fossil fuels to renewables. According to polling, 75% of Americans support regulating carbon greenhouse gases as pollutants – and 60% support a carbon tax similar to what Congressman McDermott has introduced.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Gun control advocates aren’t exploiting the recent spate of mass shootings when they talk about implementing sensible gun control laws. But the NRA is exploiting the shootings when they use them to hype up wild conspiracy theories about President Obama. As Business Weekreports, just three days after the Colorado theatre massacre, the NRA sent a frantic letter to its members asking for donations and warning, “the future of your Second Amendment rights will be at stake…and our freedom will be at stake.” The letter goes on to say that a re-election of President Obama will result in the confiscation of firearms and a ban on semi-automatic rifles. This is just the latest attempt by the NRA to paint President Obama as anti-gun, despite the fact that he’s received a grade of an “F” from the Brady Center on gun control, and gun rights have expanded during his first-term. But when it comes to scaring Americans to raise money, the NRA doesn’t care about the facts.

Pay no attention to the profit-seekers; private prisons are a bad deal for taxpayers. Recently, private prison corporations like the Corrections Corporation of America have been urging states to sell them their prisons under the promise that the private sector can administer them better and cheaper. But looking at a recent study out of Arizona, these prison corporations aren’t living up to their promise. According to the Tucson Citizen, private prison contracts are actually costing taxpayers $3.5 million more per year than if the state just ran their own prisons. But beyond being a bad deal economically, private for-profit prisons are bad for our freedom. By injecting the profit-motive into incarceration, then there’s incentives to lock more and more Americans up. Which is why for-profit prisons use groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council – or ALEC – to lobby for stricter drug and immigration laws to throw more people in prisons, and thus collect bigger profits. This is one of many dangerous side effects to unfettered corporate capitalism.

Tensions are flaring up in debt-crisis plagued Europe. As Eurozone members one-by-one sink deeper into economic recession and default, anger is boiling up against Germany – one of the few nations capable of mitigating the ongoing crisis. Last week, an Italian newspaper owned by the brother of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi referred to Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel as the “Fourth Reich.” The paper goes on to argue, “Since yesterday, Italy is no longer in Europe, it is in the Fourth Reich,” referring to the austerity policies that Germany has forced on other European nations in exchange for bailout money. As we saw in Greece, extremist parties on both the Left and Right have seen remarkable gains at the polls. And like World War 1 proved to us all, economic desperation breeds extremism, which has the potential to tear Europe apart. If Germany, the European Central Bank, and the IMF insist on more austerity, they’re doing so at their own peril.

And finally…a big victory for the people of Michigan. The state Supreme Court ruled at the end of last week that Michigan’s Public Act 4 – also known as the Financial Managers law – will be put on the ballot for repeal this November. That law gives Republican Governor Rick Snyder unprecedented powers to take over cities he deems are in financial crisis, appoint a crony to fire all local elected officials, and then get to work breaking union contracts, slashing public spending, and selling off parts of the commons to corporate interests. Already, several cities including Flint are under the control of so-called financial managers. The effort to repeal the law hit a snag earlier this year, when the state canvassing board, on which lobbyists supporting the law sat, rejected the ballot petition over font size. The state Supreme Court has now reversed that decision, and the people of Michigan will finally have their chance to bring democracy back to the Wolverine State. Stay tuned.

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, August 7th, 2012. I’m Jim Javinsky in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.