On the News With Thom Hartmann: New York Will Use Bank Settlements to Give Homeless Families Housing, and More

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In today’s On the News segment: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office will use $1.2 million from bank settlements to help get homeless families off the street; conservatives only want to privatize the profitable sections of our rail system; Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts are causing two-year budget deficit of more than $1 billion in the state; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…

You need to know this. Ever since the tragic Amtrak accident earlier this month, many on the right have claimed that privatizing parts of our national rail system will solve all of our problems. Not only is this claim ridiculous, but we have plenty of evidence to prove that it’s completely wrong. First of all, conservatives only want to privatize the profitable sections of our rail system. The rest of our nation’s railways will still be owned and operated by the government – free market be damned. And, we didn’t hear a single one of these Republicans talk about lifting the liability cap that limits how much compensation victims could ever receive in a future accident. Currently, that cap is set at $200 million – the maximum that Amtrak may have to pay out – despite the fact that the victims’ medical bills alone could exceed that limit. Just like we’ve seen after oil spills and chemical leaks, Republicans are just fine with private companies pocketing all the profits, and sticking taxpayers with the cost of their disasters. From our high-cost, inefficient healthcare system, to our private, insanely-expensive universities, we have plenty of examples to show a profit motive doesn’t make every industry function better. In fact, the need to make a profit often directly conflicts with needs like caring for the sick or providing a quality eduction. And, just like those industries, our national railways serve needs that should not come second to profit. Our infrastructure allows businesses to operate and allows us to shop, travel, and get to work. There is value in our roads, bridges, and railways that can’t be measured by profit margin, but Republicans don’t give a damn about anything that isn’t measured in dollars and cents. It’s up to us to stand up for our nation, and demand that our infrastructure is about more than making a profit. Our national commons belong to all of us, and the value we get from modernizing and protecting our roads, bridges and railways should never be marginalized.

What do you do with the settlement money from the banksters that fraudulently foreclosed on peoples’ homes? Well, if you’re New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, you use it to get people back in to affordable housing. Last week, Schneiderman announced that his office will use $1.2 million from bank settlements to help get homeless families off the street. In conjunction with the anti-poverty group Robin Hood Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing developer, this new project will help hundreds of families move from New York City’s shelter system into permanent apartments. The new program is known as “Come Home NYC,” and it is just one of many programs that the city’s leadership is taking to deal with their growing homelessness problem. It is pretty much impossible to undo the damage caused by banksters illegally kicking people out of their homes, but using the resulting fines to fight homelessness is one of the best outcomes we could hope for after that disaster. And, we can keep hoping that some of these banksters find new homes behind bars.

Every day that Kansas lawmakers can’t agree on whether to repeal Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget-destroying tax cuts, it costs the voters the equivalent of a brand-new luxury vehicle. Thanks to Brownback’s tax cuts and his elimination of small business income taxes, that state is facing a two-year budget deficit of more than one billion dollars. While that amount may seem small compared to our national budget, it represents a substantial portion of the total $6 billion that Kansas spends every year. The governor’s policy is so unpopular that even Republicans have turned on him and admitted that his tax plan is “unworkable.” In order to finance his tax breaks, which mostly benefited the wealthy, Brownback has slashed education, moved funds from other services, and stopped funding other programs, but he is still about $400 million short of covering his deficit for this year alone. It’s clear to everyone but Sam Brownback that his tax breaks are unsustainable, and it’s time for him to recognize his trickle-down nonsense is destroying the state of Kansas.

Another city has joined the list of places that workers will soon earn a living wage. Last week, Los Angeles, California, voted to increase their minimum wage to $15 an hour. Although that amount won’t go into effect right away, it will eventually lift the wages of about half of that city’s entire workforce. And, the entire county is considering a wage increase, which would help thousands more workers in unincorporated parts of the city. Of course, opponents of the pay increase say that it will lead to job losses, but that has not been the case in city-after-city that has already increased pay. The pay hike will go in to effect gradually, and if history is any guide, it will likely increase demand and strengthen the workforce in Los Angeles. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been pushing for a higher wage since last fall, said, “We’re leading the country; we’re not going to wait for Washington to lift Americans out of poverty.” Congress continues to block an increase to minimum wage – despite some lawmakers asking for their own pay hike – but thankfully, cities all around this country recognize that workers can’t wait on the dysfunction in Washington, DC.

And finally… Right now, there are seven countries around the world where Americans can get a free, quality college eduction. Sadly, the United States isn’t one of them. Thankfully, Sen. Bernie Sanders is working to change that. Last week, the 2016-Presidential candidate announced new legislation to make four-year public universities free for all students. With outstanding student loan debt exceeding one trillion dollars and more students falling in to default everyday, it is absolutely vital that we do more to address this problem. During a speech at Johnson State College in Vermont, Senator Sanders said, “Countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and many more are providing free or inexpensive higher education for their young people. They understand how important it is to be investing in their youth. We should be doing the same.”

And that’s the way it is – for the week of May 25, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.