On the News With Thom Hartmann: Newt Gingrich Will Suspend His Campaign for President, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Newt Gingrich will suspend his campaign for president, 25 major US corporations on the Fortune 500 list paid their CEOs more money than they paid in taxes in 2011, the most radical Supreme Court decision in recent memory might get another hearing, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. The European economy is tanking – and trickle-down austerity is to blame. New unemployment numbers show the 17-nation Eurozone now has its highest unemployment rate ever, at 10.9%. And, the two nations with the highest unemployment rates – Spain and Greece – just so happen to be the ones most hooked on austerity. In Spain, budget cuts and massive government layoffs have driven up the unemployment rate to the Eurozone high of 24.1%. And Spanish youth unemployment is even worse – at a staggering 51.1%. And in Greece – the poster child of European austerity, the unemployment rate stands at 21.7% with more than half of all Greeks under 25-years-old unemployed. Another austerity-bitten nation – the United Kingdom – just officially sank into another recession. Clearly – austerity – which involves taking money out of working people’s pockets – forcing them to spend less and contribute less in revenue to the government – is making the economic situation in Europe far worse. But the banksters and billionaires pushing austerity don’t care – just as long as they can squeeze the last bit of wealth left in Europe into their own pockets. But with Nicholas Sarkozy going down in France, the Dutch government collapsing, and civil unrest in the streets from Madrid to London to Athens – then austerity might be breathing its last gasp. Let’s hope.

In screwed news…darn it feels good to be a Fortune 500 CEO. The annual “Executive Excess” report by the Institute for Policy Studies finds that 25 major U.S. corporation on the Fortune 500 list paid their CEOs more money than they paid in taxes in 2011 – which means you and I picked up the slack. Not only that – CEO pay at America’s top firms is up nearly 28% since 2009. Meanwhile – workers’ pay during that same time only ticked up 3%, barely enough to keep up with inflating gas prices. In 2009 – CEOs made 263-times more than their average worker. In 2011, they made 325-times more. The oligarchs get richer – while the middle class gets poorer. Numbers like these remind us all why we need global days of action like yesterday’s May Day to bring attention to the plight of working people around the world – and the abuse of power by the Romney super rich.

In the best of the rest of the news…

President Obama is returning from an unannounced trip to Afghanistan yesterday – where he marked the one-year anniversary of Osama Bin Laden’s death. While in Afghanistan, the President signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai – affirming plans to hand over full control of security to the Afghan government by 2014 – but allowing for thousands of US troops to remain in the country until as late as 2024. In a speech Tuesday night to the American and Afghan people – the President promised to pull 23,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this summer. The surprise visit by the President didn’t please Taliban insurgents, who detonated a bomb killing 7 Afghans in Kabul less than two hours after the President left.

The most radical Supreme Court decision in recent memory might get another hearing. The high court is considering hearing a case out of Montana – where the state Supreme Court upheld a state law banning corporate spending in their elections. That ruling runs against the 2010 high court’s decision in Citizens United, which opened the floodgates of corporate spending in our elections. Earlier this year – the Supreme Court rejected the Montana court’s ruling – forcing the state to temporarily allow corporate election spending – but now the Supreme Court may take up the case again – essentially giving Citizens United a re-trial. Republicans fear that their best hope to win elections – lots and lots of corporate money – might go away, so they’re urging the Court to double-down on Citizens United. The Chamber of Commerce and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both filed briefs with the high court – calling on the Justices to uphold Citizens United without even hearing the Montana arguments. In 2010 – the first election since Citizens United – more than $300 million in outside corporate spending catapulted Republicans into power in the House of Representatives. And already this year – we’re seeing the out-sized influence of Karl Rove’s corporate Super PACs. It’s time for the Supreme Court to correct its wrongs – and give democracy back to the people by saying corporations are not people and money is property – not speech. The best chance to do that in a real and lasting way, though, is to amend the Constitution. Check out move to amend.org.

A new, radical Voter ID law is going to court in Pennsylvania. The ACLU and several other organizations filed suit on behalf of Pennsylvania voters saying that the new law requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls will deny citizens of their “most fundamental constitutional right – the right to vote.” One of the lead plaintiffs in the case is 93-year-old Viviette Applewhite – an African American great grandmother who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – yet can’t vote now because she doesn’t have a birth certificate or Driver’s License. Voter ID laws like the one in Pennsylvania were written by the Koch brother-funded right-wing think tank, ALEC, and will kick millions of minority, elderly, young, and poor voters off the rolls – people who tend to vote for Democrats. Let’s hope the court sides with voters – and puts an end to this Conservative war on democracy. Stay tuned.

And finally…so long Newt Gingrich. Today – Newt Gingrich will suspend his campaign for President – reneging on his promise to take his campaign all the way to the Republican Convention in Tampa. With only two primary wins under his belt – and no hope for any more – Gingrich had no other choice but to drop out. Not only that – his campaign is bouncing checks all over the country. But as long as his speaking fees and book sales go up after all of this – then Newts failed campaign will be a personal major success. Newt The huckster rides on!

And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, May 02, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.