On the News With Thom Hartmann: Obama Administration Wants to Hand Over Access to Your Financial Records to Law Enforcement Agencies, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The Obama Administration wants to hand over access to your financial records to the CIA, NSA, and other law enforcement agencies; ALEC is behind a new bill in Tennessee, which blocks public unions from participating in the political process; Democrats are pushing back against President Obama’s proposed cuts to our social safety net; and more.

Shane Farnan here – in for Thom Hartmann – on the news…

You need to know this. The Obama Administration wants to hand over access to your financial records to the CIA, NSA, and other law enforcement agencies. According to a new report from Reuters, a Treasury Department plan gives spy agencies full access to more raw financial data then ever before, under the guise of national security. Already, financial institutions are required to report “suspicious customer activity” to the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, but spy agencies must make case-by-case requests to access the FinCEN database. Under the new plan, agencies would have unlimited access to the financial records of millions of Americans. A Treasury spokesperson said that U.S. Law already allows FinCEN to share information with agencies, and that there are privacy safegaurds in place under the Bank Secrecy Act. But Michael German of the ACLU calls the proposal “a black hole” – saying, “Time and again, we have evidence, unfortunately well after the fact, that somebody’s civil rights have been violated; that the intelligence community simply ignores the rules.” Allowing more government surveillance is a bad idea. Over the past decade, we’ve seen Presidents and spy agencies chip away at our civil rights, all in the name of national security, and this plan is simply another attack on our privacy. As Benjamin Franklin said,“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” . We must stand up for the precious civil liberties guaranteed to us in the Constitution, or we’ll soon find they no longer exist.

In screwed news… ALEC is behind a new bill in Tennessee, which blocks public unions from participating in the political process. House Bill 913 forbids the Tennessee State Employees Union from using dues money for anything but collective bargaining, enforcing union contracts, or assisting members with grievance procedures. The plan is especially insulting to public employees considering state employee collective bargaining is prohibited in the state, and Republicans enacted a law last year, which eliminated the word “grievance” from state legislation. The United States Chamber of Commerce is pushing the measure, which was written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, and it’s being sponsored by State House Republican Chair Glen Casada. The GOP got access to huge sums of corporate cash through Citizens United, and now they want to make sure Democrats can’t compete in campaign fund raising. Leave it to ALEC to figure out how to destroy unions and steal elections all in one fell swoop.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Democrats are pushing back against President Obama’s proposed cuts to our social safety net. Party leaders Senator Harry Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi may be on board with President Obama’s so-called “Grand Bargain,” but rank-and-file democrats are vowing to protest any plan that cuts Social Security or Medicare. America’s Senator, Senator Bernie Sanders, said, “Some of us believe very strongly that it would be absolutely wrong to cut Social Security benefits.” Democratic leaders are offering cuts to health and retirement programs, in an effort to get the GOP to compromise on new tax increases. But recent history shows us that Republicans will never compromise. Time and time again they’ve threatened to crash our economy, let poor and elderly people starve, all so they can protect tax breaks for their millionaire and billionaire buddies. We need to stop negotiating with these economic terrorists. President Obama and the Democrats need to listen to Bernie Sanders and take our social safety net off the economic chopping block.

While Republicans are busy whining about our debt to China, that nation is busy buying up our commons. According to Reuters, one of China’s largest private companies, has been quietly purchasing natural gas rights in our nation, and working to establish a network of natural gas filing stations along U.S. Highways. ENN Group started working with a small Utah-based company two years ago, and has opened five filing stations since, with another three to be opened within weeks. Natural gas fracking is a highly controversial process, and has lead to the contamination of land, ground water, and drinking wells throughout our nation. Now we’re letting foreign companies take part in this risky process? This is insane. Our energy production should be part of the commons, and subject to much stricter regulation. For the sake of our nation, it’s time to get foreign and domestic profits out of energy production, and move to cleaner, greener sources or energy.

For the first time in over 1,200 years, a non-European was elected to lead the Catholic Church. Seventy Six-year old Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was voted to be the next Pope yesterday, and will take the name of Francis I. Bergoglio is considered to be among the most conservative Catholic leaders in South America, and is openly opposed to homosexuality, abortion, and contraception. However, the new Pope has a strong history of working to help the poor, and has called on Catholics to donate funds to help alleviate poverty. Since becoming Cardinal in 2001, Bergoglio has lived modestly, in a simple apartment, where he prepares his own meals, and travels by bus, rather than limousine. One point five billion Roman Catholics now have a new leader, and the whole world is watching to see in what direction Pope Francis will move the Church next.

And finally… according to a report by NBC Miami, a Florida teen, was exhausted from running from police after assaulting his foster mother. Seeking a place to rest and avoid capture, he was thrilled to find a kind neighbor willing to help him hide out. The neighbor allowed the teenager to come inside and relax in a nice comfy seat on his leather couch. However, the teen had no idea the man helping him just so happened to be an off-duty officer. So, while the assailant reclined, the off-duty cop called his colleagues, who came to arrest the teenager. It was definitely a bad decision to take a swing at his foster mother, but I’m betting the teen thinks his choice of hiding spots was even worse.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, March 14, 2013. I’m Shane Farnan – in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.