On the News With Thom Hartmann: Obama Called on Lawmakers and Congress to Take Down the High Cost of College

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Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. President Obama is taking on the high cost of college. In a speech at the University of Buffalo on Thursday, the president called on state lawmakers to provide education subsidies, universities to stop raising fees, and Congress to make loan repayment more reasonable. President Obama said, “We have got a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt. The soaring cost of higher education has become a barrier and a burden on too many middle-class families.” In addition to addressing college affordability, the President also proposed a new official ranking system, which he said will help students understand the value they’re getting with their education dollars. He said, “We need to rate colleges on best value so students and taxpayers get a bigger bank for their buck.” White House officials say that ranking colleges on a variety of metrics will “challenge the education industry and encourage more competition on cost.” According to the Center for American Progress, similar ranking systems have shown positive results in the states in which they’ve been used. Many student debt advocates welcomed the President’s speech, and his proposals to make college more affordable. However, some groups remain skeptical about whether the plan goes far enough to address the $1 Trillion dollars in outstanding college debt. It’s great news that there’s a plan to reign in the skyrocketing cost of education for future students, but we can’t forget about those who are already drowning in college debt. In the words of Occupy protestors – Wall Street got bailed out, students got sold out. Maybe now our leaders will finally start working to change that.

In screwed news… Get ready for another debt ceiling fight. House Republicans are preparing to hold our nation hostage again, unless they get more concessions on entitlement programs, and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. A senior White House official says that President Obama refuses to negotiate with Republicans, because he doesn’t believe they will push our nation into default. This debt ceiling debate sounds eerily similar to the lead up to the sequester. While it would be irrational and irresponsible for Republicans to make our nation default on our debts, they certainly weren’t rational or responsible when it came to previous fiscal negotiations. During the last debt ceiling debate, our nation lost billions of dollars and countless jobs, and the sequester cut numerous vital programs that many Americans depend on. Republicans are putting our entire economy at risk again, holding their breath, until blue in the face – just to get their way. This is nothing but economic terrorism. Many Americans want President Obama to stand up to Republicans, and they support his refusal to negotiate over the debt ceiling. The question is, what will Republican hostage taking cost our nation this time around?

In the best of the rest of the news…

Thanks to the Dodd-Frank banking reform Act, companies will soon have to report the difference between executive pay, and the salary of their average workers. The Securities and Exchange Commission is about to finalize the rule, which will also give shareholders the power to disapprove executive pay, stock options, and golden parachutes. According to the Think Progress Blog, in 2012, the average CEO made 273 times the pay of an average worker. In comparison, in 1965, the average CEO made just 20 times more than the average worker. And, CEO salaries have risen 127 times faster than worker pay during the last 32 years of Reaganomics. While disclosing this new ratio may not reign in executive salary immediately, it will expose the income disparities to the public and to private investors. In addition to giving consumers the power to buy from companies that treat workers fairly, it will also give shareholders the opportunity to question how much salary a CEO really deserves. When shareholders get a vote, CEOs may have a tougher time justifying their ridiculous compensation.

On Thursday, a mysterious glitch shut down trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange for three hours. According to market officials, the problem was found in a computer system responsible for disseminating prices, and they plan to investigate. Because a disruption on Wall Street can have a ripple effect across our economy, the White House, the Treasury Department, and other government officials closely monitored the disruption. Thankfully, the three-hour halt resulted in little change to the overall markets, but the issue was a prime example of how Wall Street relies too heavily on technology. As exchanges try to bring in more business with faster trades, and more sophisticated computer systems, they’re also increasing risk. Brad McMillan of Commonwealth Financial, said, “The more trading is tied to technology, the more computer crashes matter.” Stock Market brokers say that technology has made trading more efficient, and more profitable. But, events like this show that computers have also made Wall Street gambling more prone to glitches, and more risky for our entire economy.

And finally… Recently, the bomb squad was called to a home in Florida, after a report of a suspicious package. A woman received the “suspicious package”, which listed her name as both the sender and recipient on the Priority Mail envelope. So, she called the Martin Country Sheriff’s Office, who came out to investigate. A spokeswoman from the Sheriff’s office said a bomb tech specialist examined the package, and determined “it was a battery operated sex toy.” She said, “It was a pink plastic adult novelty item”, and, in the concerned woman’s defense, the spokeswoman added, “The recipient says she did not order it.” Apparently, someone’s idea of a gift did not go over with a bang.