On the News With Thom Hartmann: Poverty and Inequality Are Getting Worse in the US, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Even in the face of the so-called recovery, poverty and inequality are getting worse in our country; the National Labor Relations Board says that employees can use company email to form a union; Sen. Bernie Sanders keeps moving towards progress; and more.

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

You need to know this. Even in the face of the so-called recovery, poverty and inequality are getting worse in our country, and more wealth and power is flowing straight to the top. According to Paul Buchheit over at Alternet, this is the end result of winner-take-all capitalism, and this destruction of the working class has all been by design. Paul explained that more and more Americans are viewed as “disposable” by those at the top. The banksters and the corporate elite have used a six-step process to turn the working poor into nothing more than commodities or criminals that can be used and tossed aside like garbage. As Paul Buchheit explained, first they start by depleting our wealth, which was accomplished by destroying our pensions and decreasing the value of millions of our homes. After that, the corporate elite striped away our income by slashing wages and keeping them low for everyone except those at the top. Next they took away our homes with illegal foreclosures and rising rent prices, which meant more and more of us ended up on the street. Then they hit our wallets with everything from banking fees to traffic fines to rising interest rates to make sure that we never had a chance to get ahead. And, those fines lead to the next step, when the poor were turned into criminals over unpaid fees and court costs for trivial offenses. Lastly, they made us desperate by making our children suffer. About half of all food stamp recipients are kids, which means that millions of parents are willing to take demeaning work just to survive. This systematic destruction has taken decades to accomplish, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be reversed. It won’t be easy, but we can take back our economy and make it work for all of us. No American deserves to feel disposable and it’s up to us to fight for a future in which we are valued as more than just a commodity.

The National Labor Relations Board says that employees can use company email to form a union. Earlier this month, the NLRB reversed a Bush-era policy that barred workers from using office email systems to discuss working conditions and wages – even when they weren’t on company time. The recent decision stemmed from a case between the Communications Workers of America and a sign-language interpretation provider called Purple Communications. The NLRB ruled against Purple Communications, and struck down their restrictive policy, saying it focused, “too much on employers’ property rights and too little on the importance of email as a means of workplace communication.” They said that the earlier rule allowing the restriction “failed to adequately protect employees’ rights.” The new ruling does allow employers to restrict the use of email during company time, and states that only employees who already have company email access can use it to organize. Those reasonable limitations don’t diminish the fact that this ruling is a victory for workers and for unions.

The wealth gap in the United States is the widest ever recorded. According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, the families in the top income brackets in our nation are, on average, 70 times richer than low-income families. The wealth divide has become so pronounced that the bottom 90 percent of all Americans actually lose wealth every year, while those in the top 10 percent continue to get richer. This problem started decades ago, when Reaganomics began to destroy the middle class, and it only got worse in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash. Since that financial disaster, most of the wealthiest Americans have recouped their losses and continued to build wealth, while the middle class and the working poor never recovered from the financial hit. The war on unions and working people left our wages stagnant for decades, and the housing market crash in the last decade wiped out the little bit of wealth that most Americans had left. The super-rich set out to make the American Dream a fantasy, and it only took them a few decades to pull it off. Now we’re living with the final result of their scheme – levels of wealth inequality higher than any other time on record. The United States has literally become a nation of the haves and have-nots, and that is simply un-American. The only question left is when are we going to do something about it…

In 2006, San Francisco was the first city in our nation to enact a paid sick leave law. But even before then, that city led the way when it came to proving that good management practices are good for business. Companies that started in the area, like Costco and Trader Joe’s, have long histories of treating workers better than their competitors, and histories of higher productivity and more sales per employee. These companies also benefit from lower turnover rates, less time and money spent training employees, and much stronger customer loyalty. And now, San Francisco is leading the way again with their recent “Retail Workers Bill of Rights,” which will provide more protections to employees of retail businesses and restaurants. Just like their forward thinking on sick leave and higher wages, this new legislation will prove once again that treating workers well pays off for business.

And finally… While many of the Democrats in Congress continue to move to the Right, Senator Bernie Sanders keeps moving towards progress. In the final days of the 2014 Congress, Senator Sanders promised to push for new legislation to break up the big banks and expand Social Security. His suggestions came in response to the recent “Cromnibus” bill, which gave Wall Street new taxpayer-backed protections. Senator Sanders said, “Over the last several days, it has become abundantly clear that Congress does not regulate Wall Street, but Wall Street regulates Congress.” He added, “It is time to break these too-big-to-fail banks up so that they can never again destroy the jobs, homes, and life savings of the American people.” The banksters like to make us believe that this goal is just a pipe-dream, but our nation has taken on corporate behemoths before, and we can do it again.

And that’s the way it is – for the Holidays of 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.