Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. Last night, President Obama delivered his State of The Union address, and what we didn’t hear is almost as important as what he said. The President said he wants 2014 to be a year of action to fight income inequality, but he never mentioned raising taxes on the rich, or helping labor groups fight the war on unions. We heard the President talk about working with CEOs to help the long-term unemployed, but he never suggested a new public works program to make our government the employer of last resort. He talked about climate change and the importance of green energy, but he never explained how nuclear, fracking, and so-called clean coal are going to help us address global warming. And, President Obama talked about “opening new markets,” but never addressed the fact that free trade ships our jobs overseas and puts downward pressure on American wages. The President did address equal pay for equal work, he announced an executive order giving federal contractors a raise, and he talked about rewarding companies that bring American jobs back from overseas. But, this speech could have been so much more. President Obama could have come out strongly against the Keystone Pipeline, the TPP, and the Republican obstructionism that’s left Congress at a standstill. He could have embraced policies that have worked in our nation – like FDR’s “New Deal” or President Harry Truman’s Public Works Administration. Those are the policies we need to repair our nation, and revive the American Dream. Those are the ideas that could usher in a new era of shared prosperity, and the actions that Americans would support.
In screwed news… The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has reached a deal on the farm bill, and it slashes $8 billion dollars from the food stamp program. If this legislation is enacted, it will mean that 850,000 Americans have $90 dollars less every month to buy food. Leaders of both parties are supporting this so-called compromise, but the bill is not guaranteed to pass in either chamber. House Republicans have blocked previous legislation with twice the cuts, saying that those bills didn’t slash enough from the SNAP program. And, Senate Democrats have already passed legislation with only $400 million dollars in food stamp cuts, and they’ve signaled that they won’t go much higher. Congress shouldn’t have started this conversation with the “what can we cut” mentality, they should be talking about how to invest in our nation. It’s un-American to slash the programs that keep people fed, and we should never compromise basic human principles like helping each other when we’re in need.
In the best of the rest of the news…
As natural gas and electricity prices rose rapidly during the Polar Vortex, wind energy saved millions of dollars for consumers throughout our country. Extreme cold caused demand for gas and electric heat to soar over the last two weeks, and prices jumped 10 to 50 times their normal rate. Thankfully, regional wind energy output was strong during those weeks, and it kept heating prices from rising even further. In addition to keeping heating prices closer to normal, wind energy also allowed several electricity providers to switch away from natural gas when prices rose from increased demand. For instance, Nebraska Public Power District issued a statement about wind energy, saying, “Using a combination of fuels means we deliver electricity using the lowest cost resources while maintaining high reliability for our customers.” Once again, we see clear evidence that renewable energy makes sense for business, for consumers, and for our environment.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels in most regions are still calm today, although a few areas are seeing some high spikes. Baldwinsville, New York is reporting 39 counts per minute, with spikes of 62, and Charleston, West Virginia is averaging 43, with highs of 67 counts per minute. Rapid City, South Dakota is sitting at 38 counts per minute, with spikes of 64, and Lakewood, Colorado is hovering at 65, with highs of 94 counts per minute. Henderson, Nevada is averaging 47 counts per minute, with spikes of 79, and Paso Robles, California is sitting at 41, with highs of 116 counts per minute. RadCast.org’s alert level is 100 counts per minute, however they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
Senate Democrats are standing up for women. Nineteen senators have filed an amicus brief in the Hobby Lobby case soon to be heard by the Supreme Court. The owners of that corporation are challenging the Affordable Care Act, saying that having to provide birth control coverage is a violation of their religious beliefs. While a lower court sided with Hobby Lobby’s owners, citing the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, these 19 lawmakers say that the R.F.R.A. wasn’t intended to protect for-profit companies. In their “friend of the court” brief, the senators wrote that a ruling in Hobby Lobby’s favor would allow “a secular, for-profit corporations’ shareholders, through the corporation, to impose their religious beliefs on their employees and to deny employees health benefits and rights to which they are entitled.” Hopefully, the Supreme Court sides with women, not corporations, and doesn’t deal another blow to the health care law.
And finally… During President Obama’s State of the Union speech, Republican lawmakers and talking heads couldn’t seem to contain themselves. They took to Twitter to insult and mock our President on issues ranging from wage increases to climate change. Representative Randy Weber of Texas tweeted a bizarre comment about the “Kommandant-In-Chief,” and Representative Steve Stockman of Texas expressed his frustration that the State of the Union didn’t center on Benghazi. Congressman Tim Huelskamp whined about President Obama’s so-called “radical agenda,” and Fox New’s Katie Pavlich implied that the snow in Georgia disproves the president’s statements on climate change. The Right successfully proved that they have no respect for the Office of the President, and they managed to live up to just about every Saturday Night Live parody of the Republican Party. Great job guys. Stay classy.
And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, January 29, 2014. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.