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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Private Health Insurers Are Preying on Medicare, and More

You need to know this. Vice President Joe Biden will square off against Paul Ryan in tonightu2019s Vice Presidential debate.

In today’s On the News segment: Expect Paul Ryan to act just like Mitt Romney, private health insurers are preying on Medicare, Walmart workers strike is gaining momentum, Republican voter suppression efforts, IMF Director Christine Lagarde is beginning to walk back austerity, Telecom corporations have once against escaped any sort of punishment for spying on Americans, and more.

Shane Farnan fills in for Thom on the news for Thursday…

You need to know this. Vice President Joe Biden will square off against Paul Ryan in tonight’s Vice Presidential debate. If the first presidential debate last week was any indication, then expect Paul Ryan to act just like Mitt Romney and to run as fast as he can from his radical positions that he’s taken. That’s why the Center for American Progress has compiled a list of polices Ryan has supported in recent years that should give pause to all American voters. Ryan supports a healthcare reform plan that will kick 31 million poor and disabled Americans out of their insurance plans. He’s pushing to kick one million students of federal Pell Grants. His budget hits the poor hardest – with 62% of spending cuts targeted at programs that help low-income Americans. Just like Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin – Ryan is opposed abortion access for rape victims. And he also supports a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Ryan will also likely rail against Obamacare tonight, but he’ll leave out the fact that he asked for Obamacare funding to be funneled into his district. With just hours to go into the debate – the pressing question is: Which Paul Ryan will show up?

In screwed news…private health insurers are preying on Medicare. A new study set to be published in the International Journal of Health Services finds that private health insurers that have been brought into the fold to supplement Medicare are actually bankrupting the critical social safety net program. As much as $282 billion have been sucked out of the program since private health insurers were brought in back in 1985. The Medicare Advantage program – which funnels government-paid premiums to private health insurers, has been the biggest culprit when it comes to waste. Just this year alone – private health insurers have ben overpaid by more than $34 billion. The lead authors of the report recommend that the best way to prevent this waste is to pursue a single-payer system like the rest of the developed world currently has.

In the best of the rest of the news…

The Walmart workers strike is gaining momentum. It started a few weeks ago when workers at Walmart supply houses began walking off the job to protest poor working conditions. Then last week – Walmart retail workers in Southern California went on strike – marking the first Walmart retail workers strike in the company’s history. This week – that strike spread to a dozen different cities across the nation. And on Wednesday – hundreds of Walmart workers showed up to protest the company’s annual investor meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas. This strike might really pick up steam as workers are threatening to take action on Black Friday – the busiest shopping day of the year unless the company agrees to stop retaliating against employees. Keep an eye on this story – a Black Friday strike at Walmart would certainly be a BFD.

Another setback for Republican voter suppression efforts. On Wednesday – a three judge panel in South Carolina put a hold on the state’s new Voter Suppression ID law – ruling that implementing the law this close to an election could block minorities from voting. While the judges did suggest that the law could go into effect after the election, their opinion also ruled that voters without the proper ID will not be stopped from voting, and will instead be asked to sign an affidavit at the polling station explaining why they were unable to obtain an ID. As we’ve seen in Pennsylvania and Texas – these Voter ID laws are nothing more than illegal attempts to kick Democrats off the voting rolls – and the courts are speaking out to stop them.

IMF Director Christine Lagarde is beginning to walk back austerity. Today – Lagarde addressed the ongoing debt crisis in Europe made worse by austerity – warning governments that increasing economic output should be put ahead of meeting deficit targets. In other words, governments need to be growing economies – not contracting them. She specifically urged policymakers in the Eurozone to give Greece more time to meet spending cuts goals to soften the impact of austerity. According to data from the IMF World Economic Outlook – the Eurozone nations that embraced austerity like Greece, Portugal, and Spain have seen their economies contract far more than Eurozone nations that haven’t. Let’s hope austerity-happy Republicans in the United States are paying attention.

Telecom corporations have once against escaped any sort of punishment for spying on Americans. On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court again granted immunity to telecom giants that helped the U.S. government spy on Americans without a warrant post-9/11 – by refusing to hear a legal challenge brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation alleging that companies like AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon violated federal laws. The lead lawyers on behalf of individuals who were spied on, Richard Wiebe, reacted to the ruling saying, “It’s one more example of the court stepping back from taking any role in enforcing the rule of law in the war on terror.”

And finally…this is how a controversy is manufactured. So far – Republicans in Congress have spent more than a million dollars investigating the Department of Energy’s failed loan to bankrupted solar company Solyndra – and they’ve yet to turn up a shred of evidence indicating any wrongdoing by the White House. Just like Fast and Furious, it’s another political witch-hunt. But special interest groups – financed by oil barons like the Koch brothers – are in the game too. An analysis by ThinkProgress reveals that outside conservative groups have poured nearly $11 million in presidential campaign ads hyping up the Solyndra non-scandal. Luckily – theirs spending on conspiracy theories isn’t working. A recent NBC News poll shows that most Americans have no idea what Solyndra is. Only a quarter of those polled had a negative view of the company. But I’m willing to go out on a limb and say those are the Fox News viewers.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, October 11th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.

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