On the News With Thom Hartmann: Reaganomics Has Created Poverty, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Three decades of Reaganomics has left half of our entire nation in poverty; last week, the Connecticut General Assembly voted to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour; Walmart has admitted that it depends on corporate welfare to keep making a profit; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

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

You need to know this. Three decades of Reaganomics has left half of our entire nation in poverty. Thanks to economic policies that only benefit the one percent, nearly one fifth of all Americans live below the federal poverty line, and another 32 percent are officially low-income. And, those statistics would be even worse if we weren’t using an economic measure that is stuck in the 1950s. The federal poverty live was originally calculated based on the price of food six decades ago, but it hasn’t kept up with real costs. Just since Reagan took office, food prices have doubled, housing prices have gone up three-fold, medical expenses are six times higher, and college tuition costs eleven times what it did in the 1950s. According to the Economic Policy Institute, a family of three has to take in at least $48,000 dollars a year just to break even, but half of our country struggles to get by on far less than that. While those at the top rake in an ever-expanding share of all income, more than one third of our nation is working harder for less money. And, our out-dated poverty measure means that they aren’t even eligible for a little financial assistance. When we talk about making the rich pay their fair share, the right-wing screams of socialism and class warfare. Yet, they have no logical defense for an economic system that provides billions in tax breaks for the wealthy, but denies a living wage and a little help to the average working American. Reaganomics has devastated our middle class, stolen our retirements, and saddled our children with a trillion dollars in student loan debt. The only class warfare here is the one being waged by the rich against everyday Americans. The myth of trickle-down has been debunked, and the truth is that we need a new era of shared prosperity. It’s time to take back our economy and reboot the American Dream.

Connecticut workers are getting a raise. Rather than waiting on Congress, last week, the Connecticut General Assembly voted to increase that state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and Governor Dannel Malloy has signed that bill into law. That increase means higher pay for 227,000 workers in that state, and it makes Connecticut’s minimum wage the highest state minimum in our nation. However, they may not have that title for very long. In early March, the Maryland State House also voted to raise their minimum wage, and that bill is quickly moving on to the State Senate. Five other states have also started to consider the $10.10 minimum wage, and four more states may increase their minimum wage to $10 dollars an hour. Lawmakers in these states are recognizing that raising the minimum wage will provide a huge boost to their local economies, and that the vast majority of voters support a living wage. In the richest nation on Earth, it is unacceptable that someone who works full time should live in poverty. We’re going to put an end to that practice, even if we have to do it one state at a time.

Walmart has admitted that they depend on corporate welfare to keep making a profit. In their annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the low-wage retailer provided a list of factors that pose threat to future profits. Among those risks, Walmart listed “changes in the amounts of payments made under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, [and] changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans…” This admission proves that the retail giant relies on the government – and the taxpayers – to subsidize their poverty wages. On top of that benefit, Walmart gets additional handouts when taxpayers pick up the tab for employee healthcare, housing assistance, and various other programs. All the while, Walmart rakes in billions in profits that could easily cover the cost of providing employees with benefits and higher pay. Our hard-earned tax dollars should be going to invest in our nation, not to helping multinational corporations make a profit while abusing workers both here and abroad.

The rent is too damn high. According to a new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a person would have to make about $19 dollars an hour to afford the cost of an average two-bedroom apartment. And, while in some states a person would have to earn even more, there’s almost nowhere in our nation that someone could afford a two-bedroom apartment on minimum wage. Every year, the cost of housing continues to rise, but wages have stayed stagnant for decades. Sheila Crowley, president of the NLIHC, explained that “Increasing the stock of affordable housing is a critical part of addressing the extreme shortage of affordable housing in America.” But, we also need to push wages up towards today’s housing prices. People who work full time should be able to afford a modest apartment, and we have to tackle this problem from both ends.

And finally… Students and teachers around our nation are dealing with massive budget cuts at public universities. However, when the University of Southern Maine announced staff layoffs and the roll-back of student services, the faculty and students decided to fight back. About a week ago, more than 100 college students and teachers occupied the Provost’s office, and they’ve continued to stand up to the war on public education ever since. The student senate at that university also passed a vote of no confidence in the university president, and the protestors staged a rally in front of the law building after being locked out so that they couldn’t stage another sit-in. The protests have continued over the last few days, and even morphed into a flash mob earlier this week. All around the nation, public schools have been under attack by right-wing lawmakers and the corporate cronies. Perhaps the brave students and teachers in Maine will inspire more people to stand up for public education.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of March 31, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.