On the News With Thom Hartmann: Senate Considers Amendment on Campaign Finance, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The United States Senate actually considers a constitutional amendment on campaign finance; the wealth gap between rich and poor continues to widen in our nation, but very few of our lawmakers will even discuss the problem; voters in Ohio were about to see some big changes to their state’s election laws; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

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

You need to know this. Last week, the United States Senate actually considered a constitutional amendment on campaign finance. Last Monday, the Senate advanced Tom Udall’s proposed amendment, which would allow Congress to regulate money in politics. Seventy-nine senators voted to allow debate on the measure. Of course, Republicans voted against the final measure on Thursday, because they would never allow anything to stand in the way of their corporate donations. However, the very fact that they allowed debate on this amendment shows that even Republicans know how much the American people support regulations on campaign spending. Money in politics has been a long-standing problem in our nation, and the Citizens United decision gave rise to unprecedented corporate power over our lawmakers. Millions of Americans recognize the problem and want Congress to act, but many of our lawmakers refuse to give up these giant piles of cash. Thankfully, we’re not alone in this fight, and some lawmakers are listening. When asked about the Udall amendment, Senator Al Franken said, “Citizens United gives corporate special interests the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections. It’s wrong, and I’ve been fighting it since the day the Supreme Court announced its egregious decision.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “This constitutional amendment is what we need to bring sanity back to elections and restore Americans’ confidence in our democracy.” This is the biggest issue of our time. The corporate cash in our elections influences everything from our climate policy to labor regulations. It’s time to take back our democracy by saying once and for all that money is not speech and corporations are not people. Go to MoveToAmend.org to find out how you can help.

The wealth gap between rich and poor continues to widen in our nation, but very few of our lawmakers will even discuss the problem. Thankfully, Senator Bernie Sanders isn’t afraid to take on the rich. At a recent convention of the AFL-CIO, Vermont’s Independent Senator said it’s time for a progressive estate tax on multi-millionaires and billionaires. Senator Sanders said, “A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much while so many have so little.” He explained, “We need a tax system which asks the billionaire class to pay its fair share of taxes and which reduces the obscene degree of wealth inequality in America.” His proposal calls for a wealth tax on the top quarter of the top one percent, which would be used to reduce wealth inequality, lower our national debt, and invest in things like infrastructure and education. It only makes sense that those who have benefited the most from our great nation should be asked to pay their fair share, and Senator Sander’s wealth tax is a great way to make that happen.

Right wing politicians and pundits love to call President Obama an “imperial” president. However, they should be looking to their own party to find out which president radically increased the power of the Executive Branch. According to two legal memos released by the Justice Department, it was the George W. Bush Administration that decided our government can spy on citizens “even in peacetime.” Jack Goldsmith, the Assistant Attorney General under Bush, wrote the memos in an attempt to explain how the surveillance programs did not violate the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution. He wrote, “Even in peacetime, absent Congressional action, the President has inherent constitutional authority, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, to order warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance.” In fact, Goldsmith went as far as saying, “Congress does not have the power to restrict the President’s exercise of that authority.” If Conservatives are really worried about presidential power, why aren’t more of them standing with us to call for an end to government surveillance?

With less than two months before this year’s midterm elections, voters in Ohio were about to see some big changes to their state’s election laws. Thankfully, U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus prevented some of those changes. Last week, Judge Economus ruled that drastic cuts to early voting hours are unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act. The ACLU, NAACP, and League of Women Voters of Ohio sued after Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State John Husted cut early voting hours by a week, and drastically reduced early voting on nights and weekends before the election. Judge Economus agreed with the plaintiffs, and said that these cuts would “result in fewer opportunities for African Americans to participate in the electoral process.” Thanks to his ruling, Ohio will have to restore early voting on evenings and Sundays before the election, and reinstate the so-called “Golden Week,” during which people can register and vote on the same day. All around the country, Republicans have fought to restrict voting rights, because they know that their chances of victory go up as the voting population goes down. Thankfully, Judge Economus saw through their ploy and protected Ohio voters’ rights to participate in our democratic process.

And finally… The United States has it backwards when it comes to healthcare and homelessness. In both areas, we spend a ton of time and money trying to fix a problem that could have been prevented in the first place. Helping people out before they’re on the street is what the nonprofit group HomeStart is all about. The Boston-area group acts a middleman between tenant and landlord, helping to negotiate payment plans for tenants, or even pay a month of their rent. Linda Wood-Boyle, the CEO of HomeStart, said that the problem with many other assistance programs is that they don’t provide any help until someone has already been kicked out of their home. She said when people call other groups asking for help, “the only answer many organizations could give is ‘Sorry, call back once you get to the shelter.'” The nonprofit has already helped prevent about 600 evictions, and they would love to do even more. The only thing holding them back is a lack of government funding. Just like treating illness, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and we should be helping organizations like HomeStart keep more people in their homes.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of September 15, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.