On the News With Thom Hartmann: Senate Delays Vote on Unemployment Benefits, and More

In today’s On the News segment: On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had to delay a crucial vote on unemployment benefits so that Republican lawmakers could finalize their list of demands; out-of-work Floridians have been denied $20 million dollars in jobless benefits – and it has nothing to do with Congress; a Republican millionaire in California is making the case for a higher minimum wage; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had to delay a crucial vote on unemployment benefits so that Republican lawmakers could finalize their list of demands. Although Democrats want to extend long-term unemployment benefits for 11 months with no strings attached, Conservative senators only want a three month extension, and they want the cost of the program off-set with more austerity measures. Among the proposals, which will likely be offered as amendments to the final plan, are some of the most inhumane ideas ever dreamed up by the Republican party. According to a senior Democratic aide, in exchange for helping out-of-work Americans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would like to deny healthcare to millions with a one-year delay of Obamacare. Senator Kelly Ayotte would like to put the cost of an extension on the backs of immigrant children, by making it impossible for their parents to claim a child tax credit. And, Senator Rob Portman wants to cut Social Security benefits for the few Americans who receive disability benefits and unemployment assistance – a measure that would save a meager $100 million dollars a year. Rather than asking the wealthy to pay more, or closing a few corporate tax loopholes, Republicans think that the cost of unemployment insurance should be paid by sick people, children, and the disabled. To make matters worse, some Democrats are going along with these ideas in an effort to restore the financial lifeline that 1.4 million out-of-work Americans rely on. It shouldn’t have even come to this. When Republicans were in power, they extended these important benefits multiple times with no strings attached. Now, however, they’re using this emergency as an opportunity to inflict more pain on the American public – for the sole purpose of blaming that pain on our President. Austerity has never and will never benefit our economy, and this Republican political hostage-taking is causing real damage to millions of American lives.

In screwed news… Out-of-work Floridians have been denied $20 million dollars in jobless benefits – and it has nothing to do with Congress. Since it’s launch in October of 2013, Florida’s new website for unemployed workers has been plagued with serious issues. People in that state have been having big problems trying to log in and navigate the CONNECT website, which has made it extremely difficult for people to file unemployment claims. A 2011 law requires all out-of-work Floridians to register for unemployment benefits online – so if the website isn’t working, there is not another option. Already, Florida makes it extremely difficult for people to qualify for unemployment assistance, and only 16 percent of out-of-work people get benefits in that state. These website issues make it even harder for Floridians to access these meager benefits to keep them fed and off the streets. Where are all the conservatives railing against Governor Rick Scott for spending $63 billion dollars on a website that doesn’t work?

In the best of the rest of the news…

A Republican millionaire in California is making the case for a higher minimum wage. And, Ron Unz is pushing hard against his own party for a wage-hike referendum. The former Republican candidate wants voters to increase their state’s lowest wage to $12 dollars an hour, and he’s helping them understand the benefits of a wage hike. Mr. Unz explained, “taxpayers for too long have been subsidizing low-wage paying businesses, since the government pays for food stamps and other programs those workers often need to get by.” He also made an economic case for the wage hike, saying it would provide a huge stimulus to California’s economy and raise millions of workers out of poverty. Hopefully, California voters will get the chance to increase hourly pay, and maybe more Republicans will join the fight for a living wage.

According to RadCast.org, radiation levels around our nation are still somewhat calm, but a few regions are reporting spikes. Asheville, North Carolina is averaging 36 counts per minute, with spikes of 86, and Salisbury, Massachusetts is sitting at 41, with highs of 74 counts per minute. Craig, Montana is hovering at 40 counts per minute, with spikes of 68, and Lakewood, Colorado is averaging 65, with highs of 103 counts per minute. Menlo Park, California is hovering at 30 counts per minute, with spikes of 57, Powell Butte, Oregon is averaging 27, and Vancouver, Washington is sitting at 25 counts per minute, with highs of 44. RadCast.org’s alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.

Solar-energy installations in our nation set a new record last year, giving us the second-strongest solar market in the entire world. According to a new report by NPD Solarbuzz, there were 1.4 gigawatts of new solar installed during the last quarter of 2013 alone, and a record 4.2 gigawatts installed during the entire year. And, this record-breaking installation is part of an ongoing pattern. Michael Barker, a senior analyst for NPD Solarbuzz, said, “Each year, the final quarter in the U.S. results in a new quarterly record for solar PV [installations].” All this new solar energy will help our nation make the switch to renewables, and create countless new American jobs.

And finally… Gregory Johnson was one of the lead authors of the U.N. Report on Climate Change, and it turns out he’s also a poet and a painter. In an effort to simplify the 100-page report, Mr. Johnson translated it into a haiku, and illustrated it in watercolor. He wrote, “Glaciers and ice sheets/melt wolrdwide, speed increasing/sea ice, snow retreat.” Mr. Johnson was quite surprised that his 17-syllable poem went viral on social media – getting tweeted and posted more than 1,000 times. His take on the climate report was so popular that an environmental think tank even asked if they could publish it – and he agreed so long as it was not-for-profit. Now, Gregory Johnson’s haiku will be used for education purposes, however it’s unlikely that climate change-deniers will find the shortened version any easier to understand.

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, January 14, 2014. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.