On the News With Thom Hartmann: Senator Leads Fight to Repeal the Monsanto Protection Act, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Apple CEO Tim Cook was questioned in a Congressional Hearing about his company’s complex scheme to avoid paying taxes; for a third year in a row, the average CEO salary in the United States has broken records; Tesla Motors is a roaring success; one senator is fighting to restore the USDA’s right to regulate the safety of our food supply from the hands of Monsanto; and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. This week, Apple CEO Tim Cook was questioned in a Congressional Hearing about his company’s complex scheme to avoid paying taxes. According to Mr. Cook, the company’s stash of billions of dollars in overseas shell corporations was not tax dodging – it was ingenuity. And, just in case anyone actually fell for the tech company’s creative explanation, Mark Gongloff of the Huffington Post shared an incredible chart, which illustrates exactly how unjust our nation’s tax system has really become. The chart was produced by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and it shows how the sources of federal revenue have changed over several decades. In 1950, corporations contributed over 30 percent to our nation’s revenue, and individual income and payroll taxes made up about 45 percent. But today, corporations only contribute 17 percent, and individuals are paying for over 60 percent of federal revenue. So, despite all the Republican claims about the U.S. having the world’s highest tax rate – corporations are contributing less to our nation than ever before. Yet, corporate executives like Tim Cook have the audacity to say we should be celebrating their “ingenuity.” These companies make the huge profits they have been raking in by using the commons that our tax dollars develop and maintain. Without roads and bridges, communications systems and utilities, corporations couldn’t get their products into the hands of hard-working Americans. They should be paying for the privilege to do business here. American tax payers should not be picking up a larger share of the tab, while corporate executives hold on to an ever-increasing share of the profits. Let’s tell companies like Apple that we’ll celebrate their ingenuity just as soon as they start paying their fair share.

In screwed news… For a third year in a row, the average CEO salary in the United States has broken records. In 2012, the average chief executive made $9.7 million dollars, up from 9.6 million the year before. At the same time, the pay gap between executives and workers has also broken records – the average CEO made more than 350 times the average worker in 2012. Overall, sixty percent of CEOs got a raise last year, while workers’ wages since the recession have fallen when adjusted for inflation. That means that CEOs are make more than ever before, while workers just find it more and more difficult to get by. Thirty-two years of Reaganomincs has helped the top 1 percent hoard wealth at the top, while workers have seen their pay stagnate – while prices continue their upward march. And, the wealthy have sucked up every bit of the income gains since the 2008 economic crash. The Dodd-Frank Act could address this problem by requiring companies to reveal the income disparity between CEOs and workers, but big business is lobbying to kill that part of the bill. We must demand transparency to keep the wealthy from hoarding an even larger share of pie. Call Congress and tell them to enforce the Dodd-Frank Act now.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Tesla Motors is a roaring success. The electric vehicle maker announced yesterday that they have repaid the $465 million in government investments, and they did so nine years ahead of schedule. U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “Tesla employs more than 3,000 American workers and is living proof of the power of American innovation.” This same government program came under attack after the 2011 bankruptcy of solar manufacturer Solyndra, so it will be interesting to watch and see if the program is now celebrated after Tesla’s success. Tesla is standing up to big oil, the big auto manufacturers, and a swath of Republican lawmakers that refuse to support green energy. Yet, through it all, the company has become an example of successful green innovation. In addition to making beautiful cars, that prove electric vehicles can be luxury vehicles, Tesla is changing the face of green technology. We’ve said all along that environmentally friendly technology isn’t just good science, it’s good business… and now, Tesla is proving that to the world.

Last March, we were horrified to learn of a sneaky provision that was slipped into a spending bill to avert a government shutdown. That provision, commonly known as the Monsanto Protection Act, exempts the agriculture giant from liability, if and when people are harmed by their genetically altered crops. Thankfully, one senator is fighting to restore the USDA’s right to regulate the safety of our food supply. On Monday, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon announced that he’s introducing an amendment to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act. In a press release, the Senator called the provision “an outrageous example of a special interest loophole.” Even before the Monsanto Protection Act was passed, it was extremely difficult for farmers to avoid planting genetically modified seeds, and various crops had been planted before the USDA was able to assess their safety. We must keep up the fight to get GMOs out of our food supply, but Monsanto shouldn’t be off the hook for damages in the meantime. Call your Senators today and tell them to support Jeff Merkley’s amendment to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act.

And finally… Every year, the right-wing media complains about the so-called “War on Christmas.” Well, it looks like the town of Ross, Pennsylvania is making the Right’s fear a reality. The township has ordered one resident to remove his Christmas decorations, which remain up months after the holiday season, or pay a $3,000 fine. Neighbors have complained to town officials, saying they want the decorations removed. Year-round Christmas homeowner Robert Ansell, says the town is using selective enforcement, and, “that ain’t right.” Apparently, town officials do not believe that it can be Christmas all year long, so they don’t appreciate Mr. Ansell’s never-ending holiday cheer. Keep an eye out for the Fox so-called News report on the anti-Christmas town of Ross.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, May 23, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.