In today’s On the News segment: Senators Elizabeth Warren and John McCain are joining forces in the fight to make banking boring again; the Wisconsin legislature sends Gov. Scott Walker a $73 billion two-year budget; Tuition-free college could be a reality in only five years; and more.
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Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…
You need to know this. They say that politics makes strange bedfellows, and apparently, that saying holds true for economics. Senators Elizabeth Warren and John McCain have joined forces in the fight to make banking boring again. Last week, the progressive senator from Massachusetts teamed up with the far-right conservative from Arizona to introduce legislation that would reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act. That bill was originally enacted in 1933 to separate commercial banking and investment banking, and prevent Wall Street from gambling with the federally-backed deposits of everyday Americans. That law was quite successful until it’s repeal during the Clinton administration, when then-Senator Byron Dorgan warned us of the inevitable damage that would be caused by allowing Wall Street to blur the lines between banking and making risky investments. Senator Dorgan said, “I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this, but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past and that that which is true in 1930s is true in 2010.” And, just about 10 years after that statement, the too-big-to-fail banks crashed our economy and held out their hands for a bail out. Thankfully, Senators Warren, McCain and others are working to undo some of that damage and reinstate the law that helped keep Wall Street in check. According to Senator Warren, the bottom line is that “Despite the progress we’ve made since 2008, the biggest banks continue to threaten our economy.” It only took banks a decade to remind us why we needed these important regulations, yet we’ve barely held these too-big-to-fail banks responsible for their crimes. Reinstating Glass-Steagall could be a monumental step towards protecting our economy and turning banking back into the safe, boring profession that it should be. Call your senators today and tell them to support the re-instatement of Glass-Steagall.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker didn’t officially launch his presidential campaign until this week, but we already knew what a President Walker would mean for US workers. Last week, after several late-night, back-to-back debate sessions, the Wisconsin legislature sent Governor Walker a $73 billion two-year budget. In addition to the $250 million cut to university funding, the layoff of hundreds of public school teachers, and more, there were several last-minute provisions slipped in to the legislation that show who Scott Walker really cares about. Included in the list of last-minute additions to the bill was the elimination of a worker’s right to one day off per week, the repeal of wage protections for construction workers on government projects, and the elimination of Wisconsin’s long-standing “living wage law.” The new wording in the budget will strike all references to “living wage” and replace them with “minimum wage,” and would even expedite the construction of a tar sands oil pipeline. Talk about a Republican wish list. It’s bad enough that the people of Wisconsin are still stuck with Scott Walker, but we better make sure to prevent his destruction from spreading throughout our entire nation.
Tuition-free college could be a reality in only five years. That’s according to former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who unveiled his plan for debt-free college at a campaign stop last Wednesday. And, his track record as governor gives him some serious credibility. Under Governor O’Malley, tuition rates froze in Maryland for four years, and were capped at a 3 percent increase in the years that followed. According to the Department of Education, Maryland’s tuition rate grew more slowly than any other state in the 2012 school year. At his campaign event last week, Martin O’Malley said, “Today, I’m calling for a simple goal that makes good on our progressive principles that everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream.” His plan includes help for students already struggling with debt, lower tuition rates for students currently attending college and higher investments in education. We spend enough on education already to provide free college to all students, and it’s great to see this issue front and center in the presidential election.
Speaking of spending enough to provide better benefits… the for-profit insurance companies say they aren’t making enough money off of sick Americans. According to a recent article over at The New York Times, health insurance companies all over the country want increases of 20 percent or more. While they claim the rate increase is needed due to more Americans actually using their health care, it just so happens that this request comes on the heals of higher earnings at Aetna, United Health Care and others in 2014. And, if Republican lawmakers, think tanks and pundits didn’t actively discourage young, healthy Americans from enrolling in the health-care law, these massive health-care companies would have even more money flowing in to their coffers. And, the law would be functioning better if more states would expand Medicaid coverage for low-income Americans. The whole system would improve if people’s health didn’t have to compete with profits. The requested rate hike is just one more example of why we need national health care, and why Medicare-for-all is the only plan that will ever make social and financial sense.
And finally… Lots of bars have ladies’ night to attract customers, but The Way Station in Brooklyn, New York just held ladies’ night for a whole new reason. On July 7 – which was 7-7 – bar-owner Andy Heidel only charged his female customers 77 percent of their bar tab to highlight the persistent gender pay gap in our country. Despite all of the advancements in equality, women still earn about 77 cents to every dollar made by a man. Andy said, “I have three sisters. The majority of my staff and friends are women. I thought this would be a great way to even the playing field, even if it was for one night only.” He said that the point of the evening was to get people talking about fair pay. It may not be a long-term fix, but it’s a great way to expose the ongoing pay gap, and to encourage customers to talk about real-world solutions. Good on Andy and The Way Station for coming up with the idea for the evening, and who knows, maybe there’s a cocktail napkin out there somewhere with a winning-plan to achieve fair pay.
And that’s the way it is – for the week of July 13, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.