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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Senators Vote for Fast Track on Trade Deals, and More

If you don’t like any part of the upcoming trade deals, too bad.

In today’s On the News segment: Congress members can no longer change or amend trade agreements; Pope Francis speaks out against those who make and invest in weapons of war; American Federation of Teachers interns form the very first nonmedical intern bargaining group in our nation; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


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

You need to know this. If you don’t like any part of the upcoming trade deals, too bad. As of last Wednesday our elected members of Congress can no longer change or amend those agreements thanks to the 60 Senators who gave President Obama the sole authority to decide the details. And, that power extends to whoever gets elected as our next president. Despite overwhelming public pressure against so-called “fast-track” legislation and the trade deals currently being negotiated, 13 Democrats sided with Republicans and said that it’s just fine for corporate trade lobbyists to determine the economic future of our nation. And that future doesn’t look very bright for US workers. Just like we saw in the run-up to NAFTA, the president and his trade representatives promise that these agreements will increase exports and force our trading partners to address issues like climate change and slave labor. And, just like those previous deals, those promises are nothing but hype. We know that when corporations have their way, they will always put profit over people. We know that without fair trade, US workers will never be able to compete with slave wages in foreign nations. Corporations don’t care about livable wages or climate change or the safety of our food supply, but they do care about lowering costs and increasing profits. And, those are the only things they’ll be worrying about as they decide on the details of these massive trade agreements. The only thing standing in their way now is President Obama – the very same man who has been touting the benefits of free trade. Call the White House and call Congress and tell them to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) while we still have a chance.

Less than a week after Pope Francis dismantled the Republican talking points on climate change, the Holy Father spoke out against those who make and invest in weapons of war. Last week, while speaking to a crowd of young people in Turin, Italy, Pope Francis said “people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons… That leads to a bit of distrust, doesn’t it?” In other words, the Pope said that it’s hypocritical to call yourself a Christian while manufacturing or funding instruments of death. While it isn’t the first time that the Pontiff spoke out against the weapons industry, these recent comments could be his harshest words yet for the individuals who he previously called “merchants of death.” These are the people who make, sell and invest in weapons of war while calling themselves “pro-life.” Pope Francis said, “duplicity is the currency of today… they say one thing and do another.” That hypocrisy is nothing new in our country, but it’s nice to see that someone is willing to call out the gun makers for being an industry of death.

Donald Trump can bankrupt as many businesses as he’d like, but students aren’t entitled to that same luxury – even when they’re living on disability benefits. Last week, the Think Progress Blog told the story of Monica Stitt, who doesn’t quality for debt cancellation because a federal judge thinks she isn’t facing “undue hardship.” Considering that Monica lives only on disability benefits and public assistance, it’s unclear how much harder her life must be before she’s eligible for debt forgiveness. And, the story makes clear that it is nearly impossible to escape the burden of student loans, while corporations and billionaires can get out of their debts without much more than a stroke of a pen. Something is seriously wrong with this system. Student loan debt in this country has topped one trillion dollars, and more and more students fall into default every day. High quality education should be a right in our nation, not a privilege, and no one should be burdened with a lifetime of debt for going to college. We need to change the laws to help people like Monica, and we need to keep fighting until all students can attend a public university free of charge.

Randi Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), so, she knows a thing or two about unions. That’s why she says it’s time for interns to form a labor group of their own. Last week, Weingarten wrote an article for AlterNet about the value of the work done by interns and the injustice of their low, or non-existent pay. In addition to being unfair to these interns, this practice has also allowed many companies to use unpaid labor as a replacement for full-time employees. Randi wrote, “Now, thanks to the organizing work of one savvy group of union interns, the tide might be about to turn.” Paid interns at AFT recently held a groundbreaking vote to be represented by a local union, and formed the very first nonmedical intern bargaining group in our nation. And, President Weingarten called on other groups to do the same. She said, “At the ATF, we are simply practicing what we preach.” Congratulations to those interns for forming their new union and for inspiring all of us to continue the fight for fair pay.

And finally… California just got another big reason to legalize pot. In fact, that state just got about a half a billion reasons. According to California’s Legislative Analysis Office (LAO), legalizing cannabis could provide that state with as much as $500 million in net revenue every year. That agency is responsible for the financial analysis of legislation, but the LAO takes no position on policy. Their analysis found that law enforcement in the Golden State could save $100 million or more by avoiding the costs associated with arrests and prosecution for pot. And, that savings would be complimented by “several hundred millions of dollars” in new cannabis taxes. In a huge state like California, half a billion dollars won’t solve all budget woes, but it’s one heck of a step in the right direction. Between medical benefits and economic gains, it’s a wonder that California – and every other state – hasn’t come around to the positive side of legal pot. But, with numbers like these, it’s only a matter of time before all state, local and federal governments will have to recognize that it’s time to legalize cannabis once and for all.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of June 29, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.

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