On the News With Thom Hartmann: Study Confirms US Presidents Serve the Wealthy Over the Poor, and More

In today’s On the News segment: A new study confirms that US presidents serve the wealthy over the poor; the FCC wants to make sure that every American has access to that open internet; drug companies aren’t in business to save lives; California workers will soon be getting a raise; and more.

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

You need to know this. Sometimes studies and polls teach us something new. And, sometimes, they simply confirm things we already knew. Last week, a new study confirmed that US presidents serve the wealthy over the poor, and a separate poll confirmed that Americans are sick and tired of ultra-rich controlling our political system. Like last year’s Princeton paper that said our nation is no longer a democracy, James Druckman from Northwestern University and Lawrence Jacobs from the University of Minnesota conducted a new study on the health of our democracy. Using documents and data from presidential archives, that team made the conclusion that “elites do most of the deciding” in our nation, because presidents “shirk citizen control.” According to their study, “presidents – Reagan, in particular – were highly attentive to the demands of privileged segments of the electorate with high incomes and other politically valued resources.” And, any attention paid to public interest is more about shaping opinion to fit those goals, rather than matching policy to public demands. Considering these findings, it comes as no surprise that 84 percent of Americans agree that it’s time to get money out of our political system. That’s the stunning – yet unsurprising – result of a new CBS/New York Times poll. According to that report, the US people are demanding change with “near unanimity.” The cause and effect here is clear. After decades of being manipulated and ignored by our elected leaders, “We, The People” want to take back control of our democracy. And, slowly, but surely, people all around our nation are working to achieve that very goal. From protests to ballot initiatives to constitutional amendments, Americans are making sure that free speech only applies to actual voices. The data is clear on the effect of money in politics, and on our desire to overcome this corruption. It’s never too late to fight for our democracy, and that starts with getting money out once and for all.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is on a roll when it comes to standing up for the US people. Just months ago, that agency stood up for internet freedom and ruled to protect net neutrality. Now, they want to make sure that every American has access to that open net. Last week, Wheeler proposed adding internet to the services provided to the recipients of government-subsidized phone service. That phone service, known as Lifeline – or “Obama phones” to those on the Right, was started in 1985 by Ronald Reagan to provide land line phone service to the poor. In 2008, that program was expanded to cover cell phones, and providing internet would be the logical next step. Considering that many services and functions are only available online these days, it’s important that everyone can access the internet, regardless of their income. A vote on the measure is expected on June 18, which also includes proposals to limit fraud in the phone program. If that vote is approved, it will still require a debate and further consideration to implement the broadband addition, but it’s a strong step towards internet for all. In this day and age, everyone should have the right to basic services, and access to the web is one of today’s basic essentials.

Drug companies aren’t in business to save lives. According to one of our nation’s top cancer doctors, the prices of life-saving cancer drugs are already unsustainable – and they’re still rising. At a recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr. Leonard Saltz said, “Cancer drugs are not related to the value of the drug. Prices are based on what has come before and what the seller believes the market will bear.” Although new drugs have dramatically improved the survival rates for many types of cancer, prices of $10,000 a month – or more – keep many people from seeking life-saving treatment. And, Dr. Saltz doesn’t believe that lower drug prices will discourage pharmaceutical companies from developing new medications. He said, “I think that’s one of the talking points of the pharmaceutical industry, but I don’t believe it’s true.” In other words, the only reason that Big Pharma charges astronomical prices for cancer drugs is greed. Good on Dr. Saltz for telling it like it is on cancer drugs, now let’s pressure drug makers to make life-saving medication affordable.

And finally… More California workers will soon be getting a raise. Just last month, the city of Los Angeles voted to increase their minimum wage, and now their whole state will do the same. Last week, the California State Senate voted to increase wages for low-paid workers throughout the entire state. The measure will take effect next year, and increase the minimum pay to $11 an hour, and hike it again to $13 in 2017. In addition to being good news for the workers of California, the new pay increase shows that we should never give up in the fight for a livable wage. California voted just two years ago to increase their minimum wage to $10 an hour next year, but fair-pay advocates continued to work for even better pay. It appears that their effort was successful, and the workers of California will soon see the benefits of that continued fight.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of June 8, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.