In today’s On the News segment: Wisconsin became the 25th “right-to-work-for-less” state in our country; California has a plan to make housing more affordable for many low-income residents; while other states continue to expand Medicaid, Arizona wants to kick half a million people out of the program; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…
You need to know this. Last week, the 30-year war on unions scored another victory, and Wisconsin became the 25th “right-to-work-for-less” state in our country. In addition to being bad news for unions in one more state, that new law has broad social and political implications as well. Thanks to Gov. Scott Walker, half of our nation has enacted laws that make it harder for workers to stand up to corporate power, and harder for families to bring home a living wage. And, if Republicans have their way, there will be even more “right-to-work-for-less” states in the very near future. Antiunion legislation is currently being considered in Missouri, Indiana and Nevada, and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner unilaterally dealt a blow to public unions in his state. And, don’t forget about the anti-worker laws that took effect in Michigan, Ohio and other states over the past few years. Three decades of Reaganomics have paved the way for this new era of antiunion policies, and “We the People” will be left dealing with the political, economic and social effects. Over the last century, labor unions gave us the power to take on the corporate elite and implement landmark legislation on everything from child labor laws to voting rights. By standing together, workers were able to demand fair wages and safe working conditions, and they were able to help people they believed in get elected. But, about three decades ago, Republican lawmakers decided to stand with corporations instead of people, and they began dismantling nearly 100 years of progress. That attack on labor translated into stagnant wages, the loss of voting rights and the rise of corporate power. And, if we don’t fight back, it could be another 100 years before we return to progress. These lawmakers have proven that they won’t listen, and that they don’t care what the US people think. It’s time to form new unions, even in “right-to-work-for-less” states, and to use the power of the people to take back our country from the corporate elite once and for all.
California has a plan to make housing more affordable for many low-income residents in that state. Democrat Toni Atkins, the California Assembly Speaker, wants to charge a $75 dollar fee on certain real estate filings, and use that money for affordable housing development projects. That fee would have very little impact on the cost of purchasing real estate, but it could go a long way towards helping those who can’t afford California’s rising housing prices. Nine other states fund housing trusts with fees on real estate documents, and similar proposals have nearly passed twice in California. The only opposition comes from Realtors groups, who say the fees will increase closing costs. But, it’s only logical to ask those who can afford new homes to contribute a small amount to help out their neighbors. If you can afford a new home, chipping in a few dollars to help those in need is not too much to ask. In the richest country on earth, no one should be left out on the street, and this small fee could make a big difference to low-income Americans in California.
While other states continue to expand Medicaid, Arizona wants to kick half a million people out of the program. Earlier this month, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey approved legislation to tighten Medicaid eligibility requirements in his state. The new legislation proposes kicking people out of the program if they’ve been enrolled for five years, and requiring that they have to be employed to be eligible. Even former Gov. Jan Brewer rejected the extreme proposal, saying that leaving so many people uninsured would force hospitals to pick up the tab and push Arizona’s health-care system to “the breaking point.” Governor Ducey, however, said that the new plan will ensure that Arizona has a “responsible Medicaid program” that “protects taxpayers and provides care to those who need it the most.” Apparently, no one ever needs more than five years of care, and no one needs health care when they’re unemployed. These requirements are simply un-American and Arizona’s new governor should be ashamed.
If you want to join the fight against today’s issues – like racial discrimination and wealth inequality – there’s a new movement that you may want to consider. The New Poor People’s Campaign is a diverse coalition of advocacy groups and activists who are teaming up to tackle the injustices of our time. According to the campaign’s website, “We live in a time of profound crisis, a time where virtually everywhere, nearly all systems and institutions fundamental to society – political, economic, social, and religious – at best fail to meet people’s needs and at worst cause widespread suffering.” So, they are joining forces to fight the inter-connected issues that cause and perpetuate failures in our society. The New Poor People’s Campaign wants people to get involved, and work together to fight for change. They said, “To build such a campaign, we need to unite. We need to strengthen our connections and sharpen our understanding of the problems we face.” To find out how you can get involved, check out PoorPeoplesCampaign.org.
And finally… Danger, Will Robinson – Robots could put half of us out of work within two decades. According to a recent article over at RedOrbit.com, a new machine-learning algorithm analyzed statistics from the US Bureau of Labor, and found that almost half of US jobs could be done by machines within the next 20 years. And, according to Michael Osbourne of Oxford University, it will leave us with much more time for “fundamentally human tasks” like art and social work. However, previous experts made similar predictions about our “leisure time” in past decades, but their predictions didn’t quite pan out. Our productivity rate has increased so much that we should be able to take more time for non-work activities, but so far, it’s only resulted in pumping out more products that corporations can turn in to profit. Maybe this time the experts will be right, and we’ll finally get the “leisure society” that we heard about decades ago. I’m sure we’d all like some extra creative time and a robot to finish all those boring tasks.
And that’s the way it is – for the week of March 16, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.