On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Corporate Elite Rig the System Against Us, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Americans pay more for food, internet, banking services, airline tickets and prescription drugs than citizens of any other advanced nation; room and board charges are actually the fastest-growing expense related to going to college; Donald Trump’s new tax plan calls for giant tax cuts for corporations and millionaires, and would create a huge budget deficit; 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. It seems like the most popular word in this election cycle is “inequality,” but we need more than talk to narrow the great divide between the haves and have-nots in our nation. According to a recent article by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, the pro-corporate elite have rigged the system against us, and it’s going to take the majority of us standing together to change the system. As Secretary Reich explains, Americans pay more for food, internet, banking services, airline tickets and prescription drugs than citizens of any other advanced nation. Despite that, we give corporations the power to create their own set of rules, which ensure that we can never challenge those exorbitant prices. Patents and trademarks and other intellectual property rights have been manipulated to benefit the largest companies, while inventors, artists and scientists rarely see much of the profit generated by their own work. Our anti-trust laws once promoted fair competition, but they’ve been weakened to allow banks, airlines, telecoms and food companies to become giant monopolies. Even our bankruptcy laws have been distorted to make it easy for someone to bankrupt a company, but nearly impossible to discharge debt from student loans or underwater mortgages. According to Robert Reich, “The more basic problem is that the market itself has become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it.” And, he added, “The answer to this problem is not found in economics. It is found in politics.” That’s exactly why every single Democratic candidate for president – and even some of the Republicans – has pledged to fight income inequality as a cornerstone of their campaign. But, they will need our help to make it happen. The system is rigged and it will take each of us fighting hard to change it. Democracy is not a spectator sport and now is the time for each of us to get active.

There has been a lot of focus on the rising cost of college tuition, but a huge part of the overall cost of college is hardly being discussed. According to Suzanne McGee of the Guardian newspaper, room and board charges are actually the fastest-growing expense, and may be the easiest place to find some savings. In fact, these costs are often higher than the tuition rates that have gotten so much attention. For example, McGee says that in-state residents will pay about $10,000 per year in tuition and fees at Ohio State University, but students and parents will have to fork over another $11,600 for that university’s most popular room and board plan. And, lodging and meal plans cost even more in cities like New York and Berkeley. The good news is that a student can cut the cost of their degree substantially by living off campus during college, or lower the cost by half simply by staying at home. Public scrutiny and regulation have started to keep tuition rates in check, but room and board charges – which aren’t being watched – are rising fast. The best way to address this problem is to make public college free for all students, and to regulate all room and board charges to protect students and their families.

Donald Trump’s new tax plan is huge. As in, the giant tax cuts he wants to give corporations and millionaires would create a huge budget deficit. According to the conservative Tax Foundation, “the Donald’s” plan would add about $12 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, but his campaign calls that plan “fiscally responsible.” Mr. Trump says he will create jobs by cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent and eliminating the estate tax, but he may be overestimating the number of people that the rich might hire to count their piles of money. When he announced his plan, Mr. Trump said that he would take on “the hedge fund guys,” but his plan actually gives them a huge tax cut. According to Robert McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice, “Trump has made many false claims about his tax plan. Of course, he’s been known to say many other things that aren’t true, too.”

For all their talk about family values, it turns out that Republicans aren’t willing to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to taking care of kids. According to a recent article over at the Think Progress blog, total federal spending on children made up only 10 percent of total spending in 2014, and that number could fall further in the years to come. Although government spending on seniors is protected, the money earmarked for children is increasingly under attack. From public education to nutritional programs, and everything in between, it’s been a fight to keep Republicans from slashing budgets more than they’ve already been cut. Funding new programs that benefit our kids has pretty much been out of the question. As Julia Isaacs of the Urban Institute explained, “Many children’s programs like Head Start depend on annual appropriations, so they get squeezed every time there’s a budget cap.” Our budget should never be balanced on the backs of children, and any lawmakers who cut these programs should keep quiet about their so-called “family values.”

And finally… Whether or not you’re a supporter of Bernie Sanders, you should be a fan of his views on worker-owned cooperatives. That’s the business model which allows employees to own a piece of the company, and allows them to help shape the business’s policies on things like employee pay and customer relations. In a recent article over at AddictingInfo.com, Joe Fletcher highlighted this important plank in the Democratic candidate’s 2016 platform. According to Fletcher, in 2014, Senator Sanders introduced legislation to help build more worker-owned co-ops, which often have higher wages and better benefits than typical corporate entities. In a press release about that legislation, Sanders said, “we need to expand economic models that help the middle class. I strongly believe that employee ownership is one of those models.” Let’s encourage all 2016 candidates to support this business model so that we can expand worker-owned co-ops all over our nation.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of October 5, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.