On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Final Version of the TPP Threatens an Open Internet, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has the potential to limit the ways we can access information and express ourselves online; Flint, Michigan doesn’t believe in basic human rights; Colorado voters want the chance to vote on single payer; 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. Since the text has been released, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been widely criticized as a disaster for public health, small business, workers’ rights and the environment. But, according to Evan Greer of the Guardian, “perhaps the biggest concern is over the impact that [the TPP] will have on the internet.” That’s because the final version of the deal has the potential to limit the ways we can access information and express ourselves online. For starters, the TPP would force all member nations to expand our broken copyright system and allow corporations to censor content by claiming violations. Although out First Amendment protects so-called “fair use” – those important protections are not included in the trade deal. And, this is only one of the ways the deal threatens our free and open internet. The Trans-Pacific Partnership also poses a serious threat to journalists and whistleblowers by demanding harsh criminal penalties for anyone who dares to share corporate secrets “through a computer network.” And, if you think we can simply pass our own laws to protect against these threats, think again, because the ISDS will make that virtually impossible. That’s the nickname for the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions, which will allow foreign corporations to sue our government for any law that interferes with their unfettered profits. Just like our environment, our labor laws and our small business protections, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will devastate our right to a free and open internet. We’ve successfully blocked SOPA and PIPA and stood up for net neutrality, but all of that will mean nothing if our lawmakers approve the TPP. Let’s call Congress today – and every day – until they stand up for our workers, our environment and our internet, and reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership once and for all.

Flint, Michigan doesn’t believe in basic human rights. That city is threatening to cut off the water to 1,800 homes if they don’t pay back-due bills that were the result of an unjust, 35 percent rate hike in August of 2011. And, that spike was in addition to a 25 percent rake hike that occurred earlier that same year. Although a judge has ordered the city to repeal that rate hike and adjust bills accordingly, many of the back-due notices stemmed from residents being unable to handle the higher water bills. All of those increases were the result of decisions made by Detroit during their bankruptcy process, and eventually led to the smaller city having to pump water from the Flint River, which turned out to be poisonous. So, not only are Flint residents being hit with high bills and potential shut offs, they were also subjected to toxic water through no fault of their own. Shutting off someone’s running water should be illegal, and the residents of Flint shouldn’t be punished for the poor decision making by Detroit.

Colorado voters want the chance to vote on single payer. According to a recent article in The Denver Post, advocates for a state-run single-payer system have gathered enough signatures to put that decision before voters in the 2016 election. Of course, the proposal is already sparking a heated debate. Critics of the single-payer plan argue that the cost would require an estimated 10 percent payroll tax, but advocates of the plan point out that is $5 billion less per year than residents are paying now. If voters approve the plan, the new ColoradoCare system would allow residents to choose any health-care provider without worrying about the cost. The plan would negotiate bulk prices on prescription drugs and drastically lower the amount spent on administrative costs compared to private health care. Ivan Miller, head of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care, said “We’re all excited. This is really important for the people of Colorado.” Let’s hope that this measure is successful and proves to all states that single payer is best option for the US people.

While dozens of retails stores are making headlines for deciding to stay closed on Black Friday, Target isn’t willing to respect their workers. Last week, the mega retailer announced that they will be open until midnight on the busiest shopping day of the year, and they’re starting those sales while most of us will still be eating Thanksgiving dinner. You heard that right – Target will be opening their doors at 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day, which means many workers will have to skip out on spending the holiday with their family. Of course, the retail giant claims that they “work closely with team members to understand scheduling preferences for the holidays.” But, they said the same thing last year, and many workers were still banned from taking the day off. The sales reports from the last holiday season showed that retailers did not increase profits compared to other years by opening their doors on Thanksgiving. And, many customers refused to shop at stores that showed such disrespect for workers. More and more stores are announcing that they will give employees the time off they deserve, so let’s do our holiday shopping at the retailers that respect workers.

And finally… Seniors and those with disabilities were shocked to learn that they will not be receiving any cost of living adjustment for 2016. Thankfully, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a plan to fix that. Because of the inadequate mechanism for determining how inflation effects seniors, their meager benefits won’t be increased a single dime. But, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who says that their expenses haven’t increased over the last year. So, to cover the cost of those price increases, Elizabeth Warren and 18 of her colleagues have introduced legislation to close a special tax loophole used by CEOs, and give that money directly to seniors, veterans and the disabled. By closing the so-called “performance pay” loophole, the bill would provide a one-time payment of about $580 to all social security recipients. That’s about 3.9 percent of the average social security benefit, and the amount that the average CEO received as a raise in the last year. Senator Warren said that if 3.9 percent is good enough for CEOs, it should be good enough for our seniors. Now, let’s call Congress and help get seniors this much-needed raise.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of November 16, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.