In today’s On the News segment: The Republican effort to demonize the poor is costing taxpayers a fortune; this Thanksgiving, workers at one more company will be allowed to stay home with their families; our courts are standing up for the homeless; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…
You need to know this. It’s official. The Republican effort to demonize the poor is costing taxpayers a fortune. According to a recent article by Matt Agorist of The Free Thought Project, drug testing welfare recipients has done nothing except disprove decades of Republican talking points. For years, we’ve heard about “lazy welfare recipients sitting at home and smoking their drugs all day,” but they data shows that those people simply don’t exist. Numerous states have enacted policies that force welfare recipients to take drug tests in order to receive their benefits. However, data from Arizona, Kansas. Mississippi, Oklahoma and other states shows that poor people use drugs far less than average Americans. While the national drug use rate is, on average, 9.4 percent, less than one percent of welfare recipients tested positive for drug use. And, that means that the other 99 percent of drug tests were paid for by taxpayers simply so that Republicans could make life harder for the poor. For example, the latest state to enact this despicable policy was Tennessee. And they found a grand total of 55 drug users out of the 30,000 drug tests that the state administered. And, that’s not far from the numbers seen in the other states where welfare recipients are being treated like criminals. These policies aren’t about saving taxpayers money or identifying those who cheat the system. They are simply Republican tactics to keep Americans focused on those evil poor people instead of the billionaires who have rigged the system. And, Republicans are perfectly willing to waste a ton of taxpayer money to make sure they can keep the “Welfare Queen” myth alive. In state after state, these policies have cost us a fortune, and they have made too many Americans feel like being poor is a crime. Testing welfare recipients for drug use is simply un-American and we can’t let Republicans keep us from focusing on real problems – like the billionaires who have broken our system.
This Thanksgiving, workers at one more company will be allowed to stay home with their families. In the past few years, more and more retailers kept their doors open on the holiday to try and lure in early Black Friday shoppers, but their plan has backfired. Not only did their sales remain about the same from prior years, they also faced severe public backlash for demanding that workers give up time with their families. That may be why the video-game-retailer GameStop has already announced that their stores will be closed this Thanksgiving so that workers can stay home and celebrate the holiday. GameStop’s executive vice president said, “We know this is in stark contrast to what many other retailers are doing, but we are taking a stance to protect family time during this important holiday.” Unfortunately, workers at other retail chains may not be so lucky. Twelve major retailers forced employees to work the holiday last year, and it’s likely that at least some of them will repeat the practice again in 2015. Although we may not be able to stop these companies from opening their doors, we can stand up for workers by shopping at retailers that respect their employees.
The real end goal of austerity is clear in the United Kingdom. Last week, the British government announced that it was selling off its final stake in the UK’s state-run mail service which completed the privatization of the Royal Mail system. Newly-elected Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn stood with mail workers who were trying to save the system. Just one week before the government’s announcement, Corbyn said, “Keep it public, keep it safe, keep it ours.” Unfortunately, his effort was not enough to save the mail service. But it should serve as an important warning for those of us who don’t want to see the same thing happen here in the US The same type of austerity measures that have wreaked havoc on the working people of Europe have been enacted here, and Republican lawmakers would love to privatize our Post Office. It may be too late for workers to save the Royal Mail Service, but we can fight for the United States Post Office.
Our courts are standing up for the homeless. For the third time in recent months, a federal court has struck down a city’s ban on panhandling as unconstitutional. That anti-homeless ordinance was recently enacted in Grand Junction, Colorado, and it prevented people from asking for change in various locations around the city or anywhere at all after sunset. The city claimed that the measure was an effort to combat “aggressive panhandling,” but Judge Christine Arguello ruled that the law was so broad that it violated the First Amendment’s free speech protections. Her ruling echoed recent decisions in Portland, Maine and Springfield, Illinois. Those towns also passed laws to ban or limit panhandling, just like other cities have enacted measures to ban sleeping in public or lying down on a bench or sidewalk. Rather than doing something to help the homeless, these towns decided to make it a crime to sleep on the street. Thankfully, our courts are fixing part of this problem by striking down these discriminatory laws, but we must do more to help those who wind up living on the street.
And finally… Congress may not be able to pass any student debt relief, but there is one surprising place that some struggling students may find some help with their loans. Last week, Dennis Hof, owner of the notorious Bunny Ranch announced that his company will match the student loan payments made by his employees. He came up with the idea after a former employee came to work for him drowning in student debt, and managed to pay off her student loans in only two months. And, that worker is now completing her doctoral degree and working to help people who have sexual issues. Although it’s admirable that Mr. Hof is offering to help his workers pay off their loans, the point of this story is not to encourage this type of work. No one should have to become a sex worker to dig themselves out of student debt. If Republicans in Congress don’t act to help students, maybe we should consider that their endorsement of the Bunny Ranch student debt relief plan.
And that’s the way it is – for the week of October 19, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.