On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Koch Brothers Spent More Money Than the Top 10 Unions Combined, and More

In today’s On the News segment: In the 2012 elections, the Koch brothers spent more money than the top ten unions combined; the gamblers on Wall Street raked in $26.7 billion in bonuses in 2013; there is no national law requiring employers to give people paid time off when they’re sick; and more.


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

You need to know this. Our economic system is broken. Wall Street banksters raked in almost $27 billion in bonuses last year, yet Congress can’t even get it together to raise the minimum wage. According to the New York State Comptroller’s office, the gamblers on Wall Street raked in $26.7 billion in bonuses in 2013 – 15 percent more than they did the previous year. That’s enough money to double the paycheck of every single minimum wage worker in our country. Our economic system is so completely broken that banksters got another pile of cash after wrecking our economy while millions of real working people put in long, hard hours for paychecks that leave them in poverty. And, this keeps happening even though it does not make a lick of economic sense. Every extra dollar paid to a low-wage worker generates about $1.20 for our economy. When that dollar goes to line the pockets of the super-rich instead, it adds less than 40 cents to our GDP. The banksters and the corporate elite can afford to stash their money away in foreign countries and high-return risky investments, while real working Americans have to spend every single dollar just to get by. If that $26.7 billion in bonuses went to the working poor, instead of the gamblers on Wall Street, our economy would grow by more than $32 billion. That makes a whole lot more sense than gifting billions to the very people who crashed our economy. It’s time to fix this broken system, to stop rewarding the people who gamble with our economy, and time to put this money back into the hands of the real working people in America.

Congress can’t agree on a higher minimum wage, but that isn’t stopping some lawmakers from standing up for low-wage workers. Congressmen George Miller and Joe Courtney are looking in to claims of illegal pay practices at some of the biggest fast-food chains. The lawmakers sent letters to the CEOS of Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Papa John’s, and Yum! Brands, which represents KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. Miller and Courtney are requesting that those chains provide detailed information about the labor policies and practices that companies include in their franchise agreements and contracts. As part of their overall effort to help working families, Courtney and Miller said, “We already know that people working in fast food jobs are more likely to live in poverty, so we wanted to examine the business and labor practices that leave full-time workers in need of public assistance to get by.” Just as President Obama said he will use his phone and his pen to help Americans if Congress won’t act, these lawmakers are fighting for workers now in the ways that they can.

In the 2012 elections, the Koch brothers spent more money than the top ten unions combined. In fact, they spent more than twice the amount that unions did – and most of that cash was given to dark money groups like Americans for Prosperity. Recently, some on the Right used a report from the Center for Responsive Politics to mislead the public about union political spending. That CRP report only listed the publicly disclosed political contributions of the Koch brothers – which was still a whopping $4.9 million. By using that number – instead of the four HUNDRED million that the Kochs spent on dark money groups – right-wing pundits deceptively tried to argue that unions spent way more money on politics. The fact is, the disastrous Citizens United decision has allowed two brothers to have more control over our political system than the millions of workers who unions represent. No one should have that much power over our democratic process. To protect our nation, and to stop our lawmakers from being bought and sold by billionaires, we must overturn Citizens United. Go to MoveToAmend.org to find out how you can help.

Right now there is no national law requiring employers to give people paid time off when they’re sick. However, three-quarters of Americans believe that there should be. According to a new survey by FindLaw.com, 71 percent of people questioned believe that everyone should have the right to take a day off when they’re not well. Only ten percent of those surveyed disagreed. Paid sick leave is clearly a moral issue – most people believe that someone should have time to rest when they’re ill. But, it’s also common sense, considering that workers who have paid sick leave won’t be spreading illnesses to other employees, or to customers. In addition, according to the American Journal of Public Health, employees with paid sick time are 28 percent less likely to be injured at work, which means businesses spend less money on workers compensation, and spend more time increasing productivity. Paid sick time makes sense for employees and for businesses, and it’s time that all workers can take a day off when they’re not well.

And finally… It may not be a reality in health care yet, but we can already start celebrating The Public Option. That’s the name of a new pub that will soon be open in Washington, D.C. According to The Think Progress Blog, the Public Option will be one of the city’s first establishments to ban tipping and pay workers a living wage. Although a few restaurants throughout the country have embraced this practice already, most of them are high-end establishments. Not only will The Public Option pub be one of the first to try this practice that doesn’t cater to wealthy clientele, but any tips customers do leave will be donated to charity. No worker – in any industry – should have to live in poverty when they work full time, and thankfully some business owners recognize that. While we continue to push our lawmakers to raise the minimum wage for all workers, it’s important to celebrate and support the businesses that refuse to wait on Congress.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of March 17, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.