On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Republican Party Is a Joke to the Rest of the World, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan called out what he calls are “cranks and crazies” that have taken over the Republican Party; a new study by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy shows that in all 50 states, the richest 1% are taxed at lower rates than low-income residents; the American Dream hinges on organized labor; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. The biggest threat to the entire global economy is … the Republican Party. Those aren’t my words – those are the words of Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan who called out what he calls are “cranks and crazies” that have taken over the Republican Party. Speaking at a business forum today, Swann said, “Let’s be blunt and acknowledge the biggest threat to the world’s biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over the Republican Party.” Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard supported her deputy’s statements, saying, “What happens in the U.S. economy matters to the world economy and it matters to us. Wayne Swann was making that very common sense point.” Our mainstream media today is trying its best to turn this election into a horserace. But to the rest of the world, the Republican Party is a joke. And even more than that, the Republican Party is dangerous – pushing an economic philosophy that is already turning Europe into an economic wasteland – and if enacted here would be the deathblow to the entire global economy. But that’s not to say that the Republican Party is economically suicidal. They know their agenda will enrich the lives of a very small group of wealthy elite who belong to transnational corporations – the top 1%. The truth is, if voters actually went to the polls and voted for their own economic interests, then Mitt Romney wouldn’t get 53% of the vote, for 51%, or even 47%. He’d get 1%.

In screwed news … when Mitt Romney criticized 47% of the nation for not paying their fair share in taxes – he got his numbers wrong. He should have criticized the top 1%. A new study by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy shows that in all 50 states, the richest 1% percent are taxed at lower rates than low-income residents. As the report states, “nearly every state and local tax system takes a much greater share of income from middle- and low-income families than from the wealthy.” For example, in Florida the top 1% pays an average tax rate of just 2.1% while the bottom 20% pay over 13% in taxes. In Texas, the top 1% pays 3% in taxes, while the bottom 20% pays more than 12% in taxes. Not only is this accelerating wealth inequality, but it’s also a big reason why states are facing budget deficits. As the report further says, “It’s no wonder that so many states with regressive tax structures are facing long-term structural budget deficits. They’re continually imposing higher taxes on people without much money.” Reaganomics – 32-years after it was put in place – it today a complete failure. If we’re going to save the American middle class and fix our debt problem at the same time – then we must tax the rich.

In the best of the rest of the news …

The American Dream hinges on organized labor. That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Center for American Progress looking at data from the Pew Research Center. The study looked at unionization rates within states and found that states with the highest percentage of unionized workers also have the highest rates of economic mobility – as in, the chances that someone born into the middle class can work their way into the upper class. Being able to come from nothing and live a successful life is the basis of the American Dream. Unfortunately, the United States now lags behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to economic mobility. Today, more than 2/3 of Americans born in the bottom-fifth income bracket – will stay in the bottom two-fifths income brackets their entire lives. A lot of that has to do with a 32-year war against organized labor starting with Ronald Reagan. The study concludes by showing that just a ten-percent boost in unionized workers in an average state would increase economic mobility by 4%. It’s time to bring democracy back to the work place through unions and give workers a shot at what they’ve been promised – a shot at the American Dream.

While House Republicans hold witch-hunt hearings on the so-called threat of Muslim extremism within the United States, Democrats in the Senate are focusing on actual threats. During a Senate Judiciary hearing on Wednesday, security analyst Daryl Johnson testified that the United States is devoting too much attention to Muslim extremism and not enough to domestic right-wing extremism. As Johnson said, “The threat from domestic terrorism motivated by extremist ideologies is often dismissed and overlooked in the national media and within the U.S. government. Yet we are currently seeing an upsurge in domestic non-Islamic extremist activity, specifically from violent rightwing extremists.” Johnson showed that since 9/11 Muslim extremists had carried out five attacks in the U.S. – killing 17 people. However, just since 2008, right-wing extremists have carried out several attacks killing 16 police officers and wounding 27 others – plus the recent attacks on abortion doctors and worshippers at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. Let’s put to rest the Islamic bogeyman and start focusing on actual threats to our nation’s security.

And finally … Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown faced off in their first debate on Thursday night – with a Massachusetts Senate seat up for grabs. Polls currently show a dead-heat between the two candidates. While Brown tried to pain Warren as an extremists affiliated with the Occupy Movement, Warren fired back with specifics about Brown’s voting record proving that he is out of touch with working people and women. Warren pointed out Brown’s defense of billions of dollars in tax subsidies for oil corporations – and his defense of tax breaks for the top 2% at the expense of the middle class. She also hammered Brown on his opposition to equal pay for equal work for women – and support for legislation that would have allowed health insurers to drop coverage for contraceptives for women. This Senate race in Massachusetts is one of the most crucial this election. A win for Elizabeth Warren would be a big win for the progressive movement.

And that’s the way it is today – Friday, September 21, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.