On the News With Thom Hartmann: The US Is Number One in Violence, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Violence is one of the only reasons the US finds itself at the top of any charts; many colleges around the country will take as much of their students’ money as they can get their hands on; the top 1% own half of all the world’s assets; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

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

You need to know this. The United States is number one… or at least, that’s what politicians love to claim. However, our lawmakers fail to mention what it is that makes American so exceptional. According to Lawrence Wittner of the State University of New York, violence is one of the only reasons we find ourselves at the top of any charts. In 2014, the United States ranked 24th in nutrition and basic medical care, 34th in water and sanitation, and 69th in ecosystem sustainability. But, we are number one in military spending, gun ownership, and weapons exports. A recent report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says that the U.S. government accounts for 37 percent of world military expenditures. Our closest competitors are Russia and China, and together they only account for 16 percent of global military spending. The United States lags far behind other developed nations when it comes to child poverty and life expectancy, but our poor and our sick are better armed than any citizenry in the developed world. In 2013, we had 88 guns for every 100 people, and 40 gun-related deaths per 400,000. In comparison, Britain only has 6 guns per 100 people, and only 1 gun-related fatality for every 400,000 people. Is this what politicians mean when they talk about “American Exceptionalism?” Do we really want to be number one in death and destruction? If we diverted just a fraction of our massive military spending to other programs, we could be exceptional in so many meaningful ways. Investments in education, healthcare, and infrastructure would improve the lives of millions of Americans, and improve our ability to measure up with the rest of the developed world. We can’t bomb or shoot our way to a better nation, but we can invest in our country to make it truly exceptional.

A lot of colleges around the United States will take as much of students’ money as they can get their hands on. However, a few schools are doing more to prevent kids from racking up so much debt. Broward College in Florida will no longer accept private or unsubsidized loans, and they’re “barring students from borrowing more than they need.” In addition to restricting loans to protect students, the school will also require all enrollees take a two-hour seminar on financial literacy. That required course will warn students about getting deeper into debt than necessary and teach them important concepts like investment risk. In the last 10 years alone, the total amount of outstanding student debt has tripled in our country, and default rates on those loans are higher than ever. As a nation, we need to do more to help students struggling with debt, and prevent more people from needing such outrageous loans in the first place. It’s great to see that a community college is thinking about how to help students, but we need to be thinking about how to resolve these problems once and for all.

The top one percent own half of all the world’s assets. In stark contrast, the bottom fifty percent of the world owns less than one percent. According to the 2014 Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse, global inequality has surged since the 2008 financial collapse. The report explains that while global wealth has more than doubled since the year 2000, the vast majority of overall growth has gone to those who were already wealthy. Emma Seery of Oxfam International explained how serious this inequality has really become. She said, “in poor countries, rising inequality means the difference between children getting the chance to go to school and sick people getting life saving medications.” And, thanks to Thomas Piketty, we know that even in so-called developed nations like ours, inequality can be one of the biggest threats to a functioning democracy. It’s time to fight for an economy that works for all the people of the world, and a system that asks those with the most to contribute their fair share.

Students in Philadelphia are standing up for their teachers. Earlier this month, the School District of Philadelphia called a surprise meeting and announced they were cutting ties with the local teachers’ union. In response to that announcement, about 200 students walked out of classes, and protested threats to their education. According to the group’s Facebook page, the kids walked out “because every single teacher in the district’s benefits are at risk and being played with through politics.” During the protest students carried signs reading “Save Our Schools” and “Students for Teachers,” and called on Pennsylvania’s lawmakers to reverse a huge cut that was made to education back in 2011. The organizer of the student strike, 16-year-old Leo Levy, said that the kids wanted “to show student solidarity with the plight of the teachers and to show how invested in a proper education the student body really is.” All around our nation, teachers unions have been under attack. It’s great to see students standing up for the very teachers that work so hard to educate our nation’s young people.

And finally… The city of Los Angeles is working to give the homeless a real place to call their own. The new 102-unit, Star Apartments will provide real homes for people living on the street, along with a gym, a garden, a library, and even art studios for residents. The residences are part of a new approach to dealing with homelessness called “permanent supporting housing”, and they are subsidized with a combination of state and federal funding. Rather than criminalizing homelessness with unjust laws, Los Angeles is trying to find real solutions. Recent reports have found that it is way more expensive to leave someone on the street than to give them a home. The stability of having a place to call their own will make it easier for people to find jobs, seek medical or mental health treatment, and integrate themselves back into society. The Star Apartments are going to save Los Angeles a ton of money, and they are going to provide homeless people with hope – which can go a long way towards helping them get their lives back on track.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of October 20, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.