On the News With Thom Hartmann: The US Is on the Edge of Another Government Shutdown, and More

In today’s On the News segment: We’re once again on the edge of another government shutdown; 10 European nations have agreed to a “Robin Hood Tax” that will discourage high-frequency trading and generate revenue to benefit the public; Finland is considering a universal basic income to replace the patchwork of benefit systems that the country currently uses; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


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

You need to know this. Despite all Paul Ryan’s promises and political maneuvering, we’re once again on the edge of another government shutdown. This is our new normal. Last week, Congress passed a temporary stop-gap measure to keep the government operating, but it’s unlikely that they’ll agree to a long-term deal before they run out of time once again. On Friday, President Obama signed a bill to keep the government funded through Wednesday, but that leaves no time for Speaker Ryan to give members the three days to read the bill as he promised. So we may see at least one more short term bill in the meantime. This governing-by-hostage-taking has become common place, and regular budget bills have become the GOP’s favorite way to extort their list of demands from Democrats. Thankfully, this time around, it appears that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi isn’t falling for the Republicans’ game, and she’s fighting to keep some Democratic priorities in the final legislation. The Right-wing members of the House want to block the Obama administration’s Syrian Refugee program, they want to slash environmental regulations and they’d also like to help out their buddies on Wall Street. That’s a stark difference from Democrats, who want to save low-income tax credits, extend the 9-11 health care fund and protect the rights of workers. This governing-by-crisis has become so normal that it hardly makes news, and that means most people never hear about the striking policy differences that divide our two main political parties. Speaker Ryan pledged to bring about a new era in Congress, and promised that transparency and inclusion would allow more work to get done for the American people. But the new Speaker of the House didn’t change his party’s extremism or the fact that Democrats must fight hard to stop them. It’s fairly safe to say that Congress will avoid this government shutdown, but we’ll have to wait and see what it costs us this time around. We may have a new Speaker of the House, but as long as Republicans continue to put oil companies and banskers ahead of the American people, it’s only a matter of time before we’re on the brink of the next government shutdown.

Here in the United States, Wall Street virtually gets to write its own policy. But some lawmakers in Europe aren’t so scared to stand up to the banksters. According to a recent article over at CommonDreams.org, 10 different European nations have agreed to a “Robin Hood Tax” that will discourage high-frequency trading and generate revenue to benefit the public. Although those nations are still working out the details of the deal, proponents of the plan are already calling on US lawmakers to follow suit. Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies said, “Now it’s time for U.S. policymakers to also stand up to the Wall Street bullies.” A financial transaction tax is one of the best ways to reign in dangerous, speculative gambling that takes place on Wall Street, and it’s a great way to fund other programs to benefit a nation. If the leaders of 10 different nations can stand up to the degenerate gamblers on Wall Street, it’s time for lawmakers here in the United States to explain why they can’t.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) doesn’t mess around when it comes to sticking up for low-income Americans. When that agency began getting complaints about the prepaid debit card company, RushCard, they stepped in to investigate. According to customers, that company had thousands of people’s money locked in debit accounts that they were unable to access for weeks, and now, it appears that they don’t want to cooperate with the resulting investigation. Although the vast majority of their customers have regained access to their funds, the CFPB wants to know the details of the cause and resolution to the problem. UniRush, the parent company of RushCard, says that the inquiry is “government overreach and unnecessary intrusion into consumer spending habits” – and they’re asking the CFPB to drop the civil investigation. Thankfully, the CFPB denied that request, and will continue to work for the people impacted. If RushCard is sincerely worried about protecting consumer spending habits, perhaps they will work harder to make sure that people can actually access the money that they need to spend.

To attract the best employees, companies like to offer competitive benefits. Today, apparently that means offering college graduates help with their student loans. According to a recent article over at the ThinkProgress blog, employers are offering loan repayment assistance in an effort to attract younger workers. So far, only about three percent of companies include loan repayment plans in their benefit packages, but surveys indicate that young workers could be influenced by such a perk. And, with outstanding student debt approaching $1.3 trillion, student loan debt impacts an ever-increasing share of the American workforce. Employers who offer workers loan payment assistance are likely to have an easier time attracting the top talent, and their employees are likely to stick with a company longer because of that benefit. Although every American should have the right to an education without a lifetime of debt, employer debt repayment could help bridge the gap until we reach that goal.

And finally … Finland officials want to streamline their social security system and encourage more people to work. So, they came up with a not-so-unique proposal – free money. According to a recent article in the Telegraph, Finland authorities are considering a universal basic income to replace the patchwork of benefit systems that they currently use, and encourage more people to take up part time work. That proposed benefit would be about $870 a month and it would be paid to every adult citizen, regardless of their employment status. The plan will be presented in November of 2016, and so far, it has widespread support from the Finnish people. A universal basic income is easier, and often cheaper, to administer than multiple safety net programs, and it prevents people from getting kicked off of benefit rolls for doing part-time work. Hopefully Finland approves this proposal and provides a role model for the rest of the world when it comes to universal basic income.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of December 14, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.