On the News With Thom Hartmann: Workers Join the “Fight for $15” Movement, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Thousands of workers across the US took part in mass protests in more than 200 cities; in the European Union, regulators are actually standing up to corporate monopolies; in the richest nation on Earth, the number of homeless children has grown by 60 percent in the last six years; and more.

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

You need to know this. Last week, thousands of workers across the country took part in mass protests in more than 200 cities. From New York to Los Angeles to New Orleans, low-wage workers joined the Fight for $15 movement and called for the right to unionize and for livable wages. In addition to fighting for better lives for themselves, it turns out that these workers are also fighting to save taxpayers about $150 billion a year. According to a recent report from the University of California, Berkeley, poverty wages aren’t just hurting workers, they’re costing us a fortune. Even working full-time, a parent making minimum wage doesn’t earn enough to live above the poverty line, and that means we have to make up the difference. When corporations skimp on wages, taxpayers pick up the tab for public assistance programs like food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance. While it’s extremely important that our nation has a strong social safety net to make sure that people don’t starve in the streets, it’s also imperative that these programs exist for more than just corporate welfare. The fight for higher wages isn’t just about these low-wage workers – it’s about all of us and our entire economy. Corporations used to pay workers enough to support themselves, but businesses have pushed that cost on to us. Cheating workers out of a livable wage denies them the dignity that they deserve, and it’s time for each and every one of us to stand up and demand a change. When low-wage workers earn enough to survive, our entire nation does better, and it’s up to us to join the fight and help make that happen.

Here in the US, we’re supposed to appreciate massive corporations that dominate a market. In the European Union (EU), however, regulators actually stand up to corporate monopolies. Last week, the EU Competition Commission opened an antitrust investigation into Google’s business practices. Officials say that the giant tech firm gives itself an “unfair advantage” over competitors by “systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages.” In other words, Google prioritizes their own products in search results, which makes it harder for competitors to sell to consumers. In a statement about the charges, officials said, “The Commission’s preliminary view is that such conduct infringes [on] EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers.” If Google is found to have violated the law, they could fave up to $6 billion in fines and have to change their businesses practices in the EU. It’s no secret that this massive company dominates the market in much of the world, and it would be remarkable if our own country stood up to this tech monopoly.

In the richest nation on Earth, the number of homeless children has grown by 60 percent in the last six years. And, according to Paul Buchheit over at AlterNet, our country’s wealth has grown by $30 trillion during that same time period. While the 1% continues to stockpile cash, our nation has one of the highest child-poverty rates in the developed world. According to UNICEF, “Children’s material well-being is the highest in the Netherlands and in the four Nordic countries, and [the] lowest in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and the United States.” Yet, despite these staggering statistics, Republicans in Congress want to slash the budgets for food stamps, Head Start and public education even more. Is this what they mean when they talk about “American Exceptionalism?” If we can afford to give the wealthy more tax breaks, we can afford to make sure that kids have enough to eat. And, if they say that we can afford another senseless war, they shouldn’t have a problem with funding the programs that protect our kids.

According to a recent survey from Gallup, right now, about nine out of 10 American adults can say that they have health insurance. Thanks to Obamacare, the uninsured rate continues to drop, and the number of people going without health-care coverage continues to decline. And, the researchers explained that the biggest change in the uninsured rate has occurred in groups that have previously struggled to obtain insurance, like minorities and low-income Americans. In an interview with the Associated Press, Dan Witters, the research director for Gallup’s poll, said, “The Affordable Care Act had three major objectives: increase coverage, slow the rate of increase in costs, and improve health.” He added, “The first one is clearly a win. Coverage is increasing; there is no question about it.” However, the uninsured rate could drop by another two points if Republican lawmakers would just stop blocking the Medicaid expansion in their states. Expanding health care shouldn’t be controversial, it should be celebrated as an US victory, and we should keep pushing until everyone in our country has access to the healthcare that they deserve.

And finally… When it comes to elections, every state should take a clue from Montana. Last week, that state’s legislature passed a sweeping bipartisan campaign finance bill, which will put an end to the flood of so-called “dark money” in their elections. That’s the electoral spending done by nonprofit groups, and it has plagued Montana’s state-wide elections since 2007. Even before the disastrous Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, and earlier ruling allowed nonprofits to collect corporate money and use it to manipulate politics in that state. This new legislation will require all groups to disclose their donors – regardless of their nonprofit status – if they spend money in elections within 60 days of the vote. In a statement about the new bill, Gov. Steve Bullock said, “Montana elections are about to become the most transparent in the nation, requiring those trying to influence our elections to come out of the dark money shadows.” He added, “Our elections should be decided by Montanans, no shadowy dark money groups.” The only question is whether our federal lawmakers will be brave enough to follow Montana and stand up to the big money that has corrupted our political system.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of April 20, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.