On the News With Thom Hartmann: Wisconsin Voters Hit the Polls for the First Battle in Historic Recall Election, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Wisconsin voters hit the polls today for the first battle in a historic recall election, a slew of lobbyists are working on behalf of Wall Street to shoot down regulations that would curb oil speculation, it’s the Senate’s turn to save college students from a crippling interest rate hike, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news.

You need to know this. Wisconsin voters hit the polls today for the first battle in a historic recall election in the state. Democrats will choose between one of four Democratic candidates – plus a Republican spoiler candidate running as a Democrat – to take on Governor Scott Walker in the June 5th recall elections. Walker himself is facing a primary challenge as well. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is the favorite among Democrats and is actually polling ahead of Scott Walker in recent polls. But, Walker has raised $21 million so far – more than any other candidate for Wisconsin Governor in history – and has spent just as much on TV advertising in Wisconsin as all the Republican presidential candidates combined. However – all that money isn’t translating into gains at the polls. Each month since January – Walker has seen his support go down. Keep an eye on Wisconsin – if people power overcomes money power in this recall election – then it could be a perfect model for progressives nationwide, heading into the general election.

Americans are getting screwed at the gas pump. But it has nothing to do with supply and demand, or instability in the Middle East. Instead – it has to do with corruption. Investigative reporter Lee Fang at the Republic Report uncovered a slew of lobbyists who are working on behalf of Wall Street to shoot down regulations that would to curb oil speculation. Bart Chilton, a commissioner with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, said that as much as $14 of the cost of every tank of gas you buy is the result of oil speculators driving the price up for their own gain. That comes out to a $750 a year tax on all drivers, with the money going to Wall Street banksters. Unfortunately, for Americans who can’t afford these inflated gas prices – the top Republican financial watchdog in Congress – Representative Spencer Bachus –believes that his job is not to regulate the banks, but instead, as he says, “regulators are there to serve the banks.”

In the best of the rest of the news…

It’s the Senate’s turn to save college students from a crippling interest rate hike. The student loan interest rate is set to double on July 1st – with outstanding student loan debt at over one trillion dollars. So, Democrats in the Senate are bringing legislation to the floor to prevent rates from going up – and pay for it by closing a corporate tax loophole. Unfortunately – Republicans are hell-bent on protecting that corporate tax loophole – and have pledged to filibuster the Senate bill. Instead – Republicans are pushing their own legislation that passed out of the House two weeks ago – which pays for student loan relief by cutting funding from preventative health programs for working class people. President Obama has promised to veto the Republican bill – since it stops women and children from receiving the cancer screenings and vaccinations they need to stay healthy. Once again – Republicans are doing whatever they can to protect their corporate overlords – no matter the damage they may cause to students, mothers, and children.

Millionaires and billionaires like the Koch brothers and Karl Rove have already pledged $500 million to defeat Democrats this election cycle – but now rich people on the Left are getting into the money game too. The New York Times reports that major liberal donors are getting ready to pour at least $100 million into the election to help Democrats. But instead of focusing on corporate SuperPACs and negative ads like the Kochs and Karl Rove are doing – liberal donors are instead putting their money into grassroots organizing and an election ground game. Knowing Democrats can’t compete with Republicans when it comes to a negative ads arms race, liberal donors are instead directing their funds toward organizations that register voters and turn voters out to the polls.

Austerity may not be the only policy scrapped in French President-Elect Franois Hollande’s administration. So too might be war. At this month’s NATO summit in Chicago – Hollande is expected to announce a full withdrawal of French troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year. Hollande’s announcement goes against an agreement reached in 2010 by the NATO-led coalition to keep troops in Afghanistan through 2014. With more than 3,300 troops deployed in Afghanistan – France has the fifth largest military presence in the war – meaning their withdrawal could embarrass the coalition. Or it could be a sign that the United States should do the same thing – declare victory and go home.

Germany is telling major oil corporations to get the frack out. As Der Spiegel is reporting today – both Germany’s Environment Minister and their Economy Minister have bowed to pressure from environmental groups and put the brakes on the controversial practice known as hydraulic fracking – which injects poisonous chemicals into the ground to extract natural gas. Here in the United States, fracking is rampant – with study after study showing that fracking chemicals poison drinking water and even lead to earthquakes – which is why the Germans don’t want it. Germany now joins France and Bulgaria among European nations that have banned fracking – and if the oil barons didn’t own the Republican Party – we’d be on that short list of nations, too, that value the safety of their people more than the profits of oil and gas companies.

And finally…Mitt Romney is proving that the only way Republicans can win is by lying. In an interview in Cleveland on Monday – Romney said that he will “take a lot of credit” for the American auto industry’s comeback. Of course the American auto industry comeback is a direct result of President Obama’s plan in 2009 to bail out the car manufacturers. And, at that time, Romney was an outspoken opponent of the bailout – even writing a 2008 New York Times op-ed titled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” Now – four years later – Romney is trying to etch-a-sketch history. Next thing you know – Mitt Romney will be taking credit for ending the Iraq War too – and killing Bin Laden. Let’s hope the news media does its job here – and calls out Romney as a liar.

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, May 08, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.