In today's On the News segment: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform finds for-profit colleges pay executives massive salaries based solely on schools' profitability, a Koch-bankrolled climate scientist hired to debunk climate change evidence bites the wealthy hand that feeds him, Justice Antonin Scalia tells Fox News there's no right to privacy in the Constitution, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. A Koch bother-funded climate change skeptic suddenly reversed course – and now proclaims that humans are "entirely the cause" of global climate change. Three years ago, physicist Richard Muller was given $150,000 from the Koch brothers to co-found the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project to debunk climate change arguments. But on Sunday, after three years of intense research, Muller is biting the hand that feeds him by promoting genuine science and ringing the alarm bell that climate change is happening and humans are to blame. As Muller wrote on Sunday in the New York Times, "My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis... it appears likely that essentially all of this increase [in temperatures] results from the human emission of greenhouse gases." When even Koch-funded scientists are coming out and saying that man-made climate change is happening, then guess what – it's happening! From unprecedented ice melting in Greenland – to unprecedented heat waves and droughts in America – to sudden die-offs of reefs and phytoplankton in the oceans – the world is changing rapidly. And eventually billionaires will no longer be able to buy off scientists to deny the reality of the damage their oil, coal, and natural gas industries are doing to our planet.
In screwed news...for-profit colleges are scamming American students. According to an investigation by Democratic Congressman Elijah Cumming – the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – for-profit colleges are paying executives massive salaries – not based on student achievement – but instead based solely on profitability. Looking at 13 different for-profit schools – the investigation found, "the single most significant measure for determining executive compensation at these schools is corporate profitability...rather than student achievement." For-profit colleges rely heavily on government funding, with many schools receiving as much as 90% of their revenue from federal student loan assistance programs. Yet, they're not producing good results. A quarter of all students who attend for-profit schools default after three years, while the default rate at public institutions is a mere 10%. Yet the for-profit school executives still get fat paychecks – like Strayer CEO Robert Silberman who made $41 million in 2009 alone. Educating the future American workforce used to be a part of the commons, because the economic security of the nation depends on well-educated workers. But now, the money-changers are in control – leaving students in debt, unprepared, and jobless.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Last week, Democrats in the Senate passed legislation to extend tax cuts for 98% of the nation, while forcing the top 2% to pay their fair share again. This week, Republicans in the House are countering that vote, with legislation to give millionaires a massive $187,000 annual tax cut, while raising taxes on the middle class and working Americans. The so-called tax reform law being considered by Republicans this week – would drop the top income tax rate in America down 25%. And rather than closing loopholes that allow corporations like GE to pay nothing in taxes, Republicans are getting rid of deductions that give average working families some tax relief. According to an analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, the Republicans plan would massively shift the tax burden down the income scale – hitting low and middle income Americans the hardest. The Republican Party is now officially the Party of, by, and for the top 1%.
As long as Antonin Scalia is on the Supreme Court, then logic – and just plain common sense – will be under assault. Justice Scalia appeared on Fox News Sunday to argue that women don't have a right to privacy in America – and thus don't have a right to contraception – while also saying that people might have a right to own hand-held rocket launchers. Scalia said he disagreed with the Supreme Court's Griswold decision, which gave married couples the legal right to have condoms in their bedrooms - something that was illegal prior to 1965 - arguing, "There's no right to privacy in the Constitution." Then Scalia argued that the second amendment applies to any sort of weapon that can be carried in someone's hands...hence the phrasing of the 2nd Amendment's "right to bear arms." Thus, a hand-held rocket launcher is fair game in Scalia's mind. So this is a vision of our future laid out by one of the most powerful men in the nation. It's a place where Americans can walk around armed with rocket launchers, while at the same time women have absolutely no right to do even own a condom if the state says, "No." This November, the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. And if Mitt Romney wins – he says we should expect a few more Scalia's on the high court.
There's good news coming out of Minnesota where a homeowner was saved from foreclosure thanks to the local Occupy Movement. Just days before Ruby Brown's home was about to be auctioned off – activists with Occupy Our Homes Minnesota converged on her property and held a series of demonstrations to raise awareness and keep Brown in her home. And it worked. Last week – Brown was told by Bank of America that they would renegotiate her mortgage. The physical occupations were broken up several months ago – but the Occupy Movement isn't dead – and it's helping struggling homeowners and indebted students all around our nation.
And finally...after a gaffe extravaganza in London, Mitt Romney arrived in Israel over the weekend. This time he didn't insult his hosts, but he did expose a major flaw in Republican opposition to health reform. Romney praised the Israeli health care system, nothing that Israel spends only 8% of their GDP on health care and they are "a pretty healthy nation." Romney went on to say that Americans need to learn from Israel and, "find ways to fund and manage our health care costs." Apparently, no one told Romney that Israel has a universal largely non-profit health care system that includes an individual mandate – the same sort of mandate that Romney created in Massachusetts as Governor – and the same sort of mandate in Obamacare that Romney promised to repeal on day one, should he be elected President. The plane back to the United States couldn't come any sooner for the Romney campaign.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, July 30, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.