In today's On the News segment: Congress now has an approval rating of just 10 percent - the lowest ever recorded; the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth District ruled that police can track cell phone GPS data - and, thus, track you - without a warrant; fewer people know that Paul Ryan wants to privatize Social Security than know he wants to privatize Medicare, and more.
I'm Jim Javinsky - In for Thom Hartmann – on the news...
You need to know this. How low can you go, Congress? According to a new Gallup poll released Tuesday, Congress now has an approval rating of just 10% - the lowest ever recorded. And that abysmal rating holds steady across the ideological spectrum – with Republican voters giving Congress a 10% approval rating, Democratic voters a 9% rating, and Independents – 11%. Before 20-07, Congress's approval rating only sank below 20% twice. Over the last year it's never been able to break 20% as deadlock, partisan bickering, and theatrics have dominated the 112th session of Congress. Curiously, this is the first Congress elected post-Citizens United – and nearly 300 million dollars in outside corporate and billionaire cash propelled these Members into office – the most ever recorded. In the last midterm election, in 20-06, there was fewer than $80 million in outside spending. In other words, we have the best Congress money can buy – and the people don't like it! To pay back the oil barons who funded their campaigns, Republicans in the House have held 191 votes against the environment – averaging one vote per day – blocking regulations to keep our air and water safe – and blocking action to address global climate change. To pay back the health insurers, Republicans in the House have tried to repeal Obamacare 33 times. And to pay back the banksters, Republicans in the House have been working around the clock to water-down, defund, or outright repeal new regulations on Wall Street to prevent another financial meltdown. In other words, this Congress – in particular, the House of Representatives, has been focused on helping only one class of Americans – the 1% - leaving the 99% behind. It's time to ask the five right-wing Justices on the Supreme Court if they still think money doesn't corrupt our government.
In screwed news ... time to take the battery out of your cell phone. On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth District threw the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution out the window, ruling that police can track cell phone GPS data – and thus track you – without a warrant. The case of United States v. Skinner centered on a suspected drug trafficker who was tracked through his cell phone and arrested by the DEA. The Judge in the case, John Rogers said in his ruling, "Skinner did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the data emanating from his cell phone that showed its location." He went on to say, "Law enforcement tactics must be allowed to advance with technological changes, in order to prevent criminals from circumventing the justice system." There are two ironies to this decision. One, the Supreme Court ruled in January that cops could not place GPS tracking on someone's car without a warrant, so yesterday's ruling affirms that cops can track cell phones but not cars. Two, the ruling comes on the heels of the discovery of TrapWire – the massive law enforcement surveillance system that is tracking every Americans' whereabouts in order to detect terrorist threats. So, Judge Rogers's worries about criminals being able to circumvent the judicial system are unfounded. Never before in history, has law enforcement had this much surveillance and technology to keep tabs on Americans.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson has upheld his state's controversial voter ID law that could lead to more than 750,000 eligible voters being turned away from the polls in November. Despite voter ID law proponents being unable to name even one case of voter fraud in the state that would make this law necessary, Judge Simpson ruled it was well within the power of the state legislature to pass such a law. The next stop is likely the state Supreme Court – which is currently split 3-to-3 Republican appointed judges to Democratic appointed judges. Whatever happens, this voter ID law in Pennsylvania as well as the several others passed in Republican-controlled states highlight the need for a federal right to vote in America, to prevent states from passing their own politically-motivated restrictions on democracy.
We all know Paul Ryan wants to privatize Medicare, but fewer people know he wants to do the same thing to Social Security. Back in 2010, Ryan proposed a new program that would shift Social Security funds out of the coffers of government and into the hands of Wall Street – as well as reduce benefits and raise the retirement age. According to an analysis of Ryan's plan by the Congressional Budget Office – Social Security payments would be, "more uncertain...because returns on stocks are risky." Had people like Paul Ryan succeeded in privatizing Social Security before the 2008 financial meltdown – Americans would have been in an even worse crisis with millions of seniors losing their retirement benefits in a plummeting Stock Market. It's important to remember that yesterday marked the 77th anniversary of Social Security being signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt. Thanks to this program, 20 million Americans are out of poverty. So the question is – why does Paul Ryan want to get rid of it?
And finally... first order of business for Paul Ryan after being selected as Mitt Romney's running mate is ... to kiss the ring. As the New York Times reports, just four days after the Vice Presidential announcement, Paul Ryan was secretly flown to Las Vegas for a closed-door meeting with billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is currently under federal investigation related to allegations that he bribed Chinese officials for favorable casino contracts. There are also reports that Adelson has a history of doing business with Chinese crime gangs. Yet, despite all of these skeletons – Paul Ryan's first order of business as the Republican candidate for Vice President was to stand before Adelson in person and promise to be a loyal politician.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, August 15, 2012. I'm Jim Javinsky - In for Thom Hartmann – on the news.