In this week's On the News Segment: Another week, another round of Republican voter suppression ID laws; single parents in the US have the highest rates of poverty and the lowest rates of healthcare in the developed world; New Mexico introduced legislation to require the labeling of all genetically modified foods; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...at the end of the world...
You need to know this. The Republican Party self-destructed in front of the entire nation last night – as Speaker of the House John Boehner failed to get his members in line to vote on a plan to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff." It was a bad idea to begin with – a plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire for millionaires – but let those same millionaires keep generous tax loopholes, while getting rid of many of the tax breaks used by the middle class. It was another huge giveaway to the rich, but the Republicans Party flew over the cuckoo's nest and couldn't even stomach passing a very, very modest tax increase on billionaires like the Koch brothers. In a statement late Tuesday night, Speaker Boehner said he didn't have enough votes within his own party to pass the measure. He then urged President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to come up with a plan while he sends his Republican House members Christmas vacation. Financial markets are not reacting well to the news. Yesterday's events in the House made the President's hand even stronger in negotiations. A plan to avoid the "fiscal cliff" will not pass out of the House without Democratic support – and everybody knows it now. So it's time to take cuts to Social Security Insurance benefits off the table, and come up with a deal that's more in line with what the nation wants, which is for the rich to pay their fair share in taxes and no cuts to social insurance programs. If a few sensible Republicans in the House don't join Democrats and take this sort of deal, then off the cliff we go, and President Obama's hand will get even stronger.
In screwed news...when it comes to helping single parents raise their kids, the United States has a lot of work to do. Despite having more kids belonging to single parents than any other nation in the developed world, a new report by Legal Momentum shows the United States is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to government assistance for single parents. As a result, single parents in the United States have the highest rates of poverty in the developed world and the lowest rates of healthcare coverage among industrialized nations. Even worse, 25% of ALL single parents in America are forced to work low-wage jobs, a higher percentage than any other developed nation. The United States is the only developed nation that doesn't require paid maternity leave to expecting mothers. In the debate over guns, President Obama has said our nation's number one priority should be protecting our children. That doesn't just mean taking assault weapons off the streets; it also means giving single parents in America the resources they need to raise their children.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Corporate money may have defeated a ballot measure to label genetically modified foods in California, but the effort now continues in nearby New Mexico. This week – New Mexico State Senator Peter Wirth introduced legislation to require the labeling of all genetically modified foods in his state. In a statement defending the new GMO labeling legislation, Food and Water Watch in New Mexico said, "Giving foods with GE ingredients a label will only improve and expand independent health and scientific knowledge about genetic engineering...We need the research of genetic engineering to be expanded beyond the companies who own the seeds and stand to profit, and labeling will allow this to happen." State Senator Wirth may have committed political suicide introducing this bill, as the full force of corporate giants like Monsanto will pour millions into defeating the bill, and defeating Wirth himself, in the next election. But that's what courage looks like – and we need more legislators with courage to ensure that "we the people" have the right to know what we're putting in our bodies.
Is the United States turning away from the death penalty? According to data from the Death Penalty Information Center – the number of death penalties handed down by courts has hit a two-decade low. In the last five years, five states have banned the death penalty and four other states didn't issue any death sentences this year. When it comes to executing our own citizens – the United States stands in ominous company with China, Iran, North Korea, and Yemen as executing the most people in the world. And while it's good news that executions are going down in America, and elsewhere around the world – just one execution a year is one too many. Time to ditch the inhumane death penalty – which is too brutal, too costly, and doesn't deter crime.
Another week – another round of Republican Voter Suppression ID laws. Republicans in three states have introduced Voter Suppression ID laws to discourage Democratic voters from going to the polls. These new Voter Suppression ID laws were introduced in Arkansas, Montana, and New York. And in Pennsylvania – Republicans are once again trying to change how their state doles out Electoral College votes. Instead of a winner-take-all system like every other state in the Union, Republicans want to divvy up Electoral College votes based on gerrymandered Congressional districts, which will give Republicans a big advantage even when they don't win a majority of the votes. In fact, under this plan – Mitt Romney would have won more electoral votes than Barack Obama in Pennsylvania, despite the fact that Romney got trounced in the state's popular vote. Like the Energizer Bunny, when it comes to rigging elections, Republicans keep going and going and going.
And finally...in the most ridiculous argument against gun control you'll ever hear, Texas Republicans are trying to tell us that falling TVs are more dangerous than guns. Texas State Representative Kyle Kacal argued against more gun control, saying, "People know what they need to do to be safe. We don't need to legislate that...Flat-screen TVs are injuring more kids today than anything." He's wrong - in point of fact, falling TVs killed 29 people in 2011 – and, on average, 19,000 Americans are killed by guns every year. I wonder how much the gun lobby is paying this right-winger to live in an alternate universe, or if he just forgot to take his meds?
And that's the way it is today – the last day on Earth – Friday, December 21st, 2012.