In today's On the News segment: Facebook made over $1 billion in US profits in 2012, but it won't be paying a single penny in federal or state income taxes; forty Republican Senators filibustered Chuck Hagel's Secretary of State nomination yesterday; Obama appointed two of the nation's top election lawyers to a new presidential commission, charged with finding ways to streamline the election process; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Forty Republican Senators filibustered a Secretary of State nomination for the first time in history yesterday, by refusing to let Chuck Hagel's confirmation come to a vote. Only four Republicans, Sens. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mike Johanns (R-NE), voted to break the filibuster, and the final vote was 58 to 40. Republicans held up the nomination saying they want more information about the attack in Benghazi – an event that Chuck Hagel had nothing to do with. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "Make no mistake: Republicans are trying to defeat Senator Hagel's nomination by filibustering, while submitting extraneous requests that will never be satisfied." This is exactly why many democrats were angry over Reid's weak agreement on filibuster reform – instead of pursuing a rule change to stop GOP obstruction. Blocking a vote on a cabinet member is unheard of, and it's appalling that Republicans would play games with our Defense Department, considering we have thousands of service men and women fighting in Afghanistan. Supposedly, the Senate will take an up-or-down vote on Hagel's confirmation in 10 days, after returning from a President's Day recess. Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham said he expects the vote to move forward then, "unless there's some bombshell that he likes blood sucking vampires." Other Republicans also said they expect the confirmation to move forward at that time, which makes their filibuster of Chuck Hagel seem even more absurd. After days like yesterday, it's not hard to see why Congress has it's lowest approval rating in history.
In screwed news... Not only is Facebook stealing your privacy, but they're getting your tax dollars too. The company made over $1 billion in U.S. profits in 2012, but they won't be paying a single penny in federal or state income taxes. In fact, Facebook will be getting a refund of $429 million. Citizens for Tax Justice uncovered the social network's use of a single tax loophole, which reduced their income taxes by about $1 billion just in 2012 – and even got them an additional $451 million in refunds from earlier years. When the company was preparing to go public last year, democratic Sen. Carl Levin predicted this outcome, saying "When profitable corporations can use the stock option tax deduction to pay zero corporate income taxes for years on end, average taxpayers are forced to pick up the tax burden." And Facebook isn't alone. Between 2008 and 2011, 26 large corporations paid no federal corporate income tax, despite their combined $205 billion in profits. These corporations get the benefit of using our commons, and they make huge profits off of hard-working Americans like you and me. They need to be paying for those privileges. Call Congress and tell them to make Facebook pay up. Tell them to pass the Sanders-Schakowsky Corporate Tax Fairness Act now!
In the best of the rest of the news...
Sen. Elizabeth Warren didn't waste any time going after the banksters. Yesterday, Warren challenged financial regulators to explain the lack of accountability for Wall Street's role in the financial meltdown. She said, "tell me a little bit about the last few times you've taken the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street all the way to a trial." And after regulators weren't able to provide a specific answer, she didn't mince words about her feelings on the matter, saying, "I'm really concerned that 'too big to fail' has become 'too big for trial.'" Despite causing our nation to teeter on the brink of economic collapse, and swindling thousands of Americans out of their homes, banksters have avoided public testimony by settling alleged crimes out of court. As the Think Progress Blog points out, prosecution of financial fraud hit a 20-year low in 2011, even as many of the biggest banks were found guilty of fraud. It may be a few years late, but thanks to Sen. Warren, banksters may finally have to answer for their crimes.
President Obama isn't waiting for Congress to take on election reform. Yesterday, he appointed two of the nation's top election lawyers to a new presidential commission, charged with finding ways to streamline the election process, and reduce the long lines that kept thousands from voting last November. The New York Times is reporting that Robert Bauer and Ben Ginsberg, who have had opposing views on issues like voter registration, early voting laws, and presidential debates, will now be working side-by-side to fix our broken election system. Senior adviser to the President, Dan Pfeiffer, said, "There is a whole set of ideological partisan issues around voting, but on the very specific questions of the administration of elections, that is something that you would hope and believe Republicans and Democrats would want to solve." With an upcoming challenge to the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court, and the far-reaching Republican effort to rig the electoral college, we'll have to fight harder than ever to preserve our democratic process. We have the power to control our democracy, but to do it we need to move to a national popular vote. Let's get it done. Go to NationalPopularVote.com.
And finally... Is The Onion a better news source than Fox News? One professor at West Liberty University thinks so. Professor Stephanie Wolfe provided students with a syllabus, which listed two sources the students couldn't use while researching for assignments – The Onion and Fox News. Professor Wolfe explained that The Onion is a parody source, but had a more interesting reason for banning the use of Fox so-called News. She wrote, "DO NOT use Fox News – The tagline 'Fox News' makes me cringe. Please do not subject me to this biased news station. I would almost rather you print off an article from the Onion." Unfortunately, University officials informed the professor she couldn't ban students from using Fox so-called News. For the sake of Professor Wolfe's sanity, we hope that students decide to use stories from The Onion instead.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, February 15th, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.