In today's On the News segment: The bill the Senate is voting on next month to strengthen gun regulations could turn into one that actually enhances guns rights; nearly every state in our nation has reduced funding for public universities; the Westboro Baptist Church has a new neighbor; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Next month, the Senate will vote on gun control legislation, but provisions that the majority of voters support won't be in the bill. Yesterday, California Senator Diane Feinstein's assault weapons ban was pulled from the legislation, despite a Pew Research poll showing 55% of Americans support the ban. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will allow the weapons ban to be offered as an amendment, but he will only introduce one measure, which increases the charges and penalties for gun trafficking. As Republicans would mount fierce opposition to the ban on military-style weapons, Mr. Reid said he felt sympathy for Diane Feinstein, but that her bill did not have the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster. The final bill may also include provisions to strengthen background checks, but it could be weighed down with pro-gun amendments from the other side of the isle. According to the New York Times, if that happens, the bill meant to strengthen gun regulations could turn into one that actually enhances guns rights. In an interview with reporters, Feinstein said, "How many assault weapons do you need circulating? To have these mass killings is such a blight on everything that America stands for." So, the gun lobby wins again, and modest legislation, which would help keep military-style weapons out of criminals' hands, can't even be put up for a vote. The American people deserve to know which side their representatives stand on. Either Senators are with the majority of Americans that want these weapons off the street, or their with the gun lobby. As President Obama said in his State of the Union, "they deserve a vote," and now is the time for that vote to happen.
In screwed news... In the five years since the 2008 financial meltdown, nearly every state in our nation has reduced funding for public universities. According to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only North Dakota and Wyoming are investing in our future leaders at the same level they were before the Great Recession. The Think Progress Blog points out that some states have made these drastic cuts to education funding only to preserve tax breaks, leaving students on the hook for the skyrocketing tuition costs. Students in Arizona have been hit the hardest, with a 78% increase in college costs just since 2008 – all to preserve a $538 million corporate tax break enacted in 2011. So, while corporations in that state enjoy a 4.9% tax rate, students suffer with closed campuses, eliminated courses, inadequate school resources, and they pay nearly double the cost to obtain a degree. This is immoral... and extremely unwise. Our nation is 16th in the world at educating our future leaders, and huge cuts and ballooning tuition costs will only push us down further on that list. We must start investing in an educated workforce. If we're supposed to be the greatest country in the world, why don't we guarantee the right to a world-class education? This has to change.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Senator Elizabeth Warren is a warrior for the middle class. And in between taking on the banksters, and calling Republicans out for the pro-1% policies, Warren is also working on a book to document the battles she's fought on behalf of working people of our nation. In an interview with the Associate Press on Tuesday, Sen. Warren said the new book, called "Rigged," will tell the story of her time on a Congressional Oversight Panel, how she helped set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and how she ran a successful senate campaign to defeat Scott Brown. Warren said, "the title refers to how the economic system is too often rigged against families that work hard and play by the rules. The story is national, but it's also personal." Leave it to Senator Elizabeth Warren... not only does she fight everyday for the middle class, but manages to find time to document the story.
Next time you hear the Republican talking point about the U.S. having the highest corporate tax rate in the world, remember this: In 2012, some of our nation's largest corporations actually got huge refunds. For instance, General Electric made $81 billion dollars in profits last year, yet received a whopping $3 billion dollar tax refund. Bank of America is another tax-dodger, as the company earned over $75 billion last year, yet wrote off so many legal settlements the company was eligible for a tax refund of over $1 billion. It is a privilege to do business in our nation, and to make huge profits off of hard-working American citizens, yet we're actually paying corporations to be here. If Republicans are so worried about the debt and the deficit, they should be putting an end to this corporate welfare. If companies want to use our commons to make huge profits off our fellow citizens, let's demand they start paying their fair share.
And finally... The Westboro Baptist Church has a new neighbor. About six months ago, Aaron Jackson, a founding member of a charity organization called Planting Peace, bought the house directly across the street from the anti-gay group. The purchase is part of a new nonprofit he calls "Equality House." Mr. Jackson found out the house while playing around on Google Earth, and was struck with a brilliant idea. He said that as soon as he saw it was for sale he thought, "Oh my gosh, I could buy a house in front of the [Westboro Baptist Chuch]! And I'm going to paint that thing the color of the pride flag." And yesterday, that's exactly what he did. Out front of the newly-painted rainbow exterior, Mr. Jackson also flies the pride flag, and he is already working on the next steps in his fight for LGBT equality. Congrats to Aaron Jackson for standing up to Fred Phelps and his homophobic, hate group. In the words of Jesus, "love thy neighbor, as thy self." I wonder if that includes neighbors living in a rainbow covered house...
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, March 20, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.