On the News With Thom Hartmann: The gun-lobby has been squaring off against advocates for stricter gun control; Stockton, California is broke; Euro zone broke another unemployment record; and More.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Since the Newtown, Connecticut massacre, the gun-lobby has been squaring off against advocates for stricter gun control. And while Congress may finally manage to squeeze in a vote on luke-warm restrictions, a bi-partisan group of Connecticut lawmakers have reached a deal to implement some of our nation's toughest gun laws. Yesterday, legislators in that state put forward legislation to close the private-sale loophole, ban high-capacity magazines, and create a new certification process for the purchase rifles, shotguns, or ammunition. However, the new law will allow individuals who currently own high-capacity magazines to keep them. Connecticut lawmakers are expected to vote on the legislation on Wednesday. Governor Dannel Malloy expressed concern about the law's "grandfather clause," saying, "I have been clear for weeks that a ban on the possession and sale of high capacity magazines is an important part of our effort to prevent gun violence -- simply banning their sale moving forward would not be an effective solution." But, advocates of gun control are hailing the proposal as a landmark package and an appropriate response to the Sandy Hook shooting. Ron Pinciaro, of the group Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said, "when you take all the elements and compare it, I think you could judiciously say this is the strongest bill in the nation." After a year of what seemed like endless mass shootings, it's refreshing to see lawmakers standing up to the gun-lobby, and implementing some real regulations. Connecticut is working to take weapons of war off of our streets. The law may not be perfect, but it's a great start. If only lawmakers around our nation were brave enough to do the same.
In screwed news... Stockton, California is broke. Yesterday, a federal judge approved that city's bankruptcy petition, likely paving the way for a long legal battle between municipal bondholders and the California pension system. According to Reuters, Stockton is the largest city in our nation ever to file for bankruptcy. Investors are concerned that the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market will take substantial losses, and they are calling for more cuts to the California Public Employee Retirement System, known as Calpers. As of now, the city has not reduced pension payments, but it has eliminated healthcare benefits for retirees. In yesterday's hearing, Judge Christopher Klein declared that city obligations to Calpers will be addressed as part of the "plan of adjustment" for emerging from bankruptcy. Meaning cuts to pension payments are fair game in the bankruptcy process. Because the GOP insists on cutting the federal budget, local governments suffer from a lack of federal assistance – a cost which bond investors, not retirees, should bear. We should all be watching Stockton closely, because Republican austerity measures could mean Stockton's problems are coming to a town near you.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Slowly, but surely, our nation is turning over a new leaf when it comes to green energy. Last year, renewable energy production in the U.S. grew by nearly 24%, surpassing nuclear energy production in our nation. And while green energy makes up only 11% of our total energy production, the trend shows renewable sources are quickly becoming more common. Wind energy production grew the fastest, with an 89% increase. Although our nation's addiction to toxic fuels is far from over, green energy advocates should be encouraged by this trend. For the first time ever, our nation is getting more energy from wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy, than it does from dangerous nuclear power plants. However, we still have a long way to go in the fight against nuclear and fossil fuels. We can start by standing together against the toxic Keystone XL pipeline. Support green energy in your community, and join the fight against Big Oil at TarsandsBlockage.org.
The Euro zone broke another unemployment record in the first two months of this year. Official data released this morning shows the jobless rate in the economic bloc has reached 12%, which is the highest rate recorded since the creation of the euro, in 1999. That number equates to more than 26 million people out of work across the 27 Eurozone nations, with higher percentages in harder hit countries like Spain and Greece. And, right-wing austerity measures have led to further economic contraction in the first quarter of 2013. According to The New York Times, there is a general consensus that the budget-balancing measures are not working, and the recent Cyprus bailout could inhibit any real consideration of a new direction in economic policy. The European Union is finding out the hard way that they can't cut their way to prosperity. Because no nation, in the history of the world, ever has. European leaders must start spending to stimulate economies throughout the E.U.. The question is, how much economic destruction will take place before they do?
And finally... Today, Republicans in South Carolina will select their nominee for an up-coming Congressional race. The seat was vacated by Tim Scott, due to his appointment to the United States Senate. This open seat could give former-Governor Mark "Appalachian Trail" Sanford a chance to return to the political power. Currently, Sanford's name recognition, and successful fund raising have given him an edge over underdog candidate Curtis Bostic. But poll watchers advise not to underestimate Bostic, as he ran an impressive campaign, and held his own against Sanford during debates. High profile Republicans, such as Rick Santorum and James Dobson, are also pushing for Bostic. Mark Sanford has only received a public endorsement from conservative blogger, Erick Erickson. The winner in today's run-off will go on to face Elizabeth Colbert Busch in May's special election. Busch's famous comedian brother, Stephen Colbert, has already announced he'll be backing his sister in South Carolina. It will be interesting to see who South Carolina voters think is better equipped to take on Colbert Busch next month, but for the sake of comedy, we hope it's Mark Sanford.
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, April 2, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.