In today's On the News segment: Anti-austerity parties actually nabbed 52 percent of the vote in Sunday's elections in Greece, Mitt Romney has come out in staunch opposition to hiring more public workers, the Texas Democratic Party endorses decriminalizing marijuana, there could be trouble brewing at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Yes, the Conservative New Democracy Party finished first in the Greek elections Sunday, but it was not, as American infotainment media is widely reporting, a Greek endorsement of the austerity regime wrecking Europe.
Anti-austerity parties actually nabbed 52% of the vote in Sunday's elections – and the far-left SYRIZA Party has doubled its share of the vote since May, winning enough enthusiastic support that it can continue to push the new Greek coalition government – whatever it might look like –away from austerity and toward pro-growth policies. As SYRIZA Party leader Alexis TSipras said in a speech on Monday, "Some believe that [conservatives] won the elections. But, the people have won the elections because now they cannot proceed with bailout agreements and they recognize this, both in Greece and in Brussels." And he's right: leaders within the New Democracy Party are now calling for a renegotiation of the austerity and bailout terms with the EU and IMF – despite warnings from Germany that Greece can't do that. In particular, New Democracy officials are asking to spread the length of time from two years to four years over which Greece is supposed to cut 11.7 billion euros from their budget . A senior EU official told Reuters that the terms of the deal are "changeable." Austerity is losing its momentum in Europe – so how much longer until Mitt Romney and his Republican buddies get the message here?
Public workers are screwed. Mitt Romney has come out in staunch opposition to hiring more public workers, and other Republicans – from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – have demonized public workers as a drain on our economy. But who exactly are these Republicans talking about when they rail against so-called "public workers?" The answer is: teachers, cops, and firefighters. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities uncovered – the majority of public workers being targeted at the state and local level by Republicans aren't nameless bureaucrats pushing paper – but are actually men and women teaching our children science, patrolling our neighborhoods, and putting out our fires. Nine million teachers make up the largest share of public workers, with 2.4 million cops and firefighters coming in second, and 1.4 million nurses and health professionals coming in third. These are the people Republicans are cutting. As the White House reported – a quarter-million teachers have lost their jobs in the last three years thanks to budget cuts. Altogether more than 600,000 public sectors workers have been laid off – mostly by Republican Governors – since President Obama took office. If those American still had a job – then the unemployment rate could be as much as a full point lower.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Progressives' worst enemy in the Senate may be a handful of nervous Democrats. Despite President Obama's hardline stance against extending the Bush tax cuts for the Romney super-rich at the end of the year – The Hill is reporting that at least seven Senate Democrats may not be on board with the plan. Democratic Senators like Ben Nelson, Jon Tester, and Joe Manchin have refused to endorse letting the Bush tax cuts expire for millionaires and billionaires – and instead are pushing to extend all of the tax cuts to give Senators time to pass more spending cuts and negotiate broader tax reform. Many of these Democrats are facing re-election tests at the end of the year and are afraid of taking an unpopular vote on taxes. Then again – as Harry Truman said more than fifty years ago – if voters have a choice between a Republicans or a Democrat in Republican clothing – they'll choose the genuine article every single time.
Three cheers to the Texas state Democratic Party. The Texas Democratic Party released its official platform for 2012, and making it on the list: a complete decriminalization of marijuana. As Texas Democrats argue, "Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Recent polls show over 50% of Americans believe marijuana should be decriminalized. While arrests for marijuana since 1965 have been over 20 million citizens, marijuana is more prevalent than ever before." The Party then goes on to urge President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and Congress to support legislation to decriminalize and regulate marijuana just like tobacco or alcohol. Just a few weeks ago – the Republican State Party in Iowa released its platform for 2012 – which didn't include legalizing pot. However, it did include outlawing pornography, abortion, and the EPA. Yes, there is a difference between the two parties.
There could be trouble brewing at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California. Earlier this year – a tube broke in one of the plant's steam generators leading to a release of radiation and endangering the 7.4 million Californians who live within 50 miles of San Onofre. Now – a team of federal investigators has concluded the cause of the leak was a major design flaw within the reactors – causing its parts to malfunction. The plant has been shut down since the leak in January, but its operators want the plant restarted. Meanwhile – the environmental group "Friends of the Earth" has filed a legal petition with the NRC to keep the reactors at San Onofre shut down until the design flaws can be fixed. Keep an eye on this story.
And finally...interested in some good theatre? Then you should have stopped by the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing today where female lawmakers performed The Vagina Monologues in front of an estimated 5,000 people. The performance was scheduled after two female legislators were banned from the Michigan House floor last week for uttering the word "vagina" while debating a Republican anti-abortion bill. The Republican Speaker of the House declared the v-word was in violation of House decorum. The lawmaker who was banned – State Rep. Lisa Brown – was joined by 10 other lawmakers and several actresses for the reading of the play. Meanwhile inside the Statehouse – male, Republican lawmakers reportedly had their ears plugged, afraid of what might happen if they heard the "v-word" spoken aloud.
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, June 19, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news