In today's On the News segment: More than 300,000 West Virginia residents are facing their fifth day of dealing with a massive chemical spill; in 2012, the total cost of all college tuition was about $62 billion dollars; the "Moral Mondays" movement is spreading throughout the South; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. More than 300,000 West Virginia residents are facing their fifth day of dealing with a massive chemical spill, and FEMA is helping state and local agencies ensure that residents have access to safe drinking water. That means tax payers are already covering the cost of the spill, and they could also be on the hook for clean up expenses. To make matters worse, state environmental officials are now saying that the chemical leak could be substantially worse than first believed. Earlier reports estimated between two and five thousand gallons of a dangerous coal-processing chemical leaked into the Elk River, but now residents are learning that as many as 7,500 gallons could have contaminated their drinking water. The West Virginian American Water Company says it will likely be "several days" before residents can use their tap water for anything other than flushing toilets. Many schools and businesses remain closed because of the dangerous spill, and stores can't keep up with the demand for bottled water. The West Virginia chemical spill is a perfect example of why corporations aren't more responsible when dealing with dangerous substances – they keep all the profits, and the public is forced to cover the cost of their mistakes. Just like those responsible for oil spills, these companies are never forced to pay the true cost of their reckless behavior. Patricia Mason, a 54-year old retired West Virginia resident, said, "It seems like no one watches these companies. They get away with this all the time, and we're the ones who pay for it. We're the ones who are suffering. It's just wrong." Our nation must enact stricter regulations to govern these toxic chemicals, and we need to start holding corporations responsible for the real cost of the damage they do to our environment and our lives.
In screwed news... In 2012, the total cost of all college tuition was about $62 billion dollars. Yet, our government spent three times that amount to subsidize universities, and profit on student loans. The money we're spending on tax breaks, grants, and loan processing could pay for every student to get a free college education. Rather than helping our young people, we're spending more than $180 billion dollars a year to maintain a shoddy patchwork of attempts to make college affordable – and we're allowing for-profit universities and lenders to make billions in the process. Providing a free college education would actually save money for taxpayers, and it would allow young Americans to compete with their global counterparts. It would also avoid crippling them with massive debt, which puts a serious drain on national economy for decades to come. Instead of lining the pockets of universities and lenders, we should be providing every student a free college education.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The "Moral Mondays" movement is spreading throughout the South. This week, progressives in Georgia will hold their first Moral Monday protest, and South Carolina will be putting their own twist on the event the very next day. Progressive activists will gather in Columbia, South Carolina for their "Truthful Tuesday" event, which is being organized by a wide range of labor groups and progressive organizations. Just like the protests in North Carolina and Georgia, organizers in South Carolina are calling for the protection of voting rights, and better funding for public schools. In addition, they're asking protesters to wear black to symbolize the 1,300 people who will likely die in their state because Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid. The protests in all of these states show that Americans are sick and tired of these right-wing policies, and no longer will they sit quietly while Republican lawmakers destroy their states.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are calmer around our nation today, now that the weather has settled down. Durham, North Carolina is averaging 32 counts per minute, with spikes of 46, and Chicopee, Massachusetts is sitting at 43, with highs of 65 counts per minute. Frederick, Wisconsin is hovering at 48 counts per minute, with spikes of 73, and Craig, Montana is averaging 40, with highs of 68 counts per minute. Phoenix, Arizona is sitting at 43 counts per minute, with spikes of 63, Chico, California is averaging 30, with highs of 68 counts per minute, and Vancouver, Washington is hovering at 37 counts per minute, with spikes of 55. RadCast.org's alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no safe level of radiation.
Maryland is doing something about the rising cost of healthcare. That state will be the testing ground for some strict regulations on medical prices, and they're aimed at reducing overall healthcare spending. These new rules will build on Maryland's previous success at reigning in costs, which has already led to medical prices in that state being three percent lower than the national average. Governor Martin O'Malley said, "We need to shift away from our near exclusive focus on treating illness, and move to a balanced approach that encourages prevention and wellness." The old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and Maryland may soon prove that it's also worth some huge cost savings.
And finally... If you rode the subway this weekend in Los Angeles, Washington, or New York, you may have seen much more than you bargained for. That's because Sunday was the official "No Pants Subway Ride", which has been happening in many major cities since 2002. This year's event in Washington started at 2pm near the National Mall, and those who joined in were asked to maintain a calm demeanor, and "act like riding the subway in your underwear [was] the most normal thing in the world." People were asked to bring pants with them, in case they were ordered by an official to put them back on. No news yet on whether there was a large turnout for the No Pants Subway Ride, or if riders in New York simply viewed people in their underwear as just a typical Sunday.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, January 13, 2014. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.