2014-01-21 20:03:20

Thom Hartman on the News Jan. 21, 2014

Jim Javinsky fills in for Thom Hartmann commenting on the news for Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

You need to know this.  Congress can't find the willpower to raise taxes on the rich, but that hasn't stopped them from chipping away at our retirement and slashing our social safety net.  For decades, we've seen billions cut from vital programs like food stamps, unemployment insurance, and cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security – but closing corporate tax loopholes or making Wall Street pay more to gamble is simply off the table.  With the passing of the 2014 budget, Congress cut the cost-of-living increases for military retirees by one percent.  That may not sound like a lot – but it could add up to as much as $80,000 dollars less for a veteran over their lifetime.  And, Republican lawmakers are calling for even more cuts from programs like disability insurance in exchange for extending long-term unemployment.  Cutting programs that people rely on isn't only inhumane, it's unjust.  We've had decades of poor and working-class Americans being forced to bear the burden of spending cuts, while taxes on the wealthy and corporations have continued to decline.  Even many of our democratic lawmakers support ideas like chained CPI, but very few have the courage to stand up and call for taxing the rich or eliminating subsidies to giant corporations.  These cuts do nothing to help hard-working Americans, and they actually do serious harm to our national economy.  These austerity measures take money out of our economy, and put more cash in the hands of the wealthy.  It's time to change this pattern in Congress, support lawmakers who stand up for the little guy, and stop slashing these programs before there's nothing left to be cut.

In screwed news... Radiation levels have reached a record high in the well underneath the crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power plant.  According to the Japanese media, TEPCO measured the amount of beta ray-emitting radioactivity on Thursday, and found that it was substantially higher than readings from days before.  On Monday, the radiation levels were 2.4 million becquerels per liter, and 2.7 million on Thursday.  While that may sound very technical – it means that radioactivity is increasing below the crippled plant.  To make matters worse, while that well is becoming more dangerous, it's still leaking radioactive fluid into the soil and ground water – and that water is making it's way into the Pacific Ocean.  The problems at Fukushima are too big for one country – let alone one company – to be handling alone.  The world must act together to deal with this disaster, and prevent the next one by eliminating the use of nuclear energy.

In the best of the rest of the news... 

Two oncologists are calling on their peers to support single-payer.  In the latest Journal of Oncology, Dr. Ray Drasga and Dr. Lawrence Einhorn wrote a feature article laying out an evidence-based appeal for national health insurance.  These doctors say that the Affordable Care Act won't do enough to solve the health care crisis for cancer patients.  Dr. Drasga said, “With the costs of cancer care skyrocketing out of control, most people with cancer are burdened not only physically but also financially.  They delay or do not receive care due to their inability to pay.”  Obamacare is a good start, but we need to do more to ensure that everyone gets life-saving care when they need it.  Cancer care shouldn't be about how much you can afford, it should be focused on how much you need to stay alive.  These doctors know what it takes to treat cancer patients – and that's a universal, single-payer system that will guarantee everyone gets life-saving care when it's needed.

According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are spiking extremely high in many areas, triggering an alert.  They say to try to avoid being outside in these areas, and remember to wash off your pets when you bring them in.  Robbinsville, New Jersey is reporting levels of 45 counts per minute, with spikes of 190, and Shreveport, Louisiana is averaging 32, with highs of 147 counts per minute.  Spearfish, South Dakota is sitting at 48 counts per minute, with spikes of 109, and Colorado Springs is hovering at 60, with highs of 99 counts per minute.  Tucson, Arizona is averaging 50 counts per minute, with spikes of 154, and San Leandro, California is sitting at 45, with highs of 129 counts per minute. RadCast.org's alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.

The majority of Americans do not approve of government spying programs.  According to a new poll by Pew Research and USA Today, 70 percent of Americans say that they should not have to give up their privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism.  Even more of those surveyed – 73 percent – say that the President's recent proposals for the NSA won't make any difference in protecting our privacy.  Although the President talked about possible changes to the way our private metadata is stored, Americans are angry that this information is being collected to begin with.  If our President and lawmakers want to give people more confidence about government surveillance programs, they should simply require agencies to get a warrant before collecting our private communication data.

And finally... These days, college students have to get creative when it comes to paying down their student debt.  And one Univeristy of Michigan student is doing just that.  Alex Benda will soon be graduating, and he's selling off ad space on his graduation cap.  Alex divided up the top of his 10-inch by 10-inch cap into 100 squares, which he's selling for $300 dollars each to pay off his $30,000 dollar student debt.  Mr. Benda said, “It's scary to think I”m about to go out into this economy and try to find a job and have all this debt I'll have to start paying.  I started thinking, 'Do I have anything available [that] I could sell?'”  While no student should ever have to resort to this to get an education, you have to hand it to Alex for his creativity.  Good luck, Alex. 

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