You need to know this. Minutes before 5am, early Saturday morning, members of the Senate did something they haven't done in four years - they passed a budget. The $3.7 trillion dollar outline for 2014 passed with a 50 to 49 vote, and it includes $100 billion in stimulus spending and raises $975 billion in new revenues over the next decade. Now the challenge will be to reconcile the Democratic Senate budget with Paul Ryan's austerity plan in the House. The negotiations may be hostile, and it's possible the plans are simply too far apart to present the opportunity for common ground. According to Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Patty Murray, “the first priority of the Senate Budget is creating jobs and economic growth for the middle out, not the top down.” But Republicans are set on balancing the budget, even if it requires imposing their extreme austerity measures on our nation which kill jobs and shrink the economy. Senator Mitch McConnell denounced the Democratic plan, saying, “The only good news is that the fiscal path the Democrats laid out in their budget won't become law.” With Democrats unlikely to concede to Paul Ryan's plan, which would voucherize Medicare and repeal Obamacare, and Republicans unlikely to budge on tax increases, we shouldn't expect much movement in the budget negotiations. Hopefully, the Democrats won't cave in to GOP demands for more spending cuts, and our economy won't be devastated with even more Republican austerity.
In screwed news... There is an extreme wealth divide between the 1% and the 99% in our nation. But it turns out, the divide between the 1% and poorest in our nation is jaw-droppingly astounding. A new report from Alternet lists a few statistics that show just how wealthy those in the 1% really are, when compared with people who are trying to survive on minimum wage or less. For example, while some people struggle to survive on $7.25 per hour, the Koch brothers raked in about $3 million dollars per hour in a single year. And just one out of the ten richest people in our nation could afford to house the entire homeless population for an entire year. According to the report, the poorest 47% of our fellow citizens own absolutely no wealth, while the 400 wealthiest Americans own more wealth than 60% of the entire population. The Global Wealth Report lists the United States as the fourth most unequal nation in the world in terms of wealth – topped only by Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon. It is time to change these statistics. We can start by instituting a tax on Wall Street, and by making it a crime to hoard huge sums of cash. Let's end billionaires. Go to NoBillionaires.com.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Rupert Murdoch has been trying to convince lawmakers to revise media ownership rules that prevent him from acquiring The Los Angelos Times. But with the recent resignation of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Murdoch may have to wait a little longer to get his hands on the L.A. Paper. Current Federal Communications Commission rules bar the company from purchasing a newspaper in markets where it already owns a television station. But Murdoch has intensified News Corp's lobbying efforts to obtain a waiver permitting the purchase. News Corp is already one of the largest media outlets in the entire world, and the company controls hundreds of magazines, newspapers, television stations, move companies, and online news outlets. They don't need to yet control another news market. And the company is still facing charges in a gigantic phone-tapping scandal involving it's UK subsidiary “News of The World.” Thankfully, the temporary setback from the FCC Chairman's resignation will keep Murdoch from getting his hands on another newspaper, but we need a permanent solution. Let's push the next FCC chairman to take on News Corp and break up this media monopoly.
In last-minute negotiations, the island nation of Cyprus secured the 10 billion euro bailout needed to recapitalize its banks and prevent the economic collapse of that nation. The IMF and the European Central Bank were threatening to cut off financial aid to Cyprus, if that nation did not come up with 5.8 billion euros by today. The most controversial of the many plans considered to raise the needed funds, was a levy on all bank deposits. News of that plan ignited a panic among the Cyprian people and created concerns about a possible run on the banks. Under the final plan, only bank deposits over 100,000 euros in certain banks will be hit with the tax, which a government spokesman named Christos Stylianides said could be as much as 30%. According to Stylianides, "We averted a disorderly bankruptcy which would have led to an exit of Cyprus from the euro zone with unforeseeable consequences." So for now, it appears the financial disaster has been averted in Cyprus, but the bailout still requires the approval of Germany and other national parliaments in euro-zone countries. For a few weeks, it seemed that the tiny nation of Cyprus was about to bring down the entire EU, but this is only a temporary measure and it's a virtual certainty that the European banksters will come back with their hands out again.
And finally… Authorities in Ohio have issued an indictment of one ultra-famous Pennsylvania resident – Punxsutawney Phil. Mike Gmoser, prosecutor for Ohio's Butler Country, is charging Phil with a “misrepresentation of Spring” for declaring that our nation would not be plagued with six more weeks of winter. According to the the official-looking indictment, the continued wintery weather constitutes a felony “against the peace and dignity of the state of Ohio.” Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney club, is representing the groundhog, and he says, “we'll have to plead our case one way or the other, but I think we can beat the rap.” As even here in Washington, DC, we're dealing with several inches of snow today, it's hard to see how the groundhog can mount a reasonable defense!