You need to know this. President Obama fired the opening salvo on Thursday in negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” In a plan presented to Republicans by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the President is asking for $1.6 trillion in new revenue by letting the Bush tax cuts expire on the richest 2% of Americans, and by increasing capital gains and estate taxes, which are mostly paid by very wealthy Americans like Mitt Romney. The President’s plan also calls for more stimulus spending on infrastructure and investments to help struggling homeowners refinance their homes. It also completely does away with the pesky debt-ceiling that Republicans have shown a willingness to exploit to force big spending cuts against the working class. Under the President’s plan, the automatic spending cuts against social programs and the military will be stopped, but the President is putting up $400 billion in cuts to entitlement programs to be negotiated in 2013. Republicans responded to the proposal with outrage. Conservative Fox News talking head Charles Krauthammer called the deal worse than what General Robert E. Lee received at Appomattox after the Civil War. At its core – this deal makes sure the wealthy pay their fair share again, it helps struggling homeowners, it puts Americans back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and it doesn’t throw grandma under the bus by destroying Social Security and Medicare…no wonder why Republicans hate it! It looks like the President has finally figured out how to negotiate and he should be willing to stick to his principles and take the nation over the made-up “fiscal cliff” if Republicans don’t want to do what’s best for the American middle class.
In screwed news…because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, our worst fears have been realized: foreign entities are meddling in our elections. As investigative reporter Lee Fang of The Nation uncovered, the nation’s largest oil lobby group – the American Petroleum Institute – which spends heavily in our elections is receiving much of its money from agents of the Saudi government. According to disclosure documents, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the API this election cycle actually originated from foreign oil companies like Aramco, which is a subsidiary of the Saudi state run oil company and is headed up by Tofiq Al-Gabsani – one of the directors of API and a registered foreign agent for the Saudi government. Nearly all of the money spent by the API this election cycle went toward defeating President Obama and Democrats and helping Republicans like Scott Brown in Massachusetts. This would have been illegal before the Citizens United decision, but now trade groups like the API can spend unlimited money influencing our elections using money from foreign sources and never have to disclose those sources. This is one of the biggest threats to our democracy. Join the movement to overturn Citizens United and get corporate and foreign money out of our election by going to MoveToAmend.org.
In the best of the rest of the news…
Hundreds of fast-food workers walked off the job in New York City on Thursday to demand better wages and the right to unionize. It was the largest strike ever in the American fast food industry. Workers want $15 an hour, but are currently making around minimum wage between $7 and $8 dollars an hour. Meanwhile, their employers are raking in huge profits. As the National Employment Law Project found, the three biggest employers of low-wage workers – McDonalds, Yum! Brands, and Walmart – have all seen enormous profit growth, with Walmart seeing a 130% profit growth since the recession. From what happened in Wisconsin and Ohio last year to the Black Friday Strikes to yesterday’s walk-outs in New York City, it’s good to see the labor movement back in action all around the nation.
In a vote at the UN yesterday, an overwhelming majority of nations supported granting Palestine observer-state status, which will give Palestinians a vote in the United Nations and access to the International Criminal Court. More than 130 nations supported the measure, while the United States and eight other countries including Israel and Canada voted it down. But several key US allies back Palestinian statehood on Thursday including Spain, France, Switzerland, and Denmark while Germany and the UK abstained from the vote. We can only hope this historic recognition of a Palestinian state paves the way to sustainable peace in the region.
In Quantico, Virginia, Bradley Manning took the stand for the first time to discuss his detainment condition over the last 917 days since being accused of leaking classified State Department cables to Wikileaks. This is the first time Manning has spoken publicly about his arrest, and he talked about his days spent in a cage in Kuwait where he thought he was going to die and contemplated suicide. Manning has been held in detention for more than 900 days despite military law setting a maximum of 120 days of detention before a trial. Manning, who believes he was exposing US war crimes in releasing the cables, has agreed to plead guilty to seven charges of leaking classified documents, meaning he could face up to 17 years in prison. However, prosecutors are also trying to charge Manning with aiding the enemy, which could carry a life sentence.
And finally…Twinkies are back in the news. Despite declaring bankruptcy, laying off more than 18,000 unionized workers, and putting the company up for sale, Hostess Brands is asking a judge to approve nearly two million dollars in bonuses for CEOs at the failed company. In the run-up to bankruptcy, Hostess blamed the failure of the company on labor unions that refused to take enough concessions on pay and benefits, even though unions took considerable concessions after the company’s first bankruptcy back in 2004. With CEOs looking to pad their wallets despite their company failing, we know the real reason why Twinkies are going out of business: greedy CEOs who ran the company into the ground with little regard for their workers.