Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. While many in the Democratic party continue to move towards the Right, some are working to get the party back in touch with our progressive roots. Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke to a crowd from the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, and unveiled his 13-point “Contract with America.” Officially called “The Progressive Agenda to Combat Inequality,” the plan was modeled after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's conservative blueprint with the same name, and it addresses a wide range of progressive economic policies. However, while Mayor de Blasio joined Senator Elizabeth Warren to lay out their vision for the future, many in the corporate media focused not on his proposals, but on his refusal to endorse Hillary Clinton, or on his audacity to seek a national spotlight. Rather than discussing the perceived slight, the national media could be focusing on proposals like universal pre-K, paid family leave, and a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage. These ideas are just a few of the policies laid out in a new progressive blueprint for our nation, and they are just the type of proposals that the American people have been calling for. If we really want to get serious about fighting inequality and ensuring a better future for our country, we have to embrace the policies that make those goals possible – and that starts with actually talking about them. After his announcement, Mayor de Blasio said, “It's very convenient for a lot of folks in Congress not to act on these issues right now, according to their conventional political assumptions.” He added, “We have to change those assumptions. The only way to do that is at the grass roots. It has to become impossible to ignore the voices of the people calling for change on these issues.” And, forcing the mainstream media to talk about these policies is the best way to ensure that we can't be ignored. Let's make it clear that we want to hear about more than the political horse race, by demanding more focus on actual policy.
Once again, Pope Francis has spoken truth to power. At an event last Monday, the Pontiff spoke to 7,000 schoolchildren, and one of them asked him a question about war. In response, the Pope said, “Why so many powerful people do not want peace? Because they live off wars!” He called the $400 billion dollar global arms trade an “industry of death,” and said that people who profit from making and selling weapons “make more money with the war!” Even the children he was speaking to can understand that it is wrong to profit off of death and destruction. And, even young people can see that it's harder to achieve peace when we have such powerful forces working against that goal. All over the world, huge corporations manufacture products that are designed to kill, and allow executives and investors to pretend like they're anything but war profiteers. Just like his comments on capitalism and greed, the Pope is right and it's time for the world to rethink our policy of perpetual war.
Ever since the 2008 financial crash, authorities from the United States and Europe have been investigating the big banks at the heart of the so-called “Libor-rigging scandal.” Although it took a few years, the European Union fined Citigroup almost $80 million dollars as one of six banks involved in the scandal. Here in the U.S. however, the too-big-to-jail bank isn't even getting a slap on the wrist. According to a statement by the bank on Monday, the Justice Department declined to prosecute “based on the facts and circumstances as the Department of Justice currently understands them.” And, while some would take that to mean that the bank is innocent, others may see it as the “facts and circumstances” give the banksters way too much power in our nation. It's been years since illegal gambling and market manipulation crashed our economy, and there hasn't been one single person sent to jail. So, it should come as no surprise that our Justice Department let another bank off the hook for their crimes.
Before the end of the next month, the Supreme Court will issue a ruling in the case of King v. Burwell. That's the looming case that threatens to eliminate the subsidies that help more than 7 million Americans afford health insurance. And, while the Justices may be split on that decision, the American public is pretty much in agreement on how the court should rule. According to a recent Associated Press poll, the majority of the American public wants the Supreme Court to leave the subsidies in place. As of last week, 56 percent of those surveyed said that they want tax subsidies to remain in tact for all health exchanges, and only 31 percent said that the tax benefits should be eliminated for individuals on the federal exchanges. These poll numbers illustrate why even Republicans in Congress have tried to protect insurance subsidies, even if their efforts were more about politics than policy. Hopefully, our nation's highest court listens to the will of the people, and protects the subsidies that make healthcare affordable.
And finally…We may have plenty of reasons to complain about Facebook's policies, but their employee benefits are no longer one of them. Last week, the social media giant issued new guidelines for minimum pay, vacation, sick days, and even paid parental leave. And, the new policies must also apply to contractors. As of May 1st, these guidelines extend to janitors, security guards, and all support staff at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The move comes after the unionization of shuttle bus drivers that transport Facebook employees, and other pressure from contract and temp workers in the industry. That backlash prompted Facebook to mandate benefits for contract workers, and even agree to absorb the extra costs until contract companies can meet the new requirements. Although they should have been pushing for these benefits all along, it's great to see Facebook going to such lengths to ensure that everyone who helps make their business happen gets the benefits that they deserve.
And that's the way it is - for the week of May 18, 2015 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.