|Did you know that you can help sponsor 5 Things You Should Know for as little as $50 a week? Ask Us How.|
A lot of noise but little substance
Hey there, welcome to Wednesday, January 4. Winter seems to have returned to those parts of the US that enjoyed a few warmer days. If you’re in central Indiana this morning, wind chills are down near zero. What you should know, however, is that while today is cold and sunny, there’s a decent chance of snow moving in tomorrow with a couple of inches accumulation. And, wouldn’t you know it, the timing on that is probably going to hit both morning and evening rush hours. You’ll want to plan accordingly.
What we’re watching around the world is a crumbling of Syrian peace talks, an unexpected bump in the road for the UK’s Brexit plans, and a murderer who may finally be about to die. Some are referring to the incoming presidential administration as the “Twitter presidency,” and a bit of bullying keeps car manufacturing domestic for now. All that and we’ve not even started in on our 5 Things You Should Know. There’s a lot of noise, so let’s get to it.
One step forward, two steps …
We’re just going to assume that by now you are aware of the fact that Congress did a backstep yesterday and dropped the planned gutting of the ethics commission. As we stated yesterday, even Republican leaders didn’t like the move and between a tremendous outcry from the public and opposition from the president-elect, lawmakers somehow found the good sense to drop the measure, at least for now. However, don’t go letting those varmints off the hook just yet. Congress approved the rules for the upcoming session with a vote predictably along party lines yesterday1. These are the rules members have to abide by and some of them carry an odor.
Take, for instance, a new rule that calling for members of Congress to be fined if they take pictures or video from the House floor. This measure was included specifically in an attempt to prevent the type of sit-in that occurred in the last session in protest of the body’s refusal to consider gun control legislation. The live-streaming that took place during that event was instrumental in creating a tremendous amount of public support for the effort, much to the chagrin of Speaker Paul Ryan. Republicans don’t want it happening again.
The American Medical Association also formally presented a letter to Congress demanding that they show “in reasonable detail what will replace current policies” before attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. While undoing the multifaceted legislation known as Obamacare was a key platform for Republicans in the last election, no viable alternative has been presented, which would not only affect the 20 million Americans currently covered by the act, but would also affect payments to doctors and other health care providers. The takeaway here is that this Congress is being watched carefully from all sides. They’re not likely to make a move without a lot of people noticing.
A matter of justice
Six members of the NAACP were arrested yesterday afternoon for conducting a sit-in at the Mobile, Alabama office of Senator Jeff Sessions, the incoming administration’s pick for Attorney General2. Cornell Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, and Stephen Green, national director of the youth division of the NAACP were among those arrested and charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass. The group had occupied the office early Tuesday afternoon demanding that Sen. Sessions step away from the nomination on concerns about his record regarding voter suppression and what is generally seen as the unjust prosecution of civil rights leaders in Alabama.
Now, on one hand, this might seem like a minor protest that can easily be ignored. Don’t be stupid. While there may have only been six people in the Mobile office yesterday, opposition to Session’s appointment as Attorney General is much broader than that. The Washington Post reported yesterday that more than 1,100 law professors have signed a letter encouraging the Senate to reject Session’s nomination3. The letter states, “We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States.”
This opposition, which comes from every state except North Dakota and Alaska, which don’t have law schools, is still just part of the mounting objections. Sen. Session’s record against civil rights is extremely well known. He’s been rejected by the Senate for this same reason before and pressure is mounting to reject him again. The Attorney General of the United States is not just responsible for enforcing federal law, but also directs the actions of the US Marshalls and the FBI. The last thing we need in that position is a racist bigot such as Jeff Sessions.
A visible opposition
Another protest is shaping up that could be even larger, this time around the very inauguration itself. What started as a very small statement of disgust by a retired woman in Hawaii has grown into a full-scale march on Washington, D.C. to express opposition to the new president. Teresa Shook started the Women’s March on Washington thinking it would be just her and a few friends. Protests like that are common with the inauguration of every new president. However, the concept of such a march went viral and there are currently more than 100,000 women who have voiced their intent to participate.
Such a large march is unprecedented. D.C police have issued a permit to march on January 21, not the 20th, citing the size of the march and the security challenges it would create. The day’s adjustment has not made any difference in the size of the march, however, and numbers could easily be as high as 200,000 by the time the event actually occurs. Both Gloria Steinham and Planned Parenthood CEO Cecil Richards have announced their intent to participate, which is attracting other highly visible activists to the cause including Amy Schumer, Samantha Bee and Jessica Chastain.
The biggest challenge for this march as it grows is the cost of security. D.C. law requires that such large events pay for the additional security required to keep everyone safe. As the numbers for the Women’s March grows toward the 200,000 mark, planners need to raise something in the neighborhood of $2 million to cover the security and other event costs. With the march attracting women from across a number of causes, though, I have little doubt the money will be raised and the impact on Washington will be significant.
Educating the masses
The incredible cost of higher education was a huge issue in the past election, but there weren’t too many politicians who dared to latch on to Senator Bernie Sanders concept of cost-free or low-cost education for everyone. The general assumption was that the federal government couldn’t afford to pay for college any more than students can. However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is testing a plan that would cover college tuition for students in that state whose families earn less than $125,0005.
Under the plan the governor announced yesterday, any New Yorker who is accepted to a state community college or university is potentially eligible. The program is set to be phased in with those making less than $100,000 eligible for funding in the fall of this year. The amount would increase incrementally over the two subsequent years. Cuomo’s program is a last-dollar initiative, which means that all other grants and scholarships would be applied first with the state making up the difference.
The cost of college education is a major issue across the country with 85 different proposals facing state legislators this year. However, New York’s program would be the largest and could become a model for any attempt at federalizing a funding program. What you should know, however, is that the program only covers tuition. Books, housing, and food are not covered and are still significant costs for most students. This is a good start, but we’ve a long way to go before college is truly affordable.
And finally …
After an election cycle that put her in the spotlight and at odds with her employer, news anchor Megyn Kelly announced yesterday that she is leaving the Fox Network and taking up residence over at NBC where she’ll have two shows on the schedule. A daily talk show and a weekend news magazine will be added to the NBC lineup with Kelly at the helm of both. While no start date has been given for either program, Andrew Lack, chairman of the NBC Universal News Group, praised Kelly as, “an exceptional journalist and news anchor, who has had an extraordinary career. She’s demonstrated tremendous skill and poise, and we’re lucky to have her6.”
Megyn Kelly has long been considered the dominant news anchor at the Fox network, but found herself challenged in the past year by both direct confrontations with Donald Trump and allegations surrounding former Fox chairman Roger Ailes regarding his sexually suggestive comments. That uncomfortable environment along with a desire to spend more time with her three children gave Kelly more than sufficient reason to make the jump.
There is plenty of speculation as to who might take Kelly’s enviable 9:00 PM timeslot, though Fox has yet to infer that it is even looking for a new anchor. There is also some question as to whether Kelly might be groomed to eventually take over the Nightly News chair on NBC. What’s certain is that Megyn Kelly has turned a challenging situation into a positive career move not unlike that of Barbara Walters. We wish her well.
That’s all we have time for this morning. We’re keeping a close watch on a couple of developing stories and will be sure to cut through the clutter and be back with what really matters tomorrow. Here’s to a good day.