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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

New year, fresh start: Congress’s Do’s and Don’ts | Jaimie Woo

Another year has come and gone, and 2015 presents an opportunity to start fresh. With that in mind, it’s time for the newly minted 114th Congress to make the right choices for the public’s interest in its New Year’s resolutions, and making the tax code fairer is a good place to start. 

“Tax reform.” Perhaps you hear these words and your eyes gloss over. It’s long been talked about, but hardly any progress made on the issue in nearly 30 years. However, both the president and Republican Congressional leaders have said they’re willing to make headway by reforming the corporate tax code. Here is a short list of Do’s and Don’ts that puts the public interest first and should form the basis of any agreement:

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News Release | US PIRG | Tax

S&P Settlement Could Leave Taxpayers Partly Underwater Again

Standard & Poor’s (S&P), the bond-rating agency whose past practices have been tied to the mortgage crisis, is in negotiations with the U.S. Justice Department to settle allegations of civil fraud with a payout of over $1 billion. Unless the Justice Department specifically forbids it, the deal could allow S&P to claim the payment as a deductible business expense worth more than $350 million.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

House Passes Two Bills Favored By Wall Street, Harmful to the Public

Statement of Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski: "This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two awful bills on behalf of Wall Street and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One bill weakens important 2010 financial system reforms designed to prevent another financial system collapse like the one in 2008 that occurred due to Wall Street malfeasance. The second imposes massive roadblocks in front of any agency, from EPA and FDA to the financial regulators, seeking to protect the public's health, safety or wallets. We will seek to block these bills in the Senate and at the White House."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

USPIRG LAUDS CFPB SAFE STUDENT BANKING INITIATIVE

WASHINGTON, DC --   Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched an initiative to protect students from the high banking fees and aggressive marketing surrounding campus bank accounts.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Study Shows Big Donors Dominated Competitive 2014 Congressional Races

U.S. PIRG today released a new study, “The Money Chase: Moving from Big Money Dominance in the 2014 Midterms to a Small Donor Democracy,” at a joint research summit with seven other major money in politics organizations. The study, which was written by U.S. PIRG and Demos, found that the top two vote-getters in the 25 most competitive districts in 2014 got 86 percent of their campaign contributions from individuals giving $200 or more. Only two of the 50 candidates surveyed raised less than 70 percent of their individual contributions from big donors, and seven relied on big donors for more than 95 percent of their individual contributions. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Credit CARD Act Saves Consumers $12.6 Billion Annually

Thursday, May 22 is the fifth anniversary of the successful Credit CARD Act, which has saved consumers billions of dollars in unfair credit card fees and interest that were collected based on tricks and traps. U.S. PIRG, and a broad coalition, urge policymakers to extend similar protections to debit and prepaid cards.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Survey: Wisconsin Brain Drain Partly Because Youth Seek Alternatives to Driving?

The WISPIRG Foundation report examines whether Millennials might be leaving Wisconsin partly because the state continues to prioritize extravagant highway expansion projects while neglecting other means of travel that are so important to young people.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Taxpayers Win, as Justice Department Blocks Credit Suisse Tax Write Off

The Justice Department saved taxpayers $233 million by preventing Credit Suisse bank from writing off its settlement for tax evasion. U.S. PIRG applauds the move and calls on agencies to make this standard practic. Agencies should also be more transparent about the deals they sign with corporations to resolve charges of wrongdoing.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

House Tax Writers Vote to Make Offshore Loopholes Permanent

House tax writers voted to renew and making permanent two expired offshore tax loopholes, forcing average taxpayers and small business owners to pick up the tab for tax dodging by many multinationals for years to come. For all of the talk in Washington about getting our fiscal house in order, the Committee did not consider how to pay for these expensive tax breaks.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Poll: Public Wants Federal Agencies to Disclose and Restrict Corporate Tax Write Offs for Out-of-Court Settlements

A new poll shows that Americans want federal agencies to better disclose information about out-of-court settlements with corporations and to restrict companies from writing off these payments as tax deductions.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Trouble in Toyland

The 2009 Trouble in Toyland report is the 24th annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | Green Century Capital Management | Public Health

Seeking Safer Packaging

Seeking Safer Packaging - a project of Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) and As You Sow - sent letters to 20 companies in the packaged food industry to identify the actions the companies are taking to address concerns regarding BPA. Fourteen companies replied. Seeking Safer Packaging grades those companies based entirely on their responses to these letters.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Health Care

Uncovered

It's commonly assumed that young Americans are disengaged from the issue, that on the whole they are a healthy group who are unlikely to be affected by health problems or lack access to care. But the reality couldn't be more different. In fact, young people, including college students, are on the front lines of the health care crisis. They make up the largest age block of the uninsured, and face a uniquely challenging set of obstacles that often prevent them from getting coverage.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Greasing the Wheels

We analyzed two data sets and new information that shine light on the influence of campaign giving on transportation funding decisions at the state and federal level. First the report examines, on a state-by-state basis, how much money was contributed to both federal and state campaigns by highway interests, defined as those from the development, automobile, transportation, and construction sectors.

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Report | CALPIRG | Higher Ed

Working Too Hard to Make the Grade

Our commitment to equity and our future economic success require that we make higher education accessible to all Californians, and that our students succeed academically and graduate. The community college system plays a key role in California’s ability to meet these goals, educating six out of every ten college students in the state and opening their doors to students of every type. It is therefore deeply concerning that, of all community college students who intend to complete an associate’s degree, or transfer to a four-year school, only 24 percent achieve their goal within six years.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Do better Facebook friends mean a better credit score? | Ed Mierzwinski

"Big Data" has created a new front in the war on privacy. Should a prospective employer be able to "friend" you or use your Facebook password to vet you?  When, if ever, should colleges, employers and lenders be able to look at your Facebook or other social network pages to see if your friends make you a better bet to enroll, hire or grant a loan to than someone with loser friends?

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Free Cookies-Strings Attached | Ed Mierzwinski

The price consumers pay to access most online content is the tracking of their every click on the World Wide Web by data miners and ad networks. Consumer and privacy advocates are seeking to address such online tracking through Do-Not-Track regulation, which could be considered in the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee soon.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Time to break up the big banks? | Ed Mierzwinski

"Too big to fail, too big to jail." For far too long, that's been the government's attitude toward Wall Street banks. Regulators refuse to hold banks accountable both out of fear of Wall Street's political clout and also a misplaced perception that real enforcement might hurt the economy, even though a lack of enforcement recently wrecked it. But things are changing.

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Blog Post | Health Care

The Supreme Court and the High Cost of Rx Drugs

Everyone knows prescription drugs cost much more than they should. But many people are surprised to learn about one of the key ways drug companies keep prices high: Paying off competitors to keep generics off the market. On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about this very practice.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Students to Congress: Don’t Double Our Rates | Chris Lindstrom

Earlier this week, the Education and Workforce Committee in the U.S. House held a hearing to purportedly “strengthen” the federal student loan program. Sadly, the proposals put forth by leaders in the hearing do anything but help solve the problem of high cost federal student loans. What the hearing did do was serve as a grave reminder that on July 1, student loan interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent—driving up the cost of higher education for 8 million students by $1,000 per loan.

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