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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Student Loan Interest Rate Deal in Senate Will Make Things Worse

Senate lawmakers agreed last night to a deal on student loan reform that is to be voted on as early as Tuesday of next week. Student loans should invest in our future by making education affordable and accessible. Instead, the Senate is forcing students to pay more in order to reduce the deficit.

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Blog Post | Public Health

FDA’s BPA Ban: A Small, Late Step in the Right Direction | Jenny Levin

Last week the FDA announced a ban on the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from infant formula packaging. The rule change should provide some comfort to parents — however, it also showcased the FDA’s sluggish pace of action, and demonstrates to states that they shouldn’t wait for federal action to move forward with public health rules on their own.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Consumers Deserve Safe Compounded Drugs

As the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health conducts their hearing today on new rules for compounding pharmacies, we urge them to support strong protections for patients. When the rapidly evolving compounding pharmacy industry behaves as drug manufacturers, they should be regulated by the existing system for medicines manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Senate Moves Toward Confirmation of CFPB Director Cordray

Today’s expected confirmation of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB for a full term is good news for consumers, and for firms that want to play fair in the financial marketplace.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

Ag Subsidies Pay for 20 Twinkies per Taxpayer, But Only Half of an Apple Apiece

Federal subsidies for commodity crops are subsidizing junk food additives like high-fructose corn syrup at a rate that would buy 20 Twinkies for each taxpayer every year, according to U.S. PIRG's new report, "Apples to Twinkies 2013." Meanwhile, subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy just one half of an apple per taxpayer per year. These subsidies are part of the Farm Bill that expires in September.

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

BP Trial Decision May Hinge on Tax Deductibility

The high-stakes negotiations between BP and the Justice Department may depend on how determined the Department is to protect taxpayers from subsidizing a settlement. In the past, agencies have allowed companies to write off legal settlements over wrongdoing as a tax deduction. Doing so forces taxpayers to ultimately foot the bill for these deductions. Every dollar these companies avoid paying gets made up through cuts to public programs, higher national debt, or increases to other taxes.

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

Closing Tax Loopholes Won't Drive Companies Overseas

With Washington gearing up for additional high-stakes budget battles over the next few months, Congress has continued to ignore a solution worth about $90 billion annually: closing loopholes that allow corporations to avoid taxes by pretending their profits are earned in offshore tax havens. Corporate lobbyists often claim that closing these loopholes would drive companies to flee the U.S. and re-register themselves in low-tax countries. U.S. PIRG’s new analysis explains why this is not the case.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Under Attack

Listen to U.S. PIRG's Ed Mierzwinski debate Diane Katz of the Heritage Foundation on whether the landmark, PIRG-backed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should be weakened as a condition of Senate confirmation of its director, Richard Cordray to a full term. The hour-long broadcast begins with an interview with Washington Post reporter Danielle Douglas.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Sacramento Bee: Tax Havens Let Billions Vanish Into Thin Air

Just how much state lawmakers across America shift the burden of supporting government off the wealthiest individuals and largest multinational corporations and down the income ladder is the focus of a pioneering analysis by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

President Obama Calls for End to Unsustainable Student Debt

In the annual State of the Union Address, President Obama called for an end to unsustainable student debt. Higher education is the right investment for our nation to rebuild its economy. In a time when students and families are struggling to make ends meet, congressional leaders need to be doing more, not less, to keep college accessible and affordable.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Forgiving Fraud And Failure

Companies with immediate past histories of shoddy work and fraudulent practices are being rewarded with billions of dollars in federal contracts. The data suggest that the process by which the federal government currently spends $422 billion per year in taxpayer funds is insufficient to ensure that the American people receive good quality for goods and services purchased for the American people.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Transportation

Road Privatization

Privatization of toll roads is a growing trend. During 2007, sixteen states had some privatized road project formally proposed or underway. Although offering a short-term infusion of cash, privatization of existing toll roads harms the long-term public interest. It relinquishes important public control over transportation policy while failing to deliver the value comparable to the tolls that the public will be forced to pay over the life of the deal.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Transportation

Finding Solutions to Fund Transit

The public need and demand for transit will grow sharply in the future and transportation funding must become better targeted to future needs. This paper explains why lawmakers should turn to new dedicated revenues to provide long-term solutions while increasing market efficiency and reducing social costs. Legislators should avoid short-term band aids from the general budget or one-time gimmicks such as road privatization.

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

Pulp Fiction

Across the country, pulp and paper mills, petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities use and store large amounts of hazardous chemicals that could be released in the event of an accident or terrorist attack. Releases at these chemical facilities could endanger thousands or even millions of people working and living in nearby communities.

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Report | TexPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Six Public Interest Principles for Considering Private Toll Roads in Texas

Plans for the state of Texas to sign concession deals for privately operated toll roads present a number of dangers for the public interest. Giving long-term control of our roads to a private operator and granting them future toll revenues is a huge commitment that should not be taken lightly. Regardless of whether a deal is with a public or private operator, no concession should be approved that fails to uphold any of six basic principles.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

U.S., States Sue Apple, Publishers Over E-Book Price Conspiracy | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the U.S. Attorney General and the Attorney Generals of Connecticut and Texas announced settlements with several publishers -- Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins --over an alleged conspiracy with Apple and other publishers to attack Amazon's pricing model, secretly set e-book prices and thereby harm consumers. However, Apple and the publishers Macmillan and Penguin Group USA have refused to settle and are being sued by the agencies.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB to announce mortgage servicing rules and other consumer news of the week | Ed Mierzwinski

(Update: phottos added.) Today, U.S. PIRG will be an invited guest as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposes new mortgage servicing rules to prevent, among other things, a recurrence of the robo-signing scandal. Among the other important news items of the week, in case you missed it, Ohio has made it harder for aggrieved consumers to obtain redress when ripped off.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Disempowered Bankers Start Super PAC, Reveal Plans for World Domination

While I am highly skeptical of the sentiment that "Congress is not afraid of bankers", given that banking lobbyists outnumber banking reform advocates 25-1 and that the Chairman of the Senate Financial Services Subcommittee seems to believe that "the banks own the place," the most ridiculous thing about members of the American Bankers Association's announcement of the industry's new Super PAC may be their willingness to reveal its strategy for skirting the non-coordination rules. This speaks volumes about how the industry thinks about its involvement in politics.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Corporate crime update: Phone companies stop cramming, but banks still run amok | Ed Mierzwinski

The industry trade paper American Banker is reporting  that "Bank of America Sold Card Debts to Collectors Despite Faulty Records" in 2009 and 2010. Good to know. It confirms previous consumer group studies that had documented that big banks were forcing consumers to arbitrate and pay "debts" that may not have been owed (some were due to identity theft or sloppy records). However, in the latest fallout from a U.S. Senate Commerce committee investigation of unauthorized third-party billing on phone bills (cramming), Chairman Jay Rockefeller has announced that ATT has joined other big telcos in finally promising to drop the tawdry practice of "cramming," which is a technical term meaning "making big bucks by allowing fly-by-night firms selling useless junky products consumers don't want and didn't buy to use phone bills as cash registers."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Bureau Compared to Peace Corps | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, in his column "Government's Not Dead Yet," Joe Nocera of the New York Times pays a visit to the PIRG-backed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he finds vision, idealism and people working to show that "government can make a difference in people’s lives."

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