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Blog Post | Public Health

European Trade Talks Threaten Our Health and Safety | Nasima Hossain

Talks on the European and U.S. trade agreement start this week and are being hailed by both sides as a way to strengthen their lagging economies. But for consumers, lowered trade barriers too often mean the crippling of vital public health and safety rules.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

US/EU Trade Negotiations Must Protect Consumers

With negotiators from the United States and European Union meeting for the first round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks this week, U.S. PIRG called on them to resist special interest demands to eliminate important consumer health, safety, and financial protections. 

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Blog Post | Tax

Four Reasons Lawmakers Are Scrutinizing How Companies Turn Settlements From Wrongdoing Into Tax Write Offs | Phineas Baxandall

When a company must pay a penalty for wrongdoing, should the public also shoulder a hidden subsidy for the corporation? Four factors are bringing this issue to a head.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Oregon is 16th State to Call to Overturn Citizens United

After a State Senate vote on July 1, Oregon became the 16th state to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and related decisions.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Interest Rate Doubles for Seven Million Student Loan Borrowers

Due to Congressional inaction, the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans doubled today from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The change will affect seven million students nationwide, and in total the rate increase will hike the cost of students' loans by $7 billion. However, because most new student loans are issued in August and September, Congress can still pass a retroactive fix.  

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

Report Exposes How Taxpayers Bear Cost of Corporate Settlements

A report released today spotlights a common practice where corporations that commit wrongdoing and agree to financial settlements with the federal government, go on to claim such settlement payments as tax-deductible business expenses. The new study, released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), follows a record year of corporate settlements, while many more settlements relating to banking, environmental, and consumer safety issues are expected.

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Wall Street Journal: Consumer Watchdog Readies to Bare Its Teeth

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is entering 2013 poised to flex its muscles more vigorously than ever before. [...] The CFPB is "going to be more confident and more aggressive," said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-advocacy organization.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Washington Post: Government doing more to prevent corporations from deducting settlements

Federal agencies are taking greater steps to prevent companies from claiming tax deductions on settlements reached with the government, though loopholes in the tax code persist, according to a new study by U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Does UBS Settlement Include $245 Million “Hidden Bank Fee” for Taxpayers?

The following is a statement of Ryan Pierannunzi, Tax and Budget Associate with U.S. PIRG, on the settlement announced today  between UBS and government regulators over the Libor scandal in which UBS and other financial institutions are accused of unlawfully tampering with interest rates. Along with agreeing to this settlement, UBS admitted to charges of fraud. The total settlement amount is $1.5 billion, of which $1.2 billion will be paid to U.S. agencies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

UBS Libor Scandal: Should Taxpayers Have to Pay for Bank Wrongdoing?

The following is a statement of Ryan Pierannunzi, Tax and Budget Associate with U.S. PIRG, on the anticipated upcoming settlement between UBS and government regulators over the Libor scandal in which UBS and other financial institutions are accused of unlawfully tampering with interest rates.

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

Needless Risk

Across the country, petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities use and store large amounts of hazardous chemicals that, if subject to an accident or attack, would release dangerous toxins.  Such releases could injure or kill thousands of people that live in communities in close proximity to these facilities. Petroleum refineries stand as a stark example of the unnecessary risk posed by such facilities in the event of an attack or accident as well as the opportunity to mitigate this risk by using safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Easy Money

Congress has the opportunity this year to increase student aid funding by billions of dollars at no additional cost to taxpayers. Bipartisan legislation is pending in Congress that would increase federal student aid for those colleges and universities that utilize the more economically efficient of the two federal student loan programs. The Student Aid Reward (STAR) Act, introduced in March 2005, would increase student aid funding by redirecting the subsidies currently going to student loan companies to needy students.

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

Raising Risk

Although genetically engineered crops are still poorly understood, corporations and universities are growing them experimentally in the open environment with little oversight and public notification. Contrary to assertions made by proponents of the technology, genetic engineering is not precise. Scientists cannot control where the gene is inserted into the host’s genetic code, nor guarantee stable expression of the gene in the new genetically engineered organism.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Rip-off 101: 2nd Edition

The State PIRGs conducted a survey of the most widely purchased textbooks at 59 colleges and universities across the country. Overall, the survey uncovered evidence that textbook prices are a significant part of college costs, that textbook prices are rising at a fast pace, and that publishers use a variety of tactics to inflate the cost of textbooks. In addition, we found that textbook publishers increase textbook prices faster than the rate of inflation between editions and charge American students more for the same books than students in other countries. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Look Who's Not Coming to Washington

Large contributions made by a small fraction of Americans unduly influence who runs for office and who wins elections in the United States.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Rep. Keith Ellison: Opposing the CFPB is "nonsense" | Ed Mierzwinski

In less than two minutes, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison gives a detailed history of the financial crisis and an impassioned defense of the CFPB, calling claims of its Congressional detractors "nonsense." Youtube excerpt from his opening statement at yesterday's House Financial Services Committee's oversight subcommittee hearing on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's budget. Ellison: "If your business model is not about bilking consumers,  you have nothing to worry about from the CFPB. But..."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB's Cordray testifies today in House FSC | Ed Mierzwinski

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Rich Cordray -- recess appointed by the president on January 4, continues his regular appearances before the Congress by testifying on the CFPB's budget (his written testimony (88 pages))  today before the House Financial Services Committee's oversight subcommittee at 10am Eastern. It should be webcast live at that link. Nearly all majority members of FSC oppose the CFPB's independent budget, even though all other bank regulators also have an independent budget, so we will see how it goes today.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Tell the Financial Regulators: Don’t Let Big Banks Make Taxpayer-Backed Bets | Ed Mierzwinski

Last night, U.S. PIRG and the AFL-CIO joined Americans for Financial Reform in a detailed comment letter urging issuance of a strong Volcker rule. It's a 72-page pdf comment letter that basically comes down to this: We tell the financial regulators: don’t let big banks make taxpayer-backed bets.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB To Visit NYC and More Consumer News of the Week, In Case You Missed It | Ed Mierzwinski

Just a few of the interesting consumer stories I am following this week: CFPB heads to New York to talk about checking accounts (Feb. 22)... Meanwhile, Citibank charged some consumers twice to pay bills only once (NYTimes)...Consumer groups call for a real recall of Bumbo baby seat (Boston Globe)...Mortgage settlement is a good first step (PIRG statement)...House opponents ratchet up attacks on new CFPB (WashPost)...Over-priced "Who will pay your credit card if you die, get sick or get laid off?" products pay out only 21 cents on the dollar (American Banker)...More on the CFPB's latest semi-annual report (St. Louis American)...PIRG, Demos document rise of the Super-PACS (MS-NBC)...And finally, "Enron" -- a musical theater production about corporate crime, re-opens in Washington State (The Olympian).

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

PIRG, Others Urge CPSC Recall of Bumbo Baby Seat Due to Skull Fracture Risk | Ed Mierzwinski

Over at the CALPIRG blog, consumer advocate Jon Fox explains why CALPIRG, U.S. PIRG, Kids In Danger and other leading groups have asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in a letter, to recall the Bumbo baby seat. Previous remedial actions, including labeling the seat with warnings, haven't prevented an alarming number of injuries, including over thirty skull fractures.

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The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening the effectiveness of lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the Food and Drug Administration to put an end to the worst practices.

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