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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 | Public Health

Texas Fertilizer Plant Tragedy Reminder of Need for Better Chemical Safety Rules

Wednesday night’s tragedy at the West Fertilizer plant is a catastrophic reminder of the threat posed by hazardous chemicals used in thousands of facilities across the nation, and the need for us to take every step to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Consumers Need Stronger Public Health Protections to Ensure Compounded Drugs Are Safe

Our drug approval system for medicines manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry and regulated through the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act is the one of the strongest and safest in the world. However, for the last 20 years the rapidly evolving compounding pharmacies industry has been successful in thwarting regulations at every opportunity.

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Prepaid cards can be a good choice if you choose wisely

Prepaid debit cards are billed as a better way to manage your money, a smart alternative to checking accounts. [...but prepaid] debit cards are different from credit cards or even debit cards tied to a checking account. They may not provide the same level of protection again loss or fraud. Ed Mierzwinski, director of consumer programs at U.S. PIRG, doesn’t think most people understand the difference.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG, PennPIRG | Democracy

PennPIRG to EQT: Elections Are Not for Shale

This morning, PennPIRG, PennEnvironment, Public Citizen, Keystone Progress, One Pittsburgh, Common Cause PA, University of Pittsburgh students and others held a press conference outside gas drilling company EQT’s annual shareholder meeting to call on it to end the practice of spending corporate money in elections.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students React to President's Budget Proposal on Student Loans

While the President’s budget keeps rates low in the near term, we’re disappointed that it risks sky-high interest rates in the long term. The structure of the proposal switches student loan interest rates from a fixed rate to a rate that varies with the market, allowing students to take advantage of temporarily low rates, but offers no protection for students when rates inevitably begin to climb.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer news update, some stories I've been following | Ed Mierzwinski

Just a summary of some of what I think are the important consumer news stories of the last week or so, in case you missed any of them.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Food Scare from Eggs Continues | Nasima Hossain

A similar recall of over 2,800 chicken salad sandwiches in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia may also be contaminated with listeria from eggs.

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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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