Category Citizen action

STOPPING VULTURE CAPITALISM

The term vulture capitalism is used to refer to financial manipulation techniques used to extract profits from companies without regard to their health or survival. [1] Workers, consumers, suppliers, and the communities where a company is based, as well as taxpayers, typically end up getting the short end of the stick while the vulture capitalists […]

WHY WE NEED A POLITICAL REVOLUTION

Bill Moyers – one of the most savvy and respected commentators on US politics and society over the last 40+ years – just published an interview with the author of a book Moyers describes as the best political book of the year. [1] The author is Ben Fountain and the book is Beautiful Country Burn […]

OUR DEMOCRACY NEEDS MORE VOTERS

The United States has very low rates of participation in our “democracy,” which is perhaps most dramatically evident in our very low voter turnout. In our last presidential election – a very visible and hotly contested race – only a bit over one-half (roughly 56%) of those eligible voted. In the upcoming 2018 elections for […]

CONSUMER FINANCE PROTECTIONS UNDER ATTACK

Many in Congress and the Trump administration are openly working to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It was created as part of the Dodd-Frank Law, the major piece of legislation passed to reform the financial industry after the 2008 crash. The CFPB protects consumers from abusive and fraudulent practices of financial corporations, such […]

THE DISMANTLING OF POST-CRASH FINANCIAL INDUSTRY REFORMS

Many in Congress and the Trump administration have either forgotten or don’t care about protecting us from the risky and corrupt behavior of Wall St. financial corporations that caused the 2008 economic collapse and Great Recession. They are repealing, weakening, or failing to implement the policies that were put in place to reduce the likelihood […]

STOPPING GERRYMANDERING; RESTORING DEMOCRACY

Gerrymandering, the manipulation of the boundaries of electoral districts to predetermine outcomes, has become more blatant, dramatic, and effective in the 21st century. Please see my previous post for a discussion of how extreme partisan gerrymandering is undermining our democracy. The redrawing of electoral districts is done every ten years after new population data is […]

THE EFFECTS OF THE FEDERAL TAX CUT

The initial effects of the federal tax cuts enacted in December 2017 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) are now visible; they are not what their Republican architects promised. Although it’s too early to know definitively if the tax cuts will have an effect on the overall economy, growth in the first quarter […]

THE UNDERMINING OF THE 2020 CENSUS

The 2020 Census is coming up soon and preparations for it are underway. You’ve probably heard about the controversy over the Trump administration’s effort to add a question on citizenship to the Census. Unfortunately, the politicization and undermining of the Census runs much deeper than just this question. The Census is supposed to enumerate every […]

CRUELTY BY ICE

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s practice of detaining and often deporting undocumented immigrants who are leading up-standing, productive lives and have no criminal record is disturbing. However, even more disturbing is ICE’s practice of separating law abiding – and in some cases asylum-seeking – parents from their children, including quite young children. In […]

GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION POLICY CHANGES NOW!

In the wake of the tragic gun violence at a high school in Florida, surviving students have inspired the nation with their commitment to reduce gun violence in the US. They and many others are pushing states and the federal government to enact laws that will reduce gun violence. (See my previous post for ways […]

GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION NOW!

In the wake of the latest gun violence tragedy, surviving students from the high school in Florida where the incident occurred have inspired the nation with their commitment to reduce gun violence in the US. Here are four things we can all do to work to achieve that goal: Support the students from Marjory Stoneman […]

CORPORATE MEDIA THREATEN OUR DEMOCRACY Part 2

Senator Bernie Sanders’ book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In  [1] includes a chapter titled, Corporate Media and the Threat to Our Democracy. I summarized its information on the six huge media corporations that control 90% of what we see, hear, and read in my previous post. Senator Sanders experienced firsthand the control and power the […]

THE GREED OF THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY Part 2

The pharmaceutical industry can engage in the unethical and sometimes illegal practices that I’ve highlighted in previous posts [1] because they have: Monopolistic power in the market place due to limited competition, An absence of government regulation, and Political power to block or weaken regulation and oversight due to campaign spending, lobbying, and the revolving […]

PURDUE PHARMA AND OXYCONTIN CAUSED THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC Part 2

Purdue Pharma, a privately-owned corporation, and its narcotic pain-killer, OxyContin, caused the current opioid epidemic. My previous posts gave an overview of Purdue’s development and marketing of OxyContin, as well as of the complicity of Congress and the Executive Branch in allowing OxyContin to cause the national opioid epidemic. This post describes Purdue’s efforts to […]

THE OPIOID CRISIS: SAVING LIVES VS. SAVING PROFITS

President Trump pledged months ago to declare the nationwide opioid crisis a national emergency. He now says he’ll do so this week. The crisis has claimed well over 200,000 lives and the death rate continues to climb. Declaring opioid deaths a national emergency would be nice, but taking effective action is even more important. So […]

PROTECTING CONSUMERS FROM WALL STREET

The collapse of the financial corporations in 2008 was due in large part to their predatory and illegal practices in pushing unaffordable home mortgages onto gullible home buyers. Congress and President Obama enacted the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (known as Dodd-Frank) to help protect consumers from such abusive behavior. Dodd-Frank’s most […]

PROTECTING OUR ECONOMY FROM WALL STREET SPECULATION

After the collapse of the financial corporations in 2008 due to their greed, predatory and illegal practices, and malfeasance, Congress and the President enacted legislation to try to prevent such a collapse in the future. This was the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (known as Dodd-Frank). The Dodd-Frank law is not as […]

THE CASE FOR SINGLE-PAYER HEALTH INSURANCE

Our private health insurance system is not working. As I outlined in my previous post, there are three core problems with our private health insurance system: By fragmenting the pool of insured people and allowing some to opt out, the basic theory and efficiency of insurance is undermined. Private insurers have no financial incentive to […]

GENERATING THE REVENUE NEEDED TO INVEST IN AMERICA

The People’s Budget, an alternative budget for the US, presents a coherent vision and a detailed plan for generating the revenue needed to invest in America’s infrastructure and people. It includes specific proposals for increasing revenue, decreasing tax expenditures (i.e., loopholes and deductions), and increasing efficiency in the public and private sectors. These will more […]

MAKING REGULATION WORK

For society to function, regulatory agencies must protect consumers, workers, and the public from self-interested and unscrupulous individuals, employers, and businesses. In a democracy, this requires a concerted effort and leadership from elected officials to put appropriate regulations in place and to ensure that they are enforced. In a recent speech, Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) […]

SAVING OUR REGULATORS FROM THE WAR ON REGULATION

The war on regulation is a war not only on regulations themselves, but on the regulatory agencies that work to protect consumers, workers, and the public. The federal regulatory agencies that we rely on include the: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that protects us from deceptive financial products (e.g., loans and credit cards) and abusive […]

FIGHTING RESISTANCE TO NEEDED REGULATIONS

We need rules and regulations to protect workers, consumers, and the public. However, opposition to regulations comes from organizations and individuals that have strong self-interests at stake and often lots of resources. Typically, it’s large corporate employers and producers of goods and services that oppose regulation. They use campaign spending and lobbying to persuade public […]

CORPORATE BEHAVIOR DRIVES INEQUALITY

Several corporate practices, particularly those of large, multi-national corporations, are major contributors to income and wealth inequality. One is their avoidance of taxes, which means other taxpayers must make up the difference. Another is their employee compensation practices. The huge and growing differential between the compensation for corporate executives and workers needs to be reduced. […]

DAMAGE IS BEING DONE BEHIND THE TRUMP SMOKESCREEN

What you don’t know can hurt you. Behind the smokescreen of President Trump’s high profile Executive Orders and public statements, he and Congress are undermining public health and safety, as well as government revenue. By undoing or weakening existing policies, they are allowing, among other things: Underpayment of royalties on fossil fuel extraction, Use of […]

TRUMP’S INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN: A BOONDOGGLE

Trump promised during the campaign that he would stimulate up to $1 trillion of investment in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. This sounds surprisingly like President Obama’s efforts throughout his presidency to spend a similar amount on public infrastructure. Obama’s proposal would have stimulated job growth and the economy. It would have helped the US more […]

STOP COMMERCIALIZATION OF OUR NATIONAL PARKS

Unfortunately, the National Park Service (NPS) has just enacted a policy that allows expanded commercialization of our national parks. Corporations have been pushing for years to commercialize our national parks with their names, logos, and products. The timing of the new policy is particularly inappropriate because this year is the 100th anniversary of our national […]

GOOD NEWS FROM THE 2016 ELECTIONS

Believe it or not, there was quite a bit of good news in the 2016 elections. While I imagine many of us feel that the election of Donald Trump as president was bad news for our country, the frustration that fueled his election has positive aspects. First, the election of Trump and the surprising success […]

OUR FAILING MAINSTREAM MEDIA

Our mainstream media are failing our democracy. In the last election, they provided almost no coverage of issues and policies, which should play a significant role in voters’ decisions. Even when issues or policies were mentioned, there was little fact checking or context provided, let alone analysis. Such in-depth reporting is critical to having an […]

THE RIGHT WAY TO STOP THE OFFSHORING OF US JOBS

The US needs to stop hemorrhaging jobs to other countries. For starters, we need to do three things: Impose financial disincentives for offshoring jobs, Change the mindset among corporate executives that offshoring jobs is the right and acceptable thing to do, and Reverse the resignation among workers and the public who believe that the offshoring […]

HOW CAMPAIGN DONOR SECRECY IS MAINTAINED AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

Republicans in Congress, and particularly Senate leader Mitch McConnell, have made preventing increased disclosure of campaign donors a top priority. They have refused to act on the DISCLOSE Act that would require disclosure of donors to political spending by outside groups. They have added riders to must-pass bills prohibiting the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) […]

DRUG PRICE GOUGING CONTINUES

Valeant Pharmaceuticals is price gouging again. Having acquired the rights to the drug used to treat severe lead poisoning in 2013, it has increased the price from $950 to $27,000. There is no reason other than greed for this huge price increase on a decades-old drug. The cost is limiting availability of the drug to […]

SOLVING THE PROBLEMS OF OUR PRIVATIZED HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

Clearly, the private market is not working well for health insurance or health care in the U.S. Costs are rapidly escalating in a system that is already the most expensive in the world, but that has mediocre to poor outcomes. Many private health insurance, pharmaceutical, and health care corporations are putting profits before patients. Increasing […]

COUNTERACTING THE LOW-WAGE BUSINESS MODEL OF PARASITIC CORPORATIONS

The low-wage business model of Walmart and McDonald’s, for example, is a choice, both of corporations and of our policy makers. In the restaurant industry, there are restaurants in Seattle and San Francisco that are paying their servers $13 per hour and are doing fine. Costco successfully competes with Walmart and In-N-Out-Burger with McDonald’s even […]

BLUNTING THE IMPACT OF BIG AND SECRET MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS

Big money and secret money in our election campaigns undermines democracy. They can prevent voters from knowing who, with what interests, is trying to influence their votes. They can also unduly influence the decisions of our elected officials and lead to outright corruption. (See my previous posts here and here for more detail.) There are […]

MONOPOLY POWER AND HOW TO STOP IT

Monopolistic corporate power is a big problem in the US. Ever since the Reagan presidency in the 1980s, our government has effectively given up on enforcement of anti-trust (i.e., anti-monopoly) laws. Our anti-trust regulators have ignored evidence that the monopolistic power of huge corporations results in higher prices, lower wages, job losses, declining entrepreneurship, and […]

EFFECTS OF MONOPOLY POWER

My last post described the efforts of the big food and agricultural corporations to block the labeling of food that contains genetically modified ingredients. Here are some other examples of the effects of the monopolistic power of large corporations, which is allowed and abetted by crony capitalism. (See my Crony Capitalism = Monopoly Power post […]

ACT NOW: CORPORATE POWER BLOCKING GMO FOOD LABELING

One reason large corporations succeed in influencing policies is that they are relentless. If at first they don’t succeed, they try, try again and again and again. They can do so because they have: Lots of money and other resources, such as top notch lawyers, and As much time as it takes, given they are […]

DEMOCRACY IS AWAKENING, BUT NOT IN THE CORPORATE MEDIA

One of the goals of this blog is to provide information on policy and politics that the mainstream corporate media fails to provide. One of the most blatant examples of news ignored by the corporate media is last month’s Democracy Awakening protests. The Democracy Awakening protests were undertaken to highlight the issues of money in […]

FIXING ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL INEQUALITY

Since President Teddy Roosevelt took on the mantle of trust buster at the turn of the 20th century, government regulation through anti-trust laws and other regulatory mechanisms has been recognized as the only way to counterbalance corporate power and individual wealth. However, since the 1980s, the corporate and financial elite of the country has increasingly […]

THE YEAR-END SPENDING BILL: A BIG WIN FOR SPECIAL INTERESTS, WHILE KEEPING GOVERNMENT OPERATING

The year-end spending bill that Congress passed on December 18 was loaded with riders that had nothing to do with the budget. For example, it lifted the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports from the US, just as the climate summit in Paris concluded that emissions from burning fossil fuels must be lowered to address […]

THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP SHOULD BE REJECTED

In addition to the concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty raised in my two previous posts (see list below), it lacks provisions for addressing currency manipulation. This has brought criticism from many parties, including some in the corporate world. Although China (which is not a participant in the TPP) is the most notorious manipulator […]

WHY ECONOMIC INEQUALITY CONTINUES TO GROW AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

ABSTRACT: Despite many indicators that our economy is strong, most Americans are experiencing economic insecurity. Over half of US households have less than one month’s income in regular savings and median household income continues to decline. Low-wage workers at Walmart, McDonalds, and elsewhere are so poor they are receiving $45 billion in public assistance. This […]

STOP “TRADE” TREATIES THAT FAVOR BIG MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS

ABSTRACT: The Obama administration is in the final stages of negotiating two major “trade” treaties. It is pushing for Fast Track approval, which requires Congress to ratify them quickly (only 20 hours of debate on the thousands of pages in each treaty) with no amendments. These “trade” treaties primarily serve to enhance the power and […]

RECLAIMING AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE, NOT JUST THE WEALTHY

ABSTRACT: We need to reclaim our economy so it works for everyone, not just the wealthy. With different choices and policies that reflect a different set of values, our economy can once again be one where a rising tide lifts all boats, not just the yachts of the wealthiest. The policy changes that are needed […]

GOVERNMENT BY THE BIG WALL ST. CORPORATIONS

ABSTRACT: The big Wall St. financial corporations just got another big gift. The Federal Reserve announced that it will give Wall St. a year’s delay (to mid-2017) on the implementation of the Volcker Rule, which would ban Wall St. from engaging in risky investments with federally-insured deposits. Many observers believe that this delay will simply […]

CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE AND MONEY IS NOT SPEECH

ABSTRACT: Many millions of dollars are being spent by special interest groups on our political campaigns. This level of spending makes it clear that wealthy special interests – individuals, corporations, unions, and non-profit organizations – are taking over our elections. The only way to stop this undemocratic spending is through an amendment to the U.S. […]

SECRETS OF THE FY15 FEDERAL SPENDING BILL

ABSTRACT: Congress recently rushed to pass a 1,700 page, $1.1 trillion spending bill. Such last minute, have-to-pass pieces of legislation are ideal vehicles for enacting laws that wouldn’t withstand the scrutiny of the regular legislative process. In my 12/14/14 post, I wrote about 2 such provisions: the repeal of the ban on banks investing in […]

WALL STREET BAILOUT REVIVED

ABSTRACT: As you probably know, Congress just rushed to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill that keeps the federal government operating. Such last minute, have-to-pass pieces of legislation are ideal vehicles for enacting laws on unrelated matters that wouldn’t withstand the scrutiny of the regular legislative process. One such provision in this bill repeals a […]

DANGER AHEAD IN DC: CORPORATIONS AND THE WEALTHY POISED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE

ABSTRACT: Some people in Washington, D.C., are taking the election results as an indication that Republican policy priorities are in favor with the public. Furthermore, the Republicans in Congress and the President may want to show that they can work together, get things done, and pass new laws. Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat from Massachusetts) warns […]

VOTING MATTERS

ABSTRACT: Election Day is just over a week away. Although it’s easy to look at the dysfunction in Washington and the huge amounts of money being spent on campaigns and feel that voting and participating in the election doesn’t matter, that would be wrong. There will be lots of close elections this year all across […]

WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS WE FACE

ABSTRACT: Our country has important problems that need to be addressed. Not only aren’t they being addressed, but serious proposals (let alone efforts) to address them are not even on the table for discussion. These problems include: Stagnating wages and a stagnating economy; Corporations doing very well but employees losing ground and unemployment stubbornly high; […]

TITLE: CORPORATOCRACY OR DEMOCRACY?

ABSTRACT: Here are three current examples of corporate power and influence. Tax dodging: Burger King is the latest corporation to announce plans to move its legal headquarters to a foreign country as a way to avoid paying taxes in the US; a so-called “inversion.” Corporations suffer no consequences as a person would if he or […]

DEMOCRATIZING CAMPAIGN FINANCING

ABSTRACT: We need to change our system of financing political campaigns. Candidates need to be able to run viable campaigns based on the financial support of average voters, and without the support of the small number of wealthy donors who dominate current campaign funding. Many people who would make great elected representatives don’t even run […]

THE RISE OF DARK MONEY IN CAMPAIGNS

ABSTRACT: An increasing amount and proportion of election spending is coming from non-profit organizations that do not disclose their donors. This so-called “dark money” keeps voters in the dark about who is trying to influence their votes. Legislation to require disclosure of donors to “dark money” groups has been introduced at the federal level and […]

A SUPER PAC TO END SUPER PACs – YOU CAN HELP!

ABSTRACT: We need to elect US Senators, Representatives, and ultimately a President who will support an end to Super PACs and unlimited money in our political campaigns. Lawrence Lessig is undertaking an innovative and counter-intuitive strategy to do so: creating a Super PAC to elect Congress people who will support the needed changes in our […]

STOPPING THE CORRUPTION OF MONEY IN POLITICS

ABSTRACT: There’s good news on multiple fronts in the effort to stop the corruption of big money in US political campaigns. In the US House, the Government by the People Act (HR 20) has been introduced. It would match small donations – up to $150 – from individuals 6 to 1 so that, for example, […]

HISTORY AND LEAKS MAKE CASE AGAINST “TRADE” TREATIES

ABSTRACT: Twenty years of experience with previous “trade” treaties and the recent leaks of draft language for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) make the case that the “trade” treaties currently in negotiation will not benefit the US economy, our workers, or our middle class. These treaties focus on and benefit multi-national corporations and investors, rather than […]

STOP FAST TRACK FOR CORPORATE POWER GRAB

ABSTRACT: Bipartisan legislation was introduced in Congress last Thursday to allow the President to submit “trade” agreements to Congress and require expedited consideration of them. There is opposition to this Fast Track consideration (formally known as Trade Promotion Authority) in both parties. There is also opposition to the “trade” agreements currently being negotiated themselves. One […]

TRADE TREATIES NEED OPEN DEBATE, NOT FAST TRACK

ABSTRACT: Action in Congress on requiring Fast Track consideration of trade treaties is likely to happen soon. Two broad “trade” agreements are scheduled for Congressional action this year: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with a dozen Pacific Rim countries and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) with the European Union (EU). Fast Track authority requires that […]

GOOD NEWS FROM THE GRASSROOTS

ABSTRACT: The dysfunction in Washington is discouraging. However, there is good news from the grassroots. Every day people are standing up and taking action when government policies and corporate practices are favoring special interests over the interests of the average citizen and worker. Workers at Wal-Mart and in the fast food industry are taking action […]

ENDING THE CORRUPTION OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

ABSTRACT: Whatever your politics – Democratic, Republican or independent; conservative, moderate, or progressive – most people are frustrated that issues they believe are important aren’t being addressed by Congress. The fuel that is really driving this paralysis is Big Money in our political campaigns. It is distorting the operation of government and corrupting our democracy. […]

REPUBLICAN SABOTAGE

ABSTRACT: Republicans are sabotaging democracy and the United States of America. Republicans in both the US House and Senate have used obstructionist tactics to block progress on a budget to keep the government operating and on an increase in the debt ceiling to avoid a financial default. In efforts to get policy changes that they […]

EFFECTS OF THE SEQUESTER Part 2

ABSTRACT: The $85 billion across the board budget cuts that went into effect on March 1, known as the sequester, are significantly affecting individuals, families, children, and public sector functions. The following list of some of the sequester’s effects is a continuation of my post of 9/16/13 and is drawn from the Coalition on Human […]

“TRADE” AGREEMENTS & CORPORATE POWER

ABSTRACT: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” treaty that is currently being negotiated (see post of 9/10) would give corporations the right to sue governments if their laws, regulations, or actions negatively affect current or expected future profits. Under existing trade agreements, over $380 million has already been paid to corporations by governments. Furthermore, there are […]

“TRADE” AGREEMENT SUPERSIZES CORPORATE POWER

ABSTRACT: The US is currently negotiating a trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The negotiations have been so secretive that most members of Congress have never seen a draft of the treaty and the public is mostly unaware of its existence. The mainstream (corporate) media have hardly mentioned the TPP, despite its target […]

LABOR DAY AND THE MIDDLE CLASS

ABSTRACT: Labor Day is a time to celebrate the contributions working people make to our country. But with unemployment still high, inequality on the uptick, and the middle class shrinking and under serious financial strain, many working families just don’t have much to celebrate. For 30 years, wages for the middle and lower income workers […]

INFORMED CITIZEN DISORDER

ABSTRACT: I would guess that many of you are like me: it’s been drilled into your conscience that it’s your responsibility as a citizen of a democracy and as a voter to be informed about what’s going on so you can make educated decisions. In a democracy, it’s part of being patriotic. But boy, it […]

BANNING BEE KILLING PESTICIDES

ABSTRACT: Pesticides and other toxic chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment and even in our blood. Regulation of them is weak. One of the unintended consequences of widespread pesticide use is the harming or killing of animals, other than those targeted. Last month, 50,000 bumblebees died after a spraying of the pesticide dinotefuran. The class […]

FINANCIAL SYSTEM REFORM

ABSTRACT: The need for financial system reform was made clear by the 2008 crash. One of the goals of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law was to end speculative trading by large financial corporations that are also banks because it has the potential to jeopardize consumer deposits. However, speculative trading has continued. Therefore, a tri-partisan group […]

OVERSIGHT OF FINANCIAL CORPORATIONS – PETITIONS YOU CAN SIGN

INTRO: The need for strong oversight of our large financial corporations was made starkly clear by their collapse in 2008. Nonetheless, necessary changes have not happened. The six huge financial corporations are bigger than ever, despite concern that they were too big to fail back in 2008. News of illegal activity in the financial sector […]