Walmart executives shouldn’t be above the law.After 8 years of working at Walmart, that company fired me for doing something my manager asked me to do: take a longer lunch break off the clock so I would not qualify for overtime pay. I know firsthand that when things go wrong at Walmart, it’s workers like me who take the fall. Now I’m fighting for Walmart’s top executives to be held accountable for their international bribery and lies. Walmart has spent over $700 million in in legal fees and an internal investigation into the bribery scandal and implemented a major turnover in high level management, but four years later, neither the Department of Justice (DOJ) nor the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has held a single Walmart executive publicly accountable. Both entities have been investigating Walmart’s alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for years since 2012. Enough is enough. It’s time for the DOJ and SEC to prosecute Walmart executives to the fullest extent of the law. A Pulitzer Prize winning expose in the New York Times alleged that Walmart spent over $20 million in bribes to build stores in Mexico, with executives covering up the wrongdoing. The DOJ and the SEC are also investigating possible bribery by Walmart in India and China.[4,5] It’s time to see the results of the investigation. Given the amount of money that Walmart and the Waltons spend on political donations and lobbying, the American people deserve to see that they are not above the law, and that justice will be served. If you sign my petition, you can send these agencies a strong message that you're with us in our fight. Will you join me and add your name to my petition to the DOJ and to the SEC to prosecute Walmart executives to the fullest extent of the law? References: 1. http://gawker.com/a-walmart-manager-describes-walmarts-mismanagement-1625530679 2. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-wp-blm-walmart-probe-0b6bd45c-8be4-11e6-8cdc-4fbb1973b506-20161006-story.html 3. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/business/at-wal-mart-in-mexico-a-bribe-inquiry-silenced.html) 4. http://www.economist.com/news/business/21650557-enforcement-laws-against-corporate-bribery-increases-there-are-risks-it-may-go 5. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-wp-blm-walmart-probe-0b6bd45c-8be4-11e6-8cdc-4fbb1973b506-20161006-story.html
Tell the Boston Globe: Respect transgender peopleLast year a wave of over 100 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation swept across 22 states. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people and allies pushed back across the country to say: We won’t stand for bigotry and hate in our communities. But being on the defensive is not enough – we also have to proactively work to make systemic and cultural changes that support and affirm LGBTQ people. A crucial way for our communities to be more inclusive is to acknowledge and affirm that every person has the right to define their own gender and to be referred to using their correct gender pronouns. Referring to someone using incorrect gender pronouns — misgendering them — contributes to the violence and oppression that people in the transgender community face every day. That’s why I’m asking the Boston Globe to implement a policy that requires reporters to confirm gender pronouns with every source and subject as part of basic fact-checking procedures. Across the country, local media sources are some of the worst offenders when it comes to misgendering of subjects and sources, and we can hold our local media to a higher standard. Referring to someone by an incorrect gender pronoun not only perpetuates anti-trans bigotry and hate, it’s bad journalism. Journalists should report facts, not assumptions. Misgendering doesn’t just happen to transgender people; it happens to people whose names are unfamiliar, gender-neutral, or derived from a language other than English, and people whose voices or facial features are not immediately identifiable as male or female. Using a person’s correct gender pronoun is basic to journalistic accuracy and is simple to make part of standard fact-checking procedures. And for transgender and gender nonconforming people, it is a basic facet of respect that is too often denied. In the case of smaller media outlets, it most often happens in the most heartbreaking and sensitive situation: when a transgender woman is murdered. Every person has the right to define their own gender, and media outlets have a responsibility to use people’s correct pronouns. CITATIONS: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/08/police-need-work-their-approach-homicides-transgender-people
Tell Congress: Stop the Revolving Door between Wall Street and WashingtonI believe our economy should work for middle class families and not just the 1%. Unfortunately, it's hard to level the playing field when Wall Street CEOs and Hedge Fund Managers are writing their own rules. That's why I'm leading the effort to stop Wall Street's revolving door and am proud to have Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Barbara Mikulski join my fight. The Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act would prohibit the practice of incentivizing private sector employees to take jobs in the government, make federal employees recuse themselves for two years in cases involving their former employers, and close the lobbyist loophole. Here’s how it happens: There is a fast-spinning revolving door between the government and private sector industries. Employees in the private sector can actually accept incentives from their companies to take jobs in the government. Then, once they become government officials, they only have to wait one year before regulating their old companies. The same thing happens in reverse. Federal employees can take jobs at companies they oversaw immediately after leaving the government. They can become “outside advisors” or “strategic counselors” and lobby their former government colleagues in an unofficial capacity that allows them to skirt legal requirements registered lobbyists have to meet. Americans deserve to know exactly who their government officials are working for. We can’t trust federal employees tasked with reining in Wall Street to be strict if their pockets are being lined by their former bosses. Americans should be able to trust that public servants are, in fact, putting the interests of the people first. But, it’s not easy when private-sector employees, namely from the financial services industry, take jobs in the government where they are tasked with overseeing their former companies. This practice is rife with conflicts of interest. Join me and sign my petition in support of Congress taking action to restore trust in government by stopping the revolving door between Wall Street and the Washington.
End the NFL's "charity" tax breakDid you know that the National Football League is a nonprofit, and hasn't paid a dime in taxes since 1966? As a lifelong football fan, I was shocked to discover that I haven't just paid to watch games and bought NFL merchandise since I was 6 years old -- I've been paying higher taxes as an adult to make-up for the NFL's share. Some of my best memories are football related. I remember standing in line in 1987 to get John Elway's autograph, and the famous playoff drive. I love the parity of the NFL, and I believe the league provides an important service by ensuring that the league remains strong and that competitive games are well-organized. But that service doesn't justify the NFL being granted nonprofit status -- like soup kitchens and charities have -- that allows it to avoid paying taxes, especially as top executives are paid up to $29 million per year. I was shocked to learn that the last time the NFL paid taxes was 1966, when lobbyists convinced Congress to pass an obscure provision that expanded the definition of 501(c)6 not-for-profit organizations in the Internal Revenue Code to include "professional football leagues." The 1966 law gave the NFL a way to skirt taxes, while also granting it an uncommon antitrust exemption allowing it to create a monopoly to negotiate TV rights at the same time! Since then, the NFL has shelled out big money to keep its sweetheart deal. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NFL has spent $2 million in campaign contributions since 1992 and spent $12.7 million on lobbying efforts since 1998, knowing that its fair share of taxes would be many millions more. As Republicans in Congress vote to cut food stamps and obstruct the extension of unemployment benefits, it's time to highlight the hypocrisy of letting a multi-billion operation like the NFL get away with paying no taxes while they stick us with the bill. Though the NFL has successfully held back efforts to make it pay its fair share for nearly 50 years, Congress has the opportunity to change that by updating the Internal Revenue Code. Legislation to do just that was introduced last fall, but we need Congress to get behind it. With 111.5 million viewers, Sunday's Super Bowl was the most watched television event in U.S. history. Now is the perfect time to put pressure on Congress to revoke the NFL's nonprofit status. REFERENCES: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/12/nfl-tax-exempt-status-rootstrikers-roger-goodell http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/18/nfl-tax-exemption-debate-congress-tom-coburn/4110381/ http://www.ibtimes.com/nfl-nonprofit-flap-outraged-petitioners-tackle-tax-exempt-status-national-football-league-1410272 http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/how-the-nfl-fleeces-taxpayers/309448/ https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/900195-nfl-2012-990.html http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/10398603/super-bowl-xlviii-telecast-most-watched-tv-event-us-history PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Runyon | Pro Football Schedules (http://profootballschedules.com/falcons-vs-broncos-photos)
Allow Public Campaign Financing in California!Big contributions and expenditures by millionaires and special interests are dominating elections. The voices of regular voters are drowned out, and most Americans believe money has far too much influence in politics. That's why we need public financing of campaigns to make elected officials accountable to voters, not Big Money. Unfortunately, public financing of campaigns in California is banned in all counties, most cities, and in state races due to a 1988 initiative, Proposition 73, that had virtually all of its other provisions invalidated in federal court. California can take the lead in this powerful alternative to politicians dialing for dollars. SB 1107, authored by Senator Ben Allen, co-authored by Senator Loni Hancock, and sponsored by California Clean Money Campaign and California Common Cause will amend the ban to allow for public financing of campaigns that are paid for by dedicated campaign finance trust funds. Sign the petition asking the legislature to pass SB 1107 now!
Give us back our right to vote to overturn Citizens United!California's Supreme Court ruled that Californians have the right to vote to tell Congress and the legislature to pass a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United and saying that corporations aren't people and money isn't speech. But they wouldn't put Prop 49 back on the ballot. It's outrageous! So now it's up to the legislature to put the Overturn Citizens United Act back on the ballot by passing SB 254, authored by Senators Ben Allen and Mark Leno, sponsored by Money Out Voters In, and supported by California Clean Money Campaign and many other reform organizations. Please sign our petition for SB 254 now and share it with your friends!
Close the Carried Interest Loophole"The top 25 hedge fund managers made more than all the kindergarten teachers in the country," said President Obama.  If you think it's unfair for hedge funds to be taxed less than working class families sign this petition now. Financiers charge a fee for investing other peoples’ money – and call it “carried interest” to get a lower tax rate than kindergarten teachers and truck drivers.  Across the country, states are losing billions of dollars in revenue thanks to the carried interest loophole. By making sure New York State taxes hedge funds, we could raise & invest $3.7B for schools & jobs. Add your signature to this petition now and tell the New York State Legislature that our state needs to make sure Hedge Funds pay their fair share!  http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-poverty-obama-idUSKBN0NX2JR20150512  http://billmoyers.com/2015/09/17/why-do-kindergarten-teachers-pay-more-taxes-than-hedge-fund-managers/
Tell Sen. Marco Rubio: Stop obstructing and allow a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nomineeSince the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Republicans, including Sen. Rubio, have been promising to block President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. President Obama — twice elected by the American people — has the constitutional duty under Article II to nominate a new Supreme Court justice with the advice and consent of the Senate. If Sen. Rubio obstructs the president’s nominee from receiving fair hearings or an up-or-down vote, it would be an unprecedented abdication of constitutional responsibility. Every Supreme Court nominee since 1980 has been given an up-or-down vote within 125 days of nomination. It’s outrageous that with over 300 days left in President Obama’s term, Republicans in the Senate are refusing to consider the president’s nominee before one is even named. It’s pure partisan obstruction. Senate Republicans, including Sen. Rubio, are making it clear that they are willing to subvert the Constitution in order to have a chance to appoint a justice who opposes women’s health care, sides with corporations over workers, will allow big money to continue to hijack our elections, and more.
Tell the Cleveland Federal Reserve: We Need an Economy That Works for ALL of us in ClevelandThe Fed wants to stop the economy, because they think we’ve recovered from the financial crash, but for people like me, there hasn’t been a recovery. My name is Maria Sapia. I am a Latina woman with a Bachelor’s Degree and I’m struggling to find a full time job. I have taken numerous temporary and part-time jobs to make ends meet. I am currently only working less than 20 hours a week to just to survive but the Federal Reserve doesn’t consider me nor millions like me that are underemployed across the country when making interest rate decisions. I have not been able to find full-time work but I have not given up. It is hard enough to find any type of work now, just think how much more difficult it would be for me and many others in our communities if the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates before everyone has a job that provides them with a living wage. Raising interest rates now means less opportunity for employment, and will obviously affect women and families of color like mine that are trying so hard just to get by. I am a hard worker who just wants a job that can provide me with the security of a roof over my head and food on my table. My story is just one of many in here in Cleveland and across Ohio. The black unemployment rate is almost 3 times the white rate here in Ohio and while the unemployment rate is around 4%, this doesn’t take into account those of us who are underemployed or those who have been searching for so long that they have given up hope of finding a job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the real unemployment rate is close to 10%. According to the New York Times, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo are 3 of the top 10 most economically distressed cities in the country. When President Mester says our economy is "solid", I disagree. This is an unacceptable time for the Fed to stall our economy. When the Fed raises interest rates the economy slows down so employment and wages freeze or start to fall again. When the Fed says they want to raise interest rates, they’re telling us to get used to the economy as it is: twice as many people as before the recession working part-time because they can’t find full time work, double-digit unemployment in black communities, and decades of flat wages. If the Fed continues to raise interest rates, then they’ll be stopping the economy before giving us a chance to get back on our feet. The Fed has a dual mandate: to maximize employment and to maintain stable prices. The only reason to raise interest rates would be to stop inflation. But there isn’t any inflation in the economy – we are still below all the Fed’s target rates. The Fed is sacrificing all the jobs that we could be getting and all the wage gains we could win if we kept interest rates low, all for the sake of an inflation threat that doesn’t even exist. Most of those unnecessary sacrifices of jobs and wages will be losses borne by Black communities and communities of color. The work of the Fed isn’t done: we need a recovery that works for everyone, including communities of color. We need to keep interest rates low so working people and families like mine have a chance for better jobs and better wages.
Tell Regulators to Reconsider their Unfair Changes to NV's Solar RulesWhen Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party Activists, Students, Industry, Communities of Color, and the Faith Community join together against an injustice—it’s pretty clear who is on the wrong side of history. And that is what is happening in Nevada in the wake of the Public Utility Commission’s (PUCN) December decision regarding net metering. The PUCN approved an unfair change to the solar rules that hits consumers with a one-two punch of hefty new fees and slashed bill credit for the valuable solar power they send to NV Energy. Solar companies are leaving the state and hundreds of Nevadans are losing their jobs in the wake of the PUCN's decision. Vote Solar, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Solar Energy Industries Association, and others have filed requests asking the PUCN to reconsider the decision. Despite enormous public support, the PUCN has decided to side with the monopoly utility—NV Energy—instead of the public interest. NV Energy is claiming that solar customers are shifting costs to non-solar customers (with no actual data). The PUCN's very own study shows that NEM customers provide a net present value benefit of $36M to non-NEM customers in Nevada. NV Energy claims that the cost of utility-scale solar has dropped significantly, thereby discrediting the study. This is a clear case of making the numbers serve your own purposes. The study needs a comprehensive update if the numbers have changed--the PUCN shouldn't just take the monopoly utility's word for it. Nevada should be the solar capital of the world—not ground zero for the demise of the residential solar industry. Now is the time to stand up for energy choice. Now is the time to ask the PUCN to reconsider their unfair changes to NV’s solar rules.
Urge President Obama to Make Federal Contractors Disclose Political Spending!Currently, corporations that receive government contracts can secretly funnel untold sums into elections to help elect (and re-elect) the very same lawmakers responsible for awarding those contracts. It’s outrageous. Companies like Lockheed Martin and some subsidiaries of Koch Industries are awash in taxpayer money they receive from federal contracts. And you can bet that the amount of money they plan to spend to influence the upcoming elections is staggering. All this secret spending was unleashed by Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, but short of overturning those decisions, there’s something that President Obama can do about this RIGHT NOW. The president can and should sign an executive order, immediately, requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending. With the 2016 election heating up, it will become politically difficult for Obama to issue any executive orders if he waits too much longer. He needs to get this done before it’s too late. Sign the petition asking President Obama to issue the executive order now!
Ask Senator Feinstein to stand for Fair Elections!The Fair Elections Now Act would put "we the people" back at the center of all U.S Senate elections -- and greatly reduce the influence of big special interests -- by making it possible for candidates to wage a successful campaign without large donors. The Fair Elections Now Act provides candidates with funds to replace campaign fundraising that largely relies on large donors and special interests. Participating candidates are then to limit their additional campaign spending to the amounts raised from small dollar donors. Candidates qualify by raising a set number of small donations from in-state donors, and agreeing not to accept more than $150 from any one donor. During the campaign, small donations are matched and amplified by public funds. All Americans would receive a $25 tax credit they can give to their candidate, so EVERYBODY can donate. Right now, the Fair Elections Now Act (S.2023, Dick Durbin, D-Illinois) has 21 Senate co-sponsors. To help it succeed, it needs more support. Barbara Boxer is already a co-sponsor of this important bill, but Dianne Feinstein hasn’t signed on yet. Please ask Feinstein to stand with the voters – instead of wealthy donors and special interests – by co-sponsoring the bill.
Urge the SEC to Demand Full Disclosure of Walmart's Offshore Subsidiaries in Tax HavensWalmart has built a vast, undisclosed network of 78 subsidiaries and branches in 15 overseas tax havens. These may be used to minimize foreign taxes where Walmart has retail operations and to avoid U.S. taxes on those foreign earnings. These tax-haven subsidiaries have remained largely invisible, in part because Walmart does not list them in its annual 10-K filings with the SEC.
Don’t Limit Solar Choice in New York!New York’s solar future is at risk. Devoted advocates like you have to show New York's key decision-makers (Governor Cuomo, The Public Service Commission, and the Chairman of Energy & Finance, Richard Kauffman) that you support solar jobs and customer choice in New York. Last year, New York added more than 2,000 solar jobs across the state. So why would we limit job growth by cutting the fundamental solar policy, net energy metering (NEM)? NEM is the keystone policy that allows for the fair accounting of energy a solar customer delivers to the grid. NEM allows utility companies to purchase the excess power produced by solar systems, and sell that energy to other customers. A rooftop solar market and local solar jobs cannot and do not exist in states that do not have stable net metering policies The Public Service Commission is scheduled to release their latest version of Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) on July 1, 2015. REV considers a range of energy and solar policies for the state. We must ensure New York maintains the existing NEM program so that New York families, schools and businesses can continue to invest with confidence in solar power to meet their own electricity needs. Sign the petition today, and help us reach our goal of 5,000 signatures in support of NEM by July 1.
PROTECT SOLAR AND ENERGY CHOICE IN KANSAS!Westar Energy’s anti-consumer proposal hurts Kansans by increasing electricity rates while denying you options to lower your electricity bills with rooftop solar or energy efficiency solutions. On Westar’s new plan you may not be able to lower your electricity bill even if you reduce your energy consumption by installing energy saving light bulbs, a more efficient refrigerator, or solar panels. In fact, Westar will penalize you with huge monthly fees for generating your own energy on your property. Even if you change absolutely nothing - meaning you do not use more energy or install solar, your monthly electricity bill will still go up on Westar’s new plan because Westar has proposed higher fixed fees. The Kansas Corporation Commission must protect Kansans ability to exercise choice and control over their electricity bills. Westar’s proposal is an attack on consumers. It is an attempt to eliminate direct competitors to Westar’s monopoly, such as rooftop solar and energy efficiency. Through its rate proposal, Westar is trying to protect its profits at the expense of its customers while stopping the thousands of jobs that accompany a growing rooftop solar market and a cleaner energy future. Tell the Kansas Corporation Commission to reject Westar’s anti-solar and anti-energy efficiency rate proposal. By signing this petition, you are speaking out for a better energy future for Kansas.
COSTCO PLEASE Remove Round-Up Weed Killer From Your ShelvesOur town is progressive and strives for ecological restoration. People move here from all over the United States because of the beautiful and clean environment. We should work together to keep it that way. There are numerous reasons why you should take the initiative and remove Round Up Herbicide from your shelves. First, because it is applied as a spray, the potential for drifting can and does occur. Non-target plants nearby can be killed when wind carries the herbicide. The plants that are affected are native to our area and are already facing a struggle placed on them by the amount of invasive plants we have introduced. Second, Roundup has been found to contaminate our water systems, which in Bend is very important to the local citizens. Studies have found a connection to Roundup and the decline of amphibians. The problem appears to be the detergents used to disperse the glyphosate. This surfactant --polyoxyethylene amine (POEA)--has a lethal effect on frogs and their tadpoles. It has proved to kill certain water insects as well. This reduces food sources for fish and other inhabitants in our rivers. Roundup has also been linked to higher than normal amounts of algae which reduce the oxygen level of the water. In water it takes Roundup 2 to 60 days to disappear but studies have found that Roundup persists in wetland sediment for up to 400 days. Trace amounts have also been found in surface drinking water which may not have effects in small dosages but can be quite harmful in large quantities. Third, Roundup has a devastating impact on our soil systems. Studies around the world have shown that on average, Roundup stayed in soils for 250-350 days. The most detrimental soil findings were the negative effect it has on michorizial fungi. This fungi is found in connection with the roots of most plants and is a very important symbiotic relationship. The fungi feeds off of the plant sugars and in turn the fungi supplies the plant with nutrients and water. Earthworms found in soils laced with Roundup also have been affected. In these areas they appear to be softer and slower acting. Earthworms are important to our soil systems as they work to break down organic material and chemicals, as well as loosen the soil particles. Lastly, although Roundup is less toxic than some herbicides, it has been found to have effects on human beings. The most common reactions that occur from contact with the herbicide are skin-related irritations such as dermatitis and eczema but there have been more disturbing findings. One finding was reported by scientists at the University of Caen in France in December 2008. The article stated that in low doses, a component of Roundup (POEA) can kill human embryonic cells. It was proven in lab tests and linked to higher numbers of miscarriages and premature births to farm women who were regularly exposed to the compound. Another study and possibly even more disturbing was the study performed by Senior Research Scientists at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Dr. Stephanie Seneff. She states that her studies have found her to believe that autism isn't just genetic but is almost surely due to environmental factors including the exposure to Monsanto's RoundUp (glyphosate). Glyphosate has been shown to interrupt the workings of the pineal gland which leads to high levels of autism. It has also been linked to the cause of the increase in gut related problems. In her article she states, “The way glyphosate works is that it interrupts the shikimate pathway, a metabolic function in plants that allows them to create essential amino acids. When this path is interrupted, the plants die. Scientists and researchers beleived that human cells don’t have a shikimate pathway so that exposure to glyphosate would be harmless. The problem is that bacteria DO have a shikimate pathway and we have millions of good bacteria in our guts – our ‘gut flora.’ These bacteria are essential to our health. Our gut isn’t just responsible for digestion, but also for our immune system. When glyphosate gets in our systems, it wrecks our gut and as a result our immune system.” I can continue to write down facts about the negative effects from Roundup but I feel that I have already made my point on why you should take the initiative and remove it from your shelves. There are numerous other natural, organic herbicides that you can replace it with that do not have such devastating consequences. If you think about it, Roundup has only one benefit, the easy removal of weeds, but the negative effects of numerous. An action which may seem to you a poor financial decision at first, will actually benefit you in the long run as our society as a whole turns to making better ecological decisions and you find yourselves as one of the leaders.
Solar Schools and Solar City Buildings in Iowa CityThanks to a breakthrough Iowa Supreme Court decision last summer, which upheld the city of Dubuque’s right to install solar panels on municipal, school and non-taxed entities, third-party power purchase agreements for rooftop solar are spreading across Iowa. But with tax credits set to expire in 2016, the clock is ticking for Iowa City and the Iowa City Community School District to take advantage of the savings from such power purchase agreements or pursue other solar power arrangements and ramp up our community’s commitment to clean energy, climate action and long-term savings. Iowa City is on the move. The University of Iowa has issued a request for proposals for solar power purchase agreements, with the potential of installing solar arrays on five buildings, including the main library. UI also is moving on electric car charging stations and a thin film solar roof on the Cambus Maintenance Facility. Johnson County Supervisors anticipate a long-term savings on a pilot agreement for solar panels on the Secondary Roads Facility. At an Ecopolis Forum earlier this year, developer Kevin Hanick spoke about his Riverfront Crossings District apartment complex, which will include 700 rooftop solar panels. The city of Iowa City recently announced plans to purchase four solar-powered trash compactors. Iowa is a national leader in wind energy, producing 28.4 percent of our electricity last year. While Iowa ranks 16th in the nation for solar potential, our state remains in the top third of states relying on dirty coal. Given the potentially catastrophic reality of climate change, and the huge external costs of our dependence on fossil fuels for the rest of our electricity, it’s time for the city and schools to take a leadership role in the transition to clean energy. When we take our kids to school every morning, we are reminded of the students at the Wayland school, who switch on their lights generated from solar panels and save the small Waco School District an estimated $100,000 annually. In Austin, Minn., students not only power their computers and part of their electricity needs from solar panels, but are using them as learning tools in science and computer classes. Thanks to declining prices, a new solar energy system is being installed every 2.5 minutes in the U.S. Churches in West Virginia are mounting solar panels; the Indianapolis airport recently installed 76,000 photovoltaic solar panels, generating energy, revenue and jobs. So, how does Iowa City move forward on solar in a timely manner? First, we need bold leadership on the City Council and School Board. We need to get beyond more time-delaying studies that jeopardize opportunities with the expiring tax credits. The research has been done; solar companies are ready to bid; the external costs from waiting and burning dirty coal are growing. According to a recent assessment by a local solar company, more than 20 ICCSD buildings retrofitted with solar panels could generate electricity at market rates through third party power purchase agreements. Other options for long-term solar financing exist for the rest of the schools. Second, we need benchmarks. The city of Iowa City and ICCSD should adopt a requirement for 25 percent of the projected district and municipal energy use to be provided by on-site renewable energy (solar, geothermal) within 2020. This should be required for all new construction and major renovations of city buildings and projects seeking city TIF funding that have a construction budget greater than $500,000 and city support greater than $75,000. At recent Ecopolis Forums, hundreds of people signed petitions in support of such solar and energy efficiency benchmarks. As our city approves millions in TIFs for private development, let’s get a clean energy return on our investment. At the same time, both the city and ICCSD should adopt a 2030 Challenge requirement for all new buildings and existing innovation projects to be designed and built to meet energy efficiency standards of 70 percent below the regional average EUI for that building type. Iowa City’s bright shining future awaits. So do our kids, and the uncertainty of their future from climate change.
No Corporate Welfare for Skeffington and the PawSoxJames Skeffington is the major proponent of moving the PawSox to Providence at the expense of the Rhode Island tax payer. This is a deal that will become the 38 Studios of the Raimondo administration. A brief review of the facts shall prove illuminating. -Attorney Skeffington previously represented the founders of the RI Convention Center. As part of that deal, he worked it out that taxpayers would subsidize costs for the Convention Center until they turned a profit. As of 2015, the taxpayer is still subsidizing the Convention Center. -The traffic will be disastrous and cause other business ventures to reconsider establishment in Providence. The construction of the ball park will require a substantial level of highway reconfiguration, both in Providence and on I-195, which will be of further cost to the taxpayers. -38 Studios was a complete debacle, but it's very easy to re-purpose a failed video game designer office into an office park to to recover lost monies for the state. It's not so easy to do that with a baseball diamond. Prof. Victor Matheson of Holy Cross had this to say to John Kostrzewa of the Providence Journal: “It’s an absolutely silly economic idea… A good rule of thumb that economists use is to take what stadium boosters are telling you and move that decimal point one place to the left, and that’s usually a good estimate of what you’re going to get.” Matheson's white paper, co-authored with Robert A. Baade, FINANCING PROFESSIONAL SPORTS FACILITIES, is available for free at (http://college.holycross.edu/RePEc/hcx/Matheson-Baade_FinancingSports.pdf) and includes important insights, such as the following: "Unfortunately, the methodology used to formulate estimates of economic impact [from sporting venue construction] is fatally flawed, resulting in a consistent bias toward large, but unrealized, impacts… Researchers who have gone back and looked at economic data for localities that have hosted mega-events, attracted new franchises, or built new sports facilities have almost invariably found little or no economic benefits from spectator sports… [A] portion of the blame for the poor, long-term benefits of spectator sports is the fact that the capital used in staging sporting contests is not easily convertible to other uses. While the construction of general infrastructure, such as modern airports, highways, and mass transit systems, provides economy-wide benefits, such architectural and technological marvels as Beijing‟s “Water Cube,” the 17,000 seat state-of-the-art swimming facility built for the 2008 Summer Olympics, has little use following the Games… While the long-run benefits of sporting events and stadium construction may never arrive, the debts that localities incur in hosting professional sports must still be paid. Montreal was still paying off its debts from the 1976 Olympics three decades later, and the Astrodome in Houston still carried millions of dollars of debt despite being vacant for a nearly a decade."
Pass the California DISCLOSE Act!$772 million was spent on California ballot measures and independent expenditures in 2012-2014 alone, most of it hiding behind misleading names. It’s corrupting our democracy. We must stop secret money in political ads ― which AB 700, the California DISCLOSE Act, will do. Authored by Assemblymembers Jimmy Gomez and Marc Levine and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, AB 700 will strike the biggest blow yet against Dark Money by requiring ballot measure ads and ads by PACs supporting or opposing candidates to clearly show their real funders on the ads themselves. Television ads will be required to display their top 3 true funders on a solid black background on the bottom third of the screen, one per line, in a large clear font, for a full 5 seconds. Similar tough rules apply to ads in print, online, and radio, plus robocalls. AB 700 passed the Assembly in an overwhelming 60-15 bipartisan vote ― after tens of thousands of people signed petitions and thousands more emailed and called. AB 700 is now in the Senate, and we must create even more pressure than before. We can stop special interests from anonymously buying elections with deceptive ads. Sign the petition to pressure the Senate to pass AB 700 now!
Let Californians Vote to Overturn Citizens United!The onslaught of money unleashed by the Supreme Court with Citizens United is destroying our democracy. That's why 45,000 Clean Money supporters joined Money Out Voters In and other Californians demanding California’s legislature put a measure on the ballot letting voters tell Congress to overturn Citizens United. The legislature listened and put Prop 49 on the ballot. Unfortunately, California’s Supreme Court silenced voters by removing it from the ballot. Now the Court is taking up the case again, so we must demand they restore Prop 49 to next year’s ballot. Please sign our petition now and share it with your friends!
LA Superior Court Civil Grand Jury: Investigate/Audit LAUSD iPad and MiSiS Deals!Fact-finding first, then real fixes! Los Angeles parents tired of the incompetence and waste of top LAUSD district officials insist that without findings of fact, they won't get short-term fixes or long-term permanent results. They filed a request for the Los Angeles Superior Court's Civil Grand Jury to investigate and audit for once and for all the money spent, inventories of computers, open bid process, and distribution of education technology in Los Angeles Unified. As of October 2014, the MiSiS class scheduling program prevents college-bound seniors from completing college applications, special needs children from getting school services they are required to have by law, English language learners from being identified and helped, and negatively impacts LAUSD school funding when there's an inaccurate head count of students for Average Daily Attendance money or underenrollment in Title I free and reduced lunch programs. The MiSiS software cost $130 million but as of mid-October still doesn't work for many schools. After a year of scrutiny, the iPad rollout involved no teachers, parents, or students in its plan, potentially involved bid-rigging or its appearance between a former superintendent (John Deasy) and the vendors who ultimately won the contract (Apple and Pearson), doesn't work well with existing underpowered wireless and broadband infrastructures, is mostly used for testing, and no one knows exactly how many of the tablets there are. This is not how to support students who need to learn digital literacy skills. About $70 million of this planned "$1 billion" deal has been spent so far. That's about $200 million of public money potentially misspent or wasted. It's money that could've gone to things that help children learn and give them meaningful experiences at school. It's time LAUSD provides the families it serves real accountability for the funds spent and delivers on basic services students are supposed to receive by law. The investigation and audit by the Civil Grand Jury could bring necessary facts to light and put LAUSD on the road to permanent fixes. Incompetence unremedied becomes injustice. Let's get the facts in place and get LAUSD working -- NOW!
Stop California from wasting $400 million on inferior nuclear waste storage canistersThe NRC staff, at their July 14th, 15th and August 5th NRC nuclear waste storage meetings, reported failure of nuclear power plant stainless steel components within 11 to 33 years. And they said U.S. stainless steel canisters may crack within 30 years due to stress corrosion cracking. And the hotter the fuel in the canisters, the quicker the crack will go through the wall of the thin (1/2 to 5/8 inch) canisters. Germany uses dry casks that range from about 10 to 19 inches thick. Storage of high burnup spent fuel only makes the problem worse. High burnup spent fuel (>45GWd/MTU) burned longer in the reactors, resulting in hotter fuel that is over twice as radioactive and unstable in storage and transport. The NRC reported there is no current technology to adequately inspect the canisters (inside or out) for cracks. This is only one of many critical issues. And the NRC reported there is no system in place to repair cracked canisters and no system in place to replace failed canisters. Learn more at http://sanonofresafety.org/ The NRC has determined that the tons of nuclear waste generated by U.S. nuclear power plants may stay on-site for up to 300+ years. However, they have not resolved numerous aging issues with the current storage canisters that were originally designed for short-term use. However, the NRC continues to approve the use of these canisters. It's up to each state to insist on purchasing only dry cask storage systems that will last for as long as the waste must be stored on-site. And to insist that there is an inspection and mitigation plan that works. Tons of San Onofre nuclear waste is stored in pools and canisters along our coast in San Diego County near the Orange County border -- less than 50 miles from Los Angeles. Tons of waste is also stored in pools and canisters in San Luis Obispo at the operating Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. It is also stored in canisters at the closed nuclear power plants in Sacramento (Rancho Seco) and Humboldt (Humboldt Bay). This is a nationwide issue, since these same canister designs are used all over the country. The spent fuel pools need to have fuel removed, but not into canisters that may fail short-term and that do not have a real mitigation plan for failure. There are better solutions, but the NRC says it's up to utility companies to request other dry storage systems. The NRC does not approve a dry storage system unless a vendor requests it. And vendors will only request it, if they have a customer that wants their product. California must be that customer.
Stand with the children and Social Workers of Butler CountyThe Butler County Children Services Independent Union (BCCSIU), which represents a majority of the employees in the Butler County Children Services Agency, formally filed a notice with Ohio’s State Employment Relations Board that the employees intend to strike. The notice was filed on 8/6/14 and the strike will begin on 8/18/14 unless the BCCSIU and the Butler County Commissioners reach an agreement before the strike is scheduled to begin. The BCCSIU and the County Commissioners have been negotiating for 14 months without reaching an agreement for a new labor contract. The workers represented by the BCCSIU have not received any wage increase since 2010. In June 2014, the BCCSIU and the County Commissioners submitted their unresolved negotiation issues to a neutral arbitrator, or “Fact Finder”, who was mutually selected by the two parties. After conducting a hearing and receiving evidence on the unresolved negotiation issues, the Fact Finder determined that the worker ins in the Children’s Services Agency are underpaid relative to other similar employees in the market. The Fact Finder then found that continuing the current pay step structure over a period of three years with “modest across the board cost of living increases” of 1.5% in the first year, 1.75% in the second year, and a possible 2% increase in the third year would be the appropriate resolution to the unresolved issues. The BCCSIU voted to accept the Fact Finder’s decision. However, the Butler County Commissioners rejected the recommendation of the Fact Finder, even though they previously granted wage increases to most of the management employees in the Children Services Agency that range between 2.5% and 16.7% in 2014. Concessions have been made, wages frozen and Butler County no longer provides a competitive wage to retain employees. Caseload sizes are higher than what is recommended by the Child Welfare League of America. The CWLA recommends a caseload size of 12 families. Butler County Social Workers have anywhere from 6 to 20 cases, most workers carrying between 15 to 20 high-risk cases where abuse or neglect allegations have been substantiated. Subsequently, since 2011, BCCS has lost 50% of its social work staff. Every time a social worker leaves the agency the families that were working with that social worker have to start over with a new contact at BCCS. Most importantly, the loss of a social worker is another loss to the child. That child has been separated from their parents already and now has to start re-building trust with someone else. Currently there are 455 children in Butler County's foster care, group homes and residential centers. There are 352 children placed with relatives, family friends and neighbors. There are 40 children in the agency's legal custody. These are our children and will not be reunited with their families. There are 145 children in the agency's permanent custody waiting for a forever home. These children cannot lose one more person in their lives. The change for them is devastating. These are also OUR children. Every time a social worker leaves the agency they take with them the skills to do the job effectively, the connection with the community and all it offers, the experience of the fight for the children, the strength of watching a parent succeed, the hope that CHANGE can happen, and the witness of despair that is replaced by a child's smile. It is not okay to continue to allow our children and families of this community to be neglected by those in charge of its investment. Please Stand with the children and Social Workers of Butler County! http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/butler-county-social-workers-strike-is-on/ng2g3/
Support the Democracy for All Amendment (SJ Res 19)SJ Res 19 proposes an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn several harmful Supreme Court decisions, such as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which have allowed unlimited spending in federal and state elections. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pledged that the Senate will vote on Senator Udall’s constitutional amendment when it returns from recess on September 8. We Virginia voters strongly support SJ Res 19 and urge you to become a co-sponsor and vote for the amendment. Five members of the Supreme Court have asserted that the First Amendment applies to corporations and that, therefore, restrictions on spending are impermissible restrictions on speech. Broad language in the Citizens United decision overturned 100 years of federal and state laws limiting corporate expenditures on elections. The decision has ultimately given rise to Super PACs and secret campaign spending. The McCutcheon decision compounded those harmful effects. In the 2012 election cycle, corporations, wealthy individuals, and other groups spent $1.1 billion—and over $300 million in secret—on federal campaigns alone. Most Virginians reject these Supreme Court decisions. We view the corrupting influence of corporations and money in elections as a direct threat to our democracy. We contend that—contrary to what these decisions have implied—corporations are not people and money is not speech. Corporations, which are created by law and given special privileges not accorded to natural persons, should not have the same constitutional free speech rights as natural persons in our elections. Money should not be considered speech because it is property; the wealthiest corporations and individuals should not drown out the speech of others simply by virtue of their wealth. The Democratic Party of Virginia also supports overturning Citizens United and restoring Democracy to all citizens regardless of the amount of money they have to spend on elections. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the Constitution must have a mode of amendment for when experience or change of circumstances shall have manifested that any part of it is unadapted to the good of the nation. The good of the nation clearly is not served by Citizens United. Fifty Senators have already indicated their support for the Udall amendment. Currently, you are two of only five Democratic members of the Senate caucus who are not yet cosponsoring SJ Res 19. We urge you to join your colleagues in supporting this important bill.
New Seasons in Portland: Stand up for women's health, stop carrying Eden FoodsEden Foods, a pioneer of the organic food movement, has joined the right-wing legal campaign against the Affordable Care Act's historic expansion of coverage for contraception. The company's desire to use its CEO's religious beliefs to block female employees from accessing contraception through their employer-provided heath plan brings Eden Foods onto the front lines of the Republican War on Women. More than 160,000 CREDO activists nationwide have pledged not to buy Eden products until it stops its attacks on women's health. Now we're taking the next step by pressuring local stores that sell Eden Foods products to take them off the shelves. While progressives may have limited leverage against a company like Hobby Lobby, our power to go up against Eden is strong. Beyond our personal consumer power, we can also ramp up pressure in other ways, and targeting grocery stores is a perfect next step. Stores that carry Eden Foods' products -- like canned organic beans and Edensoy soy milk -- are endorsing Eden's attacks on women's health, especially co-ops and independent stores which can determine their own inventory. They need to get the message loud and clear that as long as Eden is working to block access to birth control, they shouldn't stock their shelves with Eden Foods' products. http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/07/14/whole-foods-shoppers-can-vote-with-their-dollars-on-pro-life-eden-foods/ http://www.salon.com/2013/04/11/organic_eden_foods_quiet_right_wing_agenda/
Tell Westerly Natural Food Market: Stand up for women's health and stop carrying Eden FoodsEden Foods, a pioneer of the organic food movement, has joined the right-wing legal campaign against the Affordable Care Act's historic expansion of coverage for contraception. The company's desire to use its CEO's religious beliefs to block female employees from accessing contraception through their employer-provided heath plan brings Eden Foods onto the front lines of the Republican War on Women. More than 160,000 CREDO activists nationwide have pledged not to buy Eden products until it stops its attacks on women's health. Now we're taking the next step by pressuring local stores that sell Eden Foods products to take them off the shelves. While progressives may have limited leverage against a company like Hobby Lobby, our power to go up against Eden is strong. Beyond our personal consumer power, we can also ramp up pressure in other ways, and targeting grocery stores is a perfect next step. Stores that carry Eden Foods' products -- like canned organic beans and Edensoy soy milk -- are endorsing Eden's attacks on women's health, especially co-ops and independent stores which can determine their own inventory. They need to get the message loud and clear that as long as Eden is working to block access to birth control, they shouldn't stock their shelves with Eden Foods' products. http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/07/14/whole-foods-shoppers-can-vote-with-their-dollars-on-pro-life-eden-foods/ http://www.salon.com/2013/04/11/organic_eden_foods_quiet_right_wing_agenda/
Tell Governor Deal: Help child refugees who are fleeing violenceThere’s a growing humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border as tens of thousands of children flee gang violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and brave a dangerous border crossing in search of safety. It's time that governors across the U.S. step up to help care for them. As the White House ramps up its efforts to address this humanitarian crisis, we need to make sure our state leaders are doing their part to ensure that child refugees are treated in a humane way and not rushed back to extremely dangerous situations in their countries of origin. Fortunately, Governors Martin O'Malley of Maryland and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, have stepped up and are offering locations in their states to temporarily house these children But with thousands of child refugees still in need, we need more governors to step up and protect the children. Conservative politicians, pundits, and extreme anti-immigration activists advocate sending these children back to certain death. Texas Governor Rick Perry has even deployed National Guard troops to secure the border rather than provide humanitarian aid. Sending soldiers to face off with children is unacceptable. These children are not criminals. They deserve humane treatment, shelter, and appropriate legal protections. Members of Congress and the United Nations have made it clear that these children are in fact refugees who are "deserving of protection under international and domestic law." Sheltering children who are fleeing violence is something that all states should support. This is about our obligation to protect children in the midst of a major humanitarian crisis.
Tell Indiana legislators: Pass a renewable electricity standard nowAcross the country, 30 states and the District of Columbia have renewable electricity standards in place that require a certain percentage of all electricity to be generated from clean and renewable sources of energy – but Indiana isn’t one of them. Indiana has the potential to be a leader in wind energy but it is falling behind in the clean energy race due to the state’s outdated, pro-pollution energy policies. It is long past time for that to change. Since the first renewable electricity standard was put in place in Iowa in 1983, states across the country have used this policy to slash deadly air pollution, reduce carbon pollution and create good, local jobs. With climate change here now and fueling extreme weather across the country, Indiana can’t continue relying on dirty fossil fuels. It’s time for Indiana legislature to start taking climate change seriously and pass a renewable electricity standard that requires utilities to invest in clean sources of energy.
Demand GAO investigation of DOE's "no money down" loan for new nuclear reactorsIt was revealed April 21 that the Department of Energy (DOE) granted this loan with no "credit subsidy fee," that is, no down payment at all. Zero. Nada. Homebuyers and small businesses certainly wish they could receive no money down loans from the government--for projects much less risky than new nuclear reactors. By comparison, a previous loan offered to Constellation Energy under the same program would have required $880 million in "credit subsidy fees"--the equivalent of a down payment. Private banks require down payments, as every homebuyer knows, on all major loans. That's to ensure the borrower takes some of the risk of the loan too. You can't buy a house these days without putting about 20% down, but the Department of Energy was so desperate to give away taxpayer money for a nuclear power project that it decided it was just fine to give a giant corporation billions of taxpayer dollars for nothing. The result is that every American taxpayer is now subsidizing the electric bills of Georgia ratepayers. That makes no sense and it isn't just fine. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the DOE (and the White House's Office of Management and Budget) was insisting on credit subsidy fees at least as recently as 2012--fees that even then were criticized as too small. But instead of acting responsibly to protect American taxpayers, the DOE caved in to the demands of the giant Southern Company for free taxpayer money. Since the loan was first conditionally announced four years ago, much has changed: Fukushima. The rising use of natural gas (not a good thing, but real), which provides power more cost-effectively than nuclear. The stunning plunge in the costs of wind and solar power, which are now even cheaper than gas in many areas. The shutdown of old but paid-for nuclear reactors because they no longer can compete in the marketplace against renewables and gas. In Georgia, hundreds of megawatts of new solar power are being built and will provide electricity faster and far cheaper than new atomic reactors ever could do. Yet instead of taking these realities into account, the DOE did the exact opposite. DOE must be held accountable for its actions. An investigation of this loan by the GAO is essential before any more sweetheart deals are given. Another $1.8 Billion in taxpayer money for this project is still pending at DOE. And DOE has more than $10 Billion in its coffers to give to more nuclear projects. It is time to prevent any more outrageous uses of taxpayer money. For more background on the issue, see our April 22, 2014 post on GreenWorld here: http://safeenergy.org/2014/04/22/does-desperation-on-vogtle-loan/ This campaign is a joint project of Nuclear Information and Resource Service and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Hold predatory career colleges accountable for abusing students and ripping off taxpayersWhen I left the Army, I wanted to pursue a career as a video game designer. A recruiter for for-profit Gibbs College in Massachusetts, owned by Career Education Corp., told me their program would put me on a fast track to a job at a video game company, but the experience left me with poor training and a worthless degree. The paid internship they promised turned out to be an unpaid assignment doing the laundry of a wedding photographer. So I tried again, at the Art Institutes, owned by EDMC. Again, the recruiter promised their degree would get me the video design job I wanted. But as I went forward with classes, the school kept bringing me back to the financial aid office to push me to take out more high-interest student loans. When I couldn't afford any more, I had no choice but to drop out. Now I'm unemployed with more than $85,000 in student loan debt. It's time that predatory career colleges like ITT Tech, Everest, The Art Institutes, Argosy University, Sanford-Brown Institute, Heald College, Kaplan University, and The University of Phoenix are held accountable for abusing students and ripping off taxpayers. Career education programs are supposed to prepare students for jobs where they can earn a living, including the ability to repay your student debt. But far too often, these schools ruin students’ lives. The Department of Education recently proposed a rule to hold career education programs accountable. But the proposal is full of loopholes and giveaways to schools. We need a strong rule that protects students from sham colleges that leave them with overwhelming debt and dismal career prospects. For-profit colleges have about 13 percent of US college students but account for nearly half of student loan defaults. Many of these schools get close to 90 percent of their revenue from taxpayer dollars. But they spend more of that money on marketing, big CEO salaries, and profits for Wall Street private equity firms than on educating students. As a result, more than half of the students who enroll in these schools drop out within about four months. What's worse, these schools often target vulnerable populations, including veterans and disadvantaged communities who can least afford costly and worthless degrees. To adequately protect students and taxpayers and prompt schools to quickly improve or end weak programs, the rule (Docket ID ED-2014-OPE-0039) needs to be strengthened by: - Providing financial relief for students in programs that lose eligibility. Schools with ineffective programs that lose eligibility for federal aid should be required to make whole the students who enrolled in the program. Providing full relief to all such students is not only fair, it also creates a greater incentive for schools to quickly improve their programs. - Limiting enrollment in poorly performing programs until they improve. Under the proposed regulation, poorly performing programs can increase the number of students they enroll, without limit, right up until the day the programs lose eligibility. Instead, the rule should impose enrollment caps until a program improves. - Closing loopholes and raising standards. The proposed regulation is too easy to game, and its standards are too low. For example, programs can pass the standards even when 99% of their students drop out with heavy debts that they cannot pay down. Unscrupulous schools can easily manipulate job placement rates or evade accountability by limiting program size. They can exclude the debt of graduates who enroll in a program for just one day, and can enroll students in online programs that lack the accreditation needed to be hired in the states where the students live. These types of loopholes need to be closed and the standards raised. - Protecting low-cost programs where most graduates don’t borrow. Low-cost programs where most graduates do not borrow at all – such as community colleges -- should automatically meet the standards because, by definition, these programs do not consistently leave students with unaffordable debts. Burdening these programs with a complicated appeals process could prompt more schools to leave the federal student loan program and lead to the closure of effective, low-cost programs. It’s time to protect students and taxpayers by holding predatory colleges accountable for waste, fraud, and abuse with our tax dollars. Join us and make your voice heard! #studentsDemand #Gainful
Let us vote whether money is speechWe need to tell Governor Brown to sign Senate Bill 1272, the Overturn Citizens United Act, which would let Californians vote this November to demand that Congress pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The Supreme Court has gutted more than one hundred years of campaign finance laws and given corporations and the rich even more power over our government -- with the outrageous rationale that limiting spending on elections limits speech. If our democratic system of representative government is to survive, these deeply damaging rulings must be overturned. SB 1272 will put a proposition on this November's ballot that will let California voters demand that Congress create a constitutional amendment to do so. SB 1272 has now passed the legislature – now it's up to Governor Brown to sign it so it goes onto this November's ballot!
End Student Debt at Kent State UniversityStudent debt is a major economic injustice that denies students the opportunity to go to college, or a life without extreme financial strain. At KSU, tuition and fee's are being raised every year for bonuses and additional construction. Increasing the costs of college has been the Board's solution to additional costs since 1987, increasing tuition more than four fold over the past 26 years. This way of budgeting must end. If it doesn't end, based off current trends, in-state tuition for 2016 will be over $11,000. Help us end this horrible trend of increasing costs, and help Kent State University be a debt free campus. Below is a letter that goes into more detail about the three issues we want changed. We will present it to the Board of Trustees, along with the petition signatures... To the Board of Trustee’s for Kent State University: We as students, future students, alumni, student supporters, and faculty and staff demand 3 changes be set in place. First, we petition you to terminate the 16-hour credit hour cap. This injustice forces students to take fewer classes or pay a ludicrous fee to take more than 16 hours. Those who take fewer classes to avoid the fee, then have to take more semesters, which still forces them to pay more in tuition than if there was no credit hour cap. In addition, for those who chose to graduate on time and take more than 16 hours, they are required to pay an additional fee that is unmerited. Either way, the student’s debt is increased. We are a liberal arts school that is supposed to create well-rounded students; how can we so that with a credit hour cap? Moreover we decree that you put a freeze on the cost of tuition, fees, and room and board for 5 years. The increases are putting students in further debt and financial hardship, all because they want a better future. This freeze will allow the students from financial security for 5 years while you decide on a better system. Increasing such costs is not the answer to for more students or better facilities. Our third demand is that the Board of Trustees develops a plan during the 5 year freeze, for a debt free campus. This plan will then take place once the freeze is over, so students can continue to not struggle financially. This includes expanding the FYE course to have a focused section on financial aid, loans, and loan payment. This is to help insure that students understand these processes and use them correctly. Also a better budget for Kent State University, in which the cost of college is not increased for bonuses, more scholarships or construction. We urge you to heed our requests. Sincerely,
ASK POPE FRANCIS TO STAND UP AGAINST INCOME INEQUALITY IN AMERICAMy name is Maria Elena Durazo. I was born into a poor immigrant family. We were farm workers who migrated with the crops, but we always carried with us our faith, our hope and our sense of obligation to those who had even less than we did. Since Cesar Chavez and the farmworker’s movement, I have dedicated myself to a simple idea-no one who works hard should stay poor. In January, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO released a study by the Economic Roundtable that showed what many of us suspected – 46 percent of workers in Los Angeles are earning poverty level wages. That percentage translates into 810,000 breadwinners and their families trying to scrape by on poverty wages in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Imagine if 46 percent of the people in your city were being denied a basic freedom guaranteed under our Constitution? That would be considered a human rights crisis of immense proportions. It would be a crisis that would compel everyone to act. We live in a very rich country, yet working people in America are earning shamefully low wages denying basic human dignity. That’s why people of all faiths, from all over America are calling on Pope Francis to address the inequality of wealth plaguing our communities and to lift up the voices of millions of workers and their families.
Let's end the student debt crisis!Unlike almost every other type of loan, federal student loans are set in stone even if rates change for the better. That might not constitute a crisis if college cost what it did in the seventies. But with middle class wages flat for decades, the soaring cost of education has become a mammoth debt dilemma dragging down an entire generation. In short, we are taking money from middle class students and handing it to the worst of the one percent. Sen. Warren's plan is to make up for lost revenue from student loan refinancing by making sure millionaires do not pay a lower tax rate than their assistants. She is not the first to propose refinancing for federal student loans. Nor did she come up with the idea of the "Buffett Rule," a minimum tax on millionaires that The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates would raise $47 billion over 10 years, or an average of just under $5 billion per year. President Obama first proposed the tax in 2011, naming it after the acclaimed Warren Buffett, who notes that many millionaires pay a lower tax rate than their assistants. Sen. Warren's step forward was combining the two. Suddenly, members of Congress worried about lost revenue no longer have an excuse. And those who oppose fair taxes now have to explain why they care more about hedge fund managers than middle-class families trying to pay for college. We can save Americans thousands of dollars. Put money back in the pockets of families who invested in education. Create jobs from the middle class out. And do it without adding a dime to the deficit -- simply by putting in place a fair tax code and then allowing people to refinance federal student loans. If we can refinance a flashy new sports car at today's low rates, we should be able to do the same for our student loans. In Solidarity, Van Jones
Let's Divest New York State from Fossil Fuels!New York State is one of the largest and most visible institutional investors in the world. It could also be one of the first to divest from destructive fossil fuels. At $160 billion, our state's Common Retirement Fund is the third largest pension plan in the country, and it's heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry. Climate change is real, it's here, and it's endangering the biodiversity and natural resources we depend on, as well as the physical infrastructure that makes our state run. So why are we invested in the very companies driving this crisis? Comptroller DiNapoli has the power to divest New York State from fossil fuels. Divestment has the power to rein in the fossil fuel industry and support our transition to a clean energy economy. With the evidence mounting that fossil fuel stocks are overvalued, divestment also protects our public funds from serious financial risks. Around the country, a movement is brewing to divest public institutions from fossil fuels, and it's growing every day. It's growing because divestment is both the smart thing to do and the right thing to do. It's time to divest New York State from fossil fuels and invest our public money in a sustainable future.
Stop food stamp cuts in MaineLast month, President Obama signed a new “farm bill” that cuts food stamp funding by about $800 million per year. These heartless cuts – which Republicans forced through in Congress – slash $90 in food stamp benefits per month from 850,000 families nationwide. $90 per month may not seem like much, but for families that are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table, this cut to the food stamp program is devastating. Fortunately, a bipartisan group of governors in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut have found a way to reverse these devastating cuts by participating in a special “heat and eat” program, which leverages heating assistance payments into higher food stamp benefits. By slightly increasing state funding for heating assistance to residents slated to lose part of their food stamp benefits, these governors have completely stopped the Republican food stamp cut from affecting residents in their states. Maine also participates in this “heat and eat” program. Now, with a single executive order, Governor LePage can follow the lead of the governors of New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and prevent thousands of Maine residents from losing $90 each month in food stamp benefits. With unemployment still unacceptably high and millions of families struggling to get by, we need to do everything in our power to stop the Republicans’ irresponsible attempts to slash our social safety net. REFERENCES: http://connecticut.cbslocal.com/2014/03/02/conn-ny-governors-push-way-around-federal-food-stamp-cuts/ http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/02/05/why-the-food-stamp-cuts-in-the-farm-bill-affect-only-a-third-of-states/ http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/03/06/3368631/corbett-food-stamps-liheap/
Stop food stamp cuts in CaliforniaLast month, President Obama signed a new “farm bill” that cuts food stamp funding by about $800 million per year. These heartless cuts – which Republicans forced through in Congress – slash $90 in food stamp benefits per month from 850,000 families nationwide. $90 per month may not seem like much, but for families that are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table, this cut to the food stamp program is devastating. Fortunately, a bipartisan group of governors in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut have found a way to reverse these devastating cuts by participating in a special “heat and eat” program, which leverages heating assistance payments into higher food stamp benefits. By slightly increasing state funding for heating assistance to residents slated to lose part of their food stamp benefits, these governors have completely stopped the Republican food stamp cut from affecting residents in their states. California also participates in this “heat and eat” program. Now, with a single executive order, Governor Brown can follow the lead of the governors of New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and prevent thousands of California residents from losing $90 each month in food stamp benefits. With unemployment still unacceptably high and millions of families struggling to get by, we need to do everything in our power to stop the Republicans’ irresponsible attempts to slash our social safety net. REFERENCES: http://connecticut.cbslocal.com/2014/03/02/conn-ny-governors-push-way-around-federal-food-stamp-cuts/ http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/02/05/why-the-food-stamp-cuts-in-the-farm-bill-affect-only-a-third-of-states/ http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/03/06/3368631/corbett-food-stamps-liheap/
Fix the gridlock, let us choose rooftop solarIt should be a point of pride that so many residents--a remarkable one in ten--have opted for a more affordable, cleaner way to power their homes in Hawai'i. The bright abundance of rooftop solar in Hawaii, driven by strong consumer demand, is cutting-edge. But while Hawaii consumers are leading the way, Hawaiian Electric is resisting innovation. The monopoly utility is standing in the way of its own customers. HECO pays lip service to clean energy, but their negligence of the grid demonstrates a crippling lack of commitment. We want our utility to succeed, but we can’t allow it to set the pace and dictate the terms of our transition to clean energy. More than 90% of Hawaii residents support having 'as many people as we can install solar power in…homes and businesses to advance the state's clean energy goals.' (Source: Tulchin Research survey September 2013) It’s long past time that HECO did, too. In exchange for its monopoly power, HECO needs to serve the public’s interest in choosing rooftop solar.
Tell Governor Pence: save energy efficiency, prevent rate hikes, veto SB340!By killing energy efficiency in Indiana, SB340 means more rate hikes and higher electric bills. Killing energy efficiency programs now increases the need to build expensive, new power plants in the future, which means significant and unnecessary rate hikes. Indiana's energy efficiency program, Energizing Indiana, has created 1600+ Hoosier jobs and saved enough electricity to power over 78,000 homes. For every $1 we Hoosiers spend on energy efficiency, we save $2 on our electric bills. This is an investment that more than pays for itself, and one that we want to keep! SB340 will kill jobs and raise electric rates. Hoosiers simply cannot afford it!
Encourage Senator Bernie Sanders to Run for President in 2016 as a DemocratProgressive Democrats of America agree with the great Texas populist Jim Hightower, who often says: “We sure could use a Second Party!”; and PDA, standing in the tradition of progressive hero Paul Wellstone, is calling for a champion of “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” to step forward; Senator Bernie Sanders is a lifelong champion of working class Americans, and an eloquent defender of labor unions, living wages, expanded Social Security, protecting Medicare & Medicaid, moving towards single-payer health care for all, and choosing “prosperity” over “austerity”; and Bernie Sanders is one of the few prominent elected officials who can also clearly explain how the current neoliberal economic system leads to climate change which jeopardizes the future “sustainability” of our only planet; and Senator Sanders is one of the very few top officeholders who will stand up to the 1%, who gets it that money is not speech, and corporations are not people; and Senator Sanders knows that militarism and Empire-building are huge obstacles to building an American economy that actually works for the 99%; and Poor and working class Americans need someone in the 2016 Democratic primaries to stand up for their rights in 2015 and 2016; and The Nation magazine has pointed out, the country as a whole, Democratic primary voters, and even the potential Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign would all benefit from a serious primary challenge based on policy substance and real issues rather than trivial personality differences; and Bernie Sanders understood the importance of fighting “inside” the Democratic Party primaries when he was one of the few elected White politicians to endorse Jesse Jackson’s historic and powerful Presidential primary campaign in 1988; and Bernie Sanders understood the very real danger of total Republican control of the U.S. Government in 2004, including the then-impending danger of George W. Bush appointments to the Supreme Court, when he supported Democratic nominee John Kerry for President over his long-time friend and ally, Ralph Nader; and The John Roberts Court has made it crystal clear how dangerous it is to a democracy of, by, and for the people, after its disastrous decision in the Citizens United case, its attack on the Voting Rights Act, and all of its pro-corporate rulings, a 5-4 cabal just waiting to be strengthened for years to come by a chance for a new Republican President to name a replacement for elderly Justice Ruth Ginsburg; and Young people in particular need a candidate to organize alongside, as they begin their lifelong struggles against Wall Street’s greed, Empire’s decay, inequality’s destructiveness, and fossil fuels’ devastation; and We all need a “fighter” to stand up on behalf of a fair economy that works for all of us, just as Bernie Sanders has done throughout his entire career; and No one in American politics today is as independent, tough-minded, honest, and fierce in his loyalties towards working people as Senator Bernie Sanders; We, the Undersigned, make this call for a primary challenge in full recognition of the need to prevent the current crazed, mean, and dangerous incarnation of the Republican Party from seizing total power; and We, the Undersigned, do declare that we will knock on doors, donate, make phone calls, use social media, and do everything we can to elect Bernie Sanders the next President of the United States.
Stop Dark Money Non-Profits from Hiding their Funders!Non-profits linked to the Koch Brothers funneled $15 million of secret money into California last election. Outrageous! That's just the tip of the iceberg. Demand the Senate stop Dark Money by signing the petition for SB 27 now! SB 27 will make sure billionaires and other special interests can't hide behind secretive non-profits. It requires any group spending $50,000 in California elections to reveal exactly who gave the money. It is a key step before passage of the California DISCLOSE Act (SB 52). The California Senate just passed SB 27 on an overwhelming vote of 28-7! Now it heads to Governor Brown's desk. His signature is the last step to it becoming law! We're really close to a major victory over Dark Money that can serve as an example for the nation, so please sign and then share the petition now!
Save the Detroit Institute of ArtsThe Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is should not be viewed as a city asset, it is a public trust that the city oversees. The priceless collection of one of the nations best art museums should not be sold off simply to help the city get out of debt. The works are for the public, not the city, and are for the good of everyone. The move of selling even a single painting or other work sets a very dangerous precedent. As other cities and states draw ever closer to situations not that dissimilar from Detroits, we need to send a clear message that the works displayed in museums are not for sale to raise "quick cash" in any situation for any government in a cash crisis. Already the Emergency City Manager has had Christies Auction House come in for appraisals of the works and suggestions for selling works, including work from artists like Brugel and Van Gogh ( http://www.detroitmi.gov/Portals/0/docs/EM/Reports/City%20of%20Detroit_FMV%20appraisal_no%20images.pdf ) and the Detroit Institute of Art has been trying to fundraise and provide alternatives to being forced to sell their collection. ( http://www.dia.org/news/1545/Detroit-Institute-of-Arts%e2%80%99-Statement-regarding-Statement-from-Detroit-Bankruptcy-Mediators.aspx ) Every year millions visit museums, from students on field trips, to seniors renewing their cultural awareness. None of them should ever see a price tag on any of it. Thank you for your time.
Stop the Nuclear Waste Con - Put Public Safety Ahead of Industry ProfitThe NRC, by court order, has been required to gather public input regarding a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) regarding the storage of nuclear waste that is grossly inadequate and leaves over 150 million Americans who live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant at risk. The NRC has declared that it would only be a SMALL risk to the environment and communities near nuclear power plants to store nuclear waste on-site for 60 years, 160 years or even INDEFINITELY if no permanent repository is established. The analysis makes no distinctions among all of the nuclear power plants covered by the GEIS with regard to levels of seismic risk (earthquakes and tsunamis), regional population levels, proximity to transportation corridors, etc. In the GEIS Executive Summary, the stated purpose of this ruling is for the efficiencies that would be gained, minimizing expenditures and avoiding delays in licensing reviews. This apparent bias towards the industry seems to contradict the sole purpose of the NRC in protecting the public and the environment. This report only reinforces the growing mistrust of nuclear regulators who would play down the risk of storing nuclear waste wherever it may be presently, apparently bending to the will of the industry they are supposed to regulate. Suggesting that we will be able to rely on unproven or non-existent technology for safe storage of nuclear waste for thousands of years puts the future of our entire nation at risk. If there was just one lesson to be learned from the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan it is that our best science and engineering is no match for the unpredictable forces of nature. It is time to stop the nuclear waste con and make it a national priority to find real solutions to stop this ticking time bomb before it is too late. Here is what needs to be done: • Make it a national priority to come up with real solutions to long term nuclear waste storage; • Abandon the generic "one size fits all" approach and instead, make site-specific environmental reports and recommendations; • Immediately reduce spent fuel pool density to original design standards, without exemptions; • Accelerate ongoing hardened, on-site storage of spent fuel at all reactor sites. • Cease production of all nuclear waste.
Tell Your Representative: Close Corporate Tax Loopholes and Replace the Sequester CutsWho do you want to help more -- General Electric or your grandma? General Electric paid $0.00 or less in taxes for several recent years. It actually got $4.7 billion in tax refunds from the U.S. government. (You read that right.) Your grandma has probably paid her fair share of taxes over the years. But when the next round of senseless automatic spending cuts to the federal budget kick in this January, many grandmas across the country on tight budgets won’t be able to get a hand from Meals on Wheels anymore. A new bill was just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX). It would close up to $220 billion worth of corporate tax loopholes over 10 years. That alone is enough to end the automatic spending cuts for more than two years. But we don’t have a lot of time to build support for it. Leaders in Congress are making bargains about the budget right now that may lock in deep cuts for years to come. All sorts of families will be affected by these mindless, across-the-board cuts, if we let them kick in. Everything from Head Start to health care to Pell grants to nutrition programs for women and babies will get the axe. If these cuts are allowed to happen again, it’s going to get even harder to make it in this country -- if that’s even possible. While families scrape by, GE’s got $108 billion in profits sitting offshore -- in Bermuda, Singapore and Luxembourg -- so that it can dodge its taxes. It’s also moved at least 25,000 U.S. jobs offshore since 2001. Lots of other U.S. companies are doing exactly the same thing. The dollars we need to help families get back on solid ground are literally sitting around in the tropics and in little mountain towns in Europe -- everywhere but here. Help grandmas, not GE. Tell your Representative right now to close corporate offshore tax loopholes and use the money to replace the automatic spending cuts known as the “sequester.”
Don't Limit Our Rights in PennsylvaniaI want to have a voice in my community – that’s why I vote, take part in local hearings, and go to school board meetings. I’m not alone. Pennsylvanians value our ability to make decisions that affect our schools, our neighborhoods and our communities. We know what works best in our backyards. But some legislators in Harrisburg think they know better. They are trying to limit our rights and silence our voices with statewide legislation. What’s worse is that this legislation introduced by Rep. Grove (York) would hurt middle class and working women and families, like mine. What we really need is for Harrisburg to stand up for all of us. To fight for policies that help create good jobs statewide, not to try to put an end to local efforts to support our families and strengthen our economy. But big corporate lobbyists are at it again, and these state legislators are doing their bidding by trying to roll back and prevent local policies for earned sick days and decent wages. Having been a school nurse for 29 years, I witnessed time and time again children who came to school sick because their parents had to work and couldn’t afford to take the day off to spend time helping their children get better. When families don’t have access to earned sick days, it hurts our children’s health, and it hurts our economy. About forty percent of Pennsylvanians have no access to earned sick days. Every time these workers get sick, they must choose between working while sick (often in our restaurants, nursing homes, and child care centers) or not being able to afford to pay their rent, purchase groceries, and support the businesses that rely on them in their community. Local policies like paid sick days do not cost the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania one dime while protecting our families, businesses and public health. Please join me in signing this petition to tell state legislators to respect our voices, our democracy and our families by opposing HB 1807.
Governor Brewer: No Tax on Rooftop SolarI work in AZ rooftop solar industry and have for many years. I've spent countless hours on hot rooftops, installing & cleaning panels. The industry has grown by leaps and bounds recently. It's exciting to watch, especially as part of a small mom & pop shop. But soon, the Arizona Corporation Commission will decide whether or not to impose a new tax on rooftop solar power installations in Arizona that could devastate our state's solar industry and leave us hooked on dirty fossil fuels. Arizona's largest utility, Arizona Public Service, is promoting an outrageous plan that would punish people with rooftop solar installations by charging them an additional fee each month. Governor Brewer hasn't weighed in yet, but the Residential Utility Consumer's Office (RUCO), which is part of her administration, has proposed an alternative monthly charge that would effectively crush rooftop solar here. As a strong supporter of solar power who has had solar panels on her rooftop for decades, Governor Brewer should fully support rooftop solar -- not destroy an innovative industry that employs thousands of Arizonans. Governor Brewer isn't supporting solar if she supports RUCO's position. We need to let her know that a true solar queen -- as she likes to describe herself -- would fight back to stop this attempt to kill Arizona's rooftop solar industry.
Tell Ted Cruz to end his hypocrisy on healthcareEarlier this month, right-wing extremist Sen. Ted Cruz led a government shutdown and held our economy hostage for 16 days in order to prevent millions of Americans from qualifying for healthcare coverage. But Cruz himself is covered by a gold-plated health insurance policy through his wife's employer, Goldman Sachs, valued at about $20,000 a year. Cruz has better coverage than most other members of Congress, let alone constituents like me, but still wants to deny us even a minimal level of coverage. As a Texan, I'm embarrassed that my senator cost the U.S. economy $24 billion in his hypocritical quest to prevent millions of Americans from receiving affordable healthcare. Until recently, I -- like many Texans -- received no healthcare coverage from my employer. Working on contract, I had limited options to purchase my own expensive health insurance on the individual market. If I hadn't recently started a new job, right now I would be looking for coverage in the insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Unlike constituents like me, Cruz has access to gold-plated healthcare through his wife's employer, Goldman Sachs. And because Goldman Sachs pays for its policies in lieu of additional taxable income, Cruz and his family effectively receive an estimated $8,500 federal subsidy for better coverage than most Americans. This subsidy is far greater than the one that low-income Americans would receive through the ACA to pay for their own coverage, which Cruz opposes. It's bad enough that Sen. Cruz engaged in a pointless 21-hour filibuster where he alternated between condemning the ACA and reading children's books. But Cruz's campaign to hold our government hostage by dragging the country into a costly 16-day shutdown was insanely irresponsible. In his quest to prevent his constituents from receiving even a fraction of the healthcare coverage he himself receives, the Council of Economic Advisors estimates that Cruz cost our country 120,000 jobs. If Cruz believes so strongly that his constituents don't deserve affordable access to healthcare that he's willing to stick them with the cost of the shutdown, he should be willing to give up his own federally subsidized gold-plated coverage from Goldman Sachs as well. If extreme Tea Party members of Congress like Cruz are allowed to engage in wildly irresponsible behavior and devastate the economy at no cost to themselves, they could easily shut down our government again. But if you sign my petition and share it with your friends, we can make sure Cruz's constituents and national media understand his hypocrisy on this issue and take away the credibility he needs to prevent more Americans from receiving affordable healthcare. REFERENCES: http://www.politicususa.com/2013/10/20/ted-cruz-claims-government-shutdown-caused.html http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/us/politics/a-wife-committed-to-cruzs-ideals-but-a-study-in-contrasts-to-him.html?from=homepage http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Donald-Marron/2013/1024/The-government-shutdown-cost-the-US-120-000-jobs http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/24/ted-cruz-health-care_n_4157938.html Photo Credit: Patrick Feller (Flickr user nakrnsm)
No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.They’re at it again. Billionaires like the Koch Brothers, Pete Peterson, Stanley Druckenmiller and others are leading the charge to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. If they succeed, millions of senior citizens, working families, disabled veterans and children will suffer. We must not allow that to happen. Today, the middle class is disappearing, real unemployment is extremely high, poverty is increasing and working families throughout the country are struggling to keep their heads above water economically. Meanwhile, the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider and the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well. WE MUST NOT BALANCE THE BUDGET ON THE BACKS OF WORKING FAMILIES, THE ELDERLY, THE CHILDREN, THE SICK AND THE POOR. As Vermont’s senator, I have the honor of serving on the Budget Conference Committee which will be negotiating a new federal budget over the next few months -- and where I am fearful that a deal could be struck to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. As the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus, please stand with me, our friends at CREDO Mobilize and our coalition partners in demanding; “No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” Let’s be clear. Despite right-wing rhetoric: Social Security is not going broke. According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security has a surplus today of $2.8 trillion and can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible person for the next 20 years. Social Security has not contributed to the deficit. Social Security is funded independently by FICA taxes which are paid by workers and their employers. The so-called chained-CPI, which recalculates how COLA’s are formulated, is not a “modest tweak.” If the chained CPI went into effect today, a senior aged 65 would receive $658 a year less in Social Security benefits when he/she is 75, and $1,100 a year less at age 85. Further, the average disabled veteran would lose tens of thousands of dollars in benefits over his/her lifetime. Please stand with me today and demand that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. When one out of four U.S. corporations pay nothing in federal income taxes; when Bush’s tax breaks for the rich remain in place for many wealthy Americans; when the U.S. spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, there are much fairer and economically sound ways to address the budget than cutting programs desperately needed by the most vulnerable people in our country. Please stand with me and CREDO Mobilize in protecting the future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Let’s go forward together. Thanks for your continued support. Sincerely, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
Tell Rep. Lee Terry: Stop holding the government hostage to get Keystone XL approvedIn addition to defunding Obamacare, House Republicans such as Rep. Lee Terry — Keystone XL's head cheerleader in Congress — are trying to tie ending the government shutdown and raising the nation's debt ceiling to approval of the risky Keystone XL pipeline, which would wreak havoc on our land, water and climate. The New York Times reported that, "Mr. Terry said Republicans intended to press hard on the pipeline and would only give in on raising the debt ceiling if Mr. Obama made a clear deal on constructing the pipeline. 'It couldn’t just be some commitment' by the president to look at the issue, Mr. Terry said. 'There’s not a lot of trust on our side of the aisle,' he said. 'It would have to be something rock solid, that the pipeline would be built.'"(1) It is grossly irresponsible to risk defaulting on America's debts, in a bid to fast-track a foreign company's application to use eminent domain and build a pipeline that would pump pollution-heavy tar sands through the Ogallala Aquifer and agricultural stronghold of America, just to be exported to China and other foreign markets.(2) Terry's actions disrespect the process, laid out by law, that gauges such a pipeline project's environmental impact, and whether a foreign tar sands export pipeline is in the national interest, when the U.S. is about to overtake Russia as the world's largest oil and gas producer.(3) "Dang straight," Terry said last week when asked whether he would continue to take his paycheck, while the families of 800,000 furloughed federal workers are forced to figure out how to pay bills and make ends meet during the Republican-led government shutdown.(4) "I've got a nice house and a kid in college, and I'll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That's just not going to fly," Terry told the Omaha World-Herald.(5) Does Lee Terry think that none of the 800,000 furloughed federal employees — many of whom, like the Capitol Police in D.C, continue to work even without pay to protect politicians like Terry — also own a house, or are putting their own kids through college? After a deluge of negative backlash in the hours following his hurtful and outrageously out-of-touch comments, Rep. Terry was forced to issue an apology. But sorry doesn't cut it, Lee. If enough people like you sign my petition, we can build additional pressure on Rep. Terry to back off from his irresponsible demand to see Keystone XL approved before ending the shutdown. We're sure Lee Terry will be able to buy a much bigger, even nicer house once he is voted out of Congress and gets that job he's been angling for, lobbying for Big Oil. But right now, his selfish actions are hurting working families trying to pay their bills, and endangering the nation's financial stability. Join me in telling Rep. Lee Terry to stop holding our government hostage to get fast-tracked approval for Keystone XL. Thank you for your support, Rachel Gehringer-Wiar REFERENCES: 1. "Republicans See Keystone Pipeline as a Card to Play in Last-Minute Fiscal Talks," The New York Times, 9/24/13: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/us/republicans-see-keystone-pipeline-as-a-card-to-play-in-last-minute-fiscal-talks.html 2. "TransCanada Pipeline Background and Resources," BoldNebraska.org, 5/26/11: http://www.boldnebraska.org/pipeline-background-resources 3. "U.S. Is Overtaking Russia as Largest Oil-and-Gas Producer," The Wall Street Journal, 10/3/13: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303492504579111360245276476.html 4. "Lee Terry Needs His Salary During Government Shutdown To Pay For His 'Nice House,'" HuffingtonPost.com, 10/4/13: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/lee-terry-government-shutdown-nice-house_n_4044511.html 5. "Lee Terry says he 'cannot handle' giving up own paycheck during shutdown," The Omaha World-Herald, 10/4/13: http://www.omaha.com/article/20131004/NEWS/131009431
Stop For-Profit Colleges From Taking Advantage of StudentsAs a high school teacher for more than 20 years before I went to Washington, I know firsthand what students in my community need from postsecondary education. They need access to affordable degree and certificate programs that lead directly to good jobs. The for-profit college industry enrolls nearly 10% of all post-secondary school students and receives about 25% of all Pell Grants and federal student loans, yet the industry accounts for nearly half of student loan defaults. Numerous investigations have revealed massive amounts of waste, fraud, and abuse in the industry, including deceptive and aggressive recruiting of students, false or inflated job placement rates, and dismal completion rates. Some schools have gone so far as to enroll people who are homeless, enroll students without their consent, and use tactics that invoke “pain” and “fear” to pressure students into enrolling. In addition, some for-profit colleges receive close to 80% of their revenues from taxpayer dollars. Taxpayer-funded federal financial aid should not go to programs that consistently leave students with unmanageable debt and worthless degrees. Thankfully, the Department of Education is currently working on new rules that would eliminate subsidies to so-called “career-oriented” higher-education programs that fail to prepare students for the workforce and whose graduates have high debt-to-income ratios and low loan-repayment rates. Seeing the writing on the wall, the lobbyists who represent the for-profit education industry began working with their conservative Republican allies to move a bill through Congress that would bar the Department of Education from setting these rules, and actually roll back basic disclosure requirements. Republicans are sending a message to the Department of Education that Congress doesn’t want a strong set of rules for regulating for-profit colleges. With your help, we can urge enough law makers to oppose this legislation and send Congress our own message, that the for-profit industry's days of loading students down with debt before sending them out the door with dead-end diplomas are over. They're going to need a new business plan. Join me today in speaking out against the Republicans’ efforts to protect the for-profit college industry and leave students without basic protections by sending this petition to Speaker of the House John Boehner and Chairman of the House Committee on Education & the Workforce John Kline. Thank you for standing with me. - Congressman Mark Takano REFERENCES http://www.mndaily.com/politics/national-politics/congress/2013/08/02/house-vote-bill-limiting-us-department-education-regu http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/education/harkin-report-condemns-for-profit-colleges.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&