All posts by citizenrichrobinson

AFL-CIO – Affordable Care Act Saves Seniors $2.1 Billion in Drug Costs

The Affordable Care Act has saved nearly 3.6 million people enrolled in Medicare $2.1 billion on their prescription drugs in 2011, finds a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

photo by ianturton via flickr

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the health care reform law signed by President Obama in 2010 is already saving money for millions of Americans with Medicare. As we move forward, we will close the donut hole completely and save even more money for everyone with Medicare.

The Affordable Care Act—which Republican lawmakers are fighting to repeal—provides a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs and, beginning this year, a 14 percent discount on generics. Last year, it provided a 7 percent discount on covered generic medications for people who hit the prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole, with more than 2.8 million beneficiaries receiving $32.1 million in savings on generics.

Read the full story here.

Vast Majority of Small Business Owners Do Not See Regulations as a Major Concern

A just-released survey of small business owners shows a vast majority do not consider regulations as a major concern. Instead, the survey shows weak demand is the primary problem for their business right now, not regulations.

courtesy Small Business Majority

MAIN FINDINGS:

  • Weak demand is small business owners’ biggest problem: 34% of respondents said weak demand is their biggest problem, while 15% cited the cost of health coverage and other benefits. Only 14% said it is the level of government regulation. The level of taxes came in fourth place with 12% and competition with larger companies garnered 10%.
  • Small business owners see regulations as a necessary part of a modern economy and believe they can live with them if they’re fair and reasonable: 86% of small business owners agree some regulation of business is necessary for a modern economy, and 93% of them agree their business can live with some regulation if it is fair, manageable and reasonable.

Read the full report here.

NRDC — Worst. Transportation Bill. Ever.

Partisanship is the reason for constant gridlock in Congress. One exception has been the issue of transportation. NRDC is on the record — analyzing and critiquing yet supporting — the bipartisan federal transportation bill that passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Passage of that bill through committee was made possible by the collaboration of two leaders diametrically opposed on the partisan spectrum: Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK). Boxer and Inhofe cobbled together a two-year transportation bill called

photo by MotorBoat4107 via flickr

MAP-21, and while it is far from perfect it includes some advances in transportation policy. Better yet is the Senate Commerce Committee’s addition to the bill, which includes provisions that would benefit our environment.

This is a stark contrast with the House of Representatives, which is rolling out its uniquely terrible bill in pieces this week. The first thing to note is that to pay for the transportation bill, the House is taking the unprecedented step of marking up three drilling bills in the Natural Resources Committee. One opens Alaska’s Arctic National Arctic Refuge to drilling; another would actually require new drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts (including more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which is still recovering from the disastrous BP oil spill); and another opens millions of acres in the western U.S. to oil shale development. These bills would damage some of America’s most pristine natural resources, and as I’ve written about many times before they would do nothing to boost the nation’s energy independence.

Read the full story here.

OMB Watch — President Obama: You Had Me Until Fracking

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his support for the development of clean energy sources that will create jobs and protect the environment. But while developing clean energy is essential for moving us into the 21st century energy marketplace, the way we build our clean energy future also matters. We must develop energy without harming public health and the environment.

photo by pingting via flickr

A natural gas extraction process, commonly referred to as fracking, was cited in last night’s State of the Union as an example of clean energy. But using fracking to extract natural gas is anything but clean. In fact, the process produces more greenhouse gas emissions over time than traditional methods of oil drilling or coal mining, according to a Cornell University Study. In addition, fracking poses a great risk to public health and property, as evidenced by the multiple documented cases of severe water contamination near fracking sites, including water than can be actually set on fire as it comes out of the faucet.

Though Obama pledged to “develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk,” it is unclear as to how this would be accomplished. A loophole in the 2005 energy law (often called the Cheney or Halliburton loophole) granted oil and gas industries an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. This means the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot require drilling companies to disclose the toxic chemicals used in fracking, or limit their activities in order to protect drinking water. And, following an order from Congress, the EPA has not yet finalized an important national study on the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water. Thus, the public remains in the dark about the chemicals used in fracking, as well as the risks they pose to their drinking water.

Read the full story here.

Friends of the Earth — EPA gets it right: Palm Oil is not “renewable”

Today, January 27th, the EPA announced it’s determination that diesel produced from palm oil releases too many greenhouse gas emissions to qualify as a renewable fuel. Friends of the Earth applauds the EPA for recognizing the massive amounts of carbon emissions released from the production of palm oil, which has already led to the deforestation of 6.5 million hectares in Malaysia and Indonesia alone.

photo by palenstrina55 via flickr

A fuel that relies on deforestation for production is not a sustainable fuel at all. Friends of the Earth is glad the EPA recognized that indirect land use change – the conversion of land from forests, grasslands, or agriculture for other uses, like growing biofuel feedstocks – is a polluting and dirty process that needs to be accounted for when considering the impacts of biofuels.

Read the full story here.

Public Citizen — The Power to Break Up the Big Banks

The idea that behemoth banks should be broken up is widespread and bipartisan, embraced by regulators and politicians alike.

photo by I-5 Design and Manufacture via flickr

Regulators—past and present—including Simon Johnson, Richard Fisher and Thomas Hoenig have offered public support for downsizing and reforming “too big to fail banks.”

The latest to publicly embrace the idea is Sheila Bair, the Republican-appointed FDIC chair who was critical in dealing with the financial crisis.

Politicians also have become supportive of breaking up the big banks. Chief among them is Jon Huntsman, who made this issue the central focus of his presidential campaign, but even Newt Gingrich has expressed sympathy for splitting up financial institutions. The conservative media also has gotten into the act. The idea has garnered support from Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, Charles Gasparino of the Fox Business News Network and Arnold Kling of National Review, to name a few.

So, how do regulators actually do it?

Read the full story here.

DEMOS — State of the Union: Holding the Powerful Accountable for Bad Behavior

President Obama made a strong stab at outlining a progressive narrative last night that envisions a nation where “everybody plays by the same rules.” It’s a pretty simple idea, tapping the powerful American ideal of egalitarianism — that all of us should get a “fair shot” and that nobody is too high and mighty to not be held responsible for their actions.

photo by Vik Cuban via flickr

Of course, the obstacles to realizing this vision are enormous, particularly when it comes to ensuring equal accountability before the law. The rich are able to get away with misdeeds because their wealth enables them to block or water down rules aimed at curbing such behavior and can also be used to hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists when the authorities do come after them.

The U.S. is not nearly as bad as, say, Russia in this regard, but we are far, far away from a society where everyone is held equally responsible for their actions. And, ironically, we have moved further from that ideal over the past two decades during the same period when many politicians have trumpeted “personal responsibility” at every turn. That concept, it turns out, has been mainly applied to poor people and especially African-Americans — not to rich people who actually have fewer excuses for being irresponsible. Indeed, many of the same conservative politicians who have been most obsessed with “personal responsibility” have helped to make it easier for the rich and corporations to do whatever they please without fear of sanctions. Witness the rollback of rules governing Wall Street or the weakening of labor laws that protect workers from abusive employers or the hollowing out of the IRS’s enforcement capacity.

So it was nice, last night, to hear President Obama call for steps to ensure accountability for all.

Read the full story here.