Friday, May 31, 2019

Update on bills that weaken our Democracy at AZ Legislator: Call Governor to veto SB 1451


Monday night - well actually very early Tuesday morning, the first session of the 54th Legislature (FINALLY!) adjourned sine die. This session saw some egregious attacks on democracy, but also glimpses of progress and hope for expanding access to the ballot and fighting corruption. In the coming days, we'll be putting together a full analysis of democracy issues this session. For now, here are some quick updates on bills that were alive until the bitter end.
SB1451 - (Sen. Leach)
On top of the myriad rules that already exist, SB 1451 places technical requirements on paid petition circulators for initiatives. This thinly veiled attempt to make it easier to toss disqualify otherwise valid signatures passed both chambers in the waning days of session and now sits on Gov. Ducey's desk. 
Contact Gov. Ducey: 
Email. engage@az.gov.
Phone. Phoenix: 602.542.4331. Tucson: 520.628.6580.
Address. 1700 West Washington Street. Phoenix, Arizona 85007


https://azgovernor.gov/engage/form/contact-governor-ducey

HCR2005/SCR1023 - (Rep. Kavanagh + Sen. Kerr)
These bills would have referred to the 2020 ballot a question requiring statewide initiatives to hit the statewide 10% threshold in each of the 30 legislative districts - making it nearly impossible for anyone with limited resources to qualify an idea for the ballot. Thankfully, both bills failed to receive a vote in their respective chambers.
 HB2616 - (Rep. Townsend)
Would have imposed unlimited civil fines of $25 per form per day and criminal penalties (up to a four-month jail sentence) on anyone who turned in a voter registration form after an arbitrary deadline. The bill failed to pass the House floor. Simply stated, we don’t think honest actors should face a potential criminal penalty for registering people to vote.
SB1188 - (Sen. Ugenti Rita)
Would purge Arizona voters off of their county's Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL) if they do not vote by mail for two consecutive election cycles. This would have taken the “permanent” out of permanent early voting, and thankfully did not receive a vote on the House floor.
If there's one thing we can say with certainty after this legislative session, it's that the job of protecting democracy is never over. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sign if you agree: Block Speaker Pelosi's handout to Big Pharma


Petition to House Democrats:
"Reject Speaker Pelosi's Big Pharma-friendly plan for arbitration panels and support progressive plans to actually lower drug prices."
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
Even though there are powerful progressive proposals to bring drug prices down, Pelosi's top health care aide spent weeks seeking to cut a deal with the Trump administration. And in a recent meeting of House Democrats, Pelosi officially announced her support for the proposal – and said the House would move on the legislation quickly after the Memorial Day recess.2,3 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just announced her support for a confusing, complicated prescription drug plan that will help Big Pharma continue making billions from high drug prices.1
Earlier this year, Pelosi's top health policy aide assured industry executives they didn't need to worry about Medicare for All. Another advisor is a lobbyist for pharmaceutical benefit managers and represents many of the same companies running attack ads opposing Medicare for All. This is not a team capable of producing policies that put the American people above corporate interests.4,5
Under the Pelosi plan, the Department of Health and Human Services would negotiate with Big Pharma on only 25 drug prices each year. If they cannot come to an agreement, another agency would set a price through some undisclosed and potentially corporate-friendly process. The next year, Big Pharma could raise the price all over again.6
It's not like Pelosi doesn't have other options. CREDO members have spoken out in force in support of several truly progressive plans to break the power of Big Pharma monopolies and lower drug prices. Sen. Warren's plan would direct the government to manufacture generic drugs. Sens. Sanders and Merkley and Rep. Ro Khanna would force companies to follow international average prices or face tough consequences. Rep. Lloyd Doggett's bill would allow Medicare to negotiate discounts, and let the government issue a license to a competitor to produce a generic version of the drug if Big Pharma refuses to negotiate in good faith.7,8
Pelosi's preferred plan is a giveaway that would allow Big Pharma to maintain its bloodsucking grip on our medical system – and she needs to hear immediately from progressives and her fellow Democrats how terrible her approach is. Can you add your name today to tell House Democrats not to help Speaker Pelosi reward Big Pharma? Click below to sign the petition:
- Heidi Hess, CREDO Action
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
References:
  1. David Dayen, "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Drug Prices," May 24, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Zach Carter and Daniel Marans, "Nancy Pelosi Plans To Go Easy On Big Pharma," HuffPost, May 23, 2019.
  4. David Dayen, "Nancy Pelosi's Drug-Pricing Talks with the Trump Administration Are About Mediating Fights Between Corporate Interests," The Intercept, April 22, 2019.
  5. Carter and Marans, "Democrats Ran On Lowering Drug Prices. Now They Could Cut A Bad Deal With Donald Trump."
  6. Dayen, "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Drug Prices."
  7. Dayen, "Nancy Pelosi's Drug-Pricing Talks with the Trump Administration Are About Mediating Fights Between Corporate Interests."
  8. Carter and Marans, "Democrats Ran On Lowering Drug Prices. Now They Could Cut A Bad Deal With Donald Trump."

Monday, May 27, 2019

Send a Public Comment to EPA: No Water Polluter Loophole


EPA wants to make it easier for polluters to poison our nation’s water. Help us stop the latest assault on our water and health!

Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Trump's EPA have a complete disregard for our water. The latest assault comes on the heels of the Dirty Water Rule and is another handout to polluting industries.

On Monday, April 15, 2019, EPA announced that it would not protect surface waters contaminated with pollution that first moves through groundwater. This is a complete reversal from how EPA and states have acted in the past. The agency has required permits for this type of pollution for decades and it’s reckless to reverse course now.

It makes no sense for the Clean Water Act to cover pollution dumped from a pipe into a river, but not pollution that flows through groundwater into that same river.

Pollution from livestock feedlots, coal ash impoundments, sewage injection wells, pipelines, and other industrial sources can all enter surface waters by way of groundwater first. We can’t protect our surface waters if we allow them to become contaminated by nearby polluted groundwater. This decision ignores the fact EPA has required permits for this type of pollution for decades. And less than three years ago EPA said sewage injected in a well that reaches the ocean through groundwater requires a Clean Water Act permit.

Click here to submit a comment through Clean Water Action here. 


Send to: Administrator Wheeler, Environmental Protection Agency 

Dear Administrator Wheeler,

I strongly oppose the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision not to protect surface waters contaminated with pollution that first moves through groundwater. EPA and states have required permits for this type of pollution for decades and it’s reckless to reverse course now. It makes no sense for the Clean Water Act to cover pollution dumped from a pipe into a river, but not pollution that flows through groundwater into that same river. 

Your decision is nothing more than a handout to heavy polluting industries and will create a dangerous new loophole in the Clean Water Act. EPA must continue to hold industries accountable for dumping chemicals and other pollutants into groundwater that contaminates our nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays.

Public Comment period ends in June 7, 2019. 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Tell Costco: protect the boreal forests. Use recycled pulp in your toilet paper


Toilet paper is destroying Canada’s vast and majestic old-growth Boreal forests, worsening climate change, endangering wildlife, and affecting hundreds of Indigenous communities across the country, and there’s no good reason this should be happening.

According to a new report from NRDC and Stand.earth, Costco’s Kirkland brand is one of the worst offenders. It uses 100% virgin pulp when it could be using recycled materials and protecting the forests instead.


Other major tissue producers like Kimberly-Clark, who make Cottonelle, have plans to cut virgin pulp content in half by 2025 and stop millions of acres of pristine boreal forest from being flushed down the toilet. So why is Costco doing nothing?

Toilet paper is Costco's biggest selling item so committing to more recycled content would make a major difference to the boreal forests. Not only that, it would pile on the pressure for stubborn tissue giants like Proctor and Gamble to get on board with making the change. Together we can change the entire tissue industry and protect the precious boreal forests.

Tell Costco to be responsible to the planet and switch to minimum 50% post-consumer recycled materials!

The Canadian boreal forest is the largest intact forest in the world, covering almost 60% of Canada and home to 600 Indigenous communities. The forest is a critical proponent in the fight against climate change, as it stores the carbon equivalent of nearly twice the world’s recoverable oil reserves in its soil.

Over the last twenty years, 28 million acres of Canadian boreal forest have been cut down to make toilet paper, roughly the size of Pennsylvania.

Toilet paper companies don’t have to use virgin pulp. Corporations like Seventh Generation make 100% post-consumer recycled toilet paper and provide a great alternative. It’s time that Costco did the same.

SumOfUs has helped force corporations to use environmentally friendly solutions before. When Starbucks didn't keep its promise to serve a 100% recyclable paper cup, almost 400,000 members just like yourself pressured the world’s largest corporate coffee chain to make good on their promise. And it worked! Working alongside groups like Stand.earth, Starbucks committed to producing a fully recyclable and compostable cup within the next three years.

With Costco, there’s no time to lose. It’s time for it to end its wasteful and destructive practices, and finally put the people and the planet ahead of its own profits.

Will you call on Costco to switch to minimum 50% post-consumer recycled materials?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Sign petition: Dems, don't increase wasteful military budget

Petition to House and Senate Democrats:
"Do not put war profiteers ahead of our local communities. Reduce the budget for the military and oppose any further cuts in spending on domestic priorities."
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
House Democrats recently abandoned plans to release a budget proposal after the caucus could not reach an agreement. Corporate Democrats wanted to increase military spending and cut domestic priorities in the process. But progressives held strong and demanded no more damaging cuts. More than half of the federal budget goes to military spending, much of which is wasteful and unnecessary. But corporate Democrats in the House of Representatives want to spend even more.1
 We need to stand with progressives and demand that Democrats reduce America's out-of-control military spending.
Democrats must get out from under the thumb of war profiteers and cut at least $200 billion from wasteful military spending. House Democrats are seeking to end years of right-wing austerity. But the corporate wing of the party only wants to end austerity for the military – making even worse cuts to education, transportation, health care, safety and more in the process. That is unacceptable.
  • We will be less safe. More than 120 generals wrote a letter opposing Trump's cuts to the State Department and international aid that would make future wars and conflict more likely. As Trump’s former Secretary of Defense James Mattis once argued, “if you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”2
  • Americans disapprove. A recent poll found that 58% of Americans oppose the Trump plan to increase wasteful military spending. Democrats afraid of their own shadows must realize that redirecting some military spending to higher priorities is a political winner.3
  • Helps war profiteers, not everyday Americans. Some military families need food stamps to survive. American children face crowded, crumbling schools. Our infrastructure is falling apart. Flint still does not have safe water, and Puerto Rico is still struggling to rebuild. Meanwhile, under the influence of war profiteer lobbyists, Congress repeatedly funds weapon systems that even the military says it does not want.4,5
Some Democrats face the temptation to increase military spending and slash domestic funding in order to show their friends at Washington cocktail parties that they are “serious.” Doing so would leave Democrats complicit in making America sicker, poorer, less prosperous and less educated. We need to declare in no uncertain terms that Democrats must reduce military spending, not increase it.
We do not have a spending problem. We have a wasteful military spending problem. The United States spends more on the military than the next seven countries combined, while priorities that make America safer and more prosperous – like education, health, transportation, housing, veterans’ benefits, diplomacy and dozens of others – must compete for the remaining scraps. Safety net programs like Social Security have their own sources of funding and can be shored up for decades with small fixes and no benefit cuts. The majority of the rest of the budget, so called "discretionary spending," goes to the military.
Redirecting war-profiteer handouts to investments that make us safer and more prosperous long term is both common sense and has popular support. Democrats cannot offer a true alternative to Trump if they endorse more wasteful military spending. It’s up to us to drive that point home before it is too late.
Tell Democrats: Cut military spending. Click below to sign the petition:
- Josh Nelson, CREDO Action
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
References:
  1. Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan, "House Dems cancel vote on budget plan amid internal revolt," POLITICO, April 9, 2019.
  2. Alex Morash and Craig Harrington, “Economists And Experts Hammer Trump's Plan To Increase Military Spending At Expense Of Nearly Everything Else,” Media Matters, Feb. 28, 2017.
  3. Curt Mills, “Poll: Americans Oppose Defense Budget Increases,” U.S. News & World Report, March 8, 2017.
  4. Krissy Clark, “Military families turn to food stamps,” Marketplace, May 25, 2015.
  5. William Hartung, “Why Can't We Rein In This Ridiculous Military Spending?” Mother Jones, Oct. 30, 2016.

More Information:

Monday, May 20, 2019

Ask Arizona Corporation Commission to increase current renewable energy standard & energy efficiency standards



Ask the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) to increase the current renewable energy standard and energy efficiency standards and to actually require that utilities meet them.

If you haven't already, please take a moment to send a message to the ACC in support of requiring 50% clean renewable energy in Arizona by 2028! The current standard of 15% electricity from renewable sources by 2025 is far too low and well below our neighboring states. We also are supporting an increase of the energy efficiency standard to 35% by 2030, an increase of 15% about the current 20% by 2020 standard.

https://addup.sierraclub.org/campaigns/lets-bring-more-clean-energy-to-arizona?promoid=7010Z000001aMrEQAU&ddi=719ESAFB13&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=beyondcoal

For more information on this and how you can help, contact Sandy Bahr at (602) 253-8633 or sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org.

The Sierra Club Energy Program is going to be making a presence at an important upcoming ACC Staff meeting at the Arizona Corporation Commission this Wednesday, where they'll be deciding on whether our Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Standards will be "goals" or real standards, and what that standard (we hope) will be. This will be affecting the rules they are setting now, which will govern Tucson Electric Power's ongoing Rate Case.

We are looking to have a few Tucson people come to Phoenix with us for the meeting, if available, that afternoon, in solidarity with Tucson's clean energy interests. I will be personally be driving up a carpool and I do have a couple more seats open. We will be leaving around 11:30am and returning by 8pm, though hopefully sooner, depending on the proceedings of the ACC open meeting just prior.
Please get in touch with me if you're interested, by office or cell number, listed below.

- Catalina Ross, Energy Coordinator
Sierra Club || Grand Canyon Chapter
Office: 520.867.8683
Cell: 520.312.2849
More reasons for transitioning to clean energy:

It's a social justice issue...

South Tucson disproportionately suffers the consequences of fossil fuel pollution as it is home to all of the dirty industries in that city, including the refurbished gas-fired H. Wilson Sundt Generating Station, which used to burn coal, plus a Superfund site. As a consequence, its Latino community, especially the young, is plagued by pollution-related illnesses, such as asthma and other respiratory issues. Transitioning to clean energy is vital for this area.

ASK GROCERY STORES TO PHASE OUT SINGLE-USE PLASTIC CHECKOUT BAGS


Workers removing plastic bags from recycling machines
As some of you know, Tucson is having a recycling crisis. Because of the contamination in our recycling, it is becoming cost prohibitive to keep the program running. First, they will cut back recycling pickups to twice a month and could raise the cost from the current range of 15 cents to 45 cents per household monthly. That is particularly due to the plastic bags that people try to recycle or bag their recycling items in. Every 2-3 hours, the recycling people have to stop the machine and remove the plastic bags wrapped in the gears by hand!
It is time that we ask grocery stores to take responsibility for getting us hooked on plastic bags in the first place! 

PLEASE, TAKE A MINUTE TO ASK GROCERY STORES TO PHASE OUT
SINGLE-USE PLASTIC CHECKOUT BAGS!

Every minute, the equivalent of an entire garbage truck of plastic gets dumped into our oceans. That’s 8 MILLION tons entering our oceans each year. We have to act now.
Plastic never goes away – it breaks down, poisoning our environment and marine life. And the situation is dire: Researchers are finding plastic pollution at the deepest depths of the ocean. Vulnerable species like sea turtles and blue whales are being pushed closer to extinction. And without drastic action, by 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. It’s a recipe for disaster of the highest magnitude.

But we can do something to stop this. Up to 80% of plastic in our oceans comes from land-based sources, including single-use plastic checkout bags: Shoppers worldwide use 500 BILLION checkout bags – and right now, we need your help to pressure corporations to take action and phase-out these single-use plastics. If big grocery chains take action, they can make a huge dent in this crisis.

We’ve already started to make progress: The nation’s largest grocery chain has already committed to phasing out plastic checkout bags. But to truly make a difference, we need grassroots advocates to demand their competitors do the same. Can we count on you to add your name now to demand Albertson’s and Safeway end single-use plastic checkout bags in their stores? The health and vitality of our oceans depend on it – we can’t afford to wait a single moment. Sign the petition and help protect our marine life from deadly plastic pollution!
Petition sponsors:

Clean Water Action
California League of Conservation voters
Daily Kos
Friends of the Earth Action
Plastic Pollution Coalition
Sierra Club

Friday, May 17, 2019

Tell Congress: Pass the Loan Shark Prevention Act

Petition to Congress:
"Pass the Loan Shark Prevention Act to protect Americans from high interest rates and predatory lenders."
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
The Loan Shark Prevention Act, sponsored by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, would cap interest rates at 15% for all consumer loans. No more outrageous credit card rates. No more 400% interest rates on payday loans. One less way for Wall Street to get rich by exploiting struggling communities.1
If Wall Street banksters want a loan, they can borrow from the Federal Reserve and pay only 2.5% interest. People without access to loans are stuck with double-digit interest rates on credit cards. And for the millions of “unbanked” Americans, who don’t live near a bank or whose financial situation prevents them from opening a bank account, payday lenders can be the only option. These payday loans come with sky-high interest rates and misleading terms and conditions that trap desperate people into a cycle of debt.2
A 1978 Supreme Court decision effectively legalized loan sharks by allowing credit card companies to base themselves in states like South Dakota and Delaware with no interest rate caps. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Sanders' new bill would undo the damage by instituting a national 15% cap on all consumer loans. Both Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Sanders – along with numerous other progressive champions like Sen. Elizabeth Warren – also propose creating a postal banking system, like the one that existed from 1917 to 1967, in order to make sure people can still access credit at lower interest rates.3
The bill is only two pages long. It is simple, clear – and a brutal contrast with Donald Trump, who is sabotaging the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and rolled back strict rules on payday lenders.4
The proposal has right-wing media and Wall Street insiders up in arms, and the payday loan industry is mounting an offensive. But a recent poll found that more than 70% of Americans support the bill – including majorities of Republicans.5 We need to force Trump Republicans and corporate Democrats to explain why they oppose something so popular.
Stand with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez: Pass the Loan Shark Prevention Act. Click below to sign the petition:
- Heidi Hess, CREDO Action
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
References:
  1. David Dayen, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders team up on bank legislation," The Intercept, May 9, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Eliza Relman and Walt Hickey, "The vast majority of Republicans support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders' plan to cap credit-card interest rates at 15%," Business Insider, May 15, 2019.
More Information:

Sanders And Ocasio-Cortez Offer REAL 'Financial Choice' With Their Loanshark Prevention Act - Forbes

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Federal Trade Commission: Stop the Big Pharma mega-merger


Petition to the Federal Trade Commission:
"The FTC must investigate and block the attempt by Bristol-Myers Squibb to buy out Celgene. This would be the largest pharmaceutical merger ever, and as with past mergers, the result will be less innovation and much higher prescription drug costs for the public. This mega-merger will block the development and sale of affordable drugs and reduce competition precisely at the moment we need more of it. We urge you to stop this mega-merger."
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
Now, two companies that produce life-saving cancer medicines are poised to become one in the biggest Big Pharma merger ever.1  Big Pharma tripled the price of insulin, made Epi-Pens completely unaffordable and jacked up the price of arthritis medications.
The Bristol-Myers Squibb bid to buy Celgene would be a disaster for cancer patients and everyone else – and the Federal Trade Commission has the power to stop it.
Bristol-Meyers Squibb shareholders recently approved a $74 billion deal to take over rival pharmaceutical company Celgene. If approved by regulators like the FTC, the merger would combine two of the world's biggest cancer drug businesses in the biggest Big Pharma deal in history.2
Every time Big Pharma gets bigger, the rest of us suffer. Fewer companies means less competition and higher prices. Big Pharma grows more profitable, but companies rarely invest in more innovation. One recent study found that taxpayer funding helped develop every single one of the 210 new FDA-approved medicines between 2010 and 2016. We are investing in new cures while Big Pharma spends more on advertising than research and development and ridiculously claims that companies need obscene profits from merged companies to fund new cures.3
Big Pharma monopolies do have one advantage: Spending more on lobbyists. Big Pharma companies use their clout and financial power to fund superPACs, lobby against reforms that would lower the price of pharmaceutical drugs and campaign against Medicare for All.
This history-making disaster won't become a reality unless the FTC approves the merger. There is still time to convince commissioners to oppose it and to force the issue into the political conversation, but we cannot wait to raise our voices.
Tell the Federal Trade Commission: Stop the Big Pharma mega-merger. Click below to sign the petition:
- Josh Nelson, CREDO Action
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
References:
  1. Jared S. Hopkins, "Bristol-Myers Shareholders Approve $74 Billion Deal For Celgene," The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Zach Carter, "Bernie Sanders And Ro Khanna Have A New Plan To Tackle Prescription Drug Rip-Offs," HuffPost, Nov. 19, 2018.
More Information:

Bristol-Myers Squibb Shareholders Approve Celgene Acquisition - Bristol-Myers Squibb press release

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tell Chase: Stop financing fossil fuels


Next week, one of the largest banks in the world -- JPMorgan Chase -- will meet with its investors. We’ll be there on their doorstep with activists from all over the country with one clear demand: stop financing climate catastrophe!

Chase is the #1 banker of fossil fuel projects in the world. That means you can thank them for the floods, fires and storm damage you and your neighbors have experienced in recent years. And it’s getting worse - fast.

We have less than 12 years to slam on the brakes before we reach catastrophic levels of climate change. The only way to achieve that is to immediately STOP investing in any new fossil fuel projects. Tell Chase to STOP bankrolling the climate disaster NOW.

There’s no time to waste, and our message has never been more urgent. We have less than a week to reach our goal of delivering 25,000 messages directly to Chase and its investors.

 
Just this week, UN scientists announced that we are on the verge of a mass extinction crisis over the next 30 years - and that WE will all be impacted. Chase can’t ignore these alarm bells - and neither can we.

Chase’s annual shareholder meeting is a place where the company lays out its vision for the coming year, talks about their last year of business, and forecasts the finances of the company. It’s the perfect place for us to announce that business as usual is OVER.

We know that Chase isn’t planning to talk about climate change at their annual meeting, so we’re bringing your voice, and thousands like yours, to be sure their shareholders hear you loud and clear.

Sign on to our public letter calling on Chase bank to #DefundClimateChange.

There’s no time left to lose: the time is now to end financing of fossil fuels. The power is ours to make a difference.

- Ruth Breech. Rainforest Action Network

More Information:
JPMorgan Chase’s Big Banking of Extreme Fossil Fuels – A Banking on Climate Change Case Study

US Banks Pledged to Fund Renewable Energy, But They Still Spend Way More on Fossil Fuels

Monday, May 13, 2019

Tell Betsy DeVos: Don't sell student loans to Wall Street


Petition to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos:
"Stop exploring options for selling off federal student loans to exploitative private investors and instead immediately start discharging the debt of defrauded students."
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►

Tell Betsy DeVos: Don't sell student loans to Wall Street
Leave it to Betsy DeVos to dream up more and more horrible ideas.
The Department of Education under DeVos is an absolute trainwreck that rewards predatory debt collection companies and makes students suffer. Now, DeVos hired corporate consultants to help her make plans to sell student loans to exploitative Wall Street investors.1
Fraudulent universities and the defunding of higher education left millions of students and families suffering with mountains of debt, and giving banks more control would make it worse. If these plans meet with immediate resistance, it will get the attention of reporters and allies in Congress and may force the Department of Education to back down.
Betsy DeVos is a nightmare for the 45 million Americans stuck with $1.56 trillion in student loan debt. Her proposed budget of the Department of Education would further defund public education and would drive students into the hands of for-profit institutions. The department lets the companies that collect federal student loan payments cheat and lie to students, according to a scathing inspector general report. She issued rules to help debt collectors skirt aggressive state laws and has personal financial ties to shady debt collection firms. She is even taking the side of for-profit colleges and refusing to forgive the loans of the countless students these predatory institutions defrauded.2,3,4
Now, DeVos hired Wall Street consultants to review the federal student loan portfolio and consider options for selling loans to private investors. One of the consultants, McKinsey & Company, even has ties to some of the world's most oppressive regimes. The federal government owns more than $1 trillion of the overall student loan debt in America and makes a profit from interest on the loans. DeVos is exploring options for selling that debt into the hands of private investors – who could then abuse and harass people with loans, with far fewer legal constraints, until they pay every last cent.5
At best, DeVos is handing a fat contract to corporate consultants to duplicate the analysis of the student loan portfolio that government agencies already completed. At worst, she would hand over federal student loans to some of the shadiest hedge funds and banks on Wall Street. We need to raise the heat on DeVos to stop stalling on providing debt forgiveness to defrauded students while making plans to hand student debt to private bankers.
Tell Betsy DeVos: Don't sell student loans to Wall Street. Click below to sign the petition:
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
References:
  1. Michael Stratford, "DeVos hires consultants to examine student loan portfolio," POLITICO, May 2, 2019.
  2. Andy Kroll, "The Government’s Trillion-Dollar Student Loan Office Is a Train Wreck," Rolling Stone, Feb. 22, 2019.
  3. Mary Bottari, "Betsy DeVos Ethics Report Reveals Ties to Student Debt Collection Firm," PR Watch, Jan. 25, 2017.
  4. Erica Green, "Education Department Has Stalled on Debt Relief for Defrauded Students," The New York Times, April 5, 2019.
  5. Stratford, "DeVos hires consultants to examine student loan portfolio."

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Tell Congress: Save lives in Puerto Rico. Fully fund disaster relief and rebuilding

Petition to the U.S. Senate:
"$600 million for food stamps is not enough. Reject Trump's approach to Puerto Rico and fully fund critical disaster relief, reconstruction funding, physical and mental health care, food assistance expansion and long-term climate resilient solutions."
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
Trump refuses to sign a hurricane disaster relief bill if it includes significant funds for Puerto Rico. He made it clear he will reject any bill for hurricane-stricken states and territories that includes more than $600 million solely for food assistance in Puerto Rico, even though even Senate Republicans agree that the island needs far more to rebuild.After Hurricane Maria crushed Puerto Rico, killed more than 3,000 Americans, and left millions more without electricity and reliable access to food and water, Donald Trump floated the idea of never rebuilding the island. Now, Trump is trying to make that idea a horrific reality.
 We cannot let him get away with blocking aid to Americans in desperate need. Trump's intransigence is already driving a wedge between him and congressional Republicans – we need to ramp up the pressure to get Puerto Rico the help it needs.
With a new hurricane season approaching, Trump's policies will cost even more lives. Already, the Puerto Rican government cut more than 1 million people off of food assistance. And in a recent speech in Florida, Trump lied again about how much aid Puerto Rico already received. Instead of serving all Americans, Trump is trying to pit disaster survivors against each other with vicious lies.2 The manager of the world-champion Boston Red Sox even refused to visit the White House over Trump's Puerto Rico stance.3
Puerto Rico is the sticking point holding up a major disaster relief bill that would help Texas, Florida and Georgia as well – and Donald Trump is the only person standing in the way. Democrats are standing strong and recently voted down a bill that only had $600 million in food stamps for Puerto Rico. Some Republican senators want more funding than Trump. But their proposals are significantly less than what is needed to rebuild the island, provide continuing relief after the disaster of Hurricane Maria and improve Puerto Rico's ability to cope with devastating climate change.4
Trump's callous take on Puerto Rico is costing lives. He caused massive delays in aid efforts even as the elderly were dying due to the lack of medicine or electricity for ventilators and dialysis, then later tweeted that Puerto Ricans “want everything to be done for them.” Trump also accused San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz of criticizing the disaster response because Democrats put her up to it, insisted that Wall Street be able to profit off loans to Puerto Rico and said the disaster wasn’t a “real catastrophe” like Katrina during a trip where he tossed paper towels to desperate people like he was a game show host.
We need to turn the pressure up on Trump – and make sure corporate Democrats and Republicans continue to press to fully fund Puerto Rico's recovery.
The crisis in Puerto Rico is decades in the making and the result of a colonial approach to the island. First, it was the exploitation of the sugarcane industry. Then, Congress turned Puerto Rico into a tax haven for manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies. When Congress allowed those tax breaks to expire, the Puerto Rican economy collapsed and its government had to take on additional debt. Washington then imposed an unelected, Wall Street-backed “fiscal control board” to institute harsh austerity measures in response to that debt.
Puerto Ricans are American citizens – but have been treated like colonial possessions to be exploited by large corporations and then told they cannot manage their own affairs. They had no voice in Congress when our government was boosting oil and gas companies and are suffering now that climate change has supercharged storms and devastated the island. Now, Donald Trump is willing to let people die to serve his agenda. We can't let that happen.
Tell the Senate: Save lives in Puerto Rico. Fully fund disaster relief and rebuilding. Click below to sign the petition:
- Heidi Hess, CREDO Action
Add your name:
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References:
  1. Haley Bird and Phil Mattingly, "Stalled disaster relief package shows Congress-White House split," CNN, May 9, 2019.
  2. Kathryn Krawczyk, "Trump keeps telling the same whopper about Puerto Rico," The Week, May 9, 2019.
  3. Devin Cole and Betsy Klein, "Red Sox manager to skip White House visit, citing Trump's Puerto Rico hurricane response," CNN, May 6, 2019.
  4. Bird and Mattingly, "Stalled disaster relief package shows Congress-White House split."
More information: 

House Approves Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Aid Over Trump’s Opposition - The New York Times

House passes Trump-opposed disaster-relief bill with more funding for Puerto Rico - The Washington Post

Trump off on Puerto Rico funding by $50 billion: Weekly Fact Check

Friday, May 10, 2019

Demand that President Trump & his anti-wildlife officials reverse course & act to save endangered species and their habitats


The shocking U.N. report on the severe decline of imperiled wildlife and their habitats isn’t stopping Trump from gutting critical safeguards for endangered species.

Up to one million species face extinction because of human influence — many within decades. That's the stark and urgent warning delivered in a shocking report released earlier this week by the United Nations.

If that wasn't startling enough, the U.N.'s findings also expose the scope and severity of the Trump administration's disregard for the protection of our environment and threatened species.

We must act now: Demand that President Trump and his anti-wildlife officials reverse course and act to save endangered species and their habitats — before they're gone forever.

The U.N.'s groundbreaking report draws from over 450 experts in more than 50 countries, and describes the detrimental impact of climate change, shrinking habitats, pollution, and other factors on rapidly declining animal and plant populations.

It warns of the disappearance of species we care about and rely on, like pollinators and freshwater fish ... decline in agricultural yields due to severely damaged soil ... eradication of forest ecosystems, along with all the carbon storage and wildlife home benefits they bring ... and elimination of freshwater streams that provide drinking water for our survival.

A big little science lesson
The research also shows that ecosystem collapse is a direct symptom of human activity. Yet President Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt continue to push forward with plans to roll back vital protections for threatened and endangered species, including gray wolves, North Atlantic right whales, rusty patched bumble bees, and many others.

And Trump's reckless fossil fuels first policies and climate change denial are pushing so much of our wildlife even closer to the brink.

But NRDC is fighting back on multiple fronts, including going up against the Trump administration in federal court to stop these dangerous rollbacks.

And while we're battling in court, we need as many people as possible to raise their voices and generate an outcry too big for the Trump administration to ignore.

Tell Trump, Bernhardt, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: We demand you take IMMEDIATE action to stop the decline of our planet's biodiversity, and avert the extinction of endangered species.

We can still turn things around — but our window of opportunity to act is narrowing every day.

So if you, like me, cannot stand by and watch this administration go unchallenged as our biodiversity plummets ... and if you want to leave your children and grandchildren a planet that looks anything like the one we're on now ... please speak out.

We need to protect nature — or nature is going to stop protecting us. Thank you for taking action when it matters most. Over the next two weeks, we'll be in touch with more opportunities to help save wildlife before it's too late.

- Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC



Endangered Species Act saves vast majority of species under its protection  - The Hill

The cost of Trump's Endangered Species Act proposal - BBC

Endangered Species Act stripped of key provisions in Trump administration proposal - The Washington Post