MoJo Author Feeds: Erika Eichelberger | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/authors/164486 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en How US Companies Stash Billions Overseas—Tax-Free http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/02/foreign-overseas-tax-inversion-evasion-obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Once again, the Obama administration has set its sights on American companies that stash untaxed revenue abroad. Its <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Overview" target="_blank">2016 budget</a>, unveiled earlier this week, proposes to stick a one-time "transition toll charge" of 14 percent on the more than $2 trillion in corporate earnings parked overseas, <a href="http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl9759.aspx" target="_blank">regardless</a> of whether they're brought back stateside. The estimated $280 billion in tax revenue would be earmarked for upgrading highways and infrastructure.</p> <p>The proposed one-time tax is aimed at just one of the various loopholes and maneuvers that domestic businesses use to offshore their profits, beyond the reach of Internal Revenue Service. The best known trick is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/heres-what-you-need-know-about-tax-inversions-almost-nothing" target="_blank">so-called tax inversions</a>: US companies can move their headquarters abroad, avoiding the taxman while keeping executives stateside, scoring government contracts, and taking full advantage of public benefits for employees. <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/7/tax-inversions-freeridingwalgreenspfizercorporations.html" target="_blank">Walgreens</a>, which makes a quarter of its money from Medicaid and Medicare, proposed moving to Switzerland last year, only to <a href="http://www.americansfortaxfairness.org/tax-fairness-coalition-proclaims-victory-as-reports-emerge-that-walgreens-likely-will-not-abandon-the-u-s-to-avoid-taxes/" target="_blank">change plans</a> following a public outcry.</p> <p>With business as usual, inversions could <a href="http://democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/press-release/new-crs-data-47-corporate-inversions-last-decade-2" target="_blank">cost nearly $20 billion</a> in runaway taxes over the next 10 years. President Obama has slammed inversions, yet Congress looks unlikely to touch the maneuver anytime soon. While business groups have balked at the White House's latest international tax proposal, some Republicans have said they'll consider it. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) even called it <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-04/republicans-usually-opposed-to-obama-see-promise-in-his-tax-plan" target="_blank">"constructive."</a>&nbsp;</p> <p>A look at how US companies take their money and run&mdash;for the border:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="subhed">Foreign Affairs</h3> <p>Inversions aren't the only way to dodge the taxman. Foreign profits aren't taxed until they are "repatriated," so companies can hoard earnings in subsidiaries or divisions abroad. (Ireland just shut down the <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-14/ireland-phasing-out-tax-break-as-overseas-pressure-mounts.html" target="_blank">"double Irish"</a> offshoring trick used by Apple, Google, Twitter, and Facebook.) Between 2008 and 2013, American firms held <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/09/us-usa-tax-offshore-idUSBREA3729V20140409" target="_blank">more than $2.1 trillion</a> in profits overseas&mdash;that's as much as $500 billion in unpaid taxes.</p> <p><strong>Accumulated <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/infographics/2014-03-12/offshore-profits-avoid-irs-reach.html" target="_blank">offshore profits</a> at end of 2013:</strong></p> <table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 275px;"><tbody><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>General Electric: $110 billion</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Microsoft: $76.4 billion</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Pfizer: $69 billion</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Apple: $54.4 billion</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Exxon Mobil: $48 billion</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Citigroup: $43.8 billion</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Google: $38.9 billion</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Goldman Sachs: $22 billion</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Walmart: $19 billion</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>McDonald's: $16 billion</td> </tr></tbody></table><p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Inversion_card_1-630_0.png"></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="subhed">Over There</h3> <p>More than 100 companies have renounced their US citizenship since 1983, most in the past decade. Where they've gone:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Inversion_Map2.png"></div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="subhed">A Man, a Plan, an Inversion</h3> <p>Tax inversion was pioneered in 1983, when the construction company McDermott International changed its address to Panama to avoid paying more than $200 million in taxes. The tax lawyer who masterminded the <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-12-18/first-corporate-inversion-invented-by-liberal-tax-lawyer" target="_blank">"Panama Scoot"</a> was later immortalized in an <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noWm5XvdTug&amp;list=PLP2vCL4RAQ-VjhsfceRQ-XdHfZvh0K6E5" target="_blank">operetta</a> performed for his colleagues. (Big hat tip to <em>Businessweek</em> for tracking it down.) Sample verse:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>The feds will be screaming,<br> But you will be beaming</em><br><em>'Cause we'll never pay taxes,</em><br><em>We'll never pay taxes,</em><br><em>Never pay taxes again!</em></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/noWm5XvdTug?list=PLP2vCL4RAQ-VjhsfceRQ-XdHfZvh0K6E5" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="subhed">Have It Your Way, Eh</h3> <p>Last year, Burger King obtained the Canadian doughnut chain Tim Hortons and <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-26/burger-king-agrees-to-buy-tim-hortons-in-move-to-lower-taxes.html" target="_blank">announced plans</a> to move its HQ to the Great White North. Here's what the fast-food giant <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/documents/1510301-burgerkingtaxinversionreport" target="_blank">stands to gain</a>:</p> <table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 550px;"><tbody><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Avoiding $400 million to $1.2 billion in US taxes over the next four years.</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Major shareholders could avoid as much as $820 million in capital-gains taxes.</td> </tr><tr><td> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/money-bag-wings20.gif" style="float: right;"></div> </td> <td>Its low-wage employees would still receive more than $350 million in federal benefits and tax credits.</td> </tr><tr></tr></tbody></table><p>&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="subhed">There's No Place Like Home</h3> <p>Few big companies actually pay the 35 percent corporate tax rate. Profits are <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?id=CP#" target="_blank">up 21 percent</a> since 2007, while corporate America's <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FCTAX" target="_blank">total tax bill</a> has dropped 5 percent.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Inversion_chart2.png"></div> <p><em>Wings icon by <a href="http://thenounproject.com/term/wings/94197/" target="_blank">James Cottell</a>/The Noun Project; money bag icon by <a href="http://thenounproject.com/term/money-bag/95455/" target="_blank">gira Park</a>/The Noun Project</em></p></body></html> Politics Charts Corporations Economy International Money in Politics Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Fri, 06 Feb 2015 11:00:09 +0000 Erika Eichelberger and Dave Gilson 269026 at http://www.motherjones.com This Is How Republicans Plan To Destroy Liz Warren's Greatest Achievement http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/cfpb-house-financial-services-subpoena-power <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ever since Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) helped get the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau off the ground in 2010, Republicans have been trying to shut it down. GOPers drafted <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/republican-senate-would-gut-elizabeth-warren-consumer-protection-bureau" target="_blank">legislation</a> to weaken the fledgling agency, which was designed to prevent mortgage lenders, credit card companies, and other financial institutions from screwing average Americans. The measures died. Republicans <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/gop-plan-b-kill-elizabeth-warrens-consumer-watch-dog" target="_blank">turned to the courts</a> to gut the bureau. That effort failed. Now that Republicans control both houses of Congress, they have another weapon at their disposal: new subpoena powers they can deploy to blitz the CFPB with document requests.</p> <p>The goal is obvious: dig out material the GOPers can use to embarrass the agency. And if nothing untoward is discovered, Republican legislators can at least pin down the bureau with onerous paperwork demands. Democrats fear Republicans' new information-gathering abilities will make it easier for the agency's foes to launch witch-hunt style investigations of the CFPB similar to those former House oversight committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) launched regarding <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/gop-benghazi-fever-issa-boehner-ben-rhodes" target="_blank">Benghazi</a> and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/issa-cummings-irs-scandal" target="_blank">the IRS</a>.</p> <p>All committees in both the House and the Senate have the right to subpoena federal agencies for information. But until recently, either the most senior committee member from the minority party had to sign off on a subpoena or the entire committee had to vote on the request. In the last Congress, six House committees okayed a rule change giving the committee chair unilateral subpoena power. On Tuesday, the House financial services committee&mdash;which has jurisdiction over the CFPB&mdash;<a href="http://financialservices.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=398597" target="_blank">voted along party lines</a> to grant the same privilege to its Republican chairman, Jeb Hensarling of Texas.</p> <p>Republicans already have a track record of looking for information that could tarnish the CFPB's reputation, and Democrats fully expect Hensarling to continue down the same path. And now Hensarling, <a href="http://dailycaller.com/2014/10/20/hensarling-takes-aim-at-consumer-financial-protection-bureau/" target="_blank">a fierce CFPB critic</a>, will be able to more easily mount politically motivated investigations of the agency.</p> <p>Without the rule change, GOPers could still push through the subpoenas. As the majority, Republicans on the committee could vote to approve an information request. But with its new subpoena superpowers, the committee can demand records without a vote&mdash;and, thus, can keep the process&nbsp; from the public eye, a spokesman for the committee Democrats says. No longer will there be a public hearing where lawmakers can debate the subpoenas and Democrats can make a case if they think Hensarling and the Republicans are abusing the privilege. Last year, for example, ranking Democratic member Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) used the public forum to convince Hensarling to back down on a Treasury Department subpoena.</p> <p>Now, if Democrats want to keep GOPers from going on a fishing expedition aimed at tarnishing the CFPB, they won't have as much of an opportunity to create a ruckus. At a committee hearing Tuesday, Waters, the senior Democrat on the panel, called the rules change "anti-democratic" and "insulting." (Under the new rule, Waters will be given 48 hours notice before Hensarling issues a subpoena, so that she can alert the press if she wants.)</p> <p>"We think it&rsquo;s ridiculous that the Republican leadership is exporting the Issa model to the rest of the House," a Democratic staffer <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/house-committee-chair-subpoena-powers-114190.html" target="_blank">told <em>Politico</em></a>. Several other House committees are <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/01/13/several-house-committee-chairmen-to-get-unilateral-subpoena-power/" target="_blank">expected</a> to approve similar powers for their chairs this month.</p> <p>Last year the GOP-dominated financial services committee <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/01/13/several-house-committee-chairmen-to-get-unilateral-subpoena-power/" target="_blank">voted to subpoena</a> three CFPB officials to require them to testify in an ongoing investigation of alleged discrimination against minorities and women at the bureau. Democrats claimed the move was politically motivated.</p> <p>Hensarling has not yet indicated how he might use the new subpoena powers. Some Republicans <a href="http://act.credoaction.com/sign/Reublican_payday_handout/" target="_blank">are unhappy</a> with the CFPB's plan to crack down on shady payday lenders, so Hensarling could potentially subpoena the data the agency is collecting in an attempt to prove the effort is overly invasive. Hensarling denies the new rule is undemocratic.</p> <p>The CFPB did not respond to a request for comment.</p></body></html> Politics Congress Corporations Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Fri, 16 Jan 2015 11:50:04 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 268311 at http://www.motherjones.com How Companies Like Walmart Are Fighting to Keep Workplace Injuries Secret http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/walmart-osha-workplace-injury-tracking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Nearly four years ago, while lifting pallets of blankets during an overnight stocking shift at Walmart, Barb Gertz began to notice a dull pain in her arms. She kept on lifting and stocking, but by the time her lunch break rolled around she could no longer raise her arms. Her doctor told her she had tendinitis in her biceps, and that it was most likely caused by her job. Walmart disagreed. The retailer contested Gertz's workplace-injury claim&mdash;and won.</p> <p>If Gertz had worked in a factory, she could have bolstered her case with evidence from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's <a href="https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/index.html" target="_blank">national database</a> of manufacturing workplace injuries. But no such database exists for retail workers like Gertz. A <a href="http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201410&amp;RIN=1218-AC49" target="_blank">new regulation</a> that OSHA is scheduled to finalize this year would change that. OSHA wants to create a public database of workplace injury and illness data from all industries, not just manufacturing. This would help workers, the government, researchers, and journalists identify companies with safety problems. But the trade groups that represent some of America's biggest chains&mdash;including Walmart, Target, and McDonald's&mdash;are fighting back hard.</p> <p>The National Retail Federation&mdash;a group that represents Walmart, McDonald's, and The Container Store&mdash;spent $2.4 million lobbying on this measure and other issues between <a href="http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&amp;filingID=1af7ac88-5bc4-4343-a66f-5a9135307ac5&amp;filingTypeID=51" target="_blank">January</a> <a href="http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&amp;filingID=5ea0ed91-7660-4a57-88b4-8e5fc197df7b&amp;filingTypeID=60" target="_blank">and</a> <a href="http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&amp;filingID=a72f988a-2998-4f74-96e3-04dac55bc597&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">September</a> of last year. In a <a href="http://www.regulations.gov/contentStreamer?objectId=090000648165b66e&amp;disposition=attachment&amp;contentType=pdf" target="_blank">letter</a> to OSHA last March, the group complained that the rule would require disclosure of confidential information, lay blame on employers for non-work-related injuries, be too costly, and empower unions. Last year, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which counts Walmart, Target, and Home Depot among its more than 200 members, also <a href="http://www.regulations.gov/contentStreamer?objectId=090000648165cbbe&amp;disposition=attachment&amp;contentType=pdf" target="_blank">urged</a> the agency to kill the rule. The US Chamber of Commerce spent more than <a href="http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&amp;filingID=0ed55724-6029-4903-b2f2-825379f44d7a&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">$28 million</a> between July and September of last year on lobbying&mdash;including on this regulation, which the Chamber says is more burdensome on industry than OSHA will admit. And the Coalition for Workplace Safety, an association of trade groups that includes the Chamber, the NRF, and NILA, has <a href="http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=OSHA-2013-0023-1411" target="_blank">asked</a> OSHA to scrap the rule.</p> <p>Walmart did not respond to a request for comment on whether the lobbying groups' stance on the regulation reflects its own. Nor did McDonald's, The Container Store, Home Depot, or Target.</p> <p>All workplaces are already required keep internal paper records of worker injuries and illnesses. The new OSHA rule would simply require that all companies electronically submit that information to OSHA each quarter&mdash;just like manufacturing plants do already. "Industry says, 'Oh my God, we can't do that, it's really burdensome.' Well, they already have to keep these records,"&nbsp;says Robyn Robbins, the assistant director of the occupational health and safety office at the United Food and Commercial Workers, a labor union that supports the change. She adds that many employers have already moved away from old-fashioned paper records and are keeping internal records electronically. All companies would have to do is submit those e-records to OSHA.</p> <p>The regulation would apply to companies with more than 250 employees as well as smaller companies in <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-11-08/pdf/2013-26711.pdf" target="_blank">high-hazard industries</a>, such as freight trucking, construction, and waste collection. Businesses would be required to submit data including the job title of the employee, the type of injury, where it occurred, what the worker was doing before the incident, and the number of workdays the employee had to miss as a result. With the information, OSHA and employers "will be better able to&hellip;abate workplace hazards," an OSHA spokeswoman said in an email.</p> <p>If such a database had existed when Gertz submitted her claim, it could have helped her build the case that her injury was work-related. "It will be easier to prove that it's not just [the worker], it's a company thing," she says. The OSHA measure "has great potential to allow workers to make the connection between the dangerous work they're doing and the work-related injuries that are occurring," Robbins says.</p> <p>"I really hope [the regulation] goes through&mdash;for the benefit of all workers," Gertz says.</p></body></html> Politics Corporations Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Fri, 16 Jan 2015 11:05:05 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 267926 at http://www.motherjones.com The House Just Passed a GOP Bill Wiping Out Wall Street Reforms http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/dodd-frank-bill-house-gop-hr-37 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update, Thursday, January 15, 2015:</strong> On Wednesday, the House <a href="http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2015/roll037.xml" target="_blank">passed</a> this bill.</em></p> <p>The Republican-dominated House is poised to approve <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/documents/1498542-promoting-job-creation-bill" target="_blank">legislation</a> this week that would obliterate a slew of important Wall Street reforms. The legislation arrives just weeks after Congress and the Obama administration gave Wall Street two <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/spending-bill-992-derivatives-citigroup-lobbyists" target="_blank">big</a> <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/12/volcker-rule-extension-federal-reserve" target="_blank">handouts</a>, and serves as an opening salvo in what will be a sustained Republican assault on financial reform over the next two years.</p> <p>The bill, introduced by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), is called the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act, but its name obscures what it would actually do. The legislation is a compilation of deregulatory bills that failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate in the last Congress. It would alter nearly a dozen provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, loosening regulation of Wall Street banks. Here's a look at the details of what the bill would do.</p> <ul><li><strong>Delay the Volcker rule.</strong> The Volcker rule&mdash;one of the most important bits of Dodd-Frank&mdash;generally forbids the high-risk trading by commercial banks that helped cause the financial crisis. One high-risk product banks are supposed to stop trading are collateralized loan obligations, which are <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/business/banks-cling-to-bundles-holding-risk.html" target="_blank">bundles of loans</a> that are broken into pieces and sold to investors. In December, the Federal Reserve <a href="http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/bcreg/20141218a.htm" target="_blank">extended</a> banks' deadline to stop trading CLOs from <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/business/kicking-dodd-frank-in-the-teeth.html" target="_blank">2015</a> to 2017. The Fitzpatrick bill would extend that deadline to 2019.</li> <li><strong>Water down rules on private equity firms.</strong> Private equity firms are required to register as brokers with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) if they get paid for providing investment banking services such as merger advice. Brokers are subject to additional rules and more regulatory oversight. The bill would <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/business/kicking-dodd-frank-in-the-teeth.html?_r=" target="_blank">exempt some private equity firms</a> from having to register as brokers.</li> <li><strong>Loosen regs on derivatives.</strong> Derivatives are financial instruments with values based on underlying numbers, such as crop prices or interest rates. The Fitzpatrick bill would allow Wall Street firms that own commercial businesses such as oil or gas operations to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/business/kicking-dodd-frank-in-the-teeth.html?_r=1" target="_blank">trade derivatives privately</a> instead of in central clearinghouses, which are subject to more oversight. The bill would also <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/04/democrats-derivatives-financial-reform-dodd-frank" target="_blank">forbid regulators</a> from requiring that banks take collateral from companies that buy derivatives. Collateral can help offset losses if one of the parties involved in the transaction defaults.</li> <li><strong>Weaken transparency rules.</strong> The bill exempts about 60 percent of publicly traded companies from certain rules regarding how those companies must file financial statements with the SEC. The measure would also allow certain smaller companies to omit historical financial data in their financial statements. "This allows firms to choose a convenient history as they promote their securities," the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/documents/1498595-public-citizen-opposes-hr-37" target="_blank">noted last week</a>.</li> </ul><p>Last week, House Republicans tried to force Fitzpatrick's bill through the House using a procedure typically used for uncontroversial bills or technical fixes. This process, known as fast-tracking, requires the bill to receive a yes vote from two-thirds of the chamber, or at least 290 members. But on Friday, just 276 of the 435 members of the House <a href="http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2015/roll009.xml" target="_blank">voted for the measure</a>&mdash;well short of the two-thirds majority required. Now GOP leaders have resurrected the bill, and will push it through under the normal rules, which require just a simple majority. The bill is expected to pass the House easily, although it's unclear whether the Senate would approve it. President Barack Obama would likely veto it. But GOPers could force the legislation into law by attaching bits of it to must-pass bills&mdash;such as spending legislation&mdash;later this year.</p> <p>Fitzpatrick is a member of the House financial services committee. Between 2013 and 2014, he received more than $310,000 in donations from the finance and banking sector, <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cycle=2014&amp;cid=N00027229&amp;type=I" target="_blank">according to the Center for Responsive Politics</a>.</p> <p>The Fitzpatrick legislation signals the beginning of a sustained assault on Dodd-Frank by the new GOP Congress. Up next: the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jacob-lew-lets-leave-wall-streets-risky-practices-in-the-past/2015/01/09/cf25b5f6-95d8-11e4-aabd-d0b93ff613d5_story.html" target="_blank">consumer protection bureau</a> that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) helped create. (More about that <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/republican-senate-would-gut-elizabeth-warren-consumer-protection-bureau" target="_blank">here</a>.) "We're going to see repeated attempts to go in with seemingly technical changes that intimidate regulators and keep them from putting teeth in regulations," Marcus Stanley, policy director at the advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/business/kicking-dodd-frank-in-the-teeth.html?_r=1" target="_blank">told the <em>New York Times</em></a> this weekend. "If we return to the pre-crisis business as usual, where it's routine for people to accommodate Wall Street on these technical changes, they're just going to unravel the post-crisis regulation piece by piece. Then, we'll be right back where we started."</p></body></html> Politics Congress Corporations Economy Regulatory Affairs Mon, 12 Jan 2015 22:33:38 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 268066 at http://www.motherjones.com Satellite Imagery Shows the Extent of Boko Haram Devastation in Nigeria http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/01/boko-haram-attack-nigeria-baga <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update, Thursday, January 15, 2015: </strong></em>New <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/14/satellite-images-reveal-devastation-boko-haram-massacre-nigeria?CMP=share_btn_tw" target="_blank">satellite imagery</a> released by Amnesty International shows the extent of the devastation Boko Haram has visited upon northern Nigeria over the past week. Below are before and after images of the town of Doron Baga. Healthy vegetation is colored red.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-01-15%20at%2010.00.21%20AM_0.png"></div> <p>The Islamist militant group may now control up to 20 percent of the country, <a href="http://nepr.net/news/2015/01/13/boko-haram-may-control-up-to-20-percent-of-nigeria/" target="_blank">according</a> to NPR. Journalists are unable to report on the killing in the north, because approaching the area would be a "death wish," <em>The New Yorker'</em>s Alexis Okeowo <a href="http://nepr.net/news/2015/01/13/boko-haram-may-control-up-to-20-percent-of-nigeria/" target="_blank">told host Melissa Block</a> Tuesday.</p> <p><em><strong>Update, Friday, January 9, 2015:</strong> </em>On Friday morning, Amnesty International said the latest Boko Haram attack <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/b2d7a0252dd04676b20697bd39356fcc/7-kids-reunite-parents-lost-nigeria-islamic-uprising" target="_blank">could be the "deadliest massacre" </a>in the group's history, if the early reports that as many as 2,000 people were killed turn out to be true.</p> <p>This week, Boko Haram, the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/boko-haram-why-media-attention-now" target="_blank">Islamist terror group</a> based in northern Nigeria, launched a massive attack on the town of Baga, killing dozens, <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/01/08/uk-nigeria-violence-toll-idUKKBN0KH1QD20150108" target="_blank">according to Reuters</a>. Other initial <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30728158" target="_blank">reports</a> put the number of dead in the hundreds or thousands. The attack is the latest in the group's increasingly bloody campaign to establish an Islamic state in the West African country. The group attained international infamy last April after it <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/nigeria-boko-haram-kidnapping-explained" target="_blank">abducted some 300 girls</a>. More than 200 of them are still missing.</p> <p>Over the course of this Tuesday and Wednesday, the militants set fire to buildings in Baga and shot indiscriminately at civilians. Nearly the entire town was torched, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30728158" target="_blank">according to the BBC</a>. Baga, which had roughly 10,000 residents, is now "virtually non-existent," Musa Alhaji Bukar, a senior government official, told the British news agency.</p> <p>Here's more from the BBC:</p> <blockquote> <p>Those who fled reported that they had been unable to bury the dead, and corpses littered the town's streets, he said.</p> <p>Boko Haram was now in control of Baga and 16 neighbouring towns after the military retreated, Mr Bukar said.</p> <p>While he raised fears that some 2,000 had been killed in the raids, other reports put the number in the hundreds.</p> </blockquote> <p>The attack follows an assault by Boko Haram on a military base in Baga on Saturday.</p> <p>The <a href="http://thepeninsulaqatar.com/news/international/315528/boko-haram-destroys-at-least-16-towns-villages-in-ne-nigeria" target="_blank">AFP reported late Thursday</a> that the terror group also decimated over a dozen towns and villages surrounding Baga:</p> <blockquote> <p>Boko Haram launched renewed attacks around a captured town in restive northeast Nigeria this week, razing at least 16 towns and villages, a local government and a union official told AFP.</p> <p>'They burnt to the ground all the 16 towns and villages including Baga, Dorn-Baga, Mile 4, Mile 3, Kauyen Kuros and Bunduram,' said Musa Bukar, head of the Kukawa local government in Borno state.</p> </blockquote> <p>Boko Haram has been terrorizing Nigeria for more than five years. Over the past year, the group has killed more than 10,000 people, <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/01/08/uk-nigeria-violence-toll-idUKKBN0KH1QD20150108" target="_blank">according</a> to the Council on Foreign Relations.</p></body></html> MoJo Human Rights International Thu, 08 Jan 2015 22:53:57 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 267861 at http://www.motherjones.com The GOP's New Attack on Obamacare May Be the Most Destructive Yet http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/01/republican-obamacare-full-time-work-cbpp <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Thursday, House Republicans will vote on an <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/obamacare-republican-congress-full-time-hours" target="_blank">anti-Obamacare bill</a> that could toss up to 1.5 million Americans off their employer-sponsored health plans. To make the case that this is a good idea, top GOPers are misrepresenting what the legislation would do. They claim the measure would help prevent companies from reducing worker hours in order to cut employees' health insurance benefits. Yet the legislation would likely encourage businesses to decrease hours so the firms could avoid providing health insurance to workers. "While political leaders often stretch the truth to make their case, they usually don't claim the <em>opposite</em> of the truth," Robert Greenstein, the president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), <a href="http://www.offthechartsblog.org/republican-leaders-deploying-untruths-on-40-hour-health-bill/" target="_blank">noted Wednesday</a>. "That, however, is essentially what Republican congressional leaders are doing."</p> <p>The bill House Republicans introduced Wednesday would change the way the Affordable Care Act defines full-time work and, thus, who is eligible for employer-sponsored health care. Currently, the ACA <a href="http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-employer-mandate/" target="_blank">requires</a> companies with 50 or more employees to provide affordable health coverage to 95 percent of their full-time workers or pay a penalty. This measure, called the employer mandate, begins to go into effect <a href="http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-employer-mandate/" target="_blank">this year</a>. Under the 2010 health care law, full-time work is defined as 30 or more hours per week. The GOP bill would change the law's definition of full time to 40 hours per week.</p> <p>Such a move would obviously lead to the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance for many people who work between 30 and 39 hours per week. But there's the bill would have another impact too: It would give employers a powerful incentive to cut the hours of Americans who work 40-plus hours per week to escape the obligation to provide them health insurance. And health care policy experts note that it is more likely that a firm would slice the hours of a 40-hours-per-week worker than an employee who toils 30 hours a week. (More on that below.) Changing the full-time threshold to 40 hours would put some 1.5 million Americans at risk of having their hours docked and their insurance yanked, according to a <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-07/republicans-to-chip-at-obamacare-by-redefining-work-hours.html" target="_blank">recent report</a> by the Congressional Budget Office.</p> <p>Yet top Republicans are claiming the opposite. On Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/01/06/obamacare-health-insurance-rep-paul-ryan-editorials-debates/21360381/" target="_blank">said</a> the bill would enable "more people [to] work full time." Late last year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/john-boehner-and-mitch-mcconnell-now-we-can-get-congress-going-1415232759" target="_blank">argued</a> the measure would protect the 40-hour work week by "removing an arbitrary and destructive government barrier to more hours and better pay created by the Affordable Care Act."</p> <p>As I <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/obamacare-republican-congress-full-time-hours" target="_blank">reported</a> Monday, here's why companies would be more likely to reduce workers' hours under the GOP bill's 40-hour threshold than under the current 30-hour per week cutoff:</p> <blockquote> <p>The 30-hour threshold was intended to discourage companies from cutting workers' hours. Nearly half of Americans work 40 hours a week or more&mdash;meaning that, under current law, employers would have to cut those workers' hours by more than 25 percent to avoid buying them health insurance. But if the threshold were 40 hours, as the GOP envisions, many employers would only have to cut workweeks a tiny bit to avoid buying health insurance for their employees. "Raising the threshold to 40 hours would place more than <em>five times</em> as many workers at risk of having their hours reduced," Paul van de Water, a senior fellow at the [CBPP], <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=4028" target="_blank">wrote</a> in 2013.</p> </blockquote> <p>A flock of prominent conservatives&mdash;including political analyst Yuval Levin and columnist Ramesh Ponnuru&mdash;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/06/us/politics/resistance-from-right-slows-gop-press-to-redefine-full-time-worker.html?ref=politics" target="_blank">have also chimed in</a> against the 40-hour bill.</p> <p>On Wednesday, President Obama vowed to veto the law if the Senate approves it. But that doesn't mean the bill won't become law. It's possible that Republicans will attach the measure to a must-pass spending bill this year that would be extremely difficult for Obama to oppose.</p></body></html> MoJo Congress Health Care Top Stories Thu, 08 Jan 2015 11:30:05 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 267731 at http://www.motherjones.com GOP Congress' First Priority: Yanking Health Insurance From 1.5 Million Americans http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/obamacare-republican-congress-full-time-hours <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update, Wednesday, January 7, 2015:</strong> On Wednesday, President Barack Obama <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr30r_20150107.pdf" target="_blank">vowed</a> to veto this legislation.</em></p> <p>One of the first things House Republicans plan to do after Congress reconvenes Tuesday is <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/2015-gop-agenda-energy-obamacare-113941.html#ixzz3Nlx7YBso" target="_blank">vote on a bill</a> that would gut Obamacare&mdash;and could deprive up to 1.5 million Americans of their employer-sponsored health insurance. After the GOP-controlled House passes the bill, the newly Republican Senate is <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/2015-gop-agenda-energy-obamacare-113941.html#ixzz3Nlx7YBso" target="_blank">likely to pass the measure</a> too. What's more, President Barack Obama may be forced to sign this legislation if it is attached to a must-pass budget bill later this year.</p> <p>Here's the background. The Affordable Care Act <a href="http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-employer-mandate/" target="_blank">requires</a> companies with 50 or more employees to provide affordable health insurance to 95 percent of their full-time workers or pay a fine. This regulation, known as the employer mandate, goes into effect <a href="http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-employer-mandate/" target="_blank">this year.</a> Here's the catch: The law defines employees who work 30 or more hours per week as full time. The legislation that House Republicans are expected to bring to the floor this week would change the definition of full time to 40 hours per week for purposes of the law.</p> <p>This may sound harmless, but it's not&mdash;because companies that don't want to provide health insurance for their employees can avoid doing so by cutting workers' hours.</p> <p>"I call this the 'send people home a half hour early on Friday and deny them health insurance' bill," says Tim Jost, a health care law scholar at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who has consulted with the Obama administration on implementation of the Affordable Care Act.</p> <p>The 30-hour threshold was intended to discourage companies from cutting workers' hours. Nearly half of Americans work 40 hours a week or more&mdash;meaning that, under current law, employers would have to cut those workers' hours by more than 25 percent to avoid buying them health insurance. But if the threshold were 40 hours, as the GOP envisions, many employers would only have to cut workweeks a tiny bit to avoid buying health insurance for their employees.&nbsp;"Raising the threshold to 40 hours would place more than <em>five times</em> as many workers at risk of having their hours reduced," Paul van de Water, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=4028" target="_blank">wrote</a> in 2013.</p> <p>If Obama approves the 40-hour legislation, a half million workers could lose health insurance entirely, according to a <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-07/republicans-to-chip-at-obamacare-by-redefining-work-hours.html" target="_blank">recent report</a> by the Congressional Budget Office. And up to a million people could be moved into Medicaid or the health exchanges created by Obamacare, increasing the federal deficit by <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-07/republicans-to-chip-at-obamacare-by-redefining-work-hours.html" target="_blank">$73.7 billion</a> over 10 years, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.</p> <p>The White House is waiting to weigh in on the legislation until after Congress comes back into session, but Obama <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/113/saphr2575r_20140401.pdf" target="_blank">issued a veto threat</a> when the House passed a similar bill last year. "We remain firm in our opposition to attempts to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act," a White House official told <em>Mother Jones.</em></p> <p>Nevertheless, Republicans could attach the measure to a must-pass spending bill this year, which Obama would be hard-pressed to veto. In 2013, House Republicans <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=4028" target="_blank">attempted</a> to add similar legislation to a spending bill&mdash;and the Democratic-controlled Senate blocked them. But this year, the Republicans run the Senate.</p></body></html> Politics Congress Health Care The Right Top Stories Tue, 06 Jan 2015 11:30:06 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 267571 at http://www.motherjones.com The Gap Between the Rich and the Rest of Us Is The Widest It's Been In 30 Years. Here's One Reason Why. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/inequality-bank-access-charts <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The wealth gap between the richest 20 percent of Americans and everyone else is the widest it's been in three decades, according to a <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/17/wealth-gap-upper-middle-income/" target="_blank">report</a> released last week by the Pew Research Center. Many factors contribute to this great divide: tax rates on the rich have been <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph" target="_blank">falling</a> for decades; the Great Recession <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/business/economy/us-wealth-gap-widest-in-at-least-30-years-pew-study-says.html?_r=1" target="_blank">decimated</a> the assets of a lot of low- and middle-income folks; and technology is replacing workers. One often-overlooked&nbsp; factor, though, is that <a href="https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2013report.pdf" target="_blank">16.7 million</a> poor Americans <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-11/u-s-lags-g-7-in-bank-accounts-as-poor-can-t-build-assets.html" target="_blank">don't have a bank account</a>. Lack of access to this basic financial tool cramps poor Americans' ability to prove credit-worthiness and build assets, and forces them to rely on expensive alternative financial services, trapping them in a cycle of debt and instability.</p> <p>Here's a look at banking access in the US and how it affects Americans' ability to grab onto the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder.</p> <p>Many more people in the US lack bank accounts than in other wealthy developed nations, <a href="http://datatopics.worldbank.org/financialinclusion/" target="_blank">according to the latest World Bank data</a>, which is from 2011.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/ysSQ9/2/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The percentage of Americans without bank access has fluctuated since the Great Recession. In 2009, 7.6 percent of Americans lacked a bank account. In 2011, that number was 8.2 percent, and in 2013, 7.7 percent&mdash;or approximately 16.7 million adults&mdash;had no banking access, <a href="https://www.fdic.gov/householdsurvey/2013report.pdf" target="_blank">according</a> to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).</p> <p>Eighteen percent of people in the bottom 40 percent of the income spectrum lacked an account at a formal financial institution in 2011, <a href="http://datatopics.worldbank.org/financialinclusion/country/united-states" target="_blank">according</a> to the World Bank. Non-whites are less likely to have a bank account:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="300" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/w72Hl/5/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The main reason people don't open bank accounts is that they lack sufficient funds to open one or can't afford the fees associated with the account. But some people simply don't trust financial institutions. &nbsp;</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/XVExz/3/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Bank fees associated with checking accounts have <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/09/26/dodd-franks-costs-will-be-paid-for-by-low-income-bank-customers/" target="_blank">skyrocketed</a> over the past few years, with the percentage of truly free checking accounts falling from <a href="http://www.bankrate.com/finance/checking/want-free-checking-check-out-credit-unions-1.aspx" target="_blank">76 percent in 2009 to 38 percent in 2013,</a> <a href="http://www.bankrate.com/finance/checking/want-free-checking-check-out-credit-unions-1.aspx" target="_blank">according</a> to the most recent data from Bankrate, a consumer financial services company. The average minimum balance required to open a checking account <a href="http://thefinancialbrand.com/42628/atm-overdraft-bank-checking-account-fees/" target="_blank">rose nine percent</a> over the past year to $66, and the average overdraft fee reached $32.74, a record high. ATM fees are at <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Business/atm-overdraft-fees-hit-record-highs-survey-shows/story?id=25843615" target="_blank">all-time highs</a>, too.</p> <p>"Even plain vanilla checking accounts have gotten more expensive," Abby McCloskey, a program director at the American Enterprise Institute, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/09/26/dodd-franks-costs-will-be-paid-for-by-low-income-bank-customers/" target="_blank">wrote at <em>Forbes</em></a> last year.&nbsp;"Free checking was long championed by the FDIC to bring the unbanked into mainstream banking, and it has all but disappeared as banks cut costs." (The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Congress created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to protect average Americans from banks' predatory practices, is <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-07-31/banks-face-hit-on-30-billion-in-overdraft-fees-from-cfpb-rules#p1" target="_blank">weighing</a> new regulations on overdraft fees.)</p> <p>When low-income customers close their accounts to avoid minimum balances and fees, they're forced to rely on alternative financial services including payday lending, money orders, check cashing, and pawn shops&mdash;which often charge even more exorbitant fees and penalties. The average household that uses these alternative financial services spends $2,412 per year on interest and related fees, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-11/u-s-lags-g-7-in-bank-accounts-as-poor-can-t-build-assets.html" target="_blank">according to a report</a> released this year by the Postal Service's inspector general. A <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/reports/safe_banking_opportunities_project/Slipping20Behindpdf.pdf" target="_blank">2011 Pew survey</a> of 2,000 low-income families in Los Angeles found that using alternative financial services consumed 6 percent of an average household's income, whereas buying the same services at a bank ate up just half a percent of an average family's income.</p> <p>Americans without bank accounts also tend to miss out on tax benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit&mdash;mostly because people without bank accounts are less likely to file tax returns. More than <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/reports/safe_banking_opportunities_project/Slipping20Behindpdf.pdf" target="_blank">two-thirds of families with bank accounts</a> in Pew's LA study filed their tax returns. Just 38 percent of the families without bank accounts filed. Three quarters of the families that filed got a tax refund.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, low-income people with access to bank accounts are <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2014/04/09/checks-and-balances-2014-update" target="_blank">more likely to save money</a> and have better overall economic health. Check it out.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/37NSu/4/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Politics Charts Corporations Economy Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Fri, 26 Dec 2014 11:15:13 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 267236 at http://www.motherjones.com The Cost of US Wars Since 9/11: $1.6 Trillion http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/12/crs-report-war-spending-trillion <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The cost of US war-making in the 13 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks reached a whopping $1.6 trillion in 2014, according to a <a href="http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf" target="_blank">recent report</a> by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).</p> <p>The $1.6 trillion in war spending over that time span includes the cost of military operations, the training of security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, weapons maintenance, base support, reconstruction, embassy maintenance, foreign aid, and veterans' medical care, as well as war-related intelligence operations not tracked by the Pentagon. The report tracks expenses through September, the end of the government's 2014 fiscal year. Here's a breakdown of where most of that money went:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/7nTPt/2/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The key factor determining the cost of war during a given period over the last 13 years has been the number of US troops deployed, according to the report. The number of troops in Afghanistan peaked in 2011, when 100,000 Americans were stationed there. The number of US armed forces in Iraq reached a high of about <a href="http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R40682.pdf" target="_blank">170,000</a> in 2007.</p> <p>Although Congress enacted across-the-board spending cuts in March 2013, the Pentagon's war-making money was left untouched. The minimal cuts, known as sequestration, came from the Defense Department's regular peacetime budget. The Pentagon gets a <a href="https://www.nationalpriorities.org/blog/2014/03/06/pentagons-phony-budget-war/" target="_blank">separate</a> budget for fighting wars.</p> <p>In the spending bill that Congress approved earlier this month, lawmakers doled out $73.7 billion for war-related activities in 2015&mdash;<a href="http://crfb.org/blogs/budget-gimmicks-cromnibus-bill" target="_blank">$2.3 billion</a> more than President Barack Obama had requested. As <em>Mother Jones</em>' Dave Gilson <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/12/pentagon-budget-deal-charts-cuts" target="_blank">reported</a> last year, US military spending is on pace to taper far less dramatically in the wake of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than it did after the end of the Vietnam War or the Cold War.</p> <p>Other reports have estimated the cost of US wars since 9/11 to be far higher than $1.6 trillion. A <a href="http://costsofwar.org/sites/default/files/articles/20/attachments/Costs%20of%20War%20Summary%20Crawford%20June%202014.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> by Neta Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University, estimated the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan&mdash;as well as post-2001 assistance to Pakistan&mdash;to be roughly $4.4 trillion. The CRS estimate is lower because it <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-19/wars-cost-to-the-u-s-since-the-sept-11-attacks-1-6-trillion.html" target="_blank">does not include</a> additional costs including the lifetime price of health care for disabled veterans and interest on the national debt.</p> <p><em>Chart by <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/authors/aj-vicens" target="_blank">AJ Vicens</a>.</em></p></body></html> MoJo Afghanistan Iraq Top Stories Tue, 23 Dec 2014 11:15:05 +0000 Erika Eichelberger and AJ Vicens 267141 at http://www.motherjones.com Elizabeth Warren: Wall Street Just Got Another Giveaway http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/12/volcker-rule-extension-federal-reserve <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last week, Congress did Wall Street a solid. When lawmakers passed a giant spending bill that funds the government through September, they included a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/spending-bill-992-derivatives-citigroup-lobbyists" target="_blank">provision</a> written by Citigroup lobbyists that allows banks to make more risky trades with taxpayer-insured money. Then, on Thursday, bankers got another giveaway: The Federal Reserve <a href="http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/bcreg/20141218a.htm" target="_blank">announced</a> it would delay for up to two years implementation of a crucial section of the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/12/volcker-rule-what-you-need-to-know" target="_blank">Volcker rule</a>&mdash;one of the most important regulations to come out of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. The rule generally forbids the high-risk trading by commercial banks that helped cause the financial crisis. The move by the Fed pushes the deadline for banks to comply past the next presidential election and gives Wall Street lobbyists more time to weaken it.</p> <p>"Less than a week after Wall Street slipped a bailout provision written by Citigroup into the government spending bill, the Fed has given the big banks another victory," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a statement Friday.</p> <p>"It's really hard to see an excuse for this," says Marcus Stanley, the financial policy director at Americans for Financial Reform, an advocacy group.</p> <p>The Volcker rule ensures that financial institutions don't engage in something called proprietary trading, which is when a bank trades for its own benefit as opposed to for the benefit of its customers. Banks were supposed to comply with the Volcker rule by July 21, 2014. Last year, when banking watchdogs finalized the rule, the Fed granted banks a year-long extension. The Fed's Thursday announcement gives banks <em>another</em> year to get rid of certain investments&mdash;including those in private equity firms and hedge funds. The central bank also noted Thursday that it plans to push out the deadline again next year, by another 12 months. That brings the new compliance deadline to July 2017, far past the 2016 election. If the new president is a Republican, he could fill his administration with Wall Street insiders opposed to the rule, making it even easier for lobbyists to gut it.</p> <p>Before the Volcker rule was finalized last year, the financial industry fought like mad to weaken it. The regulation could slash the total annual profits of the eight largest US banks by up to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-12-04/will-the-volcker-rule-crimp-wall-street-profits" target="_blank">$10 billion</a>, according to an estimate by Standard &amp; Poor's. Banking reform advocates were fairly happy with way the final reg turned out. But now the financial industry has extra time to take a few more whacks at rule before banks actually have to obey it. "Wall Street&rsquo;s loophole lawyers and other hired guns will&hellip; continue to hit at the rule as if it were a pi&ntilde;ata," Dennis Kelleher, the president of the financial reform advocacy group Better Markets, <a href="http://www.bettermarkets.com/reform-news/volcker-rule%E2%80%99s-ban-proprietary-trading-direct-attack-high-risk-%E2%80%98quick-buck%E2%80%99-culture-wall#.Uqc4DY3QGQg" target="_blank">said</a> when regulators completed the rule in 2013.</p> <p>The Dodd-Frank law already contains a provision allowing banks that will have difficulty getting rid of particular investments before the initial compliance deadline to request an extension from banking regulators. The Fed's announcement yesterday amounts to an unnecessary "blanket" extension, Stanley says. "It's hogwash."</p></body></html> MoJo Economy Regulatory Affairs Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:54:29 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 267016 at http://www.motherjones.com