A group of conservative think tanks wants the nation’s tax system to look more like North Carolina’s, writes the Center for Public Integrity. In Washington, D.C., the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans have been considering a similar approach — lower federal income-tax brackets and a tax on imports — that some tax experts say would have comparable outcomes. Some of the same conservative groups that convinced states to change their tax systems have advised the Trump administration on economic and tax policy. But so far, for the working poor, that hasn’t been a great deal. While Congress prepares for the tax debate, single-parents in Asheville worry that the proposed federal tax changes would only make life harder, as North Carolina’s tax reforms did. “They’re going to come for every little penny that you have,” said one. “Where is the help when we need it?”
At the University of California, Davis, researchers are regularly invited to attend on-campus meet-and-greets with potential corporate funders to discuss possible sponsorship opportunities. Handshakes and business cards are routinely exchanged—so are nondisclosure agreements, writes Molly McCluskey in The Atlantic. Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist at U.C. Davis, says such meetings and the attendant nondisclosure agreements are commonplace and that it’s university administrators—rather than the corporations themselves—who encourage their professors and researchers to attend. I spent a year poring over documents and talking to universities, companies, lawyers, and researchers to figure out what kind of role corporate funding plays in public-university studies across the United States. Nearly all of the people I spoke with talked about the increasing ease with which corporate representatives have access to researchers, although some were more comfortable with the arrangement than others.
Air pollution over Los Angeles. Credit
The linchpin of a new 87-page proposal being considered by Congress is a directive to regulators that may be impossible to meet, reports the LA Times. Regulatory agencies would have to prove they have taken the least costly option possible to business before imposing any major new rule. A similar mandate became stifling when applied for decades to the regulation of chemicals such as asbestos because it allowed companies to keep rules at bay by continually arguing for cheaper approaches. “I don’t think lawmakers are focusing on how extreme this legislation is,” said Paul Billings, lobbyist for the American Lung Association, which has joined several major public health groups imploring congressional leaders to apply the brakes. “It has been viewed as this abstraction that creates improvements in the regulatory process. This would undermine bedrock public health laws.”
Much of the country has been watching in horror as Donald Trump has made good on his promises to eviscerate the Environmental Protection Agency, writes Sharon Lerner for The Intercept. He has delayed 30 regulations, severely limiting the information staffers can release, and installing Scott Pruitt as the agency’s administrator to destroy the agency from within. But even those keeping their eyes on the EPA may have missed a quieter attack on environmental protections now being launched in Congress. This week, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing on a bill to undermine health regulations that is based on a strategy cooked up by tobacco industry strategists more than two decades ago. At what Republicans on the committee have dubbed the “Making EPA Great Again” hearing, lawmakers are likely to discuss “The Secret Science Reform Act,” a bill that would limit the EPA to using only data that can be replicated or made available for “independent analysis.” The proposal may sound reasonable enough at first. But because health research often contains confidential personal information that is illegal to share, the bill would prevent the EPA from using many of the best scientific studies.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order this week that aims to slash regulations—an action, advocacy groups say, that puts lives at risk, writes Andrea Germanos for Common Dreams. The order—the latest of a flurry since he took office—states that “for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination,” fulfilling a campaign promise he made. “For fiscal year 2017, which is in progress, the heads of all agencies are directed that the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, to be finalized this year shall be no greater than zero.” Trump said before signing the order: “We’ll be reducing [regulations] big league,” adding “This will be the biggest such act our country has ever seen.”
Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, according to a new report published by Oxfam today to mark the annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos. Oxfam’s report, ‘An economy for the 99 percent’, shows that the gap between rich and poor is far greater than had been feared. It details how big business and the super-rich are fuelling the inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages and using their power to influence politics. It calls for a fundamental change in the way we manage our economies so that they work for all people, and not just a fortunate few.
OxyContin is a dying business in America. With the nation in the grip of an opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, the U.S. medical establishment is turning away from painkillers. Top health officials are discouraging primary care doctors from prescribing them for chronic pain, saying there is no proof they work long-term and substantial evidence they put patients at risk. Prescriptions for OxyContin have fallen nearly 40% since 2010, meaning billions in lost revenue for its Connecticut manufacturer, Purdue Pharma. So the company’s owners, the Sackler family, are pursuing a new strategy: Put the painkiller that set off the U .S. opioid crisis into medicine cabinets around the world. This report is the third in a three part series in which the Los Angeles Times explores the role of OxyContin in the nation’s opioid epidemic. In another post, the journalists who reported the story describe their investigatory methods.