This is the week when, more so than any other time of the year, Americans have taxes on their minds.  And, as another tax filing season wraps-up, it’s always a great time to reflect on potential changes that could make our system more equitable.

Absolutely, corporations need to stop dodging taxes by gaming the system to book profits offshore.  It’s infuriating for individuals who take seriously their civic duty to pay the taxes that support government infrastructure to know that some corporations are shirking their responsibility by paying little or no corporate income tax.  And then there are the ridiculous deductions companies are taking: for multi-million dollar executive bonuses and for settlements after having been charged with wrongdoing.

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It’s true we’ve come a long way, baby but we’re not quite there.

Earlier this week, “Equal Pay Day” marked the amount of time into a new year a woman is estimated to need to work to make up for the pay gap between genders.  Yet, legislation to right this imbalance failed in the U.S. Senate and in the House of Representatives.  As women’s rights advocates fight to end pay inequality, there’s a less known problem that’s affecting women: forced arbitration.

Last month, Americans celebrated the achievements of females during Women’s History Month, including our partners in the Fair Arbitration Now coalition who joined together to highlight the special problem of the impact of forced arbitration on women.

The battle for women’s rights is an ongoing campaign, and we have seen hard-fought successes. Through a series of landmark cases starting in the 1970’s, the concept of Equal Protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as codified by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was firmly established as law of the land to treat women as equal to men. While the struggle there continues, women’s rights are also affected by our diminishing right to access the court system. The Seventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants all citizens the right to a jury trial. Yet corporations consistently have been allowed to thwart that right by inserting arbitration clauses in contracts for employment and consumer products such as credit cards, cell phones, nursing homes, and even home construction.

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Do you think big tax breaks for big corporations should end? Do you think large multinational corporations should pay their fair share of the costs needed to provide essential government services?

If the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gets its way, we’ll be stuck with the current status quo, where corporations are allowed to ship profits overseas to tax havens and game the system to pay little or no taxes. According to a new report, the Chamber has lobbied more intensely than all but one entity, General Electric, to renew a package of lapsed tax breaks, known as “tax extenders,” that could amount to $700 billion in lost revenue over 10 years.

Chamber lobbyists appeared 789 times in lobbying reports on renewing these tax breaks – an average of more than one appearance in the lobbying reports per weekday – in the 33 months between 2011 and 2013 covered by the report. On top of that, each lobbying report represents from one to dozens of contacts with members of Congress and their staffs during the quarter it was filed. The next highest number of appearances after the Chamber’s 789 was Hewlett-Packard with 372.

In addition to its number of appearances, the Chamber spent significantly more money lobbying for tax extenders than any company. It spent $254.6 million, which was 31 percent of what the top 30 organizations cumulatively spent. The next highest spender was General Electric, at $61.4 million, followed by Goldman Sachs, at $50.7 million. In total 373 organizations lobbied on the tax extenders, spending an average of $7.8 million – 3 percent of what the Chamber spent.

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By Samantha Aster

Public Citizen supports mechanisms established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that will enable the movement toward state-level single-payer systems, which the law’s waiver process enables, even though we do not endorse the ACA as a whole. States that want to establish stronger programs than the federal system will be able to using the waiver process when it becomes available to states in 2017. By establishing state level single-payer systems, we hope to clear a path to eventually move toward Medicare-for- all at the federal level.

Although Public Citizen endorses moving altogether away from an employer-sponsored health insurance system and toward a single-payer system, the debate over current policies that are intended to increase Americans’ access to health care should at least be based on accurate information. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has engaged in an aggressive messaging and lobbying campaign to delay and potentially repeal a mandate in the ACA for businesses to provide health insurance benefits to their employees.

This campaign is based on exaggerated claims and misinformation.

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Bartlett Naylor co-authored this blog post with Amit Narang.

After two years of studying the proposed Volcker Rule, with 20,000 comments from bankers and the public, hundreds of meetings with Wall Street lobbyists, and 18 months past the rule’s congressionally mandated deadline for enactment, we’re now being told by the American Action Forum (AAF) — a self-described “center right policy institute” — that this was a rush job.

The Volcker Rule figures as a hallmark in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. It prohibits proprietary trading — gambling — by federally insured financial institutions.

The Volcker rule is about the worst example AAF could have come up with of a so-called rushed rulemaking. The simple and demonstrable truth is that our current regulatory process is far too slow and unwieldy to work effectively for the American public, and the Volcker Rule is the case in point.

Financial agencies missed deadline after deadline as they crafted the Volcker rule. Part of the delay was that they faced an unprecedented lobbying barrage from Wall Street to weaken the rule with loopholes or block it completely. So it is pretty incredible to see AAF try to re-write history and trick the public into believing that the regulators rushed this rule. AAF can distort the record and cherry-pick facts, but it doesn’t change the fact that, although the public and our economy are both far better off with the Volcker rule now in place, it took far too long.

The AAF adds that a new “administration” study reveals “annual” costs could approach $4.3 billion, proof that the regulators didn’t appreciate the ramifications of what they approved.

That $4.3 billion “annual” cost detailed in the administration study largely stems from the high end of losses the biggest banks might suffer shedding some of their high-risk assets, largely hedge funds. It is, in fact, a one-time cost, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) estimates the cost in a range of $0 to $3.6 billion. The high end of the compliance estimate makes up the balance of the $4.3 billion.

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