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Just some of the over 700,000 signature delivered to Mylan

Just some of the over 700,000 signature delivered to Mylan, Photo Credit: Ed Grystar W. PA. Coalition for Single Payer Healthcare

By Sean Grant

Protesters on Tuesday delivered petitions to Mylan’s corporate headquarters just outside of Pittsburgh demanding that the company end price gouging EpiPen users, they did not expect a warm welcome. They knew beforehand that they would not be allowed to approach the building. In front of TV cameras, Mylan accepted the petitions on a wheeled cart.

But Mylan representatives who collected the petition signatures – gathered by Public Citizen, MoveOn.org Civic Action and others – offered no comment to the media, raising the question of whether the company will heed the call of the nearly 700,000 Americans who signed the petitions. The public clearly is outraged at Mylan’s raising the price of EpiPens by more than 500 percent since 2007 for no apparent reason other than greed.

Protesters were not allowed to enter Mylan's visitor entrance at their building

Protesters were not allowed to enter Mylan’s visitor entrance, Photo Credit: Ed Grystar W. PA. Coalition for Single Payer Healthcare

Before the petition delivery, Mylan twice announced new measures to appease the public, but these weak attempts at appearing contrite only further enraged people. As Public Citizen President Robert Weissman stated, “It’s not enough to offer coupons and it’s not enough to offer an overpriced generic version of its own branded product. The company must roll back its unjustified and outrageous price increases.” Read those press releases here and here.

As the petitions were rolled away on dollies to chants of “people over profit,” attention shifted to Mike Laffin, a member of Mylan’s communications team, who was sent out to deal with the reporters clamoring to ask questions. Laffin, however, could provide nothing more substantive than “Any other questions need to be directed to our communications team or customer service.” He repeated the phrase several times, perhaps most forcefully when one reporter asked if Mylan had any plans to lower the price of the EpiPen further.

Considering how ineffective the customer service department has been so far, referring reporters to it – by a live person from the communications department – doesn’t seem like the brightest PR move. But the company keeps making missteps, it seems. It is imperative Mylan finally listen and take substantive action.

View a video of the petition delivery 

 

Our nation’s tax authority, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its Commissioner , seem to be under constant attack from some members of Congress. That’s why it’s more important than ever for us to remember the agency’s role is simply to enforce the tax code that Congress enacted in the first place. Lawmakers appear happy to leave the IRS on the hook to interpret vague legislative language while concurrently trying to stop it from doing that very thing.

It’s obvious that the IRS should do its part to make sure the tax code is clear but it’s equally clear that Congress should not get in the agency’s way when it attempts to do just that. Yet, that’s exactly what happened when Congress stopped the agency from working to clarify the all-too-confusing rules regarding political activity of nonprofits. This is a shame because clearer, better tax rules help everybody, not just nonprofits.

That’s why I was pleased to have recently been given the opportunity to testify before the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access. I was able to make the case for clearer rules—to benefit everyone. Below are some snippets from my testimony; I hope you find it interesting!

I do not need to tell this committee how important small business is to our economy and our society. Protecting small business owners and employees is a paramount goal of our government. Congress can and should protect small businesses by ensuring a clear, predictable framework of rules and regulations. Easy to follow and enforce rules allow small businesses to thrive while minimizing opportunities to abuse the tax system. And the IRS should be doing more to ensure that small businesses can easily comply with the regulations already in existence, and work to improve its ability to provide accurate and timely guidance.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that rules intended to protect small businesses can have unintended effects.  Laws that are intended to help small businesses, such as the RFA [Regulatory Flexibility Act] and SBREFA [Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act], in practice can allow large corporations to delay important regulations and thus harm small businesses rather than help them.

Finally, while fair enforcement of regulations is critical for small business success, it is also important that we ensure that the tax code itself provides a level playing field for small business. Currently, loopholes in the tax code allow large entities advantages that smaller players do not have, and prevent small businesses from being fully competitive in the marketplace. These loopholes allow tax-avoidance by large corporations, and small entities that would rather spend their resources on building their business than on elaborate avoidance schemes cannot take advantage of them. For example, reforming the code to disallow complex corporate tax-avoidance schemes like inversions would help small businesses by leveling the playing field, so that small businesses can compete more fairly with big businesses.

In the full version of the testimony, I go into more detail on how regulations help small businesses and our society. I also discuss how certain specific laws operate to delay regulations and make them harder for regulated entities to follow and predict. I discuss how Congress’s failure to fully fund the IRS hurts small business, and I talk about how the tax code is stacked against small business.

The testimony concludes:

It is in our nation’s interest that small businesses are able to grow and thrive in a society that protects health and safety and ensures that the market operates fairly to businesses of all sizes. Small changes to SBREFA, fully funding the IRS, and closing unfair loopholes will ensure that the playing field is level for small businesses.

My full testimony can be read or watched on the Committee’s website.

This article was originally posted on Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project blog.

Besides using their normal tools to attack life-saving public protections, Republicans have once again chosen to exploit the budget process. Instead of relying on anti-regulatory bills and (at times theatrical) Congressional hearings, the majority party in the House has decided to go down the path of inserting poison pill riders into the budget appropriations process.

Poison pill riders are preventing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from fulfilling its obligations under the Endangered Species Act.

From attacking science-based safeguards in a full frontal manner to using attempted stealth maneuvers to further delay an already bogged down rulemaking system, Republicans have not let up. Nearly all of the House appropriation bills currently up for debate or voted on contain regulatory assaults:

  • Killing specific final safeguards by blocking funding for the implementation, administration or enforcement – ex. Department of Labor’s fiduciary and overtime rules, preventing the enforcement of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules to limit exposure to lead paint and the Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement Well Control rule which provide commonsense protection against devastating offshore blowouts like Deepwater Horizon.

By also using stealthier methods and not just attacking specific protections, proposed standards or specific agencies, Republicans are further exploiting appropriation funding bills by adding poison pill riders to shut down the rulemaking system entirely. Since each funding bill covers multiple agencies and different areas, all-encompassing riders have the most devastating impact.

  • Repeat riders have emerged in various bills to shut down any rulemakings the bill would have funded – ex. the House Financial Services & General Government (FSGG) bill included a rider to prohibit the funding of all regulatory actions until January 21, 2017, and the same rider materialized in the House Interior bill.
  • In some cases, Republicans repeated the above riders but with a timeline attached – ex. a so-called midnight rules prevention rider surfaced in the House Energy & Water bill would eliminate funding for all rules with an economic impact of $100 million or more if finalized between November 8, 2016 and January 20, 2017.
  • As another stealth maneuver, Republicans in the House FSGG bill voted to add a piece of legislation to the mix, H.R. 427, the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS). Putting the ill-advised REINS Act into law would require Congressional approval before enacting major regulations – allowing the majority party a golden opportunity to kill the most life-saving public protections.

There’s a reason lawmakers sneak poison pill policy riders into must-pass spending bills to avoid a real debate: these provisions could not become law on their own merits. Many of them are wildly unpopular, damaging to the public and deeply controversial with voters in both parties — and they have nothing to do with funding our government.

That’s why Congress needs to pass clean spending bills with no poison pill riders and Republicans need to stop their assault on life-saving public protections.

Michell K. McIntyre is Coalition Manager at the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards.

This election cycle has reinforced long-held beliefs by many that the nation’s biggest banks need to be broken up. In 2008, American taxpayers bailed out mega-banks after their reckless and destructive behavior and since then Congress has fought about the best way to regulate the banks to ensure that such events will never happen again. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act was introduced to protect consumers in numerous ways, and included several provisions that would reinstate Glass-Steagall, a 1933 bill that separated commercial and investment banking. These policies would help halt some of the risky gambling in big institutions like JPMorgan, Citibank, and Bank of America, but the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect American taxpayers from another crisis.

That’s why Public Citizen continues to support the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act, which would make banks smaller, simpler, and safer.

As a part of the Take on Wall Street campaign, we are calling on Congress to make five policy changes that will help rein in some of the worst of Wall Street’s greed and excesses. One such policy change is the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act which would ensure that the big banks are no longer too big to fail.

What is the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act?

This act, reintroduced by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), would recreate and update the division between Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insured commercial banks and investment banks. Breaking up the big banks is not enough to prevent another financial crisis, and Glass-Steagall would stop the banks’ reckless gambling with taxpayer money and renew their focus on lending to everyday Americans.

How will it do this?

A modern Glass-Steagall would make banks simpler to manage by restricting their activities to conventional banking, and would drive forward competition for smaller banks to compete against more well-known entities. It would also allow for protection against fluctuations on Wall Street, making the financial sector more resilient.

Will Glass-Steagall be effective in today’s market?

The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act combines the ideals of the Banking Act of 1933 with an understanding of our current financial reality. Senators Warren and McCain have updated the language to directly regulate the markets and practices that lead to the financial crisis in 2008, such as derivatives and securitization.

What can I do?

Take action at TakeOnWallSt.com to support the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. There, you’ll be able to sign a petition to tell Congress to reform Wall Street and find a printable one pager on Glass-Steagall.

We hope that you’ll join with Public Citizen and our partners in the next phase of Wall Street reform!

This post was written by Amanda Bragg, a Public Citizen intern.

Bart Naylor at Too Big launchOn June 22, Public Citizen was joined by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon, former congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina, MIT Professor Simon Johnson, University of Maryland Professor Rena Steinzor, and Marcus Stanley of Americans for Financial Reform to celebrate the release of Public Citizen’s latest publication. Too Big: The Mega-Banks Are Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail, and Too Big to Manage lays out the reasons why the current regulatory system has allowed mega-banks to remain too large.

Too Big immediately pinpoints the threat to American citizens’ interests as big banks continue to operate without adequate regulation:

“Americans suffered from the financial crisis of the 2008. Adding insult to injury, Americans were compelled to finance bailouts of banks responsible for the crash on the theory that permitting any to fail would cause a cascade of bankruptcies and inflict cataclysmic damage to the economy.

Yet today, the largest banks are even bigger than they were then.”

The book, by Bart Naylor, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division’s financial policy advocate, focuses on commonsense solutions, in the form of regulatory and legislative reforms, to stem the unencumbered power and greed of the mega-banks.

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