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  • Budget | PennPIRG
    Health Care Fighting The High Cost Of Rx Drugs Brand name drug companies have been paying off generic drug makers to delay competition and keep prices high This widespread pay for delay scheme needs to be put to an end Read more about Fighting The High Cost Of Rx Drugs News Release PennPIRG Education Fund Budget Food Ag Subsidies Pay for 21 Twinkies per Taxpayer But Only Half of an Apple Apiece Federal subsidies for commodity crops are subsidizing junk food additives like high fructose corn syrup enough to pay for 21 Twinkies per taxpayer every year according to PennPIRG s new report Apples to Twinkies 2012 Meanwhile limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy one half of an apple per taxpayer Read more about Ag Subsidies Pay for 21 Twinkies per Taxpayer But Only Half of an Apple Apiece Report PennPIRG Education Fund Budget Food Apples to Twinkies 2012 In this report we find that in 2011 over 1 28 billion in taxpayer subsidies went to junk food ingredients bringing the total to a staggering 18 2 billion since 1995 To put that figure in perspective 18 2 billion is enough to buy 2 9 billion Twinkies every year 21 for every single American taxpayer Read more about Apples to Twinkies 2012 Report PennPIRG Education Fund Budget Following the Money 2012 The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy Transparency in government spending promotes fiscal responsibility checks corruption and bolsters public confidence In the past few years state governments across the country have made their checkbooks transparent by creating online transparency portals These government operated websites allow visitors to view the government s checkbook who receives state money how much and for what purposes Most of these websites are also searchable making it easier for residents to follow the money and monitor government spending of many sorts Today almost every state operates a transparency website with the stateís checkbook accessible to the public Read more about Following the Money 2012 News Release PennPIRG Education Fund Budget PA Receives a B on Government Transparency Philadelphia PA March 14 Pennsylvania received a B when it comes to government spending transparency according to Following the Money 2012 How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data the third annual report of its kind by the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group PennPIRG Read more about PA Receives a B on Government Transparency Issue Budget Consumer Protection Transportation Protecting Public Assets Road parking and other privatization proposals offer a hard to resist quick fix for state budget and transportation challenges But poorly conceived privatization deals can have hidden costs and big potential downsides for the public Read more about Protecting Public Assets News Release PennPIRG Education Fund and ITEP Budget Tax Report Shows Pennsylvania Corporations Paying Few State Taxes A comprehensive new study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that 68 of 265 consistently profitable Fortune 500 corporations paid no

    Original URL path: http://www.pennpirg.org/topics/budget (2016-04-27)
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  • Following the Money 2015 | PennPIRG
    entirely new transparency website incorporating all of the features typically found on leading sites as well as cutting edge functionality States have made varying levels of progress toward improved online spending transparency See Figure ES 1 and Table ES 1 Leading States A range Fourteen states lead in online spending transparency representing an all time high in this category They have created user friendly websites that provide visitors with accessible information on an array of expenditures Not only can ordinary citizens find information on specific vendor payments through easy to use search features but experts and watchdog groups can also download and analyze the entire checkbook dataset Advancing States B range Eighteen states are advancing in online spending transparency with spending information that is easy to access but more limited than Leading States Most Advancing States have checkbooks that are searchable by recipient keyword and agency Middling States C range Thirteen states are middling in online spending transparency with comprehensive and easy to access checkbook level spending information but limited information on subsidies or other off budget expenditures Lagging States D range The two Lagging States fail to provide tax expenditure reports and provide almost no checkbook level detail on the recipients of economic development subsidies North Dakota makes data available for a single program There are significantly fewer Lagging States this year than last evidence of states ongoing progress in opening the books on spending F ailing States F range Three states fail to meet several of the standards of online spending transparency For example two of the three do not host an online database for searching or viewing expenditure details and only one makes tax expenditure reports available via a central transparency portal None of the Failing States provide any information on economic development subsidies Some states are innovating new features for online transparency They have developed new protocols and datasets and introduced new website functionality giving the public unprecedented ability to monitor and influence how their government allocates resources For instance Ohio s site populates instant search suggestions based on the letters typed into the search bar creating a website that looks and behaves much like the top search engines Ohioans most commonly visit and interact with elsewhere on the internet This feature aids transparency by helping users track down information without needing prior knowledge of exact search terms In addition every web page has the phone number and email address for a point of contact in state government as well as social media share buttons Minnesota Oklahoma and Texas have added new detail and made data easier to understand with new visualization tools including maps graphs and a taxpayer receipt that explains how a citizen s tax dollar is distributed to different state spending functions Florida now posts the value of payments excluded from the checkbook for confidentiality reasons enabling users to better grasp the missing state payments that policies prohibit from being listed in the checkbook database All states including Leading States have opportunities to

    Original URL path: http://www.pennpirg.org/reports/pap/following-money-2015 (2016-04-27)
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  • The Innovative Transportation Index | PennPIRG
    smartphone or other Internet connected devices When accessible on the go schedule and routing data helps riders navigate transit systems effectively even when their plans change Static transit data is currently available in 66 of 70 cities Real time transit information builds on the benefits of open static data by providing users real time information on arrival departure times and delays This gives riders the ability to avoid unforeseen wait times or to change routes at the last minute Real time transit information is currently available in 56 of 70 cities Multi modal apps knit the transportation landscape together by offering users the opportunity to see side by side comparisons of a variety of routes and services for making their trip including biking carsharing public transit driving and walking Multi modal apps are currently available in 47 of 70 cities Virtual ticketing gives users the opportunity to avoid lost tickets and long wait times at the ticket counter by buying tickets directly through an Internet connected device such as a smartphone Riders can set up an account to look after expenses and track ticket validity Virtual ticketing is currently available in 6 of 70 cities This report finds There are at least 19 cities with Abundant Choices places where at least some residents have access to all or nearly all of these new transportation services Austin Texas is the only city in the United States to have access to all 11 kinds of services evaluated here San Francisco and Washington D C have access to 10 of the services evaluated See Table ES 1 Another 35 cities have Growing Choices Residents of these cities have access to many kinds of innovative transportation services but not as many as cities with Abundant Choices Orlando Atlanta Louisville St Louis Baltimore Cleveland Kansas City Newark Pittsburgh and Raleigh lead this category and several are already planning the addition of new technology enabled services within the next year The remaining 16 cities have Emerging Choices these are cities where residents have access to fewer than half of the types of technology enabled services evaluated in this report Many of these are smaller cities in largely rural states with limited transportation options These tools are beginning to expand to new areas and further expansion would signal their potential to benefit a wide variety of American cities Table ES 1 Top Cities with Abundant Choices Technology enabled transportation services have the potential to reduce driving and car ownership especially among young people Studies have shown that tools such as carsharing and ridesharing reduce vehicle ownership and the number of miles driven Other tools such as real time transit information improve the experience of riding transit and have been shown to give a modest boost to ridership Residents in cities that have access to a portfolio of technology enabled tools are better able to construct car free and car light lifestyles that are less dependent on car ownership Cities with more abundant transportation enabled services are able

    Original URL path: http://www.pennpirg.org/reports/paf/innovative-transportation-index (2016-04-27)
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  • Trouble in Toyland 2014 | PennPIRG
    which are pieces that almost fit into the choke tube and can be a choking hazard Small balls less than 1 75 inches in diameter represent a choke hazard for children three years old and younger We found small balls that were not labeled with the appropriate choke hazard warning We also remain concerned about other small rounded toys such as toy food that present the same choke hazard as small balls but are not labeled as a hazard Balloons are easily inhaled in attempts to inflate them and can become stuck in children s throats Balloons are responsible for more choking deaths among children than any other toy or children s product As in past years we continue to find balloons on store shelves marketed to children under eight Magnets When two or more powerful magnets are swallowed they can have fatal health consequences as their attractive forces draw them together inside the body perforating intestinal walls Our shoppers purchased small high powered magnets despite their being recalled by the CPSC Batteries When batteries are ingested chemical reactions can burn through the esophagus and blood vessels causing fatal internal bleeding Our shoppers purchased a toy whale that contains batteries that are accessible to small children and are nearly small enough to constitute a choke hazard The toy has been recalled in Australia because small children can easily remove the batteries Excessive noise Excessive noise exposure can lead to hearing loss This is especially problematic for young children Hearing loss at an early age has ramifications for speech development This year our shoppers found toys that are loud though not necessarily in violation of federal limits Despite recent progress in making toys safer the findings of our 2014 investigation as well as recent recalls and legal actions against importers highlight the need for continued attention to shortcomings in existing standards and vigilance on the part of the shopping public To keep children safe from potentially hazardous toys there is still more to do Policymakers should continue building upon recent progress in the strengthening of toy safety standards The CPSC should Continue to vigorously enforce the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act s mandatory standards for toys including strict limits on lead and lead paint in any toys jewelry or other articles for children under 12 years Vigorously enforce the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act s permanent ban on the use of three specific phthalates in all toys and children s products Upgrade the interim ban on three additional phthalates into a permanent prohibition and expand it to include additional phthalates Enlarge the small parts test tube to be more protective of children under three Consider extending the standard for toys with spherical ends to apply to toys intended for children under six years old instead of under four years Change the small ball rule to include small round or semi round objects and not just balls in the strictest definition since these toys pose the same hazards as small balls this

    Original URL path: http://www.pennpirg.org/reports/paf/trouble-toyland-2014 (2016-04-27)
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  • The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections | PennPIRG
    poll conducted earlier this year said the wealthy have more influence over elections than other Americans Unsurprisingly voters worry that this inequality in electoral influence translates into an inequality in representation when election winners take office Echoing the results of earlier surveys an Every Voice poll conducted after the 2014 elections found that just 11 percent of Democratic voters and 15 percent of Republican voters think constituents are even among the top two biggest influences on their representatives votes versus groups like lobbyists campaign donors and special interests And they re often right According to new work by Brigham Young University s Michael Barber the gulf in policy views between some senators and the average constituent in their states is so wide it s almost as if they were assigned randomly to represent voters rather than being elected by them A high profile study by Princeton University s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University s Benjamin I Page reveals that economic elites and business interests play an overwhelmingly more significant role in setting policy than average citizens Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions Gilens and Page find they have little or no independent influence on policy at all The obvious response to this stark disparity between the system we have and the democracy we deserve is to take steps to bring the former into closer alignment with the latter The first step we can take is to match small donors contributions with public funds to amplify their voices and provide an incentive for candidates to listen to all voters rather than just elite donors Unfortunately the other natural response directly limiting big money has been largely closed off by a Supreme Court that has narrowed the legally allowable justifications for limiting big contributions or spending to just fighting quid pro quo corruption or bribery That s far too low a bar Democracy means more than just the absence of explicit money for votes schemes It s long past time to demand that a true conception of democracy play a more robust role in our campaign finance policies That means pushing the Supreme Court to recognize that our democracy contains the promise of political equality for all citizens regardless of wealth clearing the path for our elected representatives to enact policies that end large donor dominance of our elections In January we will release a report that documents the full extent of the role large donors play in our elections and explains the long term changes needed to bring our policies more in line with our promises as well as how we can work within current constraints in the meantime This Demos and U S PIRG Education Fund analysis is part of Money14 a series of independent reports exposing the role of money in American politics Join us for an event near the fifth anniversary of Citizens United to hear more about the participating organizations innovative research and work together for a more inclusive transparent

    Original URL path: http://www.pennpirg.org/reports/paf/dominance-big-money-2014-congressional-elections (2016-04-27)
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  • Prescription For Change | PennPIRG
    gauge doctors concerns about multi drug resistant bacterial infections as a growing problem 2 find out if doctors are taking actions that will help reduce this problem and 3 hear doctors views on administering antibiotics to livestock Most 378 of the surveyed doctors worked in an outpatient setting primarily and 22 108 worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings Another 3 percent 14 of the surveyed doctors worked in an inpatient setting primarily The survey results paint a grim picture of the growing problem of antibiotic resistant infections that doctors encounter in their patients The overwhelming majority 85 of surveyed doctors reported that one or more of their patients had been diagnosed with a presumed or confirmed case of a multi drug resistant bacterial infection in the past twelve months Of those 35 had a patient either die or suffer significant complications as a result of the illness Recognizing the severity and frequency of these illnesses in their patients the vast majority of doctors 97 expressed concern about the growing problem of multi drug resistant infections and were taking a series of measures in their own practices to minimize the problem of antibiotic resistance They are also troubled by antibiotic use in the food animal sector with 93 expressing concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock production facilities on healthy animals in order to promote growth and prevent disease Search form Search About Issues Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics Campaign for Safe Energy Democracy For The People Stop the Highway Boondoggles Close Corporate Tax Loopholes Making Health Care Work Protecting Consumers Label GMO Foods Reining in Wall Street Act Now Jobs Donate Newsroom Resources Reports Get our RSS feed Our Affiliates Our Sister c 3 Are you a student Our Federation Featured Position PennPIRG Internship Work on some of

    Original URL path: http://www.pennpirg.org/reports/pap/prescription-change (2016-04-27)
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  • We oppose latest effort to weaken CFPB, other bank regulators | PennPIRG
    exploit potentially dangerous loopholes create confusion in the marketplace and cause unnecessary delays in the adoption of important consumer protections Prudential and consumer regulators already have broad discretion in the application of their rulemakings The proposal review and comment process is the appropriate means through which particular accommodations should be considered as they have been throughout the development of regulations under Dodd Frank We urge you to vote no on H R 2896 and any amendments HR 2896 purports to simply require regulators to tailor rules to the specific risks of financial institutions But regulators have already taken extensive actions to adjust and modify their regulations to be appropriate for particular institutions and financial products and are already required to consider such issues through the notice and comment process Since an appropriately tailored approach to regulation is already in place the main effect of H R 2896 would be to add numerous new cost benefit type requirements that would block needed regulatory actions in the future and force banking regulators to conduct a burdensome and time consuming re analysis of every single consumer and financial protection they had passed under the Dodd Frank Act the CARD Act and other recent consumer protection laws When reporters ask me my recommendations about banks my answer is simple Bank at a credit union not at a bank If you absolutely cannot find a credit union to join you d be surprised how easy it is to qualify for membership then bank at a small community bank Most consumer advocates say the same thing Yet for whatever unfathomable reason credit union and small bank lobbyists persist in attacks on the CFPB and indeed all regulation Their enmity goes back way before the CFPB was even proposed In a speech before the Credit Union National Association last week CFPB director Richard Cordray expressed his views on the conundrum It is time for credit unions and CUNA to wake up and smell the coffee the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not your enemy on the contrary it is an important new friend and ally Some of you may have smiled and elbowed your neighbor when you just heard me say that But it is the truth and it is high time we all had the courage to face the truth and adjust our views to accommodate it Also in that speech Director Cordray outlined the innumerable actions that the CFPB has already taken to assist small banks and credit unions and tailor its regulations to help them because the smaller institutions pose less risk and operate differently than the mega banks As I noted earlier we recognize that smaller creditors including most credit unions operate differently from larger financial institutions And we continue to look at learn about and act upon the challenges faced by smaller creditors that are striving to maintain their traditions of flexible yet responsible lending It is an invaluable service to consumers especially those in America s smaller communities and rural areas

    Original URL path: http://www.pennpirg.org/blogs/eds-blog/usp/we-oppose-latest-effort-weaken-cfpb-other-bank-regulators (2016-04-27)
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  • CFPB Criticizes Banks Re Account Opening and Overdrafts, Offers Consumer Tips | PennPIRG
    they were unable to recover Others might simply choose not to participate in the banking system perhaps because they are uncomfortable with the costs or risks they believe it poses for them At the Consumer Bureau we believe that people who want the benefits and convenience of some kind of deposit account deserve a fair opportunity to have one We are concerned that some people are being inappropriately sidelined by two things The first is the lack of account options that fit their financial needs and situations The second is inaccurate information used to screen some potential customers In 2010 the pre CFPB regulators issued a rule that prohibited banks from signing you up for standard overdraft protection which allows you to overdraft for a fee of up to 35 per occurrence at point of sale debit card transactions at coffee shops and stores unless you affirmatively opt in to the product The rules do allow you to bounce paper checks However the CFPB has been concerned with aggressive marketing of the opt in product many consumers may have inadvertently opted in you should make sure you are not paying up to 35 an occurrence to cover small debit card overdrafts if you opt out your card will simply be declined in the future It and the FDIC which regulates certain smaller state banks have also been concerned with certain overdraft practices Some banks for example encourage consumers to pay up to 6 or more bounced check fees averaging over 30 each day Some banks re order your transactions from biggest to smallest at the end of the day to increase fee revenue you make several small retail transactions in the morning that do not overdraw your account but then a larger check comes in at the end of the

    Original URL path: http://www.pennpirg.org/blogs/eds-blog/usp/cfpb-criticizes-banks-re-account-opening-and-overdrafts-offers-consumer-tips (2016-04-27)
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