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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax, Transportation

Obama Plan to Close Corporate Loopholes, Invest in Infrastructure Promising, but Lacks Critical Details

In his State of the Union Address tonight, President Obama called for closing corporate tax loopholes and investing in infrastructure. His plan is promising, but lacks critical details.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

President Obama Highlights Importance of Strengthening American Democracy in 2014

In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama discussed the importance of strengthening American democracy both by amplifying the voices of ordinary citizens and by improving voter systems to increase participation.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs | Higher Ed

SURVEY SHOWS STUDENTS OPTING OUT OF BUYING HIGH-COST TEXTBOOKS

Today, a survey released by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund shows that 65% of student consumers have opted out of buying a college textbook due to its high price, and of those students, 94% say they suffer academically.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs | Higher Ed

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market

This study demonstrates that despite recent steps forward in the marketplace, high textbook costs will continue to be a problem for students unless the cost of high-priced, new editions of college textbooks comes down.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

U.S. PIRG and Allies Mark Citizens United Anniversary with Renewed Call for Constitutional Amendment

On the eve of the fourth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, eight pro-democracy groups are speaking out about the need to amend the Constitution to overturn that decision and protect the integrity of our political system.

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Prepaid cards can be a good choice if you choose wisely

Prepaid debit cards are billed as a better way to manage your money, a smart alternative to checking accounts. [...but prepaid] debit cards are different from credit cards or even debit cards tied to a checking account. They may not provide the same level of protection again loss or fraud. Ed Mierzwinski, director of consumer programs at U.S. PIRG, doesn’t think most people understand the difference.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG, PennPIRG | Democracy

PennPIRG to EQT: Elections Are Not for Shale

This morning, PennPIRG, PennEnvironment, Public Citizen, Keystone Progress, One Pittsburgh, Common Cause PA, University of Pittsburgh students and others held a press conference outside gas drilling company EQT’s annual shareholder meeting to call on it to end the practice of spending corporate money in elections.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students React to President's Budget Proposal on Student Loans

While the President’s budget keeps rates low in the near term, we’re disappointed that it risks sky-high interest rates in the long term. The structure of the proposal switches student loan interest rates from a fixed rate to a rate that varies with the market, allowing students to take advantage of temporarily low rates, but offers no protection for students when rates inevitably begin to climb.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

New Poll: Small Businesses Overwhelmingly Support Closing Offshore Tax Loopholes for Large Corporations

A new scientific poll of small businesses found that small business owners overwhelmingly support closing loopholes that let large multinationals avoid taxes by artificially shifting their profits offshore. 85% of small business owners oppose “a tax system that would allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes permanently by shifting their income to places like the Cayman Islands.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Federal Government Makes Billions from Student Loan Borrowers Yearly

Today, a coalition of youth and student groups released an issue brief demonstrating that the federal government is making billions in revenue through the federal student loan program. The report projects that student loans will generate over $36 billion in revenue in 2013, in part because of a scheduled July 1 doubling of Stafford loan interest rates.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

ATM Fee Backlash

The ATM surcharge has more than doubled the cost to consumers for using foreign ATMs. The surcharge contributes dramatically to the profits of ATM owners, lessens the benefit to consumers of shared ATM networks and encourages the growth of bigger banks.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Show Me The Money

This report updates a 1998 CFA survey on the consumer costs of payday lending and includes a survey of 230 payday lenders found in 20 states. It finds that payday lenders continue to make short term consumer loans of $100-400 at legal interest rates of 390-871% in states where payday lending is allowed. More disturbingly, the report finds that payday lenders are exploiting new partnerships with national banks to make payday loans in states, such as Virginia, where the loans are otherwise prohibited by usury ceilings or other regulations.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Bigger Fees 1999

Over 12 million American families can't afford bank accounts. The rest of us are paying too much, especially if we bank at big banks. Meanwhile, in 1998 banks recorded nearly $62 billion in profits, an eighth straight record year.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Dirty Dollars, Dirty Air

This report documents the influence of the auto and oil industry on public policy and debates surrounding the control of pollution that causes smog, soot and global warming. It tracks the amount of campaign contributions made by the 164 largest companies in the automobile and oil industries and how those contributions influenced members of Congress on clean air issues.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Pushing The Limit

At least five proposals to increase limits on contributions by individuals to congressional candidates -- either as stand-alone measures or as part of a package of campaign finance measures -- have been floated by important political groups and individuals in the past year. The following paper analyzes the likely impact of these proposals on which candidates get elected and on the power of wealthy interests vs. the general public in governmental decision making.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Should Facebook And Google Be Regulated As Credit Bureaus? | Ed Mierzwinski

In a series of joint privacy petitions to the Federal Trade Commission beginning in 2006 and extended more recently to include behavioral targeting, as well as medical and mobile marketing, U.S. PIRG and the Center for Digital Democracy (sometimes with allies) have argued for greater scrutiny and regulation of the online digital marketing and behavioral targeting ecosystem that involves companies you do business with, social networking tools, third-party advertisers and other players. Today, in the New York Times, Professor Lori Andrews says that "Facebook is Using You."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Some Consumer News of the Week, In Case You Missed It | Ed Mierzwinski

It's hard to keep up, so here are some key consumer news stories I am following that you may have missed this week. We start with CALPIRG Education Fund's new "Cell Phone Guide," look at the Consumer Federation of America's report on auto insurance discrimination and take you all the way to the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign survey on what's "good, bad and ugly (rats!)" in NYC subway stations.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Toxic Toys Found at Houston Port | Nasima Hossain

An article published in the Houston Chronicle on Monday, January 23rd, revealed that 25,000 children’s toys have been confiscated at the Port of Houston in the past two years, because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found them to be unsafe.

 

 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB's Cordray to Highlight Achievements/Goals Today In Senate | Ed Mierzwinski

The Senate Banking Committee will hold an oversight hearing today at 10 am (live video) on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's semi-annual report to Congress. The witness will be CFPB director Rich Cordray, who received a PIRG-backed recess appointment from the President on January 4th. Expect some CFPB opponents on the committee to boycott; others to show up.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Watch for fake 5.0 user ratings on merchant sites; and watch out for efforts by doctors, others to block real ratings, too | Ed Mierzwinski

Some user reviews on the Internet are written by sockpuppets paid by the website; in other cases, consumers are given inducements to write good reviews (New York Times). Meanwhile, doctors, especially, are trying to use copyright law to "squelch" valid reviews from patients (Washington Post). Either way, watch out.

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