Friday, June 30, 2017

GUEST POST >> Trump’s Plan for Consumers: Death by a Thousand Cuts


Are Consumers Being Trumped by Policy?


The following is a guest post authored by Lindsey Pasieka, a Consumer Rights Investigator with ConsumerSafety.org. If you are interested in doing a guest post with Political Heat, please click the Contact link above. 

The metaphor is gruesome, I know. But today, so is the outlook for consumers in America. With the AHCA vote put on hold once again (because not everyone thinks it is okay to strip 22 million Americans of their healthcare) our nation sits on the fence between defending and decimating consumer protections.

Donald Trump, however, has already made his stance clear. He stands to the side with Big Business, Big Pharma and Big Losses for the public.

Already, President Trump has shown his disregard for the average American in his FY18 budget, which presents cuts to some of our most important health and safety agencies. For example, the FDA’s budget stands to be cut by $854 million, a deficit that would be covered by increased user fees placed on the shoulders of drug manufacturers.

Perhaps this is a burden easily taken on by Pfizer and similar household names. However, the hiked fees could trample smaller, innovative companies seeking to bring new solutions to the world of medications, stifling their product offerings and thereby preserving the profit margin of current industry moguls.

Trump has often talked about reducing regulations that he considers “overkill” in both drug and agriculture. What you might not know is that those reductions include a $228 million cut in farm programs that, in addition to maintaining a high standard for food quality, offer assistance to smaller farms and organic farmers making their way into the market. If that isn’t enough, FoodProcessing.com reports that "Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in May rescinded rules in the School Lunch Program that required the use of whole grains and fat-free, white-only milk and a second round of sodium reductions."

In plain terms, the Trump administration is stamping out opportunities for eco-friendly, health-focused producers while blatantly allowing schools to provide less healthful options to our kids every day.

Of course, it’s not enough to put a pillow over the face of market innovators — the GOP has attacked consumers directly as well. With their oxymoronic Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, the administration has made it much more difficult for consumers to seek justice when Big Business or Big Pharma missteps. To create a class, citizens must now prove they have the same “type and scope of injury.”

So if plaintiff #1 was exposed to talcum powder by her mother using baby powder on her as an infant, and plaintiff #2 used the powder to help reduce chafing while training for a 5K, and both have now been diagnosed with ovarian cancer caused by the talcum powder, they cannot band together to seek reparations. Even if both women had the same “type and scope of injury,” ovarian cancer can lie dormant for years. Since litigators have recently proposed changing the statutes of limitation for these cases from 10 to 3 years, these women would be unable to fight for justice if their diagnosis came too late.

As of today, Donald Trump’s administration isn’t quite sure where it lands on health care just yet. But they continue to be complacent in supporting Big Business and Big Pharma over the small businesses that truly make America great. They care more about profits in the food industry than promoting health standards, despite a raging obesity epidemic and the climate benefits of innovative, organic farming practices.

And when they’re done picking the bones of federal agencies, they have no problem targeting consumer rights directly. So death by a thousand cuts may sound ugly, messy, or painful. But there’s one thing the threat isn’t: fake.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why you should ignore Scott Walker’s rosy economic outlook


Underemployment remains a problem in Wisconsin — and that’s why jobs numbers matter


Scott Walker is making much ado about the unemployment rate in Wisconsin. And at first glance, it does look pretty great. Here’s his latest radio address spot, courtesy of the Capital Times’s Jessie Opoien:
A 3.1 percent unemployment rate, again, sounds great. But there’s important things to remember here...first, that the unemployment numbers count people as employed even if they’re working part time.

There isn’t a reliable measure of part time workers that we can look at. So, it’s important to look at the underemployment rate also when we look at how much things have improved.

That rate, also known as the U-6 rate, is actually hovering around 7.7 to 8.0 percent, meaning that nearly 4 to 5 percent of the workforce that Walker is touting as employed isn’t getting as much work as they wish they could (full time). In total, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly 100,000 individuals were involuntary part time workers in the state of Wisconsin.

This leads into the next point. In order to fix that problem of underemployment, there has to be new jobs created in the state, and frequently. This is true with any economy: a certain percentage of people, at any given time, want to be able to change career paths or just get a different job with a new employer. So, new jobs have to be created to keep up.

That’s not possible when new jobs aren’t being created. And with less than 12,000 jobs being created for all of 2016, it’s clear that Wisconsin isn’t keeping up with the demand for fluidity in the job marketplace.

It’s no wonder that millennials are seeking work elsewhere, as I pointed out earlier this month. Job opportunities are low, wages are dropping, and what job opportunities do exist are on many occasions part time jobs.

Scott Walker should be proud of the 3.1 percent unemployment rate. But that rate is hardly indicative of the overall economic picture. Voters should remind him of where the state really stands when 2018 rolls around.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Randy Bryce’s announcement ad is a powerful message — and Dems nationwide should echo it


Ironworker and activist hopes to win Paul Ryan’s seat


Ironworker and activist Randy Bryce has announced his intention to run for Congress. He faces a daunting task: running against the current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

But if any candidate is going to be able to put up a fight worth writing home about, it’s Bryce. His no-nonsense style of wit, along with his lifelong connection to southeastern Wisconsin, will make him a formidable opponent for Ryan, who has held the district since 1999.

And Bryce, in announcing his bid for the seat, has come out swinging. He released his first campaign ad to great fanfare yesterday (just search “Bryce” on Twitter to see the people who have lauded this ad). One noteworthy message of praise simply states that Bryce was “genetically engineered from Bruce Springsteen songs.”

But you should really see the ad for yourself. And then you should share it with whoever you can, especially if they live in the First Congressional District of Wisconsin.
Bryce’s ad is a moving and powerful example of what the Democratic Party should be moving toward. If that message ran in every district across the country, there’d be a gain in seats for Democrats in Congress, no question about it.

I look forward to seeing who comes out ahead on the Democratic Party’s primary in Wisconsin’s First District. But Bryce’s ad has me pumped up about the possibilities.