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LABOR, ECONOMY & THE CLIMATE

First Trump Budget to Take Aim at Non-Retiree Social Safety Net

The first Trump administration budget proposal will leave Social Security and Medicare benefits untouched, but other major federal programs face deep cuts. When asked about reductions to the two major retirement programs, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Fox News on Sunday: “Don’t expect to see that as part of this budget.” The administration, however, will be aiming to push for significant reductions in other unspecified “social safety net programs,” according to a report published the same day by The New York Times.  Full details have… Keep Reading

Homeownership Rate Lowest Since L.B.J. Era, Years After Subprime Meltdown

Data released this month by the Census Bureau show that homeownership is increasingly unavailable to Americans, years after the Great Recession. The rate of homeowners in the US fell in 2016 to 63.4 percent from 63.7 percent, marking the lowest it has been since 1967. Prospective buyers, meanwhile, got no relief from the market last year, with the vacancy rate down and the median asking price up at to $167,700–the highest it has been since the post-2008 housing price recovery began in 2011. Though the… Keep Reading

Senate Confirms Austerity Champion Congressman as Influential White House Staffer

The Senate approved of President Trump’s chief budget and policy aide on Thursday, in a 51-49 vote. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) was the lone Republican to reject Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), on the grounds that the Tea Party Congressman has extended his frequent calls for fiscal austerity to the defense budget. Mulvaney is now set to lead the Office of Management and Budget, an influential wonky arm of the White House through which draft “major rules” receive edits before publication. The agency is also tasked with… Keep Reading

Lowball Estimate: U.S. on Hook for $447 Billion in Environmental Damages

The chief federal watchdog warned on Wednesday that the United States government’s environmental liabilities have grown by hundreds of billions of dollars over the past two decades. In a biannual report about “high risk” problems facing federal agencies, the Government Accountability Office said that taxpayers were on the hook last year for $447 billion in environmental cleanup costs—up from $217 billion in 1997. The doubling roughly mirrors the rate of economic growth over the same time frame, but GAO warned that federal environmental liabilities might… Keep Reading

First of Many “CRA” Love Letters to Corporate America Signed into Law by Trump

The first of many deregulatory measures rapidly pushed by Congressional Republicans under the Trump administration was signed into law on Tuesday. President Trump gave the green light to a resolution disapproving of Dodd-Frank disclosure rules. The regulations had required publicly-traded companies extracting natural resources to divulge payments made to foreign governments. The proposal was one of dozens that have originated in the House of Representatives since January under the Congressional Review Act (CRA)–an arcane law, passed in 1996, allowing the legislative branch to nullify recently passed executive… Keep Reading

Aetna-Humana Merger, at Heart of Election Year Obamacare Scandal, Dies After Court Ruling

A proposed $34 billion merger between health insurance giants Aetna and Humana has fallen apart, after a federal judge ruled last month that it violated antitrust laws. Aetna announced on Tuesday that the two companies would not be appealing the ruling. District Judge John Bates had found that integration of the two firms would illegally stifle competition in the market for Medicare Advantage. The CEO of Aetna, Mark Bertolini, said that “the current environment makes it too challenging to continue pursuing” the merger, by appealing Bates’… Keep Reading

Govt. Watchdog to Trump: Do Something About Food Safety

In a report issued on Monday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) called on the White House to implement a national food safety plan to address weaknesses in the current oversight regime. The watchdog cited negative outcomes in the existing system due to excessive fragmentation, with more than 3,000 agencies involved in the majority of food safety initiatives. “Although the US food supply is generally considered safe, foodborne illness remains a costly, common public health problem,” the report stated. It went on to recommend that the… Keep Reading

Energy Dept.: Fracked Oil to Account for 60 Percent of U.S. Crude Output Over Next 23 Years

The majority of crude oil produced in the US over the next few decades will come from fracked wells, according to a research arm of the Energy Department. “Tight oil” from the lower 48 states is projected to account for some 60 percent of total oil production between last year and 2040, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Monday. The agency said that fracking oil production is expected to ramp up to 6 million barrels per day, well into next decade. Output will then… Keep Reading

Following Army Corps Approval, DAPL Fight Heads to Courts, Washington

Barring an order from the courts, construction will resume imminently on the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline—fulfilling one of President Donald Trump’s first executive actions. On Wednesday, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced it would grant easement to the fossil fuel infrastructure project, which had been halted in the final months of the Obama administration. The corps concurrently killed a planned environmental impact statement (EIS) on the pipeline’s final leg, which crosses North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, near critical water supplies and areas considered sacred by the Standing… Keep Reading

Senate Confirms DeVos, After Activists Force Historic Tie-Breaker

The Trump administration was forced to dispatch the Vice President to the Senate on Tuesday afternoon to see its Education Secretary nominee confirmed. Mike Pence appeared on Capitol Hill to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of Betsy DeVos. The 51-50 vote marked the first time in United States history that a cabinet member relied on the support of the Vice President to get Congressional approval. The tight margin came after activists flooded legislative offices with appeals, calling on senators to reject DeVos. Trump’s top… Keep Reading

Trump Admin. Continues to Float Protester Conspiracy

In his first few weeks in office, Donald Trump has faced relentless agitation from people in the streets, with protesters reacting to his Muslim Ban executive order, his anti-immigration plans, and the appointment of white nationalist Steve Bannon to a top job in the White House. In response, the administration has, without proof, spun an elaborate tale for all the dissent. Speaking to Fox News on Monday, Sean Spicer again floated the idea that protesters who’ve taken to the streets against Trump and alt-right figureheads like… Keep Reading

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