OUR CRUCIAL SPRING CAMPAIGN IS NOW UNDERWAY
Please donate now to keep the mission and independent journalism of Common Dreams strong.
To donate by check, phone, or other method, see our More Ways to Give page.
If a proposal issued today by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is adopted, financial speculators looking to make a quick buck may soon be able to advertise high risk, shady deals to the public with the blessing of the federal government.
In the agency's first rulemaking effort following the April 5th passage of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the misnamed JOBS Act), the SEC is failing to propose concrete solutions that would prevent average investors from being duped by hedge funds managers and other issuers of private securities.
Transactions involving private offerings already result in more enforcement actions and investigations than any other kind of financial transaction, according to the North American Securities Administrators Association. The number of actions grew to 410 in 2011, a 60 percent increase from 2010.
Private offerings are so risky that, to date, hedge funds and other firms could only offer these high-risk deals to proven, "sophisticated" investors, such as professional money managers with whom they have an ongoing business relationship. The JOBS Act permits advertising such deals to the public.
One of the very few investor safeguards from Congress is the requirement that firms offering private securities have to take "reasonable steps" to ensure that the investor is sophisticated and has a net worth of $1 million or $200,000 in annual income. Significantly, the SEC's proposed rule fails to adequately define these "reasonable steps" a hedge fund is required to take before it can categorize a prospective client as sophisticated. This is a grave oversight.
SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar opposed the proposed rule. But, while some of the other commissioners have acknowledged concerns about investor abuse, their sympathy won't be able to restore a pillaged retirement fund after the fact.
The SEC will accept public comment for 30 days before finalizing the rule so there's still time for them to do the right thing. We urge the SEC to rethink the final rule, and consider including more investor protections.
Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.(202) 588-1000
"There are too many Americans trying to survive and raise families on $9, $10, or $12 an hour," said the senator. "This injustice must end."
On the heels of launching an effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $17 an hour over five years, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday announced upcoming rallies to demand the pay hike in three states, where he will be joined by Bishop William Barber II.
Barber—Repairers of the Breach president, Poor People's Campaign co-chair, and founding director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School—plans to join Sanders (I-Vt.) to "make the moral case for raising wages."
Sanders and Barber are first headed to Durham, North Carolina, where they are set to be joined by Democratic Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam—who worked for the senator's 2016 presidential campaign—for a 7:00 pm ET rally at the Hayti Heritage Center on June 1.
The pair then plans to visit the Henderson A. Johnson Memorial Gymnasium at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee at 7:00 pm CT on June 2. State Rep. Justin Jones (D-52)—who gained national attention earlier this year for being expelled by GOP legislators over a protest demanding gun control, only to be promptly reinstated by Nashville's Metropolitan Council—is expected to join them.
A third rally hosted by the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 at their union hall in Charleston, South Carolina is scheduled for 4:00 pm ET on June 3. State Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-111) plans to join the event, in partnership with the South Carolina AFL-CIO.
"Low-income workers need a pay raise and the American people want them to get that raise."
A longtime advocate of increasing the U.S. minimum wage, Sanders and labor leaders announced their push for $17 per hour earlier this month. Though several states have set higher minimums, the federal rate of $7.25 hasn't changed since 2009.
"At a time of massive and growing income and wealth inequality and record-breaking corporate profits, we must stand up for working families—many of whom are struggling every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families," Sanders—who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee—said Monday.
"There are too many Americans trying to survive and raise families on $9, $10, or $12 an hour. It cannot be done. This injustice must end," he added. "Low-income workers need a pay raise and the American people want them to get that raise."
The progressive think tank Data for Progress last week released polling results that show 76% of likely voters across party lines would support a $17 hourly minimum wage—and 74% would support $20.
The survey, conducted in early May, also revealed that all likely voters believe Americans need to earn $26.20 per hour "to have a decent quality of life (that is, the ability to afford basic necessities such as groceries, rent or mortgage payments, transportation, and other essential bills without struggling)."
\u201c$26 per hour: The wage voters think you need to earn to have a decent quality of life in the U.S.\n\n$7.25 per hour: The current federal minimum wage.\u201d— abby springs (@abby springs) 1684955759
Plans for the rally series come after researchers at the University of California, Berkeley kicked off May by putting out a working paper that shows significant minimum wage increases can have positive effects on earnings and employment—countering claims from corporate lobbying groups that oppose such pay hikes.
While Sanders has the power to ensure his panel takes up the issue, legislation to increase the minimum wage nationwide is unlikely to reach President Joe Biden's desk, given the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Senate that still includes
Democrats who partnered with the GOP in 2021 to block a measure that would have mandated a $15 hourly rate.
"This agreement is far from a compromise," said one campaigner. "It's a surrender to Big Oil and Republican hostage-takers in Congress."
Environmental protection groups warned that the text of the so-called Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023—which, if approved by Congress in the coming days would hold federal nonmilitary spending at its current level in the coming year and increase it by 1% in 2025—includes a " colossal error" by the Biden administration.
"Singling out the Mountain Valley Pipeline for approval in a vote about our nation's credit limit is an egregious act," said Peter Anderson, Virginia policy director with Appalachian Voices. "By attempting to suspend the rules for a pipeline company that has repeatedly polluted communities' water and flouted the conditions in its permits, the president and Congress would deny basic legal protections, procedural fairness, and environmental justice to communities along the pipeline's path."
The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) has previously been denied multiple permits by courts due to concerns about its effects on water quality and environmental justice for the communities it would run through from West Virginia to southern Virginia, but under the bill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be required to issue all remaining permits within 21 days. The bill also attempts to prohibit judicial review of the permits by any government agency.
According to one analysis by Oil Change International, the MVP—a pet project of right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—would emit the equivalent of more than 89 million metric tons of carbon, equal to the emissions of 26 coal plants.
"Changes to environmental laws and favors to fossil fuel companies have no place in a bill to raise the debt ceiling."
Although President Joe Biden previously said he would not negotiate with Republicans about raising the debt ceiling—which Congress has
voted to do 78 times since 1960, mostly under Republican presidents—he is now supporting a deal which includes a dramatic rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in addition to the MVP approval.
Ariel Moger, government and political affairs director at Friends of the Earth,
noted that Manchin "has done as much as Republicans to sabotage the Democratic agenda" by refusing to back Biden's signature domestic agenda, the Build Back Better Act, in 2021.
Despite this, Moger said, Manchin has "been rewarded" while "MAGA extremists" have been given legislation "filled with polluter giveaways and devastating spending limitations."
Biden and Manchin have claimed the MVP is essential for energy security, and the bill text includes claims that the project "will reduce carbon emissions and facilitate the energy transition," despite Oil Change International's finding that methane gas leakage, pipeline operations, and the burning of the gas delivered by the pipeline would add "tens of millions of tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution to the atmosphere every year for decades to come."
The legislation includes "too many lies to even begin correcting" about the pipeline, said Grace Tuttle, advocacy director for the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) Coalition.
\u201cThere's too many lies to even begin correcting in this bill text. Congratulations to Republicans AND Democrats for continuing Appalachia's role as a sacrifice zone. Shame on @POTUS. Cruelty is the point, and this nation is the cruelest of them all. #StopMVP\u201d— Grace Tuttle (@Grace Tuttle) 1685320485
"The debt deal insists that building Manchin's pet MVP pipeline is 'in the national interest' and will cut global warming emissions," said350.org co-founder and author Bill McKibben. "These things simply aren't true."
Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media, noted that Biden's approval of the MVP comes months after his administration allowed the construction of the massive Willow project, a ConocoPhillips oil drilling operation in Alaska which could send roughly 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere by 2050—even as scientists and energy experts warn that keeping planetary heating below 2°C by then will be impossible if fossil fuel projects continue.
"Support for Biden's climate record plummeted among young people after his approval of the Willow project," said Henn. "Greenlighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline will drive it down even further."
\u201cSupport for Biden\u2019s climate record plummeted among young people after his approval of the Willow Project. \n\nGreen lighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline will drive it down even further. \n\nHe needs youth turnout in 2024. This ain\u2019t the way to get it. https://t.co/Za9wIDZZME\u201d— Jamie Henn (@Jamie Henn) 1685323662
With the Fiscal Responsibility Act, said Jean Su, energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, "Biden has allowed Sen. Manchin and Republicans to hold the government hostage to ram through the climate-killing Mountain Valley Pipeline, dramatically roll back bedrock environmental laws that give voice to frontline communities, and sabotage agencies whose job is to protect the environment and working families."
"Congress should reject these poison pills," she said, "and pass a clean debt ceiling bill."
"I'm not happy with some of the things I'm hearing about," the Washington Democrat said, stressing that still needs to see legislative text.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal said Sunday that the Biden White House should be concerned about securing the Congressional Progressive Caucus' support for the newly announced debt ceiling agreement, given that the deal includes work requirements for aid programs and other provisions sure to infuriate the Democratic Party's left flank.
Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), toldCNN she is "not happy with some of the things" she's hearing about the tentative agreement but emphasized that she still needs to see legislative text, which is expected to be released Sunday afternoon.
Asked whether the White House and Democratic leaders still have to worry about whether the CPC—which has 101 members in the House—will support the final agreement, Jayapal responded, "Yes, they have to worry."
While noting that the spending cuts in the deal aren't nearly as large as the House GOP wanted, Jayapal raised concerns about the new work requirements for some recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
The White House-GOP agreement would reportedly impose work requirements on adult SNAP recipients who are up to 54 years old and have no children—up from the current age ceiling of 49. Under current law, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, "non-elderly adults without children in their homes can receive benefits for only three months every three years, unless they are working at least 20 hours a week or can document they are unable to work."
The broadening of work requirements would sunset in 2030, according to the White House, and SNAP eligibility would be expanded for veterans and people who are homeless.
Jayapal said Sunday that SNAP work requirements are "absolutely terrible policy," adding that "we have seen reams of data that show that, when you put these work requirements in, they're really just administrative red tape that prevent the people who need help from getting help."
"I told the president that directly when he called me last week on Wednesday that this is saying to poor people and people who are in need that we don't trust them," Jayapal said, noting that people on SNAP receive an average of $6 per day in benefits. "I think it is really unfortunate that the president opened the door to this."
\u201cWork requirements are bad policy. They don\u2019t reduce spending, they create administrative burdens, and they simply don\u2019t work.\n\nThe fact that this is a GOP priority is cruel, and every American should know what they\u2019re trying to do to poor and working families.\u201d— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@Rep. Pramila Jayapal) 1685284434
Outside advocates and economists have vocally condemned the debt ceiling agreement's real-term spending cuts, attacks on aid programs such as SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and cuts to IRS funding, but progressive lawmakers have been largely quiet since details of the tentative deal began emerging Saturday night.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) wrote in a "Dear Colleague" letter on Sunday that Republicans will release legislative text at some point in the afternoon and top Biden administration officials will brief the Democratic caucus on the deal at 5:00 pm ET.
Politicoreported Sunday that "Democrats are pissed that Republicans got a briefing on the deal last night—and that they won't get the same until 5:00 pm tonight."
One unnamed senior Democrat told Politico that rank-and-file lawmakers are "furious that they will learn about [the details of the deal] from Republicans and Sunday talk shows."
Some members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, meanwhile, have responded angrily to the tentative agreement, which would lift the debt ceiling until January 1, 2025 and put spending caps in place for 2024 and 2025.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) called the deal "insanity," complaining that it wouldn't cut spending aggressively enough.
During a press briefing Sunday morning, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) downplayed the Freedom Caucus outrage, saying he's confident that a majority of House Republicans will vote for the agreement.
The Treasury Department warned Friday that the U.S. government will run out of money to pay its obligations on June 5 unless Congress lifts the debt ceiling.