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.
Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744, firstname.lastname@example.org
Liz Judge, (415) 217-2007, email@example.com
Jay Branegan, 202-513-6263;
Top officials of leading environmental groups representing millions of Americans today urged President Obama to take strong and swift action against neonicotinoid insecticides that are devastating honey bee and wild bee populations, threatening the nation's food supplies.
In a letterto the White House, the 11 groups called on the president to immediately suspend neonicotinoid use, take steps to curb their adverse impacts and to have his administration close a legal loophole which allows the insecticides' sale before they are adequately assessed for safety. The letter comes three weeks after over 100 businesses, many of which are members of the American Sustainable Business Council and the Green America Business Network, sent a similar plea to the president.
"We hope that you will prioritize action on this issue of vital importance to our food system, economy and environment and make saving bees a key piece of your legacy as president," the letter said. It was signed by Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice; Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S., and nine other green CEOs.
Citing "a significant loss" of bees and other pollinators, the president in June 2014 created an interagency Pollinator Health Task Force, co-chaired by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department, and gave it 180 days to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy. The task force missed its December deadline, and is now expected to release a strategy paper in the coming weeks.
The letter charges that the EPA is unable "to properly regulate insecticides impacting bees," and notes the "EPA announced it will not release a regulatory decision on neonicotinoids before 2016." The letter urges the president to speed up the review of neonicotinoids (often called neonics) and hasten the development of better tests for the insecticides' effect on bees.
"If current rates of bee die-offs continue," the letter says, "it is unlikely that the beekeeping industry will survive EPA's delayed timeline, putting our agricultural industry and our food supply at serious risk."
Also, according to the letter, "EPA has allowed millions of acres of crop seeds treated with neonicotinoids to be planted annually with no registration of the pesticide-treated seeds and no enforcement against them in cases of misuse." Bees are critical for pollinating dozens of important American food crops, and contribute nearly $20 billion to the U.S. economy annually.
Neonicotinoids, often applied to seeds before planting, are particularly dangerous for bees because they poison the whole plant, including the nectar and pollen which bees eat. At very high doses, they can kill bees directly; but they more commonly affect and impair bees' ability to breed, forage, fight disease and survive the winter, scientists say. Yet a recent EPA analysis found that neonicotinoid treatment on soybean seeds offers little or no economic benefit to soy producers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will phase out use of neonics on wildlife refuges by 2016, the European Union has a two-year ban on the most widely used neonics, and several states, cities, universities, retailers, and the Canadian province of Ontario have taken action against neonics.
Friends of the Earth fights for a more healthy and just world. Together we speak truth to power and expose those who endanger the health of people and the planet for corporate profit. We organize to build long-term political power and campaign to change the rules of our economic and political systems that create injustice and destroy nature.(202) 783-7400
"Hey, hey! What we knew would happen: Make the wealthiest pay their fair share and it finances investments in education, transportation, and more," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
Proponents of progressive taxation on Friday pointed to data showing Washington state stands poised to reap $849 million in revenue during the first year of its capital gains tax as proof that taxing the rich works—and could serve as a template for federal legislation.
The Seattle Timesreports that when Washington state lawmakers passed this fiscal year's budget, they anticipated collecting $248 million in revenue from the 7% tax on the sale or exchange of stocks, bonds, and certain other assets above $250,000.
However, the legislators were pleasantly surprised when figures showed the state has collected over $600 million more than that.
While the amount collected could change after around 2,500 taxpayers who applied for extensions file their returns, progressives welcomed the windfall that will fund public schools, early childhood education, and building and repairing schools across the state.
"Hey, hey! What we knew would happen: Make the wealthiest pay their fair share and it finances investments in education, transportation, and more," tweeted Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
\u201cTurns out taxing the rich is a really good idea and can help fund our public schools https://t.co/HX2dPp63UX\u201d— Robert Cruickshank (@Robert Cruickshank) 1685113329
Jayapal touted federal legislation she introduced with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in 2021—the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act—that would levy a 2% annual tax on the net worth of households and trusts above $50 million, plus a 1% annual surtax on billionaires.
An analysis by University of California, Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman found that the legislation would bring in at least $3 trillion in revenue over 10 years without raising taxes on 99.95% of American households worth less than $50 million.
Last month, Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) introduced the For the 99.5% Act, which would impose a 45% tax on estates worth between $3.5 million and $10 million, a 50% tax on estates worth between $10 million and $50 million, a 55% tax on estates worth between $50 million and $1 billion, and a 65% tax on estates valued at over $1 billion.
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are trying to repeal the estate tax entirely—and pass other tax policies to serve the rich.
Back at the state level, California, New York, Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut, and Hawaii have also introduced wealth tax bills this year, while Washington's law was upheld by that state's Supreme Court in March.
"If the federal government won't act," California Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-24) said while introducing a wealth tax bill in January, "we the states will."
Numerous progressive lawmakers, legal scholars, and advocacy groups have implored the president to use his authority under the 14th Amendment to prevent a GOP-induced default.
A top U.S. Treasury Department official said Friday that President Joe Biden will not use his 14th Amendment authority to continue paying the nation's bills and avert a Republican-induced default if tenuousdebt ceiling talks with the GOP fall apart.
Asked by CNN's Poppy Harlow whether the Biden administration would attempt to invoke the 14th Amendment if a deal with Republicans appears out of reach, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo responded that "the 14th Amendment can't solve our challenges."
"Now, ultimately, the only thing that can do that is Congress doing what it's done 78 other times, raising the debt limit," said Adeyemo. "We don't have a Plan B that allows us to meet the commitments that we've made to our creditors, to our seniors, to our veterans, to the American people."
When asked if that was a "no," Adeyemo replied: "I think the president and the [Treasury] secretary have been very clear that that will not solve our problems now. So yes, that is a no."
\u201c\u201cNo.\u201d Deputy Treasury Secretary @wallyadeyemo tells me definitely the Biden administration will not invoke the 14th Amendment even if there is no deal to raise the debt ceiling by June 1st. @USTreasury\u201d— Poppy Harlow (@Poppy Harlow) 1685101109
A number of advocacy groups, constitutional scholars, and lawmakers have implored Biden to at least consider using his 14th Amendment authority to prevent a default as the June 1 " X-date" approaches. The amendment states that "the validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned."
Default, as UCLA School of Law professor Joseph Fishkin recently pointed out, would "violate the 14th Amendment, which is not an 'option,' but a bedrock of our constitutional order—it is there whether or not anybody invokes it."
"The Biden administration has a constitutional duty to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed,'" Fishkin wrote last week. "That means all the laws Congress has enacted, not just the debt-ceiling law."
On Thursday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) toldCNN's Anderson Cooper that while he doesn't think the 14th Amendment is a "wonderful solution" to the debt ceiling crisis, he sees it as preferable to allowing Republicans to tank the global economy in pursuit of massive cuts to aid programs.
While Biden said earlier this month that he was considering making use of his 14th Amendment powers to stop an economic catastrophe, he has questioned whether such a move would survive legal challenges.
Sanders said Thursday that he believes it would.
"I think the courts do not want to see the world economy crumble," said Sanders, "and I think it would be sustained."
"If he wants to protect his reputation and our country, he should refuse to budge an inch on the debt ceiling and use his constitutional authority under the 14th Amendment to bypass this entire manufactured crisis."
With June 1 just six days away, White House negotiators and Republican lawmakers are discussing an agreement that would lift the debt ceiling for two years in exchange for two-year spending caps that would cut federal spending, impacting nutrition assistance, housing aid, and other key domestic programs.
The deal that the White House and GOP are discussing would also slash $10 billion from recently approved funding for the Internal Revenue Service, a move that critics said would be a major gift to rich tax cheats.
"A debt ceiling agreement that cuts IRS funding would be an embarrassing disgrace for both the GOP and President Biden," Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement Friday. "Agreeing to IRS funding cuts as a bargaining chip in debt ceiling negotiations would be an enormous stain on Biden's legacy."
"If he wants to protect his reputation and our country," Pearl added, "he should refuse to budge an inch on the debt ceiling and use his constitutional authority under the 14th Amendment to bypass this entire manufactured crisis."
Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE), a union that argues the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.
The president has signaled he will oppose the lawsuit, and a hearing in the case has been set for May 31—one day before the "X-date."
Three reproductive rights groups are also calling on the state Supreme Court to declare the ban unconstitutional, as it did with an earlier six-week ban in January.
Three reproductive rights groups celebrated a victory in South Carolina just one day after filing a lawsuit against the state over its six-week abortion ban, which went into effect earlier this week immediately after Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed it.
Judge Clifton Newman temporarily halted S. 474 at the request of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic (PPSA), and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which are representing abortion providers in the state in their lawsuit.
The groups are also calling for a judgment declaring the ban unconstitutional, as the South Carolina Supreme Court did in January regarding a previously-passed six-week abortion ban.
For the time being, said PPSA, "abortion is again legal in South Carolina."
\u201cBREAKING NEWS: A South Carolina state court just granted abortion providers\u2019 request to block the newly-enacted ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. \n\nAbortion is again legal in South Carolina.\u201d— PP South Atlantic SC (@PP South Atlantic SC) 1685116065
"The status quo should be maintained until the Supreme Court reviews its decision," Newman said in his decision. "It's going to end up there."
With the ban blocked, abortion care is currently legal in South Carolina up until about 20 weeks after fertilization.
"Today the court has granted our patients a welcome reprieve from this dangerous abortion ban," said Jenny Black, president and CEO of PPSA. "Our doors remain open, and we are here to provide compassionate and judgment-free health care to all South Carolinians. While we have a long fight ahead, we will not stop until our patients are again free to make their own decisions about their bodies and futures."
Advocacy groups warned this week that if S. 474 is allowed to stand, it will threaten the bodily autonomy of South Carolinians as well as people from across the South, where abortion is largely banned now following the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade.
S. 474 includes exceptions for fatal fetal abnormalities and the pregnant person's life and health—although numerous cases since Roe was overturned have demonstrated how such exceptions can put the physical and emotional health of a pregnant person at grave risk. The ban permits abortion until up to 12 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and incest, but only if the patient's medical provider reports the crime and the patient's name to authorities.
"For the past year, we have seen the dangerous consequences of these extreme laws across the country," said Caroline Sacerdote, staff attorney for CRR. "Even still, state legislators have continued to cruelly gamble with people's health and lives, betraying South Carolinians and their fundamental rights. We will keep fighting to ensure South Carolinians' reproductive freedom is protected."
Former state Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn wrote the opinion in the 3-2 ruling that was handed down in January, blocking the earlier six-week ban. She has since retired from the court.