Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio Is Deeply Disturbing

The president called a man who freely violated people’s constitutional rights a “patriot.” What does that make his victims?

By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson

ebony-slaughter-johnson

During a speech to a group of police officers in July, President Trump returned to one of his favorite themes of the campaign season: violence. “Please don’t be too nice” to the “thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon,” Trump advised the officers. Be “rough.”

The president’s endorsement of police brutality was met with applause from the officers and shock from activists and pundits alike.

Sensing the brewing backlash, the White House insisted that the president was simply making a joke. Even Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the country’s top law enforcement official — a man with his own complicated history of encouraging the worst impulses of the police — attempted to distance himself from the controversy.

joe-arpaio-trump
(Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Yet the president just proved that when it comes to endorsing police brutality, especially against communities of color, he’s dead serious.

For more than 20 years, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona terrorized Latino communities, harassed immigrants, and made life a living hell for prisoners in his care in order to build a reputation as “America’s toughest sheriff”.

These systematic violations of human and constitutional rights eventually landed Arpaio in legal trouble of his own. Then President Trump pardoned him.

Arpaio had been awaiting sentencing for a July conviction of criminal contempt.

Back in 2011, a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop targeting and detaining Latinos just to inquire about their immigration status. Nevertheless, Arpaio persisted for another 18 months, insisting that his racial profiling was lawful. He emasculated inmates, forcing them to wear pink underwear, and attempted to starve them with food that was called inedible.

He tortured them, too: Beginning in the 1990s, Arpaio opened Tent City Jail, which forced inmates to live outside in the extreme Arizona heat. An untold number of inmates died.

To the law, Arpaio is a convicted criminal who built his career on denying the constitutional and human rights of the most vulnerable among us. To Trump, he’s “a patriot” who kept “Arizona safe.”

“Throughout his time as sheriff,” a White House statement bleated, “Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.” In other words, the innocent immigrants who were harassed, and the prisoners who were tortured, were the real criminals.

Trump promised to be the “law and order candidate” during his campaign. He codified this promise once he became president in the “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community” section of the White House website. “The Trump administration will be a law and order administration,” it echoed.

For the president, it seems, “standing up” for law enforcement includes allowing officers to subvert the rule of law to commit acts of brutality with impunity. Empowering law enforcement to “keep our streets free of crime and violence” means supporting racial profiling. And “law and order” only applies to some, namely those that support the president.

With Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, a message has been sent: When it comes to police brutality of the kind Arpaio perpetuated for decades, the Trump administration won’t simply be complicit in it. It will promote it.

And that’s nothing to joke about.


Ebony Slaughter-Johnson is a freelance writer whose work covers history, race, and the criminalization of poverty. Distributed by OtherWords.org

Mid-Term Senate Races Matter: Heller’s High Water

U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) released the below statement after a right-leaning federal judge in Texas nullified the Obama Administration’s Department of Labor overtime rule.

“The former Obama Administration’s expansion of the federal overtime rule would have devastated Nevada’s business owners and job creators. Since the rule was issued last year, I have been strongly concerned about its impact because it would fundamentally change how employers compensate their workers, reducing Nevadans’ work hours and benefits. I’m pleased to see that a federal judge acknowledged the regulation’s harmful consequences and ruled it invalid today,” Heller said. “Today’s news is a relief for countless Nevada businesses and employers, and I commend Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt for his leadership in this fight.”

Heller has worked tirelessly at undermining the Obama-era overtime rule aimed at leveling the playing field for workers. Instead, he’s worked to bolster the bottom line of his corporate benefactors. Don’t believe me?  As evidence —

  • In February 2016 he wrote to Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez about this rule and what he claimed would be its negative impacts on corporations in the state of Nevada.
  • In March 2016, he followed up with yet another letter highlighting his concerns over the new policy change.
  • In the Senate, Heller expressed concerns with his Senate colleagues by writing to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related Agencies Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Patty Murray.

Heller also cosponsored S. 2707, the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, in the 114th Congress, legislation that would have cancelled the proposed DOL regulation to increase the salary threshold for workers eligible to receive overtime pay and require impact studies for future proposals of related rules.

Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act

S.2707 declared that the proposed or the final rule of the Department of Labor entitled “Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees” shall cease to have any force or effect. The rule revises the “white collar” exemption of executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer employees from minimum wage and maximum hour, or overtime, requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA).

If the proposed rule is a final rule on the date of enactment of S.2707:

  • the Dept of Labor would have been prohibited from enforcing it based on conduct occurring before that enactment date,
  • an employee would not have any right of action against an employer for the employer’s failure to comply with the final rule at any time before that enactment date,
  • any regulations that were amended by the final rule would have been restored and revived as if the final rule had never taken effect, and
  • nothing in S.2707 would have been construed to create a right of action for an employer against an employee for the recoupment of any payments made to the employee before the enactment of this bill that were in compliance with that final rule.

It also specified that the Dept of Labor could promulgate any substantially similar rule only if it had completed certain required actions; but any new rule could not contain any automatic updates to the salary threshold for purposes of exemptions to minimum wage and maximum hour requirements under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act).

The requirement that definitions applicable for such exemptions be defined and delimited from time to time by Labor regulations would have been construed to:

  • require Labor to issue a new rule through notice and comment rule-making for each change in any salary threshold it has proposed (creating more expensive and elongated rule-making processes); and
  • exclude any rule that would result in changes to any salary threshold for multiple time periods, including through any automatic updating procedure.

The Dept of Labor was also prohibited from promulgating any final rule that included any revision to duties tests for exemption from minimum wage and maximum hours requirements unless specific regulatory text for the provision was proposed in the proposed rule.

For clarity, here is the background on that “Final Rule” and what it did for WORKERS:

In 2014, President Obama directed the Department of Labor to update and modernize the regulations governing the exemption of executive, administrative, and professional (“EAP”) employees from the minimum wage and overtime pay protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA” or “Act”). The Department published a notice of proposed rulemaking on July 6, 2015, and received more than 270,000 comments. On May 18, 2016, the Department announced that it will publish a Final Rule to update the regulations. The full text of the Final Rule will be available at the Federal Register Site.

Although the FLSA ensures minimum wage and overtime pay protections for most employees covered by the Act, some workers, including bona fide EAP employees, are exempt from those protections. Since 1940, the Department’s regulations have generally required each of three tests to be met for the FLSA’s EAP exemption to apply:

  1. the employee must be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed (“salary basis test”);
  2. the amount of salary paid must meet a minimum specified amount (“salary level test”); and
  3. the employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the regulations (“duties test”).

The Department last updated these regulations in 2004, when it set the weekly salary level at $455 ($23,660 annually) and made other changes to the regulations, including collapsing the short and long duties tests into a single standard duties test and introducing a new exemption for highly compensated employees.

This Final Rule updates the salary level required for exemption to ensure that the FLSA’s intended overtime protections are fully implemented, and to simplify the identification of overtime-protected employees, thus making the EAP exemption easier for employers and workers to understand and apply. Without intervening action by their employers, it extends the right to overtime pay to an estimated 4.2 million workers who are currently exempt. It also strengthens existing overtime protections for 5.7 million additional white collar salaried workers and 3.2 million salaried blue collar workers whose entitlement to overtime pay will no longer rely on the application of the duties test.

* Key Provisions of the Final Rule *
The Final Rule focused primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for EAP workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:

  1. Set the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South, which is $913 per week or $47,476 annually for a full-year worker;
  2. Set the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally, which is $134,004; and
  3. Established a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

Additionally, the Final Rule amended the salary basis test to allow employers to use non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level. The Final Rule made no changes to the duties tests.

Effective Date
The effective date of the Final Rule is December 1, 2016. The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) will be effective on that date. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.

Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Senator Heller espouse and promote a nationwide move such as that just made by the Missouri GOP-led legislature which lowered the minimum wage from $10/hr to $7.70/hr (or, from $20, 800/yr to $16,016/yr for Missouri citizens.

Afterall, Senator Heller has made it exceedingly clear that he represents only his corporate benefactors and is a firm believer and double-downer in a failed trickle-down philosophy.

“Congress is ready to address tax reform, and that’s why I’m encouraged by the President’s comments today about bringing tax relief to all Americans. Nevada’s hardworking families and small business owners have been waiting for a simpler, fairer tax code for years now, and Congress and the White House are poised to make that happen,” Heller said. “I was honored to host Secretary Mnuchin earlier this week in Las Vegas for a meeting with Nevada employers and the message we received from these business leaders was clear – lowering rates will help boost the economy, create jobs and increase wages. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I’m looking forward to working with the Administration on this issue and having a seat at the table to make sure that the final product is what’s best for Nevada.”

Mid-term elections matter and we cannot let Dean Heller get re-elected to the Senate, nor can we let AG Laxalt get elected to the Governorship of Nevada.

Related Posts:

Trump to Generals —> US Should Plunder Afghan Minerals

The president also compared military strategy to renovating a restaurant
— by Jake Johnson, staff writer

President Donald Trump holds a meeting with members of his cabinet.
President Donald Trump holds a meeting with members of his cabinet. (Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

In a recent situation room meeting with generals and top national security advisors, President Donald Trump reportedly compared war policy to renovating a restaurant and complained that the U.S. isn’t doing enough to exploit Afghanistan’s mineral wealth.

This is according to senior administration officials who leaked details of the “tense” meeting to NBC News.

Trump also complained that the U.S. is “losing” the war in Afghanistan—which is approaching its 16th year—and said he was contemplating firing Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of American forces in the country, who he has not met.

Here’s how NBC summarized the conversation:

Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice.

As Common Dreams reported last week, Trump has long been enticed by the prospect of plundering Afghanistan’s untapped mineral reserves. In the meeting with his national security advisors, NBC noted, Trump reiterated his wishes and fumed that China is “making money off of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion in rare minerals while American troops are fighting the war.”

Trump also “expressed frustration that his advisers tasked with figuring out how the U.S. can help American businesses get rights to those minerals were moving too slowly,” NBCreported.

Commentators have in the past argued that Trump’s desire to exploit a war-torn country’s mineral reserves amounts to a longing for “colonialism.”

The response to leaked details of Trump’s meeting with military officials was of a similar tone.


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Democrats Introduce Bill to Stop Wage Theft & Boost Workers’ Financial Security

The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act would crack down on employers who steal wages from their workers — Employers steal more than $15 billion from workers every year, particularly from workers in low-wage industries

On Tuesday, August 1, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Al Franken (D-MN), along with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), introduced the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act, to crack down on employers who unfairly withhold wages from their employees. This bill would give workers the right to receive full compensation for all of the work they perform, as well as the right to receive regular pay stubs and final paychecks in a timely manner. It would also provide workers with improved tools to recover their stolen wages in court and make assistance available to build community partnerships that enhance the enforcement of and improve compliance with wage and hour laws.

“It is simply wrong that employers are able to take advantage of their workers and cheat them out of their hard-earned pay, and all too often women, immigrants and workers of color are those who have to pay the price,” said Senator Murray. “While President Trump continues to break campaign promises and roll back worker protections, I’m going to keep fighting so every worker is treated fairly and paid what they’ve earned. I’m proud to introduce this bill as another step towards building an economy that works for all, not just those at the top.”

 “The biggest economic challenge facing our country is that too many people are in jobs that do not pay them enough to live on. Across the country, some workers are putting in long hours and working for an honest day’s pay, only to have their employers cheat them out of their hard-earned wages. Wage theft is inexcusable and unconscionable, and our federal laws should hold employers who violate their employee’s right accountable,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act is comprehensive legislation that will strengthen current federal law and empower employees to recover their lost wages. Whether it is compensation for a day’s work, or overtime, employees should be paid what they earn. This legislation not only protects workers, but it will help our economy grow.”

 “Wage theft is just one of the reasons why Ohioans are working hard but have too little to show for it,” said Senator Brown. “We need to crack down on employers who don’t pay workers their full wages to restore the value of work and strengthen our economy.”

In May, the Economic Policy Institute published a new report finding that employers steal more than an estimated $15 billion from workers each year, with workers in low-wage industries at the greatest risk. A National Employment Law Project 2008 survey of 4,387 low-wage workers in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago found that low-wage workers experienced a range of wage and hour violations, with women, immigrants and minorities being disproportionately affected. Common examples of wage theft include forcing workers to work off the clock, refusing to pay the minimum wage, denying overtime pay to workers even after they work more than 40 hours a week, stealing workers’ tips, or knowingly misclassifying workers to avoid paying fair wages.

“Americans are spending more hours working, but all too often, because of wage theft, they don’t get the pay they’ve earned—and as a result working families suffer,” said Senator Franken. “While a majority of employers are playing by the rules, wage theft is a real problem. Our bill will combat this crooked practice by giving each worker the tools to make sure that employers aren’t shortchanging workers’ hours or overtime pay. Every worker in Minnesota and across our country should be paid for every hour they work and no less.”

 “When workers are not taking home the entirety of the pay they’ve earned because of wage theft, families suffer,” said Congressman Scott.“Unfortunately, wage theft is a persistent problem for low wage workers. A recent study from the Economic Policy Institute sampling the 10 most populous states found that 2.4 million workers lost $8 billion annually to minimum wage violations. The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act will give hardworking Americans the tools they need to fight back against unscrupulous employers and protect their hard-earned paychecks. In addition to raising the federal minimum wage and strengthening collective bargaining, combating wage theft is a critical part in boosting the wages of low wage working people and remedying income inequality.”

In addition to Senators Murray, Brown and Franken, other original cosponsors in the Senate include Durbin (D-IL), Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Warren (D-MA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Baldwin (D-WI), Leahy (D-VT), Booker (D-NJ), Sanders (I-VT), Hirono (D-HI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Wyden (D-OR), and Stabenow (D-MI).

In addition to Representatives DeLauro and Scott, other original cosponsors in the House of Representatives include Boyle (D-PA), Clark, (D-MA), Clarke (D-NY), Conyers (D-MI), DeSaulnier (D-CA), Ellison (D-MN), Green (D-TX), Langevin (D-RI), Lewis (D-GA), Matsui (D-CA), McCollum (D-MN), Nadler (D-NY), Holmes Norton (D-DC), Pascrell (D-NJ), Pocan (D-WI), Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Serrano (D-NY), Slaughter (D-NY), and Velazquez (D-NY).

Text of the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act can be found HERE.
Fact sheet on the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act can be found HERE and below:

The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act

Today, across the country, many people are putting in long hours on the job and working hard for an honest day’s pay, only to have their employers cheat them out of their wages. While the vast majority of employers do the right thing and treat workers fairly, too many others force their workers to work off the clock, refuse to pay workers the minimum wage, deny workers overtime pay even after they work more than 40 hours a week, steal workers’ tips, or knowingly misclassify workers to avoid paying fair wages.

The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act is comprehensive legislation to combat wage theft in America. This bill will strengthen fundamental protections to allow workers to get the money they have earned through hard work and it will crack down on the corporations that subject workers to these abuses. Taking these steps will help ensure our country can work for all Americans, not just the wealthiest few, so our economy grows from the middle out, not the top down.

The bill would achieve the following:

  1. Require employers to pay all wages owed to an employee. Currently, workers can only recover wages at the minimum wage or, for overtime hours, 1.5 times their regular wage; for example, an employee may be hired at $9.00 per hour, but would only have the right to recover $7.25 of every $9.00 she was owed. This bill would help workers recoup the full compensation that employers have taken from them.
  2. Require employers to provide initial disclosures of the terms of their employment and regular pay stubs to all employees and create a civil fine for noncompliance of $50 for the first violation and $100 for each subsequent violation.
  3. Require employers to pay final paychecks within 14 days of separation or by the payday for the pay period, whichever is earlier; the employer will owe the employee in question her daily wage for each day beyond this period that the paycheck goes unpaid, for a maximum of 30 days.
  4. Create a civil penalty of $2,000 when employers violate minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and—for the first time—the protection guaranteeing workers their full compensation. The Act would also increase the existing civil penalty for willful or repeat violations to $10,000. Currently, the Department of Labor (DOL) does not have the authority to assess civil penalties for violations of the FLSA’s minimum wage or overtime requirements unless the employer is guilty of repeat or willful violations; even then, the penalty is set at just $1,100 per violation.
  5. Increase the damages that employees who are victims of wage theft are entitled to. The amount currently provided for by the FLSA is twice the owed wages. This bill would raise that amount to triple the owed wages amount, plus interest assessed on the original owed wages.
  6. Strengthen protections for employees who are illegally fired by their employer as retaliation for filing a complaint concerning wage theft or cooperating with a DOL investigation. This bill would increase the damages to which workers are entitled to quadruple the owed wages amount, plus interest assessed on the original owed wages.
  7. Strengthen the FLSA’s recordkeeping provision by creating a civil penalty of $1,000 for an employer’s first violation of the provision and $5,000 for each subsequent violation. Additionally, the legislation would give employees a right to inspect their employer’s records by requesting a copy of those records. Finally, if an employer violates the recordkeeping provision, the bill would allow an employee’s reasonable evidence regarding their hours worked to be used to create a rebuttable presumption that the employer engaged in wage theft, and to establish the exact amount of that wage theft. Under this bill, the employer would be allowed to rebut this presumption only with clear and convincing evidence.
  8. Increase the time that employees have to bring a claim for owed wages from two years to four years (and from three years to five years for willful violations) from the date of the violation and temporarily suspend this time limit during any DOL investigation.
  9. Make it easier for employees to take collective action to recover their stolen wages. The bill would remove the current requirement that employees affirmatively “opt-in” to engage in a collective action under the FLSA. This will enable employees to pursue collective action cases in a manner similar to most class action cases, in which members of the “class” must affirmatively “opt-out” of the case in order to not be involved.
  10. Direct DOL to refer to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution those employers who comprehensively engage in wage theft by willfully stealing employees’ wages, falsifying records to hide the truth, and retaliating against employees when they try to speak up for themselves or cooperate with a DOL investigation.
  11. Create a grant program at DOL to assist DOL in its education, trainings, and enforcement of this Act through partnerships with organizations on the ground that fight wage theft.

GOP Against Consumers Faring Better Using Class Actions—Vote to Repeal Consumer Protection Rule

News from Economic Policy Institute (EPI)

Many financial institutions use forced arbitration clauses in their contracts to block consumers with disputes from banding together in court, instead requiring each consumer to argue their case separately in private arbitration proceedings. Recently, members of Congress introduced legislation to repeal a new rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that restores consumers’ ability to join together in class action lawsuits against financial institutions.

Opponents of the rule have suggested that the CFPB’s own findings show consumers on average receive greater relief in arbitration than class action lawsuits. In a new fact sheet, EPI Policy Director Heidi Shierholz explains that this is enormously misleading. While the average consumer who wins a claim in arbitration recovers $5,389, consumers win only 9 percent of disputes. Overall, the average consumer who enters arbitration with a bank or lender is ordered to pay $7,725. Furthermore, Shierholz points out, evidence shows that allowing consumers to join together in court does not increase consumer costs or decrease available credit.

“The numbers couldn’t be more clear—class actions return hundreds of millions of dollars to consumers, while forced arbitration only pays off for banks and lenders,” said Shierholz. “Congress should side with the American people, not big banks, and vote down this capricious attack on consumer freedom.”


Fact Sheet • By Heidi Shierholz • August 1, 2017  Download PDF


The new arbitration rule from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) restores consumers’ ability to join together in class action lawsuits against financial institutions.

H.J.Res.111 – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to “Arbitration Agreements”.

This joint resolution nullifies a rule submitted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding arbitration agreements.

(The rule regulates the use of arbitration agreements in contracts for specific consumer financial products and services. It prohibits the use of a pre-dispute arbitration agreement to prevent a consumer from filing or participating in certain class action suits. The rule also requires consumer financial product and service providers to furnish the CFPB with particular information regarding arbitrations.)

ROLL CALL VOTE 412:

  • Republican Mark Amodei voted FOR passage to repeal and thus deny those Consumer Protection rights for not just his constituents, but ALL Americans to enable his Corporate benefactors to profit from their customer abuses.
  • Democrats Ruben Kihuen, Jacky Rosen and Dina Titus voted AGAINST passage — to protect consumer protection rights

Based on five years of careful study, the July 2017 final rule stems from a congressional directive instructing the agency to study forced arbitration and restrict or ban the practice if it harms consumers. Many financial institutions use forced arbitration clauses in their contracts to block consumers with disputes from banding together in court, instead requiring each consumer to argue their case separately in private arbitration proceedings.

In recent weeks, members of Congress have introduced legislation to repeal the CFPB rule and take away consumers’ newly restored right to band together in court. Opponents of the rule have suggested that the bureau’s own findings show consumers on average receive greater relief in arbitration ($5,389) than class action lawsuits ($32). This is enormously misleading.

While the average consumer who wins a claim in arbitration recovers $5,389, this is not even close to a typical consumer outcome. Why? Consumers obtain relief regarding their claims in only 9 percent of disputes. On the other hand, when companies make claims or counterclaims, arbitrators grant them relief 93 percent of the time—meaning they order the consumer to pay. If you consider both sides of this equation, in arbitration, the average consumer is ordered to pay $7,725 to the bank or lender. That’s right: the average consumer ends up paying financial institutions in arbitration.

But let’s consider the consumers who do win in arbitration. How do those numbers stack up against class action lawsuits? In an average year:

  • At least 6,800,000 consumers get cash relief in class actions—compared with just 16 consumers who receive cash relief in arbitration, according to available data.
  • Consumers recover at least $440,000,000 in class actions, after deducting all attorneys’ fees and court costs—compared with a total of $86,216 in arbitration.

Banning consumer class actions lets financial institutions keep hundreds of millions of dollars that would otherwise go back to harmed consumers every year.

The financial industry often claims that arbitration is cheaper and faster for consumers. How do these claims stand up to the data?

  • Consumers pay an average cost of $161 to file a claim in arbitration. Consumers generally don’t pay anything to join a class action.
  • Consumers typically wait 150 days for a decision in arbitration, compared with a typical wait of around 215 days for a conclusion in most class actions.

Arbitration is certainly not cheaper—especially considering the average consumer pays a bank or lender $7,725 in the end—and only a couple months faster.

Finally, opponents of the rule argue that allowing consumers to join together in court will increase consumer costs and decrease available credit. This claim is contradicted by real-life experience. Consumers saw no increase in price after Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, and HSBC dropped their arbitration clauses as a result of court-approved settlements, and mortgage rates did not increase after Congress banned forced arbitration in the mortgage market.

The numbers are clear: class actions return hundreds of millions to consumers, while forced arbitration only pays off for banks and lenders.

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “New Protections against Mandatory Arbitration,” web page accessed July 31, 2017; Sylvan Lane, “GOP Lawmakers Introduce Measures to Repeal Consumer Bureau Arbitration Rule,” The Hill, July 20, 2017; U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, “Senators File Resolution Disapproving of CFPB Arbitration Rule” (press release), July 20, 2017; Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Arbitration Study: Report to Congress, pursuant to Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act § 1028(a), 2015; Adam J. Levitin, “Mandatory Arbitration Offers Bargain-Basement Justice,’ American Banker BankThink (blog), May 13, 2014.

Unless otherwise hyperlinked, the data in this fact sheet are EPI computations of data from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Arbitration Study: Report to Congress, pursuant to Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act § 1028(a), 2015

Trump Announces He’s Kicking Thousands of Transgender People out of the Military

During his campaign for the presidency, this is where Donald Trump claimed he stood regarding LGBTQ “rights and beliefs.”

It appears he’s “lied” to the public yet again.  Without warning or explanation, President Trump announced on Twitter Wednesday morning that he is unilaterally reversing the military’s plan to allow transgender service:

While the tweets are lacking for details, they suggest that thousands of transgender people already serving in the military will lose their jobs. Last June, the Pentagon announced that they no longer had to hide in the shadows — that their positions were safe if they were public about their identities. That plan was to allow openly trans people to enroll starting July 1 of this year, but Defense Secretary James Mattis agreed to delay that implementation six months to allow for further review.

Meanwhile, conservative House Republicans have been attempting to find various ways to curtail this policy through amendments to the defense spending bill. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) originally floated an outright banto transgender service, then ultimately advanced an amendment banning military funds from being spent on transition-related health care. That amendment was surprisingly defeated earlier this month by the Republican-controlled House in a close 209–214 vote. Nevertheless, Hartzler and others were continuing to explore additional options as of this week, apparently encouraged by Vice President Mike Pence.

In proposing her amendments, Hartzler repeatedly claimed that the medical costs to the military would be $1.35 billion over ten years. On multiple occasions, her office refused to respond to ThinkProgress inquiries to identify the source of that number, which is 16 times higher than the highest estimates provided by the RAND corporation in its report released along with the Pentagon’s policy change last year. RAND found that the military’s health costs would increase at most around $8.4 million per year, an increase of only 0.13 percent.

Since Hartzler started floating her bogus number, the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, has estimated even higher numbers. This numbers game appears to have persuaded Trump to ignore the review and unilaterally decide to kick all transgender people out of the armed services. 19 other countries allow transgender military service — and have for some time.

On Tuesday, the Log Cabin Republicans highlighted an interview with new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci proclaiming how “pro-gay” (albeit not pro-trans) the Trump administration is. Indeed, that has been the argument made by conservatives who claim to be LGBTQ-friendly throughout the campaign and well into this year. While it’s true Trump did mention LGBTQ people in his convention speech and once hold up a rainbow flag, he only ever made these references when fanning Islamophobia.

Though Trump appeared to be trans-friendly the first time he was presented with a question about North Carolina’s transphobic bathroom law HB2 during the campaign, his position quickly shifted and he began to claim that transgender inclusion is a “state’s rights” issue. As has been the case in just about every civil rights fight, “state’s rights” is code for “if a state wants to discriminate, let them.”

The administration’s other actions, such as rescinding the Obama administration’s guidance protecting transgender students in schools and working to reverse Obamacare’s guidance protecting transgender patients in health care, further demonstrate that Trump seems to have little concern for transgender people whatsoever.

The White House dubbed this week “American Heroes Week.” Secretary Mattis is notably out of the office on “personal travel.”


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

Cruz Amdt is a Disaster for Healthcare … Nationwide

In rare joint letter, insurers say the Cruz amendment to the Senate Healthcare bill is “unworkable in any form” and will lead to “widespread terminations of coverage.”


No Change for Social Security Combined Trust Fund Reserves Depletion Year Says Board of Trustees

Disability Fund Improves by Five Years

 

The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2034, the same as projected last year, with 77 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2028, extended from last year’s estimate of 2023, with 93 percent of benefits still payable.

In the 2017 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:

  • The asset reserves of the combined OASDI Trust Funds increased by $35 billion in 2016 to a total of $2.85 trillion.
  • The combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to do so through 2021. Beginning in 2022, the total annual cost of the program is projected to exceed income.
  • The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2034 – the same as projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient income coming in to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits.

“It is time for the public to engage in the important national conversation about how to keep Social Security strong,” said Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “People understand the value of their earned Social Security benefits and the importance of keeping the program secure for the future.”

Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:

  • Total income, including interest, to the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $957 billion in 2016. ($836 billion in net contributions, $33 billion from taxation of benefits, and $88 billion in interest)
  • Total expenditures from the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $922 billion in 2016.
  • Social Security paid benefits of $911 billion in calendar year 2016. There were about 61 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
  • Non-interest income fell below program costs in 2010 for the first time since 1983. Program costs are projected to exceed non-interest income throughout the remainder of the 75-year period.
  • The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.83 percent of taxable payroll – 0.17 percentage point larger than in last year’s report.
  • During 2016, an estimated 171 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
  • The cost of $6.2 billion to administer the Social Security program in 2016 was a very low 0.7 percent of total expenditures.
  • The combined Trust Fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 3.2 percent in 2016.

The Board of Trustees usually comprises six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Thomas E. Price, M.D., Secretary of Health and Human Services; and R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustee positions are currently vacant.

View the 2017 Trustees Report at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2017/.

HUH? “Too Broke” for Healthcare But Can Easily Find $406B More For F-35

There always another $27 billion or lying around, it seems, when Lockheed Martin needs more money for expensive weapons system
 — by Jon Queally, staff writer

Whereas some argue, for example, that single-payer healthcare is impossible, those same voices remain “pretty quiet on the F-35 being a money pit.” (Photo: Forsvarsdepartementet/flickr/cc)

The nation’s most expensive weapons program isn’t done showing U.S. taxpayers how much it will ultimately cost them, with Bloomberg reporting Monday that the F-35 fighter jet budget is now predicted to jump by a cool $27 billion.

“Think about [F-35’s] $405 billion price tag when a family member dies of a preventable disease. Get angry.”

Though the estimated future cost of the program had previously hovered at a mind-boggling $379 billion, an updated draft that could be submitted to Congress as early as today will reportedly exceed $406 billion—a nearly 7 percent increase. Did you get a 7% increase in your annual paycheck?  I think not.

The new cost increases may come as a hit to President Donald Trump, who has bragged about his ability to get weapons manufacturers to offer the Pentagon “better deals.”

Rob Garver, national correspondent for the Fiscal Times, made the point this way:

Others simply pointed out how ridiculous it is that a weapons program so fraught with failures is allowed to receive such outlandish funding when lawmakers—mostly Republicans, but also many Democrats—continue to argue that the nation is “too broke” to increase spending on social programs that improve education or healthcare.

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Trumpka on the GOP’s Gutting of Healthcare

— Richard Trumka — President, AFL-CIO

We are—and always will be—stronger together. You’ve proved that again by standing united in opposition to the GOP health care bill.

More than 400,000 working people like you signed petitions aimed at Congress. More than 26,000 people made phone calls to their senator or representative urging them to oppose a health care bill that will leave 22 million Americans without the care they depend on. And thousands more of you showed up at events across the nation to speak up for all working families’ freedom to have decent health care.

Despite all we’ve done, the fight is far from over. You can help keep up the momentum by sharing this image with your friends and family.

Not only does this plan put millions of working families at risk of losing their care, it also would destroy 1.45 million jobs in the health sector in order to pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t have enough votes today to guarantee a win if he brings this terrible piece of legislation to the floor for a vote, because working women and men continue to take action. It’s up to all of us to keep it that way. Sharing this graphic right now on social media is a great, simple way to do just that.