Sunday, March 19, 2017

While We Were Distracted With Twitters and Spies...

I believe that it is critically important for us to be consistently educating ourselves, discerning which resources of information have integrity and which do not, and illuminating again and again and again what is happening. This horror show must be recognized for what it is and stopped. - Molly

While we were distracted with twitters and spies, the GOP, inc. with CEO Trump ground on behind the scenes. And this is only a couple of months in. Folks, did any sane person sign up for this nonsense? (-- thanks, Rep. Michael Capuano)
1. Withdrew a rule requiring airlines and ticket agents to disclose fees for checked and carry-on bags at the beginning of an online customer fare search. Now they can continue to bury the information, making it harder for consumers to comparison shop and fully understand how much they will actually pay for a flight.
2. Directed the FCC to prohibit nine companies from providing discounted high-speed internet service to low-income individuals, and made the FCC withdraw from an effort to keep prison phone rates down. In some instances, prisoners’ phone calls went as high as $14 a minute
3. Directed the FCC not to pursue a proposal that would have reduced the cost of cable boxes, buy allowing customers to buy their cable boxes from third parties rather than the cable provider . 
4. Approves a Fannie Mae / Blackstone Group deal that authorizes the use of taxpayer money to help a hedge fund profit on foreclosed homes, i.e., denies working families the chance to buy these properties as they can’t compete with hedge fund buying properties in bulk (Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) directive) 
5. Halts the planned reduction of FHA fees, which will increase the cost of these mortgages an average of $500 more per year on a 30 year mortgage (Executive Order)
6. Removed all animal welfare inspection reports from the USDA website, making this data inaccessible to the general public. The documents removed include records of abuse and enforcement actions against research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other animal related facilities. 
7. Set aside a FCC rule regarding personal data collection by internet service providers (ISPs), which required ISPs to obtain explicit customer permission before collecting personal customer data information such as websites visited or browsing habits.
8. Delayed the implementation of a Department of Labor a fiduciary rule that directs financial advisors to place the best interests of their clients before profits they may make when recommending an investment. 
9. Removed from the Department of Labor website information on consumer protections for retirement investors. The page provided answers to FAQs clarifying a new fiduciary duty rule. This will make it harder for the average person saving for retirement to understand and protect their rights under the new rule.
10. Hinders or strips out the SEC’s authority to regulate and police the financial / securities industry (H.R. 78, H.R. 238) – Think AIG back in ‘08
11. Ended a federal program giving states the authority to create workplace savings plans for private sector employees who don’t have access to one (H.J. Res. 66, H.J. Res. 67)
12. Reinstates the Global Gag Rule that prevents international NGOs receiving federal funding from even discussing abortion or referring patients to abortion providers (Executive Order) 
13. Beyond the current prohibition on the use of taxpayer money for funding for abortion, this new legislation takes AWAY tax credits from small businesses who offer insurance to their employees that cover abortions. Impacts citizens in the same way who have insurance under the ACA that offer abortion coverage (H.R. 7) 
 14. Rescinded directives from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice related to Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, that applied to transgender students, e.g., abolishing a policy that simply allowed transgender students to use the restroom they feel most comfortable in.
15. Ended a requirement that states must make Title X grant money available to ALL qualified health care facilities, including Planned Parenthood, thus hindering the ability of community health centers and other medical facilities to provide family planning and preventive health services to low income individuals and their families (H.J. Res 43)
16. For every federal regulation issued requires that two other federal regulations be repealed, disregard the substance of regulations covering such things as food inspection, airline safety, air quality, mine safety, etc.)in pursuit of some quantitative formula (Executive Order) 
17. Elevates chief political strategist Steve Bannon to the “principals committee” of the National Security Council, at the same time reducing the roles of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence (Executive Order) 
 18. Established such a broad definition of public communication that agencies would be significantly impeded from doing the work required to implement regulations, resulting in massive agency delay in implementing regulations (H.R. 1004,)
19. Announced via the DOJ that the federal government would no longer challenge a 2011 Texas voter ID law on the grounds that it discriminates against minorities. That particular law has been described as one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country.
20. Halted a regulation giving whistleblowers the ability to seek civil penalties against federal nuclear contractors who retaliate against them, thus jeopardizing the ability of the public to access information about improper or dangerous practices
21. Placed new burdens on plaintiffs to show that a defendant has been properly added to a court action, thus making it easier for big business to deny the average person their day in court by slowing down legal actions against them (H.R. 725)
22. Placed additional requirements on plaintiffs before they can join a class action lawsuit, making litigation easier for corporate defendants by creating daunting obstacles for plaintiffs. Interesting NOTE: the legislation also mandates that asbestos bankruptcy trusts disclose asbestos victims’ personal information benefiting none other than the companies responsible for these injuries. (H.R. 985)
23. Denies federal grant funding to “Sanctuary Cities” who fail to comply with requests to hold undocumented immigrants for deportation (Executive Order) 
24. Launches construction of a wall along the Mexican border, acknowledging the taxpayers will pay for it, and violating the federal hiring freeze by announcing 15,000 new openings for border security enforcement (Executive Order) 
 25. 1st attempt to prevent Muslims from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia from traveling to the United States – failing to distinguish green card holders, visa holders, refugees, et. al., this poorly planned order, when implemented results in chaos (Executive Order) 
 26. Reverses a rule requiring companies involved in oil, gas or mineral extraction registered in the U.S. to report any payments they make to foreign governments over $100,000, thus empowering autocratic leaders and deepening poverty( H.J. Res. 41) 
 27. Released updated instructions on undocumented immigrants, discontinuing priority enforcement and seeking to find and deport anyone in the United States illegally, including the building of new detention facilities, hiring of staff, and requirement that local law enforcement work with ICE on this initiative
28. Invalidates a rule that prevented companies engaged in mountaintop removal mining from polluting streams, alleviating these companies from having to consider whether their activity will poison a stream, monitor water quality, or restore the impacted land to its original condition (H.J. Res. 38) 
29. Invalidates a rule requiring oil and gas companies to limit the release of methane on federal lands, thus contributing to profound health and environmental consequences (H.J. Res. 36)
30. Required the EPA to start repealing “Waters of the United States”, which provided clarity on the bodies of water subject to Clean Water Act protections, including restoring those protections for small streams. Note: More than 117 million Americans currently get their drinking water from small streams (Executive Order)
31. Prevents the Social Security Administration from reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the names of individuals with a severe, medically documented mental disability who also require a designated representative to oversee their benefits, thus making it easier for someone with a documented mental disability to buy a gun. (H.J. Res. 40)
32. Weakened the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) authority requiring employers to retain records of serious injuries and deaths for 5 years, hindering compliance monitoring and enforcement of penalties (H.J. Res. 83)
33. Invalidates a rule requiring companies seeking federal contracts to report any safety or labor violations they have committed and information on how those violations were addressed, making it less onerous to violate federal labor or safety laws. (H.J. Res 37)
34. Ended a federal program giving counties and municipalities the authority to create workplace savings plans for private sector employees who don’t have access to one. This is basically the same measure as H.J. Res. 66; it just applies to different entities.

(Thanks to both my friend Rande Neukam and to my husband for this one. - Molly)

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