Business and Commerce Services and Protections

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The Seeds That Federal Money Can Plant
The New York Times | Steve Lohr
“Government support plays a vital role in incubating new ideas that are harvested by the private sector, sometimes many years later, creating companies and jobs.” The author cites a report from the National Research Council that finds nearly $500 billion a year of revenue at “30 well-known corporations … [can] be traced back to the seed research backed by government agencies.”


Imagine spending a day without the Internet and GPS
Continuing Innovation in Information Technology | National Research Council
The internet and GPS (a U.S.-owned utility) are among many innovations that have been funded by the U.S. Government.  The authors of Continuing Innovation in Information Technology write, “fundamental research in IT, conducted in industry and universities, has led to the introduction of entirely new producer categories that ultimately became billion-dollar industries.” Underscoring the impact of government’s outsized role in creating the dominant technologies of the 21st century, the authors of this report ask readers to imagine a day without information technology. “This would be a day without the Internet and all that it enables … A day without digital media … A day during which aircraft could not fly, travelers had to navigate without benefit of the Global Positioning System (GPS), weather forecasters had no models, [and] banks and merchants could not transfer funds electronically”


Waste not want not: Sweden to give tax breaks for repairs
The Guardian | September 19, 2016
“The Swedish government is introducing tax breaks on repairs to everything from bicycles to washing machines so it will no longer make sense to throw out old or broken items and buy new ones.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrat and Green party coalition is set to … slash the VAT rate on repairs to bicycles, clothes and shoes from 25% to 12%.

It will also submit a proposal that would allow people to claim back from income tax half of the labour cost on repairs to appliances such as fridges, ovens, dishwashers and washing machines”


Retirement Savings Made Safer
The New York Times | April 7, 2016
[N]ew rules issued this week by the Labor Department…require financial advisers to act solely in a client’s best interests when giving advice and selling investments for retirement accounts. The best-interest requirement, also known as a fiduciary duty, will be a big improvement on current practice, in which many advisers are free to steer clients into high-priced strategies and products even when comparable but cheaper ones are available.”


‘Customers First’ to Become the Law in Retirement Investing
The New York Times | April 6, 2016
“The rules governing how financial professionals handle the trillions of dollars they invest on behalf of Americans saving for retirement are about to get a lot tougher…There are piles of money at stake: Individual retirement accounts held $7.3 trillion at the end of 2015…while 401(k)-type plans had $6.7 trillion — money that may eventually be rolled over into I.R.A.s.”

“The Labor Department, after years of battling Wall Street and the insurance industry, issued new regulations…that will require financial advisers and brokers handling individual retirement and 401(k) accounts to act in the best interests of their clients…[T]he new rules — six years in the making — require a broader group of professionals to act as “fiduciaries,” the legal term for putting customers’ interests first…For the last year, the industry has lobbied Congress to delay or kill the rules, so far without success.” 


Editorial: Retirement advisers must now put customers first
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | April 7, 2016
“Many consumers mistakenly thought advisers already operated under such rules. Advisers were generally required only to recommend suitable investments. They could promote products that paid them higher commissions, instead of identical products with lower commissions.”

“If money managers aren’t already in this business to provide sound advice, they should find another line of work. This is a win for hard-working Americans. Predatory financial advisers need to hit the road.”


Dr. Burke Healey | Department of Agriculture
Service to America Medals
“Halted the spread of the largest animal disease outbreak in U.S. history, an avian influenza virus that threatened human health, the poultry industry and the jobs of 1.8 million people.” 

Background: Avian Flu Outbreak Takes Poultry Producers Into Uncharted Territory | NPR


David A. Hindin |Environmental Protection Agency
Service to America Medals
“Spearheaded the EPA’s use of advanced pollution monitoring technology to increase compliance with federal environmental laws, provide more public transparency and reduce harmful pollutants in our air and waterways.”

Background: EPA adopts rules to limit oil refineries’ emissions into neighborhoods | LA Times


Kathleen B. Hogan | Department of Energy
Service to America Medals
“Developed and expanded a series of pivotal national energy efficiency initiatives that have greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and saved American consumers and businesses billions of dollars.”

Background: Better Buildings Challenge Energy Savings Exceed $1.3B | Facility Executive


Employee Ownership
Public Goods Post 
ESOPs are employee ownership structures that are created and supported through federal legislation. As such, employee ownership is a “public good,” fostered by government policy and law. 


Freedom to Harm
Public Goods Post 
This Post is about the erasure of regulations that is taking place outside of the media spotlight. It takes its title from a 2013 book by Thomas McGarity, who wrote about the consequences of eliminating regulations that protect people and the planet, thereby giving corporations the “freedom to harm.”

Underway today, if out of sight, is the “deconstruction of the administrative state” promised by the Trump White House. This deconstruction is aggressive and violent: it means the demolition of the capacity of our government to protect the safety and health of Americans, to repair and maintain our basic physical infrastructure, to protect the environment and to provide myriad essential public goods and services. Read more…