Legal System and Legal Protections


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.”

Thomas A. Mariani, Jr., Steven O’Rourke and Sarah Himmelhoch | Department of Justice
Service to America Medals
“Secured a record $20.8 billion legal settlement against BP for the devastating 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, providing funds to help a five-state region recover from massive environmental disaster.”

Background: U.S., BP Finalize $20.8 Billion Deepwater Oil Spill Settlement | WSJ

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. 

Letting Robocallers Spam Your Voicemail
Public Goods Post 
The Republican National Committee is backing a move to allow commercial and political robocallers to send spam messages directly into your voicemail. You won’t hear your phone ring, but you will get the message. The petition is under serious consideration by the Federal Communications Commission, now headed by a Trump appointee.

If the petition goes through, robocall access to your voicemail would represent another loss of public goods – those regulations designed to protect us from intrusions upon our privacy, whether enabled by communications conglomerates or new technologies. Read  more …

What Happens When Government is Too Successful?
Public Goods Post | October 2017

Despite decades of efforts by anti-public forces to defund, outsource or dismantle government agencies and programs, most continue to churn out essential services, products and protections every day. They do this quietly and successfully, with little recognition.

Increasingly often, now, the result of such efficiency and effectiveness is an attempt to kill or gut the successful program or bureau.

One such agency is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau whose mission is to protect American consumers from financial abuses and predatory practices. Its two call centers (one in Iowa and one in New Mexico) handle 25,000 calls monthly and 22,000 complaints each month. On behalf of 29,000,000 consumers it has extracted nearly $12 billion in refunds and canceled debts. Further, the CFPB has “curtailed abusive debt collection practices, reformed mortgage lending, publicized and investigated hundreds of thousands of complaints from aggrieved customers of financial institutions…”

The result is an all-out effort to eliminate the agency, or disable it if elimination fails.  Read More …

The Quiet Revolution and a Submerged Para-state
Public Goods Post 
Under normal circumstance, it would be safe to assume that “public goods” are delivered by public agencies.  But current circumstances are far from normal.  Over the last several decades, more and more public goods have been delivered by a para-state, a privatized government virtually hidden from view. We taxpayers still pay, but our money goes to a growing army of corporations on the public payroll.

Private corporations operate programs, deliver services and even manage other contractors. Some citizens receiving public services encounter only private contract workers, so are unaware that they are receiving a government service. While some forms of contract procurement have been in place since the nation’s birth, the very nature of contracting has changed as it has grown in scope. Basic governmental functions are now outsourced to for-profit corporations. Read more…