California Businesses Need Stronger Federal Clean Water Rules
By Steve Frisch
You don't have to be a native Californian to know how important water is to our state, especially in light of the current record-breaking drought. The total cost of this drought is already running into the billions of dollars, and could end up costing us thousands of jobs.
Water is an economic necessity, and we need to protect it. That's why a law like the Clean Water Act, designed to protect our waterways from harmful discharges, is so important -- not just for agriculture, but also to industries like tourism, fishing, manufacturing and even technology. With water so scarce in California, and the state expected to grow to 50 million people by 2050, we need to make sure we re protecting every drop.
Unfortunately, a pair of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006, made Clean Water Act enforcement confusing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a new "Waters of the U.S." rule to address this confusion. We need Senator Dianne Feinstein to join us in supporting that rule.
"Waters of the U.S." makes clear that most seasonal and rain-dependent streams, as well as wetlands near rivers and streams, are and have always been protected waterways. About 60 percent of streams in the US flow seasonally or following rainfall, and about 117 million Americans -- one in three of us -- get drinking water from public systems that rely at least in part on these streams.
Contrary to what many opponents have claimed, these rules would not give the EPA any new authority under the Clean Water Act. No new types of waters would get protection, and -- despite some particularly strange claims -- irrigation ditches would not be covered. All the rules would do is more clearly define the waterways the EPA can protect.
They will also give the business community the certainty they have been asking for since the Supreme Court's decisions a decade ago. This aligns with Senator Feinstein's demonstrated support for California businesses and her efforts to address the drought-induced state of emergency declared by Governor Jerry Brown in January.
Small business owners are in favor of these protections. A national scientific poll recently released by the American Sustainable Business Council found that a whopping 80 percent of small business owners support the protections described by the proposed "Waters of the U.S." rule. And that includes strong majorities of Republicans, as well as Democrats and Independents.
They understand that without clean water, many companies cannot operate. As water costs go up, supply chain materials either disappear or cost substantially more to obtain, and potential customers feel the pinch and spend less on goods and services, existing businesses suffer -- and more of them shut down.
Big business isn't different. One reason Silicon Valley soared as a technology manufacturing hub was its access to clean water from the Sierra Nevada. That growth has had a tremendous positive impact on our state's economy, to the point where Silicon Valley accounts for 28 percent of our income tax base.
And smart water regulations can do wonders for economic development. In localities like Placer County, for example, regulators have been working to identify and plan for protection of water and other resources under a project called "Placer Legacy," which speeds permitting processes and reduces carrying costs on investments. It's just smart business.
Then there's the flip side. If we don't protect our waterways, our local economies will suffer. The Elk River spill earlier this year cost $19 million a day. Our economy doesn t need that kind of damage. No business benefits from contaminated water, and for many industries, it's potentially devastating. We need to act now to protect them. That's why we hope Senator Feinstein will help protect this precious resource by supporting this new EPA rule.
Frisch is President of the Sierra Business Council, a non-profit network of more than 4,000 businesses, community organizations, local governments and individuals working to foster thriving communities in the Sierra Nevada.
Walgreens' Founder Wouldn't Approve Company's Unpatriotic Tax Dodge
By Jim Burke
Charles Walgreen Sr., founder of the nation's biggest drugstore chain, would not approve of what the management of his company is planning. He would never have considered moving his headquarters address to a foreign country just to avoid paying the company's fair share in U.S. taxes. He loved his community and country too much.
How do I know? Because I'm the mayor of the small city in Illinois where Charles Walgreen spent his formative years, went to public school and had his first experience working in a drugstore. Later, after Walgreens bought a pharmacy in Chicago and grew it into a hugely successful chain, he became a major benefactor of the city of Dixon because he believed that a good business gives back. Now, instead of giving back, the company he founded soon may turn its back on our nation.
Walgreens' management may decide by the end of July whether to renounce its corporate "citizenship" in the United States.
To be clear: the corporation wouldn t move any of its 8,200 U.S. stores overseas. It likely would not move its management, employees, or headquarters offshore. Just its corporate address would change -- on paper -- from Deerfield, Illinois to somewhere in Switzerland, a tax haven country. With that simple switch, the company would avoid $4 billion in U.S. taxes over the next five years, according to a recent analysis.
Walgreens would still derive almost all of its $72 billion in annual revenue from loyal American customers. A quarter of that income comes from public sources -- Medicare and Medicaid prescription payments. Even if you don't shop at Walgreens, as a taxpayer, you're aiding its bottom line.
Even with its new offshore address, Walgreens would still benefit from all the services U.S. taxes pay for -- from roads to education to stable markets to our legal system to national defense. But it would pay far less for that privilege, leaving American taxpayers to pick up the tab.
I'm not anti-business. I'm a small business owner myself. I believe in free enterprise. As mayor, I encourage economic development and the jobs it creates. But I also believe that Americans have the right to expect that the corporations they support with their patronage should return their loyalty.
That's how it worked here in Dixon -- and we can thank Charles Walgreen in large part for that. He saved the Dixon National Bank during the Depression, donated 100 acres to create Dixon s public golf course, established our municipal airport and even helped erect a statue to another Illinois success story, Abraham Lincoln.
Like Lincoln, Walgreen rose from humble origins. Charles R. Walgreen, Sr., was born to Swedish immigrants on a farm near Galesburg. At 14, he moved with his family to Dixon, where he attended public school, played sandlot baseball and swam in the Rock River. He worked in a local shoe factory, general store and finally found his true calling in a drug store.
He started his business after moving to Chicago as a young man, but soon returned to Dixon. And as his business thrived, he made sure its home thrived as well. Now his successors want to abandon that ideal by abandoning our country.
Walgreens wouldn't be the first corporation to try this change-of-address tax dodging trick -- more than 75 others have done it since 1983. And at least a dozen other companies -- including AbbVie, Medtronic, Mylan and others -- are quietly planning to announce their own plans to abandon America.
If Walgreens becomes the first big retailer to abandon the United States, it could start an even larger tide of corporate defections that could cost U.S. taxpayers almost $20 billion over the next 10 years according to the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation. More and more U.S. corporations will unscrew the nameplate on their U.S. headquarters building, tack it up in a tax haven offshore and dodge billions in U.S. taxes -- all while continuing to receive all the privileges and benefits of operating here in America.
Where is their sense of shame? Where is their patriotism? Where are the morals that guided Charles Walgreen?
Unless Congress acts, we won't be able to block these shady maneuvers. But I expect that many Walgreens' customers may vote with their feet and pocketbooks, passing by the local Walgreens to shop at another drugstore chain or a neighborhood pharmacy that is paying their fair share.
Walgreens executives say they still haven't decided whether or not to pull off this accounting sleight-of-hand. Before they decide, they should give some thought to their founder -- and also to a young kid who used to caddy for him at that public golf course he built. The caddy's name was Ronald Reagan, another Dixon native, whose patriotism and sense of public duty were surely encouraged by the example of Charles Walgreen.
Burke is mayor of Dixon, IL.
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The Smart Money is on Energy Efficiency
By Russell Cann
Time to Stop Corporate Defections
By Frank Clemente
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| American Forum |
By Lisa Maatz
As someone who has spent the better part of my life fighting for fair pay for women, I believe it s always a good time to talk about the pay gap. But the topic is especially important now -- and the timing has little to do with Equal Pay Day on April 9.
Equal Pay Day is the symbolic date when women's wages finally catch up to men's from the year before -- this year, it just happens to fall amid sequestration and passage of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) budget in the House. Both disproportionately slash programs that help women and their families. Women already earn less on average than men, and now programs they depend on to help make ends meet are being cut. These seemingly never-ending budget battles are compounding what is already a pernicious problem.
Yet somehow the pay gap went largely overlooked as the dramatic spending cuts known as sequestration went into effect. Sequestration harms women and girls through cuts to K 12 funding, higher-education programs, work-force training, funding for agencies that enforce civil rights protections like equal pay, women's health programs, and programs that promote getting more women into high-wage science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers -- just to name a few.
How is the average woman who loses out on thousands of dollars in wages each year due to the gap supposed to make up for cuts to these programs? Easy answer: She can't. And neither can her family. Make no mistake, equal pay is a family issue.
And then we have the Ryan budget, which slashes nondefense spending by trillions of dollars, mostly by cutting programs that benefit women, students and families. Ryan's budget cuts Pell Grants and other college aid, Head Start, job training, Medicare, Medicaid, and funding for civil-rights enforcement. And it repeals the Affordable Care Act, which provides critical, no-cost preventive benefits for women.
I recognize that Congress is grappling with tough budgetary tradeoffs, but our ability to access basic education and health care cannot be sacrificed. As American Association of University Women research shows, women already have a harder time paying back student loans because of the pay gap. Now the aid they depend on to go to college is in jeopardy.
We mark Equal Pay Day as an opportunity to educate the public and demand action. This year, Congress took action on policies that exacerbate the pay gap's impact and put the economic security of American families at risk. Thankfully, Sen. Patty Murray s (D-Wash.) budget blueprint took the Senate in a more moderate direction, sharing the sacrifice and working to help the most vulnerable among us. Sen. Barbara Mikulski's (D-Md.) budget amendment insists we make equal pay a budgetary priority, but we still need stronger laws to fulfill that promise -- laws like the still un-passed Paycheck Fairness Act.
I can't state it more plainly: The pay gap hasn't budged in 10 years. And when you compare women and men in the same job doing the same work, we still find a gap. This inequality affects women's wages today and their retirements tomorrow, and it weakens our national economy. It's past time for real change.
This Equal Pay Day, ask your politicians one question: Will you finally take action to fix a problem that affects women and their families every day?
Make the answer good. Women are watching, and we're tired of waiting.
Maatz has served as AAUW's director of public policy and government relations since 2003.
By King Salim Khalfani and Stephen A. Northup
According to the most recent polling data, public support for the death penalty is at its lowest level in decades. Four states have ended capital punishment since 2007 and strong abolition efforts are underway in a number of other states.
So where is Virginia in this current national debate?
Virginia has a long and dark history with the death penalty. The first execution in the New World took place here in 1608 when Captain George Kendall was executed in Jamestown for spying. Throughout its history, Virginia has executed more than 1,300 people, more than any other state. Virginia has executed more women and the youngest children of any state. Since the resumption of capital punishment in the late 1970s following a de facto moratorium imposed by the courts, Virginia has executed 109 people, second only to Texas.
TEXAS LONE STAR FORUM
By F. Scott McCown
As part of legislation to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits through 2012, Congress is considering a very bad policy idea: encouraging states to drug test every applicant for unemployment insurance and deny compensation to any who fail. It's such a bad idea that it has twice failed to make it through the Texas House of Representatives, as conservative a legislative body as they come.
The whole thing is really a ploy. The proponents of drug testing are trying to undermine public support for UI by associating UI applicants with drug users. They want the public to think about UI like it does welfare, blaming the unemployed-rather than the economy-for their plight.
Unemployment insurance is not welfare. By definition, people who qualify lost their job through no fault of their own. They are typically men and women who have worked steadily, often for years or even decades, and have largely covered the cost of their employer's UI tax indirectly through reduced wages.
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