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Monday, July 8, 2013

How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public's Expense

 The Union of Concerned Scientists

 Scientific Integrity

How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public's Expense

Report looks at methods of corporate abuse, suggests steps toward reform



Executive Summary

Federal decision makers need access to the best available science in order to craft policies that protect our health, safety, and environment.

Unfortunately, censorship of scientists and the manipulation, distortion, and suppression of scientific information have threatened federal science in recent years.

This problem has sparked much debate, but few have identified the key driver of political interference in federal science: the inappropriate influence of companies with a financial stake in the outcome.

A new UCS report, Heads They Win, Tails We Lose, shows how corporations influence the use of science in federal decision making to serve their own interests.

Methods of Abuse

The report describes five basic methods that corporations use to influence the scientific and policy-making processes:

How Do They Game the System?
Let Us Recount the Ways

Heads They Win, Tails We Lose is full of real-world examples of the ways corporations interfere with science. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Suppressing Research:
Hog Farm Emissions

After pork producers contacted his supervisors, a USDA microbiologist was prevented from publishing research showing that emissions from industrial hog farms contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Corrupting Advisory Panels:
Childhood Lead Poisoning

A few weeks before a CDC advisory panel met to discuss revising federal lead standards, two scientists with ties to the lead industry were added to the panel. The committee voted against tightening the standards.

Ghostwriting Articles:
The Pharmaceutical Industry

A 2011 analysis found evidence of corporate authorship in research articles on a variety of drugs, including Avandia, Paxil, Tylenol, and Vioxx.
For more examples, visit our A-to-Z Guide to Political Interference in Science.
Corrupting the Science. Corporations suppress research, intimidate scientists, manipulate study designs, ghostwrite scientific articles, and selectively publish results that suit their interests.

Shaping Public Perception. Private interests downplay evidence, exaggerate uncertainty, vilify scientists, hide behind front groups, and feed the media slanted news stories.

Restricting Agency Effectiveness. Companies attack the science behind agency policy, hinder the regulatory process, corrupt advisory panels, exploit the "revolving door" between corporate and government employment, censor scientists, and withhold information from the public.

Influencing Congress. By spending billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions, corporate interests gain undue access to members of Congress, encouraging them to challenge scientific consensus, delay action on critical problems, and shape the use of science in policy making.

Exploiting Judicial Pathways. Corporate interests have expanded their influence on the judicial system, used the courts to undermine science, and exploited judicial processes to bully and silence scientists.


Progress Made (and Still To Be Made)

In his 2009 inaugural address, President Obama promised to "restore science to its rightful place." His administration has made progress toward that goal on several important fronts—elevating the role of science in government, ordering agencies to develop scientific integrity policies, improving transparency, and strengthening conflict-of-interest policies.

Despite these positive steps, much remains to be done. The report identifies five key areas where further federal commitments to protect science from undue corporate influence are needed: protecting government scientists from retaliation and intimidation; making government more transparent and accountable; reforming the regulatory process; strengthening scientific advice to government; and strengthening monitoring and enforcement.

Beyond Government

Corporations, nonprofits, academic institutions, scientific societies, and the media also have critical roles to play in reducing abuses of science in federal decision making. These institutions should:
  • promote honest scientific investigation and open discussion of research results;
  • refrain from actual or perceived acts of scientific misconduct;
  • embrace transparency and avoid conflicts of interest.
Inappropriate corporate interference in science extends its tentacles into every aspect of federal science-based policy-making. Addressing this interference will require overcoming high hurdles, but they are not insurmountable. With strong leadership and a sustained commitment, both the federal government and the private sector can rise to the challenge.

Friday, July 5, 2013

TPP would make health care even more expensive, less accountable, less accessible

 GREEN SHADOW CABINET             of the United States

TPP would make health care even more expensive, less accountable, less accessible

June 21, 2013
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a deal that is being secretly negotiated by the White House, with help from more than 600 corporate advisors, and Pacific Rim nations including Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Chile, Peru, Australia and New Zealand. While the TPP is being called a trade agreement, the United States already has trade agreements covering 90 percent of the GDP of the countries involved in the talks. Instead, the TPP is a major power grab by large corporations.
The text of the TPP includes 29 chapters, only five of which concern trade. The remaining chapters are focused on changes that multinational corporations have not been able to pass in Congress such as restrictions on internet privacy, increased patent protections, greater access to litigation and further financial deregulation.
So far, all that is known about the contents of the TPP is from documents that have been leaked and reports from non-governmental organizations and industry meetings. Unlike other trade deals, the White House refuses to make the text available to the public. In fact, the negotiators refuse to publish the text until four years after it is signed into law.
From the information available, one thing is clear about the impacts of the TPP on health care. The intention of the TPP is to enhance and protect the profits of medical and pharmaceutical corporations without regard for the harmful effects their policies will have on human health.
We know that the TPP will extend pharmaceutical and medical device patents and provide other tools to keep the prices of these necessities high. This will make medications and treatments unaffordable for millions of people and raise the costs of national health programs, including public health systems in the U.S.. At its worst, the TPP will provide a pathway to infect the world’s health systems with the deadly parasite of for-profit health corporations that plague the United States.
The major health threats posed by the TPP include:
  • Extensive patent protections. Through the TPP, pharmaceutical and medical device corporations are seeking extensive patent protections using a process known as ‘Evergreening.’ The TPP gives twenty years of patent protection for pharmaceuticals and medical devices; however, patents can be renewed for another twenty years each time there is a change in an indication or delivery. 
    • Doctors without Borders criticized this practice, stating that patent protections in previous trade agreements raised the price of life-saving medications and made them unavailable to people in poorer countries. Patents prevent the production of low cost generic forms of medications. 
    • Because of the negative impact on public health from patent protections in previous trade agreements, such as the Korea Free Trade Agreement, former President Bush rolled some of these practices back. Unfortunately, the TPP will move them forward again. In fact, the TPP goes farther to require patents on surgical techniques, medical tests and treatments.
  • Prevention of necessary innovation. Doctors without Borders also expressed concern that patent protections encourage innovation based on profit instead of on the needs of people, particularly those in poor nations. Corporations do not see it as in their financial interest to address health conditions more prevalent in poor nations which do not have the financial resources to buy their products. But it is often in these situations where treatment can have the greatest impact on quality of life.

  • Attack on public health systems. An area of great concern is language within the TPP concerning State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). These are institutions that are fully or partially owned by governments, which could include public health systems.
    • Corporate lobbyists are concerned that SOEs have ‘unfair advantages’ over private industry. These advantages include government subsidies, preferred tax status, low finance rates and access to capital. According to a leaked chapter, corporate lobbyists believe that there is a conflict of interest because SOEs have political considerations such as functioning to provide basic goods and services for their population and believe that instead SOEs should operate strictly as commercial entities.
    • The TPP requires SOEs to disclose any special advantages they receive and the government to give the same advantages to corporations. It also provides methods for corporations to sue governments if they believe that they are not being treated fairly.
    • Text from a section of the TPP called “Annex on Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Healthcare Technologies” was leaked in June, 2011. It reveals that medical industries are pushing on all fronts to keep their prices and prevent public health systems from negotiating to keep prices affordable. To medical industries, price negotiation is one of the ‘unfair advantages’ of public health systems. When a public health system negotiates a lower price, it is said to be exerting its market power. On the flip side, when a government extends patent protections to medical industries, this is not considered to be a use of market power by the industry.
  • Greater control over reimbursement. Medical industries are pushing for other concessions within the TPP to ‘level the playing field,” also known as forcing public entities to operate as market-based entities, such as factoring the cost of not just research, development and production of drugs and medical devices but also the cost of marketing them into what is considered to be a fair market price. And they only view prices negotiated without any government influence as fair. These provisions are significant because the TPP allows pharmaceutical corporations and others to challenge the legitimacy of any reimbursement decisions made by public health systems through the courts.
    • Patent and price protections for multinational pharmaceutical and medical device corporations based in the U.S. will benefit their bottom line and their investor’s pockets, but may bounce back and undermine public health systems in the U.S.. The leaked text indicates that the above provisions only apply to health authorities under the jurisdiction of the federal government. However, the loop holes are large enough that all of the U.S. public health systems, which include Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and the Veterans Health Administration, can arguably be considered to be federal.
To solve the health crisis in the U.S., we must move away from privatization of health care and towards a public health system with a mission to improve and protect the health of the public.
Therefore, the Health Council of the Green Shadow Cabinet opposes provisions within the TransPacific Partnership that make profit more important than public health. We oppose all provisions that restrict access to necessary medications, medical tests and treatments. Rather than the expansion of patent protections, there should be increased sharing of medical knowledge to promote improved global public health.

~ The Health Council is led by Secretary of Health Dr. Margaret Flowers, serving within the General Welfare Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet.  This statement is one of over a dozen issued in support of the Green Shadow Cabinet's June 17th call for action against the TPP.

©2013 Green Shadow Cabinet
The Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States is a civic project not sponsored by or affiliated with any political party.

Monday, July 1, 2013

13 Mindblowing Facts About America's Tax-Dodging Corporations


13 Mindblowing Facts About America's Tax-Dodging Corporations


The stunning numbers on the sorry state of corporate taxation in modern America

A judicious writer avoids adjectives like "mindblowing," especially when covering political or economic issues. But no other word seems to describe the stunning reality of corporate taxation in modern America, which cries out for the italics-heavy, exclamation-point-driven format made famous by Ripley's Believe It or Not.
Stylistic overkill? Read these thirteen facts and you may change your mind.

1. We're told we can't "afford" full Social Security benefits, even though closing corporate tax-haven loopholes would pay for Obama's "chained CPI" benefit cut more than ten times over!

Abusive offshore tax havens cost the US $150 billion in lost tax revenue every year (via FACT Coalition). That's $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.
The "chained CPI" cut, proposed by President Obama and supported by Republicans, is projected to "save" a total of $122 billion to $130 billion over the same time period by denying benefits to seniors and disabled people.
It's true. "Serious" politicians and pundits are demanding that ordinary people sacrifice earned benefits, while at the same time allowing corporations to avoid more than ten times as much in taxes.

2. Corporate tax rates are near their 60-year low, even though profits are at a 60-year high!

Need we say more?
(Source: Americans for Tax Fairness.)


3. Wells Fargo got $8 billion in tax breaks, even as executives at its subsidiary Wachovia avoided indictment for laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels!

That's right. Wells Fargo paid a negative tax rate of -1.4 percent between 2008 and 2010 while Wachovia, a Wells Fargo subsidiary, admitted to laundering more than $378 billion for Mexican drug gangs.
We're talking about crazed killers like "El Loco" and gangs like "Los Zetas" - gangs who cut people's heads off and toss them out onto disco dance floors or display them in the town square.
Wachovia bankers ignored repeated warnings from law enforcement officials, and continued to launder money for cartels that have murdered tens of thousands.
And yet no criminal indictments were handed down because, as a Senate investigator told Bloomberg News, ""There's no capacity to regulate or punish them because they're too big to be threatened with failure."

4. Some other huge corporations paid less than nothing, too.

Pepco Holdings (-57.6 percent tax rate)
General Electric (-45.3 percent)
DuPont (-3.4 percent)
Verizon (-2.9 percent)
Boeing (-1.8 percent)
Honeywell (-0.7 percent)
(Source: Citizens for Tax Justice)

5. The amount of money US corporations are holding offshoreis an estimated 1.6 trillion dollars!

Rather than tax these profits the way other countries do, corporate politicians are promoting a tax "repatriation" break that would let corporations "bring this money home" while paying even less than their currently low rates.
They tried that in 2004 and it didn't create any jobs. In fact, corporations took the tax break and then fired thousands of people. What "repatriation" did do is line a lot of wealthy investors' pockets.
So, naturally, they want to do it again.

6. One building in the Cayman Islands is the official location of 18,857 corporations!

According to the Government Accountability Office, a five-story building called "Ugland House" is home to nearly twenty thousand corporations. That's impressive, especially for such a small edifice. (Perhaps it has supernatural half-floors and space-time defying "mind tunnels" like the office in Being John Malkovich.)
While impressive, Ugland House's distinction pales next to that of 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware. According to one investigation, that address is home to 217,000 corporations.
That's because Delaware has very generous tax rules - and, as a result, is home to more than half of all the corporate subsidiaries in the United States.That's startling, since only 1/342th of the nation's population lives in that state (917,092 residents, out of a national total of 313,914,040, according to the latest census results).

7. Conservatives complain about the "official" corporate tax rate in this country, but corporations actually pay roughly one-third of the official rate in actual taxes.

The official, or "statutory," corporate tax rate is 35 percent. But the actual rate paid by American corporations is only 12 percent, less than that paid by many middle-class Americans.
(Source: The FACT Coalition.)
In fact, US Corporations pay less tax as a percentage of the GDP than corporations in Canada. Or Japan ...
... or South Korea. Or Norway. Or Luxembourg, New Zealand, Israel, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, and Italy.
(Source: OECD StatsExtract interactive database.)


8. Corporations used to pay 30 percent of Federal taxes, and now they pay less than 7 percent!

That's because the corporate tax rate has plunged since Dwight D. Eisenhower was President and is now the lowest it's been in modern history.
(Source: FACT Coalition.)


9. Big corporations paid $216 million to Congress and got $223 billion in tax breaks!

As Citizens for Tax Justice and USPIRG reported, 280 large and profitable corporations contributed $216 million to Congressional campaigns over four election cycles and got nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in tax breaks.
That's a terrific investment for them - a return of more than a thousand to one - but it's a bad deal for the American people.
10. We don't even know who owns some corporations, even though that makes it easier to evade taxes, dodge creditors, avoid paying alimony or child support, and even fund terrorism!
Here are some examples of investments that might represent a terror threat. Corporate interests are blocking disclosure rules that would help protect our national security.

11. Bank of America committed foreclosure fraud, was bailed out by the government, and then paid no taxes on $4.4 billion in profit!

That's right. In 2010, while BofA was negotiating a sweet settlement deal for its foreclosure fraud, it paid nothing in taxes. (Source: FACT Coalition.) Zero, on $17.2 billion in offshore earnings. (Source: Americans for Tax Fairness.)
Its $4.1 billion tax break came on the heels of the bank's taxpayer-funded bailout, immunity from prosecution for its criminal employees, and a cushy government settlement for its foreclosure fraud.
Now David Dayen reports that the bank has apparently continued to defraud customers in violation of its government settlement. Whistleblowers have stated in affidavits that they were "told to lie" to customers, continued to deceive homeowners before foreclosing on them, and flipped customers to new servicing companies to invalidate previous homeowner agreements.

12. What they call "tax reform" would actually prevent our elected representatives from giving businesses financial incentives to improve our lives!

The word "reform" is an honorable one that's been put to some dishonorable uses lately. "Entitlement reform," for example, is merely a euphemism for gutting Social Security and Medicare.
Similarly, corporate-backed politicians are pushing a formula for permanent corporate tax breaks and calling it "tax reform." They insist their "reform" be "revenue neutral" and say it will "broaden the base while lowering the rate."
Here's an English translation: The current, unsustainably low rates for corporations would be made permanent, while eliminating many tax deductions in the name of "simplification."
Here's what that really means: The domestic tax credit for creating jobs? Gone. Tax breaks for protecting the environment with clean energy, rather than harming other people's health and leaving a mess for the rest of us to clean up? Gone.
All in all we'd lose dozens of important policies that make our lives better, while permanently fixing corporate taxes at today's cushy giveaway rates.
"Reform"? Ripoffis more like it.

13. Despite their greed, mismanagement, and freeloading, tax-dodging corporations are using shell organizations like "Fix the Debt" and "the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget" to tell ordinary Americans they have to sacrifice even more to preserve corporate wealth!

These organizations are using the heads of failed banks - people like Chase's Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs - to dispense "advice on the economy." That's like getting navigation tips from the captain of the Exxon Valdez.
(Tax breaks for Exxon Mobil: $4.1 billion between 2008 and 2010. The company paid no taxes at all in 2009.)
These executives and their paid spokespeople tell the rest of us we need to "sacrifice" and "tighten our belts" so that their party can go on forever. And too often they're treated as credible sources, rather than as corrupting influences on our public life.
It's all true - and there are many more astonishing facts to be found in the world of corporate taxation. To fix the economy more people will need to learn about them - and demand that they be changed.
The writer and analyst in me wants to apologize for all the italicizing and all those exclamation points. But the American citizen in me wants to shout the truth out for all the world to hear - believe it or not!
Richard (RJ) Eskow is a blogger and writer, a former Wall Street executive, a consultant, and a former musician.