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PRESS RELEASE: Consumers Want One Set of Rules Protecting Their Information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2016

CONSUMERS WANT ONE SET OF RULES PROTECTING THEIR ONLINE INFORMATION, PUBLIC OPINION STRATEGIES AND HART SURVEY FINDS

National Poll Finds 94 Percent of Internet Users Agree All Companies Collecting Data Online Should Follow Same Rules

WASHINGTON—When consumers go online, they want their privacy protected, and they feel that no matter which company has their data – be it Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, T-Mobile or Twitter – that company should be held to the same set of rules, according to a new national survey by Public Opinion Strategies and Peter Hart.

The survey, conducted on behalf of the Progressive Policy Institute, demonstrates that online consumers do not have different concerns based on which specific entities collect online data. By overwhelming margins, 94% to 5%, Internet users agree that “All companies collecting data online should follow the same consumer privacy rules so that consumers can be assured that their personal data is protected regardless of the company that collects or uses it,” including 82% of Internet users who say they “strongly” agree with that statement.

“Ultimately, consumers want to know there is one set of rules that equally applies to every company that is able to obtain and share their data, whether it be search engines, social networks, or ISPs, and they want that data protected based on the sensitivity of what is being collected” said Peter Hart.

Consumers believe that all internet companies have access to a lot of data about their online behavior, and they want consistent privacy rules to apply to all of these companies regarding the treatment of this data. Of those surveyed, 83% agreed that online privacy should be protected based on the sensitivity of their online data, rather than on who is collecting and using the data.

The national poll of 800 Internet users was completed by a live telephone survey. The results clearly support that consumers want clear, uniform rules that protect their privacy based on the sensitivity of the data, not based on the type of company that uses the data.

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PPI WEEKLY WRAP-UP: Economic Impact of TPP, Infrastructure Permitting Reform, and Next-Gen Nuclear Energy

SPEAKER OF ALBANIA: On Monday, PPI and NLC4 cohosted the Honorable Ilir Meta, Speaker of Parliament and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Albania, for a reception and  conversation about Albanian politics,  U.S.-Albanian relations, and America’s influence in  Southeastern Europe.

 ECONOMIC IMPACT OF TPP: Yesterday, Ed  Gerwin, senior fellow for trade and global opportunity  at PPI, released a statement after the United States International Trade Commission released a new  report concerning the likely impact of the Trans-  Pacific Partnership agreement on the U.S. economy.

 

 “We are pleased that the Commission’s detailed  economic analysis concludes that a U.S. economy with TPP would, overall, see higher growth, employment,         and exports as compared to a U.S. economy  without TPP, and we look forward to reviewing the report in detail,” Gerwin says.

 

INFRASTRUCTURE PERMITTING REFORM: As part of our contribution to Infrastructure Week in Washington, PPI and Common Good cohosted a policy forum on Thursday morning at Covington and  Burling, LLP on expediting and improving regulatory reviews of infrastructure projects. The forum, “How Faster Infrastructure Can Get America Moving,” was highlighted by keynote addresses from  Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Jason Miller of the White House National Economic Council, and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT). The forum included panel discussions with experts from industry,  labor, government, and environmental protection—as well as a panelist from Germany, who provided examples of their permitting process. Germany puts a two-year deadline on regulatory review, without  compromising the country’s strict environmental standards.

 

In February, PPI President Will Marshall wrote an op-ed, “A New Kind of Public Works,” outlining four ways to bring national infrastructure policy into the twenty-first century. “The challenge goes well beyond pouring more money into repair and maintenance of existing public facilities,” Marshall says. “These are chiefly state and local responsibilities, and have traditionally been funded by municipal debt. Washington should focus instead on innovative ways to provide and pay for the new, technologically sophisticated infrastructure Americans need to compete in a global, knowledge economy…”

 

ARGENTINA APP ECONOMY: Last week, PPI released a new policy report, Argentina: The Road to the App Economy, at a public event in Buenos Aires. Authored by PPI economist Michelle Di Ionno and chief economic strategist Michael Mandel, the report examines the rise and future potential of the country’s App Economy—jobs, companies, and economic growth created by the production, distribution, and maintenance of mobile applications that run on smart devices. They find that Argentina had roughly 33,250 App Economy jobs as of March 2016.

 

NEXT-GEN NUCLEAR ENERGY: PPI recently released a policy report, Next-Gen Reactors: How Nuclear Innovation Can Support Growth and a Healthy Climate, authored by Derrick Freeman, director of PPI’s Energy Innovation Project and Will Marshall. They reason that nuclear energy should play a larger role in America’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Without more nuclear power, the U.S. won’t be able to reconcile the twin imperatives of economic growth and climate protection. What’s more, innovations in next-gen technology create a striking opportunity to revive U.S. leadership in civilian nuclear energy. This will be an economic boon for America, generating good jobs and tremendous export opportunities, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

 

For this to happen, the authors argue, the U.S. needs to boost nuclear reactor research and revamp its regulatory structure to support the creation of new types of nuclear reactors. The industry needs the federal government to streamline the regulatory process before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and it needs to create a national testing facility for private companies to test prototypes.

 

#FBF TO VIETNAM: With President Obama traveling to Vietnam this weekend, we #FlashbackFriday to PPI’s visit to the country last fall. In Hanoi, we released two policy reports: Vietnam and the App Economy and TPP and the Benefits of Freer Trade for Vietnam: Some Lessons from U.S. Free Trade Agreements.

 

FOLLOW FRIDAYPPI welcomes David Osborne, senior fellow and director of the Reinventing America’s Schools Project at PPI, to the Twitterverse. His handle is @OsborneDavid. Give him a follow!

Press Release: PPI Statement on USITC Report Concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2016

Contact: Cody Tucker, ctucker@ppionline.org, 202-775-0106;
Steven Chlapecka, schlapecka@ppionline.org, 202-525-3931

WASHINGTON—Ed Gerwin, senior fellow for trade and global opportunity at the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), today released the following statement after the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) released a new report concerning the likely impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement on the U.S. economy:

“The Progressive Policy Institute welcomes the release of the U.S. International Trade Commission’s report on the economic effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the American economy. We are pleased that the Commission’s detailed economic analysis concludes that a U.S. economy with TPP would, overall, see higher growth, employment, and exports as compared to a U.S. economy without TPP, and we look forward to reviewing the report in detail.

“It’s important to recognize—as the Commission itself notes—that the USITC’s cautious economic model does not capture the full economic impact of many of the TPP’s high standard reforms. These include the benefits of stronger protections for U.S. intellectual property, the elimination of trade impediments for many U.S. service providers, and reductions in standards-related barriers to American exports.

“In particular, the Commission’s economic analysis does not fully reflect the potentially substantial economic benefits of two key TPP reforms: (1) the many TPP provisions that establish a modern framework for e-commerce and digital trade, and (2) those that make trade easier, faster, cheaper, and more certain for American small business. As the Commission notes, many observers believe—as we do—that the TPP’s provisions on digital trade are ‘the most transformative measures in the agreement.’

“PPI’s analysis has shown that expanding e-commerce and digital trade has particular potential to ‘democratize’ trade, by making trade easier for small and non-traditional traders. And—when taken together with the TPP’s many advancements for small exporters—the TPP’s digital trade provisions can support stronger growth, better jobs, and new pathways for sharing trade’s benefits more inclusively.

“Finally, the TPP would have benefits beyond those that can be measured in economic terms, including strengthening America’s geopolitical ties around the Pacific Rim and supporting important values—like the rule of law, transparency, and the protection of workers and the environment—that we seek to more fully share with our friends and allies.”

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PRESS RELEASE: PPI Report: Tax Prep Chains Target Low-Income Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2016

Contact: Cody Tucker, ctucker@ppionline.org, 202-775-0106,
or Steven Chlapecka, schlapecka@ppionline.org, 202-525-3926

PPI Report: Tax Prep Chains Target Low-Income Workers

Taxpayers eligible for the EITC spend as much as 22 percent of their refund to file

WASHINGTON—National tax preparation chains continue to exploit the working poor, many of whom spend a significant portion of a key federal anti-poverty tax credit—the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)—just to pay for filing their taxes, according to a report released today by the Progressive Policy Institute.

The report, coauthored by Paul Weinstein Jr., PPI Senior Fellow and Director of the Public Management Graduate Program at the Johns Hopkins University, and Bethany Patten, a policy and research manager at Excellent Schools Detroit, found that workers eligible for the EITC continue to spend large sums—averaging around $400—at national tax preparation chains.

In a recent survey of storefront operations in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., they found that those eligible for the EITC, who are typically low-income workers with children, would spend between 13 and 22 percent of their refund this year at local tax preparation outlets. In Baltimore, where the average EITC refund is $2,335, the cost to file ranged from $309 at H&R Block to $509 at Liberty Tax Service. In Washington, D.C., where the average EITC refund is $2,351, the cost to file ranged from $315 at H&R Block to $485 at Liberty Tax Service.

Additionally, Weinstein and Patten found that national tax preparation chains continue to target EITC filers by locating in areas where the largest numbers of EITC claims are made. ZIP codes with the highest level of EITC filers have approximately 75 percent more tax preparers per filer than moderate-EITC ZIP codes. The study found “a clear relationship” between the share of EITC filers in a ZIP code and the area’s saturation of tax preparation chains.

Lastly, government studies, as well as those by nonprofit organizations, consistently show a high error rate for returns filed on behalf of EITC beneficiaries by paid tax preparers. Two studies by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found an error rate of 89 and 94 percent respectively. And last year the head of the GAO stated that in an analysis of IRS data, an estimated “60 percent of returns prepared by preparers contained errors.”

“These realities demand a public response. But proposals to further complicate the tax code in the name of reducing fraud would only make the problem worse,” write Weinstein and Patten. “Instead, U.S. policymakers should establish a national goal of reducing the dependence of low-wage workers on paid tax preparers. Specifically, this would mean taking steps to simplify EITC rules and requirements, by requiring all paid preparers to take competency exams, increasing access to free filing programs, and/or streamlining the federal income tax code in its entirety. A combination of these reforms would allow low-income workers to keep more of their tax credit while also raising standards within the paid tax preparation sector.”

The report follows up on a 2002 study by researchers at PPI and Brookings Institution, which found that tax preparations services, clustered in low-income neighborhoods, cost workers eligible for EITC refunds about $1.75 billion.

The Earned Income Tax Credit was established in 1974 as an anti-poverty measure. It has become the federal government’s largest safety net program, last year providing $66.7 billion to 27.5 million Americans. It is especially valuable to low- and middle-income workers, since it provides a direct credit against taxes owed rather than a deduction from reported income. It is also a refundable credit, meaning an eligible worker can receive a refund even if the credit exceeds what would have been his or her federal income tax liability.

Download, The Price of Paying Taxes II: How paid tax preparer fees are diminishing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

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PPI Tackles Tax Disputes in Europe

Last week, PPI led a bipartisan delegation of 10 high-ranking Congressional staffers to London and Brussels, which is still grieving in the aftermath of the March 22 terrorist attacks. Our visit there so soon after the atrocity was greeted warmly as an act of transatlantic solidarity.

The Digital Economy Study Group was the third such delegation PPI has taken to Europe in as many years. Our mission is to engage influential government and private leaders in exploring common ways to tackle our mutual dilemma of slow growth and stalled social mobility. We believe more innovation and growth are the best antidotes to the virulent strains of populism that are warping democratic politics on both sides of the Atlantic.

Our trip began last Tuesday in London at 10 Downing Street, where Daniel Korski, deputy head of policy for Prime Minister David Cameron, briefed our delegation on the government’s efforts—including a low-tax patent or innovation box—to encourage greater digital investment in the UK. Then it was on to Westminster, where Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger led the group on an entertaining tour of Parliament, which also included a brisk dissection of Britain’s controversial Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax.

Also at Parliament, Labour MP Meg Hillier, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, defended the government’s diverted profits tax as a response to public anger over the tax avoidance strategies of international companies. At breakfast the next day, veteran Labour MP John Spellar offered a trenchant analysis of how economic change and slow growth have scrambled British politics and led directly to June’s “Brexit” referendum. At UK Treasury, Financial Secretary David Gauke explained how recent reforms to corporate tax rules have resulted in greater foreign investment and business creation.

On Thursday, we took the Eurostar to Brussels, where the U.S. Mission to the European Union briefed us on difficult aspects of the US-EU economic relationship, including the new “Privacy Shield” agreement, international tax policy, and the TTIP trade pact. At the European Commission’s powerful Competition directorate, the group had a robust exchange of views with officials overseeing “state aid” investigations that have called into question tax agreements negotiated by EU member states and U.S. companies. We expect these issues resurfaced this week when Commissioner Margarethe Vestager visited Washington for talks with Congress and the administration.

Later, officials at DG CONNECT briefed the group on Europe’s efforts to establish a digital single market and plans for “platform regulation” to create space for European tech companies to grow. On Friday, the DG GROW team discussed their wide-ranging efforts to spur entrepreneurship and digital skills building across Europe. The growing gulf between U.S. and European views on tax policy also was the subject of a lunch with Bart Van Humbeeck, economic advisor to Kris Peeters, Vice-Prime Minister of Belgium, hosted by Paul Hofheinz of the Lisbon Council. Our last official meeting was with PPI friend Ann Mettler, Head of the European Strategy Centre, an in-house think tank for EU President Jean-Claude Junker.

These frank and in-depth discussions enabled us and Congressional staff to get a better understanding of the sometimes byzantine workings of the EU, as well as its often different perspectives on issues vital to both sides—privacy and cross-border data flows, digital innovation, trade, tax, copyright and more. The visits also have impressed on our European friends that U.S. policymakers are paying closer attention to such issues. PPI’s hope is to nudge these sometimes contentious conversations to common ground, and strengthen the fraying bonds of transatlantic economic cooperation.


Bernie vs. Hillary: Who Is More Trustworthy?

The Washington Post just reviewed a recent dispute between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns and concluded that Sanders earned “three Pinnochios” for dishonesty. This raises broader questions as Bernie’s campaign goes negative.

Bernie has built a mythology that he is a uniquely honest politician, and he has traded on that brand myth to raise money. Now that he is using those funds to attack Hillary Clinton, progressives should consider the factual answers to three questions:

(1) Is Bernie a high-integrity politician, or does he have a history of making compromises when politically convenient?

(2) Do his budgets speak hard truths or promise falsehoods?

(3) Do well-informed, independent observers more frequently trust Bernie or Hillary?

Question #1: Does Bernie Show Courage When The Chips Are Down?

We all know that Bernie attacks Wall Street and the rich, and his attacks often have merit. But those attacks do not require political courage, as neither constituency matters to his campaigns in Vermont or nationally. So, how has Bernie’s integrity held up when his own political career was at stake? The facts are not kind, as Mother Jones recently explained. To take three examples:

Exhibit A: The National Rifle Association. In the largely rural state of Vermont, the left’s bête noire is the National Rifle Association. Did Bernie benefit from the NRA’s money, endorsements, and support? Yes. He had previously lost statewide office six times before the NRA decided to invest tens of thousands to elect him. Upon his election, Bernie reversed the gun-sense positions of his predecessor and voted against the Brady Bill five times.

Exhibit B: Going negative on HillaryBernie initially promised a campaign of ideas. He said would advance issues, forcing the party to respond to a substantive agenda of economic justice. He promised he would not attack Hillary personally in ways that might increase the likelihood of a GOP victory in the fall, because (in his words) Hillary would be a vastly better President than Trump or Cruz.

But then Bernie broke his promise. After Iowa and New Hampshire tantalized Bernie with the prospect he might actually win, and then large states such as Florida and Ohio dimmed his prospects, he and his campaign decided to go negative. Sanders is now using his campaign war chest to attack Hillary Clinton personally.

Exhibit C: Free collegeWhen Bernie launched his presidential bid, he had a choice about what to emphasize. He decided to announce a $70 billion investment in education. The funny thing is that $70 billion is almost exactly the figure that would be necessary to fund universal, high-quality early childhood education for young children. Such a program would deliver enormous benefits for economic growth and social justice for all children.

Except … preschool children do not vote, and most families in need of preschool are too poor to give money to political campaigns. So instead,Bernie’s first major campaign pledge was free college. This is a $70 billion handout that would overwhelmingly go to the wealthier half of society (lower income families mostly do not send their kids to college, for reasons that often have little to do with tuition).

Why did Bernie prioritize college for some over preschool for all? Even if Bernie genuinely worried about college affordability, why didn’t he endorse policies that targeted low-income families (such as the policies promoted by President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton)? The most plausible answer is not very flattering: to appeal to the wallets of middle-class campaign donors,Bernie Sanders disregarded the needs of the poor for political advantage.

Question #2: Do Bernie’s Budgets Convey Hard Truths or False Promises?

To convey a sense of honesty, Bernie trades in blunt ideas. “College will be free.” “Healthcare will be free.” “Other people — undeserving people—will pay for it.” The sum of these ideas appear in Bernie’s proposed budgets.

Sadly, you can find more climate scientists who reject climate change than credentialed economists who believe that Bernie’s budgets add up.

For example, the Sanders campaign has elevated the analytic work of Professor Gerald Friedman, who concluded that Sanders’ budgets work mathematically. To reach this conclusion, Friedman made aggressive assumptions about the U.S. growth rate under a Sanders presidency.

The credible economic reviews of Friedman’s analysis have been withering:

  • Jared Bernstein, who is friendly to Sanders and leads the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, cited several assumptions as “wishful thinking” in a conversation with the New York Times.
  • Obama’s former chair of his Council of Economic Advisors , Christina Romer, did a deep-dive analysis of Friedman’s work that revealed serious errors.
  • Austan Goolsbee, another former chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, wrote that “The numbers don’t remotely add up,” and that “they’ve evolved into magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.”

Why does this matter? As liberal papers such as Slate Magazine and Mother Jones have explained, Bernie’s bad math is a form of dishonesty. His campaign is telling the entire country that we can have something for nothing. This demagoguery weakens America’s capacity for self-government and encourages apathy and anger, because the promises will not ever come true. Since Hillary Clinton chooses budgets that have a relationship with reality, she cannot offer as much. In other words, when Bernie claims that Hillary lacks ambition, the truth is that what she really lacks is reckless mendacity. As Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman wrote:

this controversy is an indication of a campaign, and perhaps a candidate, not ready for prime time. These claims for the Sanders program aren’t just implausible, they’re embarrassing to anyone remotely familiar with economic history (which says that raising long-run growth is very hard) and changing demography. They should have set alarm bells ringing, but obviously didn’t.

Question #3: Do Well Informed, Independent Observers Trust Bernie or Hillary More?

Bernie’s brand for honesty also comes from his claim that, by comparison, Clinton is not trustworthy. In this, he relies upon decades of Republican-led attacks on Hillary, ranging from Vincent Foster’s suicide to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi. But like those other artificial scandals, Bernie’s made-for-politics campaign of character assassination is false. Those who have carefully observed both candidates have concluded that Hillary is the more trustworthy.

A compelling recent example is the former executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, who has had a long career covering Hillary Clinton from an adversarial perspective. Abramson summarized her research in a column:

As an editor I’ve launched investigations into [Clinton’s] business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I’m not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising.

Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.

The yardsticks I use for measuring a politician’s honesty are pretty simple. Ever since I was an investigative reporter covering the nexus of money and politics, I’ve looked for connections between money (including campaign donations, loans, Super Pac funds, speaking fees, foundation ties) and official actions. I’m on the lookout for lies, scrutinizing statements candidates make in the heat of an election.

… There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor.

As for her statements on issues, Politifact, a Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking organization, gives Clinton the best truth-telling record of any of the 2016 presidential candidates. She beats Sanders and Kasich and crushes Cruz and Trump …

Surprised by Abramson’s conclusion? You shouldn’t be. All the remaining candidates have long histories of working with other human beings. Progressives in Burlington, black activists in Vermont, and Bernie’s former colleagues in the House and Senate describe Bernie as a self-promoter with narcissistic tendencies. Hillary, by contrast, has received large numbers of endorsements from political leaders in cities, states, and national governments all over the world. Why? Because, when the chips are down, those people trust Hillary, notwithstanding the decades-long attacks on her character.

Abramson’s column is consistent with the experiences of those who have worked with Hillary. Her caution, and her suspicion of the press, make her appear suspicious to the public, but no one who knows and works with Clinton closely walks away feeling that she is untrustworthy. If you talk with people who know her, you find that they praise her directness and integrity.

If Sanders had kept running a positive, issues-oriented campaign, he might have eventually won over African American, Hispanic, and female voters. If he’d done that, he might have won the nomination. But he stopped. He is no longer running a campaign to shape the Democratic Party. Those who fund his campaign are now doing Donald Trump’s dirty work with false attacks on Hillary’s character. It is time for Bernie’s donors to turn off the money.