TPP—A Means of Surrendering Our National Sovereignty

The details are out on the the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and critics say the trade deal is worse than they feared. The TPP’s full text was released Thursday, weeks after the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations—a group representing 40 percent of the world’s economy—reached an agreement. Activists around the world have opposed the TPP, warning it will benefit corporations at the expense of health, the environment, free speech and labor rights. Congress now has 90 days to review the TPP before President Obama can ask for an up-or-down vote.  Take the time to learn more about this treaty and then weigh in with your representation in the Congress (both Houses) as to your thoughts.  You can find a PDF version of the actual text of the various chapters here, and a slightly more Internet-friendly glossed over-version of what proponents of the TPP want you to know on Medium.

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Possibly the Most Important Video You Will Ever See — Just Say NO!

Pre-NAFTA trade deficits, 1962-1992

NAFTA related trade deficits, 1993-2012Read More:

Stop Shopping Tax Dodgers!

Some Corporations Are Moving Addresses Overseas To Dodge Paying Fair Share Of U.S. Taxes

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We talk a lot about the grave problem of inequality and how our economy is not working for most Americans. One of the causes of this big problem is that corporations and the wealthiest are taking advantage of the system, exploiting tax loopholes, and rigging the game to benefit themselves, often at the expense of everyone else. The latest tax-dodging tactic that some corporations are considering using is a perfect example of this rigged system–and demonstrates why we need our legislators to take decisive action to stop it.

What Is The Problem?
A loophole in the tax code essentially allows a corporation to renounce its corporate citizenship in the United States, move its address overseas by merging with a foreign company, and dodge its U.S tax obligations by paying most of its taxes to a foreign government with lower tax rates than the U.S. The process takes place primarily on paper — most corporate operations remain here. The corporations that do this want all the benefits of being an American company without paying their fair share of taxes. That makes the rest of us pick up the tab.

The practice has become known as “inversion.” But what it really amounts to is desertion. And it could cost Americans tens of billions of dollars.

Who Is Taking Advantage?
There are 47 firms in the last decade that have exploited this loophole, according to new data compiled by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. But it’s a hot topic again because at least a dozen U.S. firms are currently considering taking advantage of it.

One of those corporations is Walgreen. The company has always prided itself on being America’s go-to pharmacy: from 1993 to 2006, it had the slogans “The Pharmacy America Trusts” and “The Brand America Trusts.” A biography of the company is entitled, “America’s Corner Store: Walgreen’s Prescription For Success.” Walgreen chief executive Gregory D. Wasson has said the company is “proud of our Illinois heritage.”

At the same time, Walgreen is currently considering merging with European drugstore chain Alliance Boots and move to Switzerland as part of a plan to dodge up to $4 billion in U.S taxes. The company that gets almost a quarter of its $72 billion in revenue directly from the government through Medicare and Medicaid is trying to reap even more profits while leaving taxpayers holding the bag.

Walgreen isn’t the only one. Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company, tried merging with the smaller U.K.-based AstraZeneca earlier this year and switch its address, where the tax rate is lower. It was estimated the move would save them at least $1 billion a year in tax obligations to the U.S. (the deal ultimately didn’t go through). Medtronic, a medical device company, plans to move its corporate address to Ireland, a tax haven, to avoid paying U.S. taxes on $14 billion. Chiquita, the banana distributor, is also heading to Ireland after acquiring Fyffes. These tax dodges, as Fortune magazine calls them in this week’s issue, are “positively un-American.”

What Can Be Done?
President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget proposes making these corporate desertions more difficult by raising the minimum levels of foreign ownership required to 50 percent (currently it is just 20 percent), which means that U.S. corporations could not move their address abroad unless they actually ceded a controlling interest to foreign owners. Congressional Democrats have made similar proposals. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently called for more “economic patriotism” and urged Congress to “enact legislation immediately” to close the loophole. Leaders on both sides of the aisle want comprehensive tax reform, but finding common ground in the current Congress could take a while. The simple fact is that as more and more companies exploit this loophole, a solution for this problem is needed right away–and Congress has the power the solve it.

BOTTOM LINE: More and more corporations are taking advantage of a tax loophole that helps their bottom line while costing American taxpayers billions every year. These companies want to continue to take advantage of the things that make the U.S. the best place in the world to do business, while at the same time pay less than their fair share by moving their corporate addresses overseas. That desertion is unfair, unpatriotic, and has got to change.

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This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Think Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling was just about birth control? Think again!

— Anthony Romero, ACLU Action team

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Immediately after the Hobby Lobby ruling, Rick Warren and other high-profile religious leaders began lobbying the Obama administration. Their demand? A religious exemption from his executive order which would ban federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is not about freedom of religion—it’s about corporations using religion as a license to discriminate with taxpayer dollars.

This executive order is the next battleground between those clamoring for exemptions and those, like us, who believe that religious liberty shouldn’t be an excuse to impose your beliefs on others. While we can’t change the Supreme Court’s ruling, we can call on Obama to resist the pressure from the religious right.

Urge Obama to protect LGBT workers. Let him know we don’t support giving federal contractors the legal right to discriminate.

The Court’s decision created the potential for far-reaching, discriminatory ramifications. In their ruling, they set a dangerous precedent, sanctioning discrimination against women under the guise of religious liberty. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it best: “the court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Just yesterday, the ACLU withdrew support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because of a loophole that would grant religiously affiliated organizations free rein to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people–the very thing ENDA is intended to prevent.

There is a clear line connecting the Court’s ruling about contraception and the hiring and firing of LGBT employees. That line is allowing bosses to use their personal religious beliefs to discriminate against their employees.

If tens of thousands of us speak out against this today, we can help Obama resist the mounting pressure from religious groups seeking the right to discriminate.

Tell Obama not to water down his landmark anti-discrimination executive order by including religious exemption.

Our bosses’ beliefs shouldn’t impact our rights as an employee. Let’s stop this before the floodgates open. Sign our petition today.

Corporate Rights Trump Women’s Health in Hobby Lobby Ruling

‘This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination.’

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer at Common Dreams

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Defenders of women’s health and reproductive freedom are reacting with anger to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Monday which ruled that an employer with religious objection can opt out of providing contraception coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.

Writing for the majority side of the 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the “the HHS mandate demands that they engage in conduct that seriously violates [employers’] religious beliefs.”

Rights advocates were quick to condemn the court’s decision.

“Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights. This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“Allowing bosses this much control over the health-care decisions of their employees is a slippery slope with no end,” Hogue continued. “Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows bosses to reach beyond the boardroom and into their employees’ bedrooms. The majority claims that its ruling is limited, but that logic doesn’t hold up. Today it’s birth control; tomorrow it could be any personal medical decision, from starting a family to getting life-saving vaccinations or blood transfusions.”

Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women in the U.S. use birth control for a variety of health reasons, according to research by women’s health organizations.

“The fact of the matter is that birth control is a wildly popular and medically necessary part of women’s health care,” said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy organization.Chaudhary adds that despite it’s clear necessity for the reproductive health of the majority of women, one in three women have struggled at some point to afford birth control.

Monday’s ruling focuses specifically on companies that are “closely-held,” which analysts report covers over 90 percent of businesses in the United States.

The dissenting opinion, penned by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and supported by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and mostly joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, acknowledges that the decision was of “startling breadth” and said that it allows companies to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The opinion was based largely on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides that a law that burdens a person’s religious beliefs must be justified by a compelling government interest.

“There is an overriding interest, I believe, in keeping the courts ‘out of the business of evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims,'” Ginsburg adds, concluding: “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Echoing Ginsburg’s concern, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the ruling “a double-edged disaster,” saying it “conjures up fake religious freedom rights for corporations while being blind to the importance of birth control to America’s working women.”

Similar reactions were expressed on Twitter following the news. Summarizing the crux of the decision, NBC producer Jamil Smith wrote:

The Hobby Lobby decision means that in terms of personhood, corporations > women. And Christianity > everyone else.

— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) June 30, 2014

Others, joining Ginsburg’s outrage that now “legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs” would be denied essential health coverage, expressed their opinions under the banner “#jointhedissent.”

#jointhedissent Tweets

The majority opinion leaves open the possibility that the federal government can cover the cost of contraceptives for women whose employers opt out, leaving many to look to the Obama administration for their next move.

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