And Just Like That, “Free Trade” Pact Trounces US Law

— by Lauren McCauley,  CommonDreams staff writer


Congress’ elimination of the rule “makes clear that trade agreements can—and do—threaten even the most favored U.S. consumer protections,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. (Photo: KOMUnews/cc/flickr)

Claims that trade pacts like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not trump public health and environmental policies were revealed to be fiction on Tuesday after Congress, bending to the will of the World Trade Organization, killed the popular country-of-origin label (COOL) law.

The provision, tucked inside the omnibus budget agreement, repeals a law that required labels for certain packaged meats, which food safety and consumer groups have said is essential for consumer choice and animal welfare, as well as environmental and public health.

Congress successful revoked the mandate just over one week after the WTO ruled that the U.S. could be forced to pay $1 billion annually to its NAFTA partners, which argued that the law “accorded unfavorable treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock.”

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, said that consumers relied on the standard to “make informed choices about their food,” and that Congress’ elimination of the rule “makes clear that trade agreements can—and do—threaten even the most favored U.S. consumer protections.”

The move flies in the face of statements made by President Barack Obama, who—arguing in favor of the 12-nation TPP, pledged that “no trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”

Indeed, Wallach argues that repealing the COOL law might prove to be a “real problem for administration efforts to pass the [TPP}–which faces opposition from an unprecedentedly diverse coalition of organizations and members of Congress—because claims that trade pacts cannot harm U.S. consumer and environmental policies have been a mainstay of their campaign.”


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Banana Republicans

— by CAP Action War Room

The Latest House GOP Meltdown Has Been A Long Time Coming, And It’s Not Just About Them

The same tumultuous group that led the Republican Party to control the House of Representatives is now at the center of the latest and most public display of Republican dysfunction, or as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) calls it, “a banana republic.” Amidst absurd infighting in the House over Planned Parenthood funding, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was more or less forced to announce his future resignation, leaving the GOP needing to find the next Speaker. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was the favorite to replace Boehner, until he unexpectedly and dramatically dropped out yesterday afternoon, leading members of Congress to openly weep and pronounce their caucus has hit “rock bottom.”

The media frenzy surrounding these events has focused on intrigue like it is an episode of “House of Cards.” Was there something behind why McCarthy took himself out of the running? Will Paul Ryan step up and run for speaker despite repeatedly pledging not to? But here’s what is much more important: this self-inflicted leadership breakdown is just one more chapter in a story of House Republican recklessness – and their own caucus hasn’t been the only victim. House GOP dysfunction has resulted in a string of harmful policies and American families have paid the price. Here are just a few examples:

  • The GOP orchestrated the reckless government shutdown in 2013 which had a devastating impact on our economy. Republican leaders bowed to the will of their extreme right wing to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act. The shutdown lost Americans at least 120,000 jobs, prevented sick Americans from enrolling in clinical trials, forced Head Start programs for children to shut down, stalled veterans’ disability claims, delayed $4 billion in tax returns for Americans, and severely hurt small businesses. Overall, S&P estimates that the Republicans cost the United States economy a whopping $24 billion with their shutdown.
  • The GOP has repeatedly used the debt ceiling to manufacture crises. In order to maintain the full faith and credit of the United States and avoid global economic collapse, Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling from time to time. Yet, GOP leaders have repeatedly joined with their unyielding Tea Party caucus to manipulate these once run-of-the-mill debt ceiling increases for their own gain. In 2011, the GOP threatened to force the United States into a default – to “crash the global economy,” as Time put it – which was only averted after both sides agreed to $1.2 trillion in economically damaging sequestration cuts. This behavior led to a U.S. credit rating downgrade. In 2013, the GOP used this brinksmanship again to attempt to make cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare, and the SNAP food program, again putting the credit-worthiness of the United States in jeopardy.
  • The GOP also used a manufactured crisis to force sequestration cuts that are still hurting the economy today. The Republican-induced sequester disproportionately hurt low-income and middle class families. It led to significant cuts to funding for education, small business, and health research. Sequestration overall will cause approximately 1.8 million people to lose their jobs.

Clearly, the GOP’s inability to control their own party has already caused a lot of damage to our economy and the well-being of American taxpayers. And yet, as their conference devolves again into chaos, they have no inclination to change their backwards policies or irresponsible behavior. They have no plans to avert the upcoming shutdown or increase the debt ceiling, even though the United States could default on its obligations if Congress doesn’t act by November 5th. House Republicans are not only distracted by their internal pandemonium, going into the upcoming budget negotiations they remain committed to the backwards, policy ideas and reckless political strategy that have caused so many problems for themselves, but more importantly for the American people.

BOTTOM LINE: The GOP’s current state of disarray has been a long time coming. The party’s leadership gave in to a minority of its members who are devoted to pushing devastating cuts to working-and middle-class families in pursuit of rigid and impractical ideological principles. The result has been a government in a state of perpetual dysfunction. And while House Republicans may be paying the price with negative news coverage, it is American families who pay the real price of their extreme policies.


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. Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Bio Fuels and Jobs in Your Community

biofuels___09_by_ademcFrom farmers to small business owners, the renewable fuel industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in wages in rural communities across the United States. These are homegrown jobs that can’t be outsourced and that’s good news for our rural economies

While other industries have been shipping jobs overseas, the biofuels sector has been creating jobs and spurring investment right here at home. That’s thanks to the Renewable Fuel Standard.  And, as long as we have a strong Renewable Fuel Standard, America’s rural economies will continue to grow and thrive.

But, there’s a catch.  Right now, the EPA is finalizing a multi-year version of the Renewable Fuel Standard that will determine how much renewable fuel must be blended into the U.S. fuel supply. This will have long-term implications for renewable fuel, and in turn for America’s rural communities. The EPA has to get this right.

Fuels America just released some key facts about the impact of renewable fuel on America’s rural economies. It’s all there: jobs, wages, and economic impact. We need policymakers to understand just how important the Renewable Fuel Standard is to this growing industry, and our economy.

From North Carolina to California, renewable fuel is driving economic growth in rural communities across the country. Since the passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, the renewable fuel industry has grown by leaps and bounds — and along with it the communities that rely on this rapidly growing sector. As the EPA finalizes the 2014 renewable fuel targets, it’s important to remember that:

  • The RFS supports more than 852,000 jobs across the United States.
  • The workers of the renewable fuel sector take home $46.2 billion in wages every year.
  • The direct output of the renewable fuel industry is greater than the economic activity generated by the beef cattle sector.
  • There are over 840 facilities supporting renewable fuel production and distribution; research and development; and other activities throughout the country.
  • Iowa is the top state for biofuels jobs. The renewable fuel sector supports more than 73,000 jobs and $5 billion in wages for Iowa farmers, workers, and small business owners.

With so much on the line, Americans need to know that the President, Congress, and the EPA will stand up for these homegrown jobs — and strong, vibrant rural economies.  Your voice is powerful as well. Use it to help your friends, neighbors, and family members understand how renewable fuel powers rural America.

Not from Nevada? Go here to find out how the Renewable Fuel Standard has impacted your community. Click on your state and then the district in which you live in that state.

Second Discovery of GMO Wheat Reveals ‘Failed Policy’ That Threatens Farmers

USDA says genetically engineered wheat discovered on Montana farm

by Andrea Germanos, CommonDreams staff writer

“Coexistence between genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered crops is a failed policy that fundamentally cannot work,” stated Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety. (Photo:  luke chan/flickr/cc)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday revealed that it was opening an investigation into the appearance of unapproved genetically engineered wheat in Montana.

It marks the second time the USDA is issuing notice of a discovery of rogue genetically engineered (or GMO) wheat. There is no commercially-approved GMO wheat.

According to a statement issued by the USDA, the discovery of the Roundup-resistant GMO wheat was made in July at Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center (SARC) in Huntley, Montana. That location was the site of Monsanto-led GMO wheat trials, approved by the USDA, from 2000 to 2003.

The agency stated that the GMO wheat found at the Montana site is different from the rogue GMO wheat spotted in 2013 on an 80-acre Oregon farm which was not the site of trial tests. That discovery sparked international backlash, with Japan and South Korea suspending some imports of U.S. wheat and the European Union calling for more testing of U.S. wheat. It also sparked a class action lawsuit by U.S. wheat farmers against Monsanto, charging that the GMO wheat finding caused them economic damage.

In the same announcement issued Friday, the USDA states that it is ending the investigation into the Oregon GMO wheat discovery, stating that it “appears to be an isolated incident,” and that the Oregon wheat is “significantly different” from the Montana wheat.

It states that there is no evidence that there is now GMO wheat in commerce and that it is unclear how the GMO wheat ended up on the Oregon farm.

Watchdog group Center for Food Safety, however, charges that the new discovery poses a threat to farmers and should be a call to stop open-air field trials.

“Once again, USDA and the biotech industry have put farmers and the food supply at risk,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “Coexistence between genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered crops is a failed policy that fundamentally cannot work. Genetic contamination is a serious threat to farmers across the country.”

“USDA cannot keep treating these as isolated incidents; contamination is the inevitable outcome of GMO crop technology,” he added. “USDA should, at a minimum, immediately place a moratorium on open-air field testing of genetically engineered crops.”


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Support for Our Troops That Falls Short of the Mark

Amodei-SNAP02.fwFormer Vice President Dick Cheney took to Fox News on Monday night to lambaste the Obama administration’s proposed cuts to the military budget, lamenting the president’s desire to ensure that Americans have access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps — despite the fact that over 900,000 veterans currently depend on them.

Cheney appeared on Sean Hannity’s prime-time show last night to discuss the the fiscal year 2015 military budget as previewed on Monday afternoon. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey announced among other initiatives a reduction in the size of the Army, a fact that didn’t sit well with Cheney. While the hand-wringing that the Army will be smaller than at any point after World War II is mostly hype, the former vice president still readily agreed with Hannity’s premise that the proposed cuts are “dangerous,” lamenting that Obama has not had Reagan-like increases in defense spending.

“You know, I’ve obviously not been a strong supporter of Barack Obama, but this really is over the top,” Cheney said. “It does enormous long-term damage to our military. They act as though it’s like highway spending and you can turn it on and off.” Cheney also remains worried that in announcing a rebalancing of U.S. strategy towards Asia — and away from the Middle East that was the focus of his time in office — is just a cover for Obama to slash the military budget further and display his dislike for the military further:

CHENEY: They peddle this line that now we’re going to pivot to Asia, but they’ve never justified it. And I think the whole thing is not driven by any change in world circumstances, it’s driven by budget considerations. He’d much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.

Amodei-SNAP.fwWhat Cheney apparently doesn’t realize is that many of the same troops that he claims the Obama administration doesn’t support rely heavily on the food stamps that he wishes to cut. A Defense Department review released last year showed that military families were more reliant on food stamps in 2013 than in any previous year, with over $100 million in food stamp spending at military grocery stores. “Food stamp usage at the stores has more than quadrupled since 2007 as the recession compounded the already difficult financial situation faced by military families,” ThinkProgress’ Deputy Economics editor Alan Pyke wrote last week.

Despite his experience in first the Pentagon and then the White House, Cheney also seems unaware that many of the troops he supports depend on the same food stamp program once they leave military service. “Nationwide, in any given month, a total of 900,000 veterans nationwide lived in households that relied on SNAP to provide food for their families in 2011,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote in a recent analysis. Given the high unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans — 9.7 percent for those who served when Cheney was in office — it’s unsurprising that many of them need assistance from the government to help make ends meet.

And in spite of the large number of former servicemen and women that count on the program, Cheney’s Republican colleagues are still fastidiously attempting to skin it to the bone. As of last November, thanks to House Republicans’ demands, veterans saw along with their fellow beneficiaries a cut of $36 a month for a family of four to $11 a month for a single person. The result: food stamps now average less than $1.40 per person per meal. Given just how sparse benefits were, at just $133 a month on average before the cut, Cheney’s protestation against Obama for wanting to provide more to those who have served comes across as somewhat unseemly.


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.