The 2023-2024 Supreme Court term will begin on Monday, October 2. Dominated by six right-wingers, the court has agreed to review cases in which voting rights, consumer protection, and the regulation of health and safety, workers’ rights and the environment are in jeopardy. The cases present the issues of gerrymandering and the power of administrative agencies. In light of its recent conservative rulings, we should be wary about how the court will rule on these critical matters. Besides the cases already on the Supreme Court’s docket, the court will add more cases by mid-January. Their decisions will be issued by the end of June or beginning of July 2024.
Just before 5 a.m., Harry Shaffer’s wife called to him from across the living room, where he’d fallen asleep on the couch, exhausted from installing an aboveground pool. Did he hear that sound, that metallic screeching from up the valley? She opened the door of their double-wide trailer and walked outside as Shaffer closed his eyes. A moment later came a thunderous crack of splintering lumber. Debris shot through the living room. Shaffer opened his eyes again to find a hulking train car steps from where he lay. It had shorn off the roof, exposing the murk of the pre-dawn sky. He jumped up and ran outside and saw the garage next door in flames.
When current US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen served as chair of the Federal Reserve in 2017, she confidently predicted that there would not be another financial crisis “in our lifetimes”. Less than six years later, in March 2023, three US banks collapsed in just one week. Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank were the second- and third-largest banks to go under in US history. And after they crashed, the government immediately bailed out their wealthy depositors. Among the main beneficiaries of this bailout were billionaires and big corporations. The government’s Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures US bank deposits up to $250,000 per customer.
Starting with a runaway train in Southern California on Monday, March 27th, the week was not a good one for the Class One railroads of the United States. Five Class One carriers — BNSF, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific, plus Regional Montana Rail Link — saw major derailments in six states - Alabama, California, Minnesota, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Montana — throughout the course of the week. According to locomotive engineer and RWU General Secretary Jason Doering, “The recent uptick in derailments across the US highlights the dire need for stricter regulations on the length and weight of trains, as well as a focus on preventing unsafe operational practices such as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) which prioritizes short-term financial gains for Wall Street over the safety of communities and railroad workers.
New Bedford, Massachusetts - Before dawn, Jerry Leeman churned through inky black waters, clutching the wheel of the fishing vessel Harmony. The 85-foot trawler, deep green and speckled with rust, was returning from a grueling fishing trip deep into the Atlantic swells. Leeman and his crew of four had worked 10 consecutive days, 20 hours a day, to haul in more than 50,000 pounds of fish: pollock, haddock and ocean perch, a trio known as groundfish in the industry and as whitefish in the freezer aisle. As sunrise broke over New Bedford harbor, the fish were offloaded in plastic crates onto the asphalt dock of Blue Harvest Fisheries, one of the largest fishing companies on the East Coast. About 390 million pounds of seafood move each year through New Bedford’s waterfront, the top-earning commercial fishing port in the nation.
On the last day of its term, the Supreme Court handed down a case no less impactful than its shameful ruling a week earlier that overturned Roe v. Wade. In West Virginia v. EPA, the court’s right-wing members confirmed they are in the pockets of the fossil fuel companies. The 6-3 majority sided with coal companies and Republican-led states to restrain the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) power to regulate carbon emissions. “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote on behalf of himself, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
As many Americans fight for their lives in the midst of a respiratory pandemic, the Trump administration Thursday axed the justification for a mercury pollution rule that saves more than 10,000 lives and prevents as many as 130,000 asthma attacks each year. The new rollback leaves mercury emission standards in place for now, but changes how their benefits are calculated so that the economic cost takes precedence over public health gains, The New York Times reported. The move provides a legal opening to challenge other pollution controls even as evidence suggests that exposure to air pollution might increase one's chances of dying from the new coronavirus. "This is an absolute abomination," former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head under Obama and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) president Gina McCarthy said in a statement.
The latest batch of documents reveal Monsanto’s efforts to defund IARC by writing letters on behalf of sitting members of Congress to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which oversees government funding to IARC. Monsanto’s PR teams at FTI Consulting also worked behind the scenes to draft language for legislation aimed at defunding IARC. The ghostwritten letters to NIH cite articles by Reuters reporter Kate Kelland, a key mouthpiece for Monsanto in its bid to discredit IARC. In 2017, Kelland wrote a story that parroted IARC talking points she received from Monsanto executive Sam Murphey. The talking points, given to Kelland with an exclusive quote from Monsanto’s Vice President Scott Partridge, fueled the impression that IARC deliberately ignored data that would have changed the glyphosate classification.
You might remember that phrase from the 1990s. Alan Greenspan, the head of the Federal Reserve at the time, was describing how the tech boom was creating a bubble by generating enthusiasm way out of proportion to the actual value of the new companies. Such an unwarranted economic boom was hardly something new, so it was easy to predict what would happen next. Periods of irrational exuberance — whether the dot-com expansion, Dutch tulipmania in the 17th century, or the housing bubble in America of the 2000s — have always led to a sudden crash and a serious hangover. And now, here we go again. Trump, always exuberant when talking about himself and his putative accomplishments, loves to boast about how well the American economy is chugging along.
By Steve Horn for Desmog - A bill with the potential to hobble government agencies' ability to propose regulations, known as the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, has passed in both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature and Republican Governor Scott Walker's office has told DeSmog he intends to sign it into law. REINS has been pushed for years at the federal level by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative advocacy group funded and founded with money from Koch Industries, and a federal version of it currently awaits a U.S. Senate vote. The House bill, H.R. 26, passed on January 5 as one of the current Congress's first actions. Wisconsin's version mandates that if a proposed regulation causes “$10 million or more in implementation and compliance costs” over a two year period, that rule must either be rewritten or go by the wayside. Known as Senate Bill 15, the Wisconsin bill passed the state Senate on a party-line vote, 62-34 and would be the first state-level REINS bill on the books in the country. “Governor Walker has thanked the Legislature for sharing his commitment to bold regulatory reform and looks forward to signing the bill into law,” Jack Jablonski, a spokesperson for Governor Walker, said in a statement provided to DeSmog. Jablonski did not provide a timeline as to when Walker plans to sign the bill.
By Heidi Shierholz and Celine McNicholas for EPI - Research on the relationship between employment and regulations generally find thatregulations have a modestly positive or neutral effect on employment. How could regulations create jobs? Though regulations sometimes reduce jobs in one area, they create jobs in another. For example, factories making lead paint shut down after regulations banning lead paint were issued in the late 1970s, but enterprises manufacturing lead-free alternatives arose in their place. And some of the older factories hired people to retool their machinery to begin manufacturing lead-free paint. Mass layoffs are not caused by regulations. “Mass layoff events” are incidents in which at least 50 unemployment insurance claims are filed against an employer during a 5-week period. According to the latest data available (2011 and 2012), employers cite regulations as the reason for mass layoffs in just a tiny share of mass layoff events—one-quarter of one percent.
By Dave Jamieson for The Huffington Post - WASHINGTON ― Companies that commit wage theft and put their workers in harm’s way just received a favor from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump signed a bill Monday repealing a regulation that had encouraged federal contractors to follow labor laws. Under the Obama-era rule, companies with an egregious record of violating wage and safety laws would lose their government contracts if they didn’t come into compliance. The idea behind the rule was to make sure unscrupulous employers didn’t receive taxpayer dollars. But Republicans in Congress thought the rule was too punitive and unfair to businesses...
By Marianne Lavelle for Inside Climate News - Every federal agency will set up a task force dedicated to quickly finding regulations to eliminate, as mandated by an executive order signed Friday by President Donald Trump. It is one of a series of moves the White House believes will free U.S. businesses from the bonds of health, safety, consumer and environmental protections. Surrounded by executives from some of the nation's largest corporations, Trump made clear his anti-regulatory drive is a large part of his jobs-creation plan. Although Trump did not mention climate change in the order, this step to rein in the regulators is intended, among other things, to constrain their actions to control emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from fossil fuels.
By Paul Street for Truthdig. Two things are clear going forward. First, progressives hoping to defeat Trump and Trumpism will need to drive a class wedge between the new administration’s big basket of deplorable, super-wealthy plutocrats and the president’s conservative WWC base. Second, Trump is going to provide a lot of ammunition for that wedge-building task with policies that mock his posture as some kind of great white working-class hero. It is distressing that candidate Trump got away with taking that populist pose in the first place. Born to significant real estate wealth, Trump owed his rise to hyper-opulence “to his relentless manipulation of the corporate-controlled media market … to increase the market value of his name, which he then licensed to be sold. … The result,” author Mike Lofgren notes, “was Trump resorts, Trump steaks, even Trump dietary supplements retailed through multilevel marketing, the polite biz school euphemism for a pyramid scheme. As for Trump University, the principal lesson it imparted … was how to avoid being victimized by such scams in the future. … Such is Donald Trump, friend of the working class.”