Ad-Blocking: Is it a dirty word or good security practice? – National Consumers League

Ad blocking is a dirty word for many in the online publishing and advertising industries. The head of one of the largest industry associations famously called a AdBlock Plus, one of the biggest ad blocker software companies an “unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes.”Why the hate? Unsurprisingly, the answer comes down to money. As their name suggests, ad blocking technology allows Web users (i.e. you and me) to prevent advertisements from appearing in desktop and mobile browsers. When consumers don’t see ads online, websites don’t make as much money, which makes it harder to produce the content that draws users in the first place. In the publishing industry’s nightmares, this threatens to create a vicious cycle that leads to the end of free content on the Web.

The advertising industry’s heartburn about ad blockers is driven by the explosive growth of the technology. As of December 2016, nearly one in five (18 percent) Web users in the United States had an ad blocker installed on their browser. In other countries, the use of ad blockers is far higher. For example, 58 percent of Web users in Indonesia and 29 percent of German users use ad blockers. Globally, the number of devices using ad blocking software grew by 142 million from 2015-2016, a trend which shows no signs of slowing, particularly on mobile devices.

That said, there are efforts to address the need for consumers to have ad blockers installed in the first place. For example, on June 1 Google confirmed reports that it plans to have its Chrome browser automatically block ads that do not conform to advertising standards published by the Coalition for Better Ads. That standard prohibits egregious ads that do things like autoplay videos, take up too much screen real estate, or make users wait to see content while an ad displays.

Given Google’s 53 percent market share, this announcement has the potential to significantly improve consumers’ data security. That’s because insecure ads can pose a significant malware threat to users. A May 2015 study by Google, the University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Santa Barbara found that tens of millions of visitors to Google’s services had unwanted adware installed on their computer. Within that group, half had at least two, and nearly one-third of users had at least four such programs infecting their machines. A similar study by security firm Namogoo found that 15-30 percent of e-commerce website visitors were infected with malware that causes them to view injected ads, malicious links, and fraudulent spyware on otherwise legitimate sites.

Given these threats, moving ad-blocking into the mainstream could have a significantly positive impact on consumers’ vulnerability to malware. By dramatically increasing the number of users with ad-blocking technology on their browsers, the pressure on the worst offenders in the advertising ecosystem to clean up their acts in increased. When users see fewer bad ads, it increases user trust in online advertising overall. In the long term and somewhat counterintuitively, this may actually reduce the need for users to rely on third-party ad blockers to help reduce their data security risk.

The New York Times has called the growth of ad blocking an “existential threat” to the $50 billion online advertising industry. It is therefore serendipitous that the ultimate solution to the war over ad blocking may be more, not less ad blocking.

The failure of the AHCA is a victory for the American people – National Consumers League

j_johnson92.jpgSpotlight on Health Care Series, Part 2: As America’s health care system is facing uncertainty, NCL staff is exploring the topic in a new weekly blog series.

Ding dong, the bill is dead! Democrats, health advocates, patients, and consumers across the country are rejoicing after the GOP’s first attempt to repeal and replace major pieces of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) crashed and burned. Republicans ultimately could not coalesce around House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) American Health Care Act (AHCA) and, in a stunning turn of events, the bill was pulled from the House floor without a vote last Friday.While inability to build a solid block of support for the AHCA in Congress became painfully obvious over time, the American people made their disdain of the bill apparent from the start. In the weeks following its introduction, citizens from every corner of the nation fervently expressed their disgust with the attack being waged on their health care. By the time the would-be vote was to have taken place, the AHCA had a meager 17 percent public approval rating, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Though dismal, this figure is hardly surprising, as the bill did nothing to improve access to care or quality of coverage for a clear majority of Americans – and, in many cases, the bill would have left many worse off than before the ACA.

The AHCA touted several policy changes that would have undoubtedly wreaked havoc on our health care system. Paramount was the spending cap (read: MASSIVE CUT) on Medicaid, the defunding of Planned Parenthood, an exponential premium increase for older Americans, a cost shift from the federal government to states and their citizens, and a general rationing and reduction of care to cover massive tax cuts for the wealthy. Arguably, one of the bill’s most odious aspects was the elimination of the essential health benefits – a measure put on the table in a last-ditch effort to get the unyielding, far-right, so-called “Freedom Caucus” block of the House on board. The essential health benefits are 10 services the ACA requires all plans to cover, including maternity and newborn care, ambulatory services, preventive and wellness services, and substance use treatment that can address issues such as the opioid epidemic ravaging communities across the country. Women of child-bearing age would have experienced significantly higher health care costs due to the elimination of maternity care and contraception from the standard benefits package – and they would either have considerably higher premiums than their male counterparts or be forced to pay for their maternity care or contraceptive methods out-of-pocket.

In addition, the AHCA would have effectively gutted consumer health protections, particularly for patients with pre-existing conditions, by eliminating out-of-pocket caps and reinstating lifetime coverage limits. In the long run, adequate care would be far beyond the reach of many Americans who would be left with bare-bones coverage and a higher cost burden. What is worse, by 2026, 24 million Americans would lose their coverage altogether. Americans heard that message loud and clear and they didn’t like what they heard.

While we can breathe a sigh of relief that the ACA is still the law of the land, NCL is among the many groups that agree that the ACA needs some tweaks to make it work better for all Americans. Now more than ever, a bipartisan approach to bringing affordable care and coverage to ALL Americans is not only desired, but essential. Rather than trying to undermine the ACA, Republicans and Democrats should embrace this opportunity to work together to come up with solutions that address the current insufficiencies in health care and make our system one that works for everyone.

The defeat of the AHCA is a big victory for the American people. The persistence and hard work of everyday Americans who spoke up, who called their members of Congress, who attended rallies, wrote to their local papers, and used social media ultimately made the difference. The National Consumers League, which since our inception in 1899 has spoken up for consumers and supported health insurance for all Americans, is proud to have stood alongside our colleagues in the consumer and public health communities in this battle to defend our care and oppose policies that would send us backward. We will continue to fight to protect the ACA, preserve consumer health protections, and argue that it is good for the economy and good for America’s future if all of us have access to health care coverage.

Medicaid per-capita caps: A recipe for disaster – National Consumers League

j_johnson92.jpgSpotlight on Health Care Series, Part 1: As America’s health care system is facing uncertainty, NCL staff is exploring the topic in a new weekly blog series.

No matter how you slice it, the proposed changes to Medicaid in the GOP’s new health care bill are not a spending compromise–but rather a massive cut in funding that will decimate the Medicaid program as we know it.House Republicans recently introduced the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as a first step in fulfilling their promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The AHCA would cut $880 billion in federal support for state Medicaid programs over the next decade, while dramatically altering the funding structure of Medicaid from a flexible federal entitlement to a rigid per-capita cap. Under the current system, the federal government matches state Medicaid spending as enrollment increases and health care needs change. The new plan proposed by Republicans would cap federal funding solely based on the number of Medicaid enrollees.

This cap would not match the dynamic nature of health care. If Medicaid spending increases–perhaps due to a natural disaster, a sudden disease epidemic, or even a breakthrough drug the state wants to cover–states would be left to foot the bill for any costs over the strict per-person cap. This policy also makes Medicaid particularly susceptible to deeper cuts in the future; if Congress succeeds in divorcing federal support from the actual cost of providing health care, it will have greater liberty to continue to slash funding over time to generate more federal savings.

Republicans assert that the capping approach will slow the growth of Medicaid and expand states’ flexibility to innovate and provide patients with the care they want. The reality is, rather than curtailing spending, the costs will simply shift away from the federal government and onto the backs of state governors–sending state budgets into turmoil and placing millions of Americans at risk. Ultimately, states will be faced with the choice of raising taxes on their residents to meet funding needs, cutting funding from critical programs such as infrastructure or education, or imposing devastating cuts to Medicaid eligibility, benefits, and coverage for millions.

Among those most severely affected by a Medicaid spending cap are rural communities, where at least one-quarter of residents rely on public insurance. Several health crises already plague this population, including the onset of disease in coal workers and the Opioid epidemic. These issues, among many others, have contributed to a spike in the mortality rate of lower and middle class white Americans, and a huge reduction in federal funding would only further limit states’ ability to respond.  Capping will also have negative ramifications for children, who account for approximately 40 percent of the Medicaid population. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a slash in funding for Medicaid will have devastating consequences for children’s health, educational attainment, and earning potential, leading to long term damage to state economies. In short, this colossal overhaul of Medicaid would jeopardize health care for our country’s most vulnerable populations.

Today, 70 million low-income and disabled Americans rely on Medicaid to fulfill its guarantee to provide coverage for all eligible men, women, and children just as it has done for over 50 years. The GOP proposal reneges on that guarantee. Capping funding for a program that serves as an essential lifeline for so many will not lead to a more efficient health system or healthier Americans–it’s a recipe for disaster.

EITC Awareness Day: Millions of Americans eligible for tax break – National Consumers League

SG_HEADSHOT.jpgThis blog post was originally published in the Huffington Post.

If someone told you that you may be one of the more than five million Americans missing out on as much as $6,269 in prize money, you’d almost certainly dismiss it as a fantasy or fraud, right? What if I said that you could get that prize money without paying a dime? It definitely sounds too good to be true, I know.

Fortunately, millions of working families actually can get a significant check from the federal government, thanks to the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For more than 40 years, the EITC has been, by many accounts, the nation’s most successful anti-poverty program. Last year, it lifted 6.5 million Americans out of poverty, including 3.3 million children, and reduced the severity of poverty for another 21.2 million qualifying workers. Studies show that the tax credit is used by working families to pay for necessary expenses like home and auto repairs and to boost earning power by getting more education. This in turn allows large numbers of single parents to leave welfare for work, saving taxpayers money.

Despite these benefits, more than 20 percent of people who qualify for the EITC fail to claim it. We think that’s because many consumers are never made aware of the EITC due to a lack of reliable, affordable tax preparation resources in their communities.

January 27 is EITC Awareness Day, which is a perfect time to make sure that every American who qualifies for the EITC knows about it. That’s why the National Consumers League is working to promote free tax preparation services like Baltimore’s CASH Campaign, whose volunteers are ready to help educate the one in five workers who are missing out on this benefit. The Baltimore CASH Campaign is one of the 12,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs that the IRS relies on to help qualifying individuals prepare and file their taxes, free of charge.

Working families making less than $64,000 per year can also take advantage of free name-brand tax preparation software offered through the IRS’s Free File program. An added benefit of using resources like VITAs and Free File is that they can help taxpayers navigate a new wrinkle this tax season. Because of a new law designed to protect consumers from tax identity fraud, the IRS will hold refund checks until February 15 for consumers claiming the EITC. This is important, because there are likely to be unscrupulous tax preparers who promise they can get EITC-qualified taxpayers their refunds sooner than February 15. In reality, any money a consumer gets before February 15 will probably be in the form of a refund anticipation loan, which comes loaded with predatory fees.

On EITC Awareness Day and throughout this tax season, let’s make sure that the Earned Income Tax Credit gets the credit it’s due. Working families should be able to keep 100 percent of the money they’ve earned. Thanks to programs like VITAs and IRS Free File, they can.

A threat to public health: Resurfacing of the anti-vaccine movement in Trump presidency – National Consumers League

clare.jpgGuest blog by Clara Keane, a graduate of Drew University, Madison, NJ.

In the midst of a news avalanche in recent days as the Senate holds hearings for cabinet positions and new information breaks out related to Russian hacking, it is easy to miss what may be the most dangerous development of the incoming Administration: reopening vaccine skepticism and linking vaccinations to autism.On Tuesday, January 10, just ten days before President-elect Trump’s inauguration, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine crusader with no medical training who alleges causation between vaccines and autism, said that he accepted the position of chair to a new commission on vaccinations. In a statement from the transition team, spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not confirm Kennedy’s claims, although she did say that Trump is considering creating a commission on autism.

President-elect Trump has spoken out against vaccines multiple times in the past, although it was not discussed in great detail on the campaign trail. As is the case for determining Mr. Trump’s beliefs on many issues, Twitter provides some insight. In a tweet from 2012, Mr. Trump wrote: “I’m not against vaccinations for your children, I’m against them in 1 massive dose. Spread them out over a period of time & autism will drop!” Mr. Trump shows an alarming disregard to the facts, both in scientific research and in current medical practices.

The only study ever published that connected vaccinations to autism appeared in a 1998 issue of the Lancet and has since been completely discredited as a fraud. The study, which included only 12 handpicked cases, now serves as a textbook example of the danger of poorly executed experiments and the importance of sample size and representation in scientific studies. Returning to the warnings of a “massive dose,” a quick look at the CDC’s childhood vaccine schedule reveals that vaccines are administered in precise intervals from birth through age six.

Sadly, President-elect Trump is not alone questioning solid science. According to a national survey conducted by the National Consumers League in 2013, while most survey respondents (87 percent) say they support mandatory vaccination of school-aged children in theory, 64 percent of adults say parents should have the final say about whether or not to vaccinate. In addition, 33 percent think there’s a link between vaccines and autism.

How did we get to the point where vaccines—one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th Century that have, among other things, eradicated smallpox globally and polio in the U.S.—are being considered by some as unnecessary or even damaging to their children’s wellbeing? Two equally dangerous contributing factors at play are the distance that vaccination success has granted us from the cruel reality of these diseases and the continued stream of false claims linking vaccines with autism.

It is easy to take for granted the security we enjoy from devastating diseases like polio, which was declared eradicated in the U.S. in 1979. However, it is important to remember that in the 1950’s, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year in the United States. Parents during these dark times witnessed their children becoming paralyzed and were told there was nothing doctors could do to help. We are fortunate not to have these worries today. But in order to maintain the luxury of a polio-free nation, we must continue to have full participation in vaccinations. The Disneyland California measles outbreak of 2014 is but a small example of what can happen when people choose to stop vaccinating their children. According to a CDC report, among the 110 California patients, 45 percent were completely unvaccinated and only one percent had the full three doses that are recommended.

The reason for opting out of vaccinations may have felt safe for parents because those children had been protected by the surrounding children who were fully vaccinated. This concept is known as “herd immunity.” However, when large numbers of people stop vaccinating, disease breaks into the herd, as was the case in California. Indeed, the California outbreak led pediatrician and California state Senator Dr. Richard Pan, who was honored by NCL at our 2016 Trumpeter Awards Dinner, to sponsor legislation in California doing away with the “personal exemption” option for parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children.

The CDC lists some individuals who should forego vaccination, such as people with cancer and those with compromised immune systems. Because these people have no choice but to rely on herd immunity, members of the herd who are not vaccinated because of personal choice are causing an even bigger public health risk to those who are advised not to be vaccinated.

We must not take for granted the privilege of living in a society where parents no longer have to worry about a child’s death or disability from polio, whooping cough, diphtheria, hepatitis, measles, mumps, chicken pox, or influenza. It is remarkable that we have access to enough vaccines for the entire population and at no cost to parents. We cannot sacrifice this security. For this reason, we reject the messages of those fanning the flames of false information and promote fear of these life-saving vaccines.

So what might the new Administration mean for vaccine laws? Stat News provides a useful guide to what the President-elect can and can’t do. Of course, he will not be able to control vaccination schedules, but he may appoint agency officials who raise questions about vaccine safety. This should trouble all Americans because it puts our children and all immune-compromised Americans at risk of illness and even death. NCL plans to speak out in support of mandatory vaccinations and against false connections between vaccines and autism. We will continue to remind Americans how lucky we are in 2016 not to have to worry that any of us—but especially our children—will become sick, crippled or die of diseases. We have very safe and very effective vaccines to thank for that reality.

Resolve to keep ALL your tax refund in 2017! – National Consumers League

breyault.jpgThe new year is right around the corner. Along with champagne, the Times Square ball drop and midnight kisses, a new year also means resolutions for many of us. Unfortunately, those resolutions will too often be broken before the first few weeks of January are out. Fortunately for millions of of consumers, there’s one resolution you can make and actually keep this year: file your taxes early to get the federal tax refund you are entitled to!

Why is this resolution so easy to keep, you ask? Millions of consumers qualify not just for valuable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), but also for free tax preparation help—both online and in person. By taking advantage of these programs, consumers can get thousands of dollars in tax credits, save money on tax preparation services, and file taxes safely and securely.

Unfortunately, despite the availability of these programs, too many consumers fail to get all the money to which they’re entitled. Often, it’s because they simply don’t apply for the EITC even when they qualify. Other times, they may pay for expensive professional tax preparation services when free IRS-approved tax preparation options are available on the Internet and in local communities. And in some cases, it may be because unscrupulous tax preparers offer high-interest loans under the guise of giving consumers “early” refunds or, even worse, tax identity thieves steal refunds.

This tax year, in partnership with the Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation, NCL is resolving to help consumers learn more about these important tools. First, we want qualifying consumers (i.e., those with a maximum annual income of $53,930 or less, depending on tax filing status and number of children claimed) to know that they may be entitled to as much as $6,318 in tax credits thanks to the EITC. Unfortunately, the IRS estimates that 20 percent of consumers who may qualify don’t claim the EITC. The message to consumers is that even if you work, but don’t have an income high enough to be subject to federal taxes, filing a return in order to claim the EITC can potentially put thousands of dollars in your pocket. One wrinkle to keep in mind this year is that thanks to a new law aimed at reducing tax identity fraud, consumers who claim the EITC or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) will not receive their refunds until after February 15. While this may be an inconvenience for some, it gives the IRS important time to detect and prevent tax identity fraud, which unfortunately impacts hundreds of thousands of consumers every year.

Second, we want low and moderate-income consumers to know that they may be eligible for free tax preparation help from trained volunteers community thanks to the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. At local VITA sites across the country, IRS-certified volunteers can help consumers who make less than $54,000 per year, persons with disabilities, and limited English speaking taxpayers prepare and file their taxes safely, securely, and completely free of charge. For taxpayers who qualify, using a VITA can save hundreds of dollars versus going to a for-profit tax preparer. For more information, visit irs.gov/filing or download the “IRS2GO” mobile app on your smartphone or tablet.

For those that prefer to file their taxes online, we urge consumers to take advantage of the IRS’s Free File program. The Free File program, which is available to anyone making $64,000 or less in annual income, gives consumers access to more than a dozen brand-name online tax preparation services at no cost. Free state tax preparation may also be available through Free File-participating tax preparation services, depending on which state a taxpayer lives in. For more information on IRS Free File, click here.

Thanks to programs like the EITC, VITAs, and IRS Free File, it’s never been easier for qualifying consumers to keep that resolution to collect ALL of the refund that they’re entitled to. This new year, make taking advantage of these programs a resolution you CAN keep!

 

Buy union-made gifts this holiday season – National Consumers League

holiday_scams.jpgIt’s that time of year again! Holiday season is upon us, and that means more trips to the mall and online retailers for many of us. Gift buying and giving can be stressful, fun, exhilarating, and all of the above. But how many of us have stopped to consider where these products come from, and under what conditions they are being made?We here at the National Consumers League encourage buying American- and union-made goods. Consider this about the companies you are buying from: do they treat their employees fairly? Are the employees paid a living wage? Are they using child labor in the production of their goods?

We recently blogged about avoiding gifts produced by child labor this holiday season in the Huffington Post. The Department of Labor has created the Sweat and Toil smartphone app to help consumers research which products are made from child labor and forced labor.

Our friends and fellow labor advocates at Labor 411 recently released a shopping guide to help consumers shop ethically this holiday season. The guide features gift makers that support good jobs, such as Hasbro, Russell Stover, Ghiradelli Chocolates, See’s Candies, Harley Davidson, Craftsman, and Jack Daniel’s. Check out Labor 411’s website for more information on American-made gifts and familiar union-made brands that are domestically produced.

It’s important to be kind and give back during this joyous season, but it’s equally important to be ethical in our shopping choices! Thinking twice about where that present under the tree comes from could help support workers and sustain our economy.

Preying on the vulnerable – National Consumers League

cheniahd_92.jpgEarlier this November, NCL held a meeting with our Alliance Against Fraud coalition. We had presenters from the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) representing the government and AARP representing advocacy interests. If Frank Abagnale Jr. of Catch Me If You Can, and AARP’s newest spokesperson, taught us anything, it’s that scammers know their targets and their sights are almost always set on the most vulnerable consumers. Scammers also work together by distributing “sucker lists” amongst themselves that keep victims at the mercy of scammers.As AARP can attest, older Americans are frequent scam victims. Perhaps you’ve heard about the “grandparent scam.” In grandparent scam scenarios, fraudsters claim to be calling on behalf of a grandchild asking for funds to bail themselves or another loved one out of jail or out of some trouble. It was discussed that some scammers actually monitor obituaries of grandparents to find the information of a grandchild to use that name when making the call to the surviving grandparent.

They convince the grandparent that their loved one needs their money and direct the victim to a store to load money onto a gift card. Once the codes on that card are sent to the scammer, there is no turning back, the money is gone.

A new trend revealed at the meeting was that scammers are increasingly turning to iTunes, Target, and Amazon gift cards as payment methods. These cards, unlike credit or debit cards, don’t offer robust anti-fraud protection. Even wire transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram–which have historically been a favored payment method amongst fraudsters–now have more protective anti-fraud protection protocols. But, as we’ve seen, as soon as one tactic starts to fail, scammers will undoubtedly find a new way to take advantage of victims.

In an interview with CBS News’ Carter Evans, a former scammer noted that elderly people are more “gullible, accessible, more likely to get emotionally invested and likely to do anything for their grandchildren.” It should also be noted that the strength of the bond between grandchild and grandparent will sometimes facilitate the willingness of the grandparent to not involve the child’s parents. We can keep older Americans and immigrants safe from scams that exploit them. NCL’s Fraud.org website and AARP’s Fraud Watch Network offer tips and resources for detecting and avoiding scams. For victims or family members of fraud victims, we suggest filing a complaint at Fraud.org or with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or by phone at 1-877-382-4357.

Victory for hourly workers in four states despite the nation’s turn to the right – National Consumers League

SG_HEADSHOT.jpgWhile American voters elected a president who campaigned against all things liberal on Tuesday, four states supported minimum wage increases in the same election. These add a measure of hope that progressive agenda issues can succeed, even in a year when progressives are not elected to the highest office.The winning tallies will raise hourly wages in Colorado, Arizona, Maine, and Washington. In Washington State, the wage will rise to $13.50 by 2020 and to $12 per hour in others, in the same time frame.

According to the Wall Street Journal, that would put them on the level of what is deemed the current statewide living wage by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living-wage calculator, which uses location-specific expenditure data to estimate the wage needed to support an individual or family in a given area.

The nonprofit Ballot Initiative Strategy Center helped to get these measures passed and by the look of things, they are very good at it. The group describes itself as “the only progressive organization that works across the many policy, organizing and political organizations, with local, state and national players to analyze and support the ballot measure landscape.”

In the one state, Arizona, that supported an increased minimum wage and also supported Donald Trump for president, education groups and about 200 local small businesses supported the measure, saying it would be better for their employees and the community as a whole. They won by a whopping 59 to 41 percent! The current minimum wage equates to about $17,000 a year. Both local and national groups put about $1.6 million into the campaign to support Prop. 206. Apparently, the restaurants and other businesses that opposed it didn’t put any money behind their campaign, which might explain the lopsided win.

The Washington state measure was backed by labor unions and worker advocates and appears to have won by a wide margin. Supporters argued that the state’s current minimum wage isn’t enough to live on, and a boost would mean workers have more to spend. They also argued that many workers don’t have access to paid sick leave, posing a public-health problem.

Business groups opposed the initiative, saying that while Seattle’s booming economy can support a high minimum wage, the rest of the state isn’t faring so well. Boosting the minimum wage in those areas could lead to higher prices and cuts in jobs and work hours, they say.

The Maine provision had a 56 percent lead when The Associated Press called the measure yesterday, while the effort in Colorado garnered around 55 percent of counted votes, compared with 44.9 percent against.

These resounding votes in support of minimum wage hikes are certainly an interesting development. They seem to show that the public largely supports fair wages for hourly workers, even in states that lean right. That’s an important message for progressives in an election year when not much went their way.

Updated November 10, 2016: Voters chose health in California and Boulder, Colorado, where measures were passed on November 8, 2016 to tax sugary beverages in hopes to decrease high rates of chronic disease and fund more public health programs.

CFPB’s structure ruled unconstitutional, but is it really? – National Consumers League

SG_HEADSHOT.jpgThe DC Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Wall Street financial watchdog that is the brainchild of  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), is unconstitutional.The three judge tribunal said that the CFPB will now function under direct oversight of the President, who will have the power to fire the agency’s director at will. The decision is intended to weaken the agency’s ability to wield its regulatory power independently from this or any Administration.

The lawmaker who authored the decision, U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is a well-known conservative who once worked on President Bill Clinton’s impeachment as a Hill staffer. Judge Kavanaugh wrote that the CFPB’s “single-director structure” violates the separation of powers specified by the Constitution by vesting one person with vast power “unchecked by the President.” Prior to the decision, the President could only fire the director for very specific reasons. Supporters of the CFPB’s work predicted this court would find a reason to fault the agency and its structure.

Judge Kavanaugh wrote: “The CFPB’s concentration of enormous executive power in a single, unaccountable, unchecked Director not only departs from settled historical practice, but also poses a far greater risk of arbitrary decision-making and abuse of power, and a far greater threat to individual liberty, than does a multi-member independent agency.” This seems like a dubious basis for undermining an agency’s power as Congress created the CFPB structure very deliberately.

It is likely the federal government will ask the full DC Circuit to reconsider its ruling. And the recent wave of Obama appointees to the court may suggest a rehearing is possible. Meanwhile, Senator Warren had this to say about the decision:

“This split decision — which bizarrely relies on a mischaracterization of my original proposal for a new consumer agency — will likely be appealed and overturned. But even if it stands, the ruling makes a small, technical tweak to Dodd-Frank and does not question the legality of any other past, present, or future actions of the CFPB. The CFPB has been, and will remain, highly accountable to both Congress and the President, and continued Republican efforts to transform the agency’s structure or funding should be seen for what they are: attempts fostered by big banks to cripple an agency that has already forced them to return over $11 billion to customers who have been cheated.”

The CFPB has become such an important instrument of protection for consumers by overseeing the activities of the financial service industry that of course, given its imposition of fines and cracking down on industry misdeeds, bad actors are trying at every turn to challenge its power. It’s reminiscent of the multiple legal attacks on the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which stood up well.

The CFPB is doing exactly the job Congress intended, being the cop on the beat, and it’s fortunate that its structure and ability to police the industry won’t be seriously altered by this decision.