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Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,259 a Year, Small Businesses $3,923

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,259 a Year, Small Businesses $3,923
Source: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

As hardworking Americans file their taxes today, it’s a good time to be reminded that ordinary taxpayers pick up the tab for special interest loopholes in our tax laws. A new U.S. PIRG report released today revealed that the average American taxpayer in 2013 would have to shoulder an extra $1,259 in state and federal taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals.

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals avoid paying an estimated $184 billion in state and federal income taxes by using complicated accounting tricks to shift their profits to offshore tax havens. Of that $184 billion, $110 billion is avoided specifically by corporations.

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New Report Examines Promise and Potential Dangers of New Financial Marketplace

April 4, 2014 Comments off

New Report Examines Promise and Potential Dangers of New Financial Marketplace
Source: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) released a comprehensive new report today [http://www.uspirgedfund.org/reports/usf/big-data-means-big-opportunities-and-big-challenges] focused on the realities of the new financial marketplace and the threats and opportunities its use poses to financial inclusion. The report examines the impact of digital technology, especially the unprecedented analytical and real-time actionable powers of “Big Data,” on consumer welfare. The groups immediately filed the report with the White House Big Data review headed by John Podesta, who serves as senior counselor to the President. The White House is to issue a report in April addressing the impact of “Big Data” practices on the public, including the possible need for additional consumer safeguards.

In addition to the undeniable convenience of online and mobile banking, explains the report, the new financial environment poses a number of challenges, especially for lower-income consumers. Increasingly, the public confronts an invisible “e-scoring” system that may limit their access to credit and other financial services. “We are being placed under a powerful ‘Big Data’ lens, through which, without meaningful transparency or control, decisions about our financial futures are being decided,” the report explains.

Study Shows Driving Decline in America’s Cities

December 5, 2013 Comments off

Study Shows Driving Decline in America’s Cities
Source: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

A first-of-its-kind report by U.S.PIRG Education Fund details reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in America’s most populous urbanized areas, as well as greater use of public transit and biking in most cities.

The report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities,” is based on the most current available government data. It is the first ever national study to compare transportation trends for America’s largest cities and lists results for each. Among its national findings:

  • The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle—either alone or in a carpool—declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and the 2007-2011 period averaged in U.S. Census data.
  • From 2006 to 2011, the average number of miles driven per resident fell in almost three-quarters of America’s largest urbanized areas for which up-to-date and accurate Federal Highway Administration data are available (54 out of 74 urban areas).
  • The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011. The proportion of households with two cars or more cars decreased in 86 out of the 100 of these areas during that period.
  • The proportion of residents bicycling to work increased in 85 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.
    The number of passenger-miles traveled per capita on transit increased in 60 out of 98 of America’s large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2005 and 2010.

New Study Finds Technology Enabling Americans to Drive Less

December 2, 2013 Comments off

New Study Finds Technology Enabling Americans to Drive Less
Source: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

In a first-of-its-kind study, U.S. PIRG compiled nation-wide evidence on transportation apps and vehicle sharing programs, and found that these advanced new tools have made it easier for Americans to drive less. Real-time apps and on-board wi-fi for public transit, as well as carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing have spread rapidly in recent years while driving has declined. The report examines new evidence on how these practices are changing travel behavior.

Young People Driving Less, Embrace Other Transportation

October 4, 2013 Comments off

Young People Driving Less, Embrace Other Transportation
Source: U.S. PIRG

Young Americans, whose embrace of new technologies and social networking tools enable them to adopt new ways of getting around, are beginning to change the nation’s transportation landscape.

They don’t drive nearly as much as young people once did: While all Americans are driving less since the recession, the average person ages 16-34 drove 23% less in 2009 than in 2001, the sharpest reduction for any age group.

And some of the nation’s youths — those known as Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003 — approach travel differently than their parents do. They are “multimodal,” meaning they choose the best mode of transportation, such as driving, transit, biking or walking, based on the trip they are planning. They consider public transportation the best option for digital socializing and one of the most likely ways to connect with the communities they live in. They also say that transit allows them to work while they travel.

These are among the findings of two new reports released Tuesday at the American Public Transportation Association’sannual meeting in Chicago.

The first, from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, found that online and mobile technology have fundamentally changed the way Americans live and work over the past 15 years; during the same period, growth in vehicle travel slowed and then stopped. U.S. PIRG suggests that these two developments are connected.

The advances in Internet and mobile communications are fueling a wave of new transportation services enabled by technology, such as car-sharing, bike-sharing and ride-sharing, the PIRG report finds.

Other researchers, including Robert Foss, director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at the University of North Carolina, argue that the drop in driving among young people is primarily a function of the economic downturn and is likely to rebound as the economy recovers.

Michael Melaniphy, president and CEO of APTA, said the two studies highlight the need for the nation to enact transportation policies that address the needs of Millennials. “Now is the time to be proactive,” he said. “Congress should authorize investment in a long-term transportation bill that includes strong investment in public transportation in a variety of modes.”

Moving Off the Road: A State-By-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving

August 29, 2013 Comments off

Moving Off the Road: A State-By-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving
Source: U.S. PIRG

After sixty years of almost constant increases in the annual number of miles Americans drive, since 2004 Americans have decreased their driving per-capita for eight years in a row. Driving miles per person are down especially sharply among Millennials, America’s largest generation that will increasingly dominate national transportation trends.

But some skeptics have suggested that the apparent end of the Driving Boom might be just a temporary hiccup in the trend toward more driving for Americans. By the time Americans took notice of the decline in driving, the economy was in deep recession. Would economic growth bring back rapid increases in driving?

Doubts about whether the Driving Boom has ended make it easier to postpone choices about transforming our transportation system or enacting reforms that disrupt well-established interest groups.

Forty-six states plus the District of Columbia witnessed a reduction in the average number of driving miles per person since the end of the national Driving Boom. North Dakota, Nevada, Louisiana and Alabama are the only states in the nation where driving miles per capita in 2011 were above their 2004 or 2005 peaks. Meanwhile, since 2005, double-digit percent reductions occurred in a diverse collection of states: Alaska, Delaware, Oregon, Georgia, Wyoming, South Carolina, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Florida.

New Report: Reduction in Driving Likely to Continue

May 14, 2013 Comments off

New Report: Reduction in Driving Likely to Continue

Source: U.S. PIRG

As the average number of miles driven by Americans heads into its eighth year of decline, a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund finds that the slowdown in driving is likely to continue. Baby Boomers are moving out of the phase in their life when they do the most commuting, while driving-averse Millennials move into that phase. These demographic changes and other factors will likely keep driving down for decades, according to the report, "A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future."

Miles driven per capita peaked in 2004; the total number of miles driven by Americans peaked in 2007. The average American currently drives no more miles than at the end of President Clinton’s first term.

The Millennial generation is leading the change in transportation trends. 16 to 34-year-olds drove a whopping 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than in 2001— the greatest decline in driving of any age group. In addition, Millennials are more likely to want to live in urban and walkable neighborhoods and are more open to non-driving forms of transportation than the older generation of Americans.

The report finds that under any reasonable scenario, the number of miles driven annually will be far fewer in the future than if Baby Boom trends had continued. During the second half of the twentieth century, low gas prices, rapid suburbanization, and an ever-increasing number of women commuters entering the workforce fueled the Driving Boom. The factors that defined that period have since taken a back seat. Under some conservative scenarios outlined by the report, driving won’t ever regain its 2007 peak during the range of the study, which extends to 2040.

Transportation and the New Generation Why Young People Are Driving Less and What It Means for Transportation Policy

April 9, 2012 Comments off
Source:  U.S. Public Interest Research Group
From World War II until just a few years ago, the number of miles driven annually on America’s roads steadily increased. Then, at the turn of the century, something changed: Americans began driving less. By 2011, the average American was driving 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004.
The trend away from driving has been led by young people. From 2001 to 2009, the average annual number of vehiclemiles traveled by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) decreased from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita—a drop of 23 percent. The trend away from steady growth in driving is likely to be long-lasting—even once the economy recovers. Young people are driving less for a host of reasons—higher gas prices, new licensing laws, improvements in technology that support alternative transportation, and changes in Generation Y’s values and preferences—all factors that are likely to have an impact for years to come.
Federal and local governments have historically made massive investments in new highway capacity on the assumption that driving will continue to increase at a rapid and steady pace. The changing transportation preferences of young people—and Americans overall—throw those assumptions into doubt. The time has come for transportation policy to reflect the needs and desires of today’s Americans—not the worn-out conventional wisdom from days gone by.

Ag Subsidies Pay for 19 Twinkies per Taxpayer, But Only a Quarter of an Apple Apiece; Taxpayer Subsidies for Junk Food Wasting Billions

September 24, 2011 Comments off

Ag Subsidies Pay for 19 Twinkies per Taxpayer, But Only a Quarter of an Apple Apiece; Taxpayer Subsidies for Junk Food Wasting Billions
Source: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

Federal subsidies for commodity crops are also subsidizing junk food additives like high fructose corn syrup, enough to pay for 19 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, according to Apples to Twinkies, a new report by U.S. PIRG. Meanwhile, limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy less than a quarter of an apple per taxpayer.

“At a time when childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing, it’s absurd that we’re spending billions of taxpayer dollars to make the problem worse,” said U.S. PIRG Policy Analyst Mike Russo. “It’s absurd that junk food is subsidized by taxpayers, while fresh fruits and vegetables barely get a bite at the apple.”

Between 1995 and 2010, American taxpayers spent over $260 billion in agricultural subsidies. Most subsidies went to the country’s largest farming operations, mainly to grow just a few commodity crops, including corn and soybeans. Among other uses, food manufacturers process these crops into additives like high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oils that provide a cheap dose of sweetness and fat to a wide variety of junk food products.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Between 1995 and 2010, $16.9 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common food additives – corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils (better known as hydrogenated vegetable oils). At $7.36 per taxpayer per year, that would buy each taxpayer 19 Twinkies.
  • Outside of commodity crops, other agricultural products receive very little in federal subsidies. Since 1995, taxpayers spent only $262 million subsidizing apples, which is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables. Coming to 11 cents per taxpayer per year, that would buy less than a quarter of a Red Delicious apple.

+ Executive Summary and Full Report

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