Property:Drum Major Institute 2008 Senate Scorecard description

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A

Alternative Minimum Tax Relief Act of 2008 +The automobile industry is a critical component of the American economy. Motor vehicle and parts industries employed over 700,000 people directly as of September and each job in the auto industry supports about 1.7 additional jobs in industries as diverse as textiles and retail. The Economic Policy Institute predicts that a worst-case-scenario shutdown of the entire U.S. auto industry would eliminate 3.3 million jobs—many of them solid middle-class positions. Most experts agree that bankruptcy in the current liquidity crisis would be devastating to the auto manufacturers: already weak sales would be exacerbated by consumers frightened to buy from a bankrupt manufacturer, and lending institutions normally accessible to bankrupt companies are now unavailable. As an alternative, this legislation imposes reasonable restructuring requirements, while ensuring that middle-class jobs are preserved in a period of deep economic crisis. The bill will prevent the short-term failure of the automobile industry in the United States and makes a leaner, more energy-efficient Detroit possible. An auto czar cannot make the Big Three automakers profitable. But the czar’s influence—backed up by the capacity to speed loan repayment and impose bankruptcy—and the thorough restructuring guidelines laid out by Congress can ensure that the American automakers do not once again fail to confront environmental concerns and recalcitrant management.
America's Climate Security Act of 2007 +Human-caused climate change increasingly threatens Americans’ standard of living. The scientific consensus is that Americans risk more heat-related deaths, increased risk of disease, more extreme weather, and disruptions in population growth at the local level due to climate change. An American economy built on greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels is unsustainable. By setting meaningful, yet achievable, goals for emissions reduction, the Climate Security Act is an important step to reorient the American economy towards sustainable growth. Though change will likely bring increased energy prices, the legislation appropriately directs funds to programs that will mitigate the pain felt by consumers and individuals working in affected industries. In particular, the creation of the Climate Change Worker Training and Assistance Fund is a forward-looking measure that will help American workers adapt to jobs that not only support energy efficiency, but pay solid wages as well. Funds to encourage energy efficient technology and mass transit projects are a further demonstration of a commitment to a sustainable and efficient economy.

C

College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 +Although a college education is increasingly a prerequisite for a middle-class standard of living, current and aspiring middle-class students and their families are struggling more than ever to afford college. Average tuition and fees at four-year public institutions have increased 51% over the last five years, while the maximum Pell Grant, designed to provide financially strapped students with an opportunity to attend college, has failed to keep pace. The Higher Education Opportunity Act’s increase of the maximum Pell grant will make college accessible to more aspiring middle-class Americans. Additionally, the expansion of the Pell Grant program to include year-round education supports the hardest-working students struggling to complete their educations quickly. The Act also addresses students’ increasing reliance on private lenders to finance their college education. It makes necessary improvements to a student loan system that has been characterized by favoritism and murky lending practices by putting an end to the most egregious conflicts of interest and expanding the information available to students and families deciding what colleges to attend and what loans to take out.
Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act +Although the CPSC is responsible for protecting consumers from more than 15,000 types of consumer products, an anemic budget and staff shortages have increasingly put Americans at risk, as demonstrated by a record-setting 448 recalls of unsafe products in 2007. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act responds vigorously to the dangers that middle-class consumers increasingly confront at stores and in their own homes. By providing the CPSC with additional funding through 2014, more staff, and easier rulemaking options, the legislation helps ensure that inspectors have the resources to safeguard consumers. Empowering state attorneys general to file suit when they believe that residents of a state have been adversely affected by a violation of a consumer product safety rule creates an additional layer of consumer protection. Independent third-party testing of children’s products ends the current insidious practice of manufacturers certifying the safety of their own goods. The ban on lead and phthalates in children’s products will benefit parents who would otherwise be unable to determine if a toy is safe. Whistleblower protections will encourage vigilant industry employees to report negligence.

E

Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 +Middle-class Americans, no matter how far removed from Wall Street, will be adversely affected by the crisis in finance and credit that now grips our economy. Government action is absolutely necessary to ensure that middle-class Americans’ standard of living does not suffer gravely from the credit crisis. Yet, EESA is not the legislation middle-class Americans need. Instead of a top-down bailout, credit markets should be stabilized from the bottom up. To the extent that a direct investment in the financial services industry is made, it should complement large-scale mortgage restructuring and foreclosure prevention efforts and the re-regulation of the financial services industry. This would not only benefit struggling homeowners, but is widely understood to be part of an effective strategy to aid financial markets through stabilized payment streams. Reshaping the mortgage landscape by creating an institution modeled on the New Deal’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, permitting modification of primary mortgages in bankruptcy, and a moratorium on foreclosures are all desirable steps. While last-minute additions to the bailout package—energy efficiency initiatives, protection of the middle class from the AMT, and a mental health parity bill—are positive for the middle class and should become law, they are not relevant to this bill and should be enacted separately
Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008 +Middle-class Americans are increasingly feeling the effects of a misguided energy policy. The energy tax credit expansions and extensions in the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act are part of a long-term strategy to alleviate high fuel costs, make the country more energy efficient, and ensure that the economy retains jobs in renewable energy and technology. Indeed, failure to extend energy tax credits for solar and wind power could result in the loss of 116,000 jobs. With the middle class already feeling the effects of weak employment, Congress must strengthen a renewable energy and energy efficiency industry that benefits both the environment and the economy. The Act’s unrelated changes to the child tax credit would directly benefit 12.9 million children of aspiring middle-class families coping with high food, fuel, and health care costs. Expanding the income floor for the credit means that very low-income families, who currently benefit less from the credit than higher-income families, will receive the support they need to make ends meet. Finally, the revenue-raising provisions of the Act not only make the legislation fiscally responsible, but make the tax code fairer by eliminating loopholes exploited by wealthy executives and multinational corporations.

F

FISA Amendments Act of 2008 +Granting retroactive immunity to companies that illegally spied on citizens sets a dangerous precedent for corporations to trample the rights of middle-class Americans without having to face any consequences for breaking the law. Telecommunications companies, at the behest of the Bush Administration, illegally monitored American citizens’ private e-mail correspondence, phone calls, password protected web activity, and other communications. This violated Americans’ Fourth Amendment right against unwarranted searches and seizures, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the contractual rights of private customers who signed privacy agreements with these companies. Our civil justice system allows regular Americans to hold corporations accountable when they violate cherished rights such as those outlined in our Constitution. Granting retroactive immunity would weaken middle-class Americans’ ability to take on powerful corporations for breaking the law. What’s more, retroactive immunity would weaken the ability of middle-class consumers to trust that their contracts with corporations will be honored and that the legal system will treat their constitutional rights as more than symbolic. In short, granting retroactive immunity would severely undermine Americans' faith in the legal system. Granting retroactive immunity also sets a dangerous precedent by giving the Administration unbridled power, under the guise of pursuing security interests, to pressure companies into violating Americans’ rights with impunity and to protect those corporations from liability for a range of other violations of the law.
Federal housing and mortgage legislation (U.S.) +The federal government and the mortgage industry’s failure to address the subprime mortgage and foreclosure crisis adequately could result in as many as 1.9 million Americans losing their homes in 2008 and 2009. Already foreclosure filings have increased 60% from February 2007 to February 2008. Extending the same bankruptcy protections to primary residences that currently apply to luxury yachts and vacation homes is not only fair, but would prevent 600,000 families from losing their homes to foreclosure. Strengthened bankruptcy protection is also beneficial to middle-class families who are not themselves facing foreclosure: protecting these 600,000 families from foreclosure would save neighbors of foreclosed properties $72.5 billion in wealth that would otherwise be lost to reduced property values. Because the Helping Families Save Their Homes in Bankruptcy Amendment restricts eligibility for bankruptcy mortgage restructuring to homeowners who are unable to afford currently existing mortgages, the measure is unlikely to cause an increase in mortgage interest rates: only homes in danger of foreclosure will qualify and the risk of foreclosure is already calculated into current interest rates.

M

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008 +In the first four months of 2008, the American economy lost 260,000 jobs. Unemployment benefits provide direct assistance to the current and aspiring middle-class Americans thrown out of work through no fault of their own during the economic downturn. Moreover, the unemployed are most likely to spend their unemployment benefits immediately, stimulating the larger economy by as much as $1.64 for every dollar spent. The “New GI Bill” measures are also important. After World War II, the education and other benefits of the original GI Bill allowed unprecedented numbers of returning soldiers to access a middle-class standard of living, but today the GI Bill covers only 60-70% of the cost of a four-year public university. This amendment would change that, permitting the equivalent of full scholarships to public institutions of higher learning to any recent service member who completed three years of service. Veterans could also choose to use the money at private institutions. Our nation owes the young people who have volunteered to fight for the United States a fair opportunity to enter the middle class

N

New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act +The federal government and the mortgage industry’s failure to address the subprime mortgage and foreclosure crisis adequately could result in as many as 1.9 million Americans losing their homes in 2008 and 2009. Already foreclosure filings have increased 60% from February 2007 to February 2008. Extending the same bankruptcy protections to primary residences that currently apply to luxury yachts and vacation homes is not only fair, but would prevent 600,000 families from losing their homes to foreclosure. Strengthened bankruptcy protection is also beneficial to middle-class families who are not themselves facing foreclosure: protecting these 600,000 families from foreclosure would save neighbors of foreclosed properties $72.5 billion in wealth that would otherwise be lost to reduced property values. Because the Helping Families Save Their Homes in Bankruptcy Amendment restricts eligibility for bankruptcy mortgage restructuring to homeowners who are unable to afford currently existing mortgages, the measure is unlikely to cause an increase in mortgage interest rates: only homes in danger of foreclosure will qualify and the risk of foreclosure is already calculated into current interest rates.

R

Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act of 2008 +There is increasing evidence that the economy faces a high risk of recession which could throw millions of middle-class Americans out of work, reduce income and health insurance coverage, and increase poverty. A smart economic stimulus plan could prevent the downturn or soften its effects. To be effective, an economic stimulus package must direct money to those who will spend it quickly, boosting consumer demand and prompting increased production and economic growth. For this reason, the household tax rebates are likely to be effective, if the checks can be sent quickly. The rebates are targeted to cash-strapped middle-class and aspiring middle-class Americans who are more likely than wealthier people to spend the money they receive immediately, rather than saving it. It is also important that Americans relying on Social Security or disability benefits are included, both as an issue of basic fairness and because these groups are likely to spend their rebates quickly. The business tax cuts are less positive for the middle class because they provide little simulative effect but would deprive the public of significant revenue and increase deficits. Offering tax incentives for business investment frequently fails to generate substantial economic growth because many businesses use the tax cuts for investments they already planned to undertake anyway, costing the public lost revenue but creating no additional economic activity. Another drawback is that it takes considerable time for businesses to make new investments and for investments to result in increased employment or purchasing. Yet to be most effective economic stimulus should have a rapid impact on the economy. Finally, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that business incentives harm state budgets, since state and federal tax codes are linked. Many states are already facing a revenue crunch due to the economic downturn and, unlike the federal government, they cannot run budget deficits. The result could be cuts in state and local services that middle-class Americans rely on, from education to road maintenance to public safety.

U

U.S. Senate record vote 10, 110th Congress, Session 2 +There is increasing evidence that the economy faces a high risk of recession which could throw millions of middle-class Americans out of work, reduce income and health insurance coverage, and increase poverty. A smart economic stimulus plan could prevent the downturn or soften its effects. To be effective, an economic stimulus package must direct money to those who will spend it quickly, boosting consumer demand and prompting increased production and economic growth. For this reason, the household tax rebates are likely to be effective, if the checks can be sent quickly. The rebates are targeted to cash-strapped middle-class and aspiring middle-class Americans who are more likely than wealthier people to spend the money they receive immediately, rather than saving it. It is also important that Americans relying on Social Security or disability benefits are included, both as an issue of basic fairness and because these groups are likely to spend their rebates quickly. The business tax cuts are less positive for the middle class because they provide little simulative effect but would deprive the public of significant revenue and increase deficits. Offering tax incentives for business investment frequently fails to generate substantial economic growth because many businesses use the tax cuts for investments they already planned to undertake anyway, costing the public lost revenue but creating no additional economic activity. Another drawback is that it takes considerable time for businesses to make new investments and for investments to result in increased employment or purchasing. Yet to be most effective economic stimulus should have a rapid impact on the economy. Finally, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that business incentives harm state budgets, since state and federal tax codes are linked. Many states are already facing a revenue crunch due to the economic downturn and, unlike the federal government, they cannot run budget deficits. The result could be cuts in state and local services that middle-class Americans rely on, from education to road maintenance to public safety.
U.S. Senate record vote 137, 110th Congress, Session 2 +In the first four months of 2008, the American economy lost 260,000 jobs. Unemployment benefits provide direct assistance to the current and aspiring middle-class Americans thrown out of work through no fault of their own during the economic downturn. Moreover, the unemployed are most likely to spend their unemployment benefits immediately, stimulating the larger economy by as much as $1.64 for every dollar spent. The “New GI Bill” measures are also important. After World War II, the education and other benefits of the original GI Bill allowed unprecedented numbers of returning soldiers to access a middle-class standard of living, but today the GI Bill covers only 60-70% of the cost of a four-year public university. This amendment would change that, permitting the equivalent of full scholarships to public institutions of higher learning to any recent service member who completed three years of service. Veterans could also choose to use the money at private institutions. Our nation owes the young people who have volunteered to fight for the United States a fair opportunity to enter the middle class
U.S. Senate record vote 145, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Human-caused climate change increasingly threatens Americans’ standard of living. The scientific consensus is that Americans risk more heat-related deaths, increased risk of disease, more extreme weather, and disruptions in population growth at the local level due to climate change. An American economy built on greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels is unsustainable. By setting meaningful, yet achievable, goals for emissions reduction, the Climate Security Act is an important step to reorient the American economy towards sustainable growth. Though change will likely bring increased energy prices, the legislation appropriately directs funds to programs that will mitigate the pain felt by consumers and individuals working in affected industries. In particular, the creation of the Climate Change Worker Training and Assistance Fund is a forward-looking measure that will help American workers adapt to jobs that not only support energy efficiency, but pay solid wages as well. Funds to encourage energy efficient technology and mass transit projects are a further demonstration of a commitment to a sustainable and efficient economy.
U.S. Senate record vote 150, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Middle-class Americans are increasingly feeling the effects of a misguided energy policy. The energy tax credit expansions and extensions in the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act are part of a long-term strategy to alleviate high fuel costs, make the country more energy efficient, and ensure that the economy retains jobs in renewable energy and technology. Indeed, failure to extend energy tax credits for solar and wind power could result in the loss of 116,000 jobs. With the middle class already feeling the effects of weak employment, Congress must strengthen a renewable energy and energy efficiency industry that benefits both the environment and the economy. The Act’s unrelated changes to the child tax credit would directly benefit 12.9 million children of aspiring middle-class families coping with high food, fuel, and health care costs. Expanding the income floor for the credit means that very low-income families, who currently benefit less from the credit than higher-income families, will receive the support they need to make ends meet. Finally, the revenue-raising provisions of the Act not only make the legislation fiscally responsible, but make the tax code fairer by eliminating loopholes exploited by wealthy executives and multinational corporations.
U.S. Senate record vote 164, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Granting retroactive immunity to companies that illegally spied on citizens sets a dangerous precedent for corporations to trample the rights of middle-class Americans without having to face any consequences for breaking the law. Telecommunications companies, at the behest of the Bush Administration, illegally monitored American citizens’ private e-mail correspondence, phone calls, password protected web activity, and other communications. This violated Americans’ Fourth Amendment right against unwarranted searches and seizures, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the contractual rights of private customers who signed privacy agreements with these companies. Our civil justice system allows regular Americans to hold corporations accountable when they violate cherished rights such as those outlined in our Constitution. Granting retroactive immunity would weaken middle-class Americans’ ability to take on powerful corporations for breaking the law. What’s more, retroactive immunity would weaken the ability of middle-class consumers to trust that their contracts with corporations will be honored and that the legal system will treat their constitutional rights as more than symbolic. In short, granting retroactive immunity would severely undermine Americans' faith in the legal system. Granting retroactive immunity also sets a dangerous precedent by giving the Administration unbridled power, under the guise of pursuing security interests, to pressure companies into violating Americans’ rights with impunity and to protect those corporations from liability for a range of other violations of the law.
U.S. Senate record vote 193, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Although the CPSC is responsible for protecting consumers from more than 15,000 types of consumer products, an anemic budget and staff shortages have increasingly put Americans at risk, as demonstrated by a record-setting 448 recalls of unsafe products in 2007. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act responds vigorously to the dangers that middle-class consumers increasingly confront at stores and in their own homes. By providing the CPSC with additional funding through 2014, more staff, and easier rulemaking options, the legislation helps ensure that inspectors have the resources to safeguard consumers. Empowering state attorneys general to file suit when they believe that residents of a state have been adversely affected by a violation of a consumer product safety rule creates an additional layer of consumer protection. Independent third-party testing of children’s products ends the current insidious practice of manufacturers certifying the safety of their own goods. The ban on lead and phthalates in children’s products will benefit parents who would otherwise be unable to determine if a toy is safe. Whistleblower protections will encourage vigilant industry employees to report negligence.
U.S. Senate record vote 194, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Although a college education is increasingly a prerequisite for a middle-class standard of living, current and aspiring middle-class students and their families are struggling more than ever to afford college. Average tuition and fees at four-year public institutions have increased 51% over the last five years, while the maximum Pell Grant, designed to provide financially strapped students with an opportunity to attend college, has failed to keep pace. The Higher Education Opportunity Act’s increase of the maximum Pell grant will make college accessible to more aspiring middle-class Americans. Additionally, the expansion of the Pell Grant program to include year-round education supports the hardest-working students struggling to complete their educations quickly. The Act also addresses students’ increasing reliance on private lenders to finance their college education. It makes necessary improvements to a student loan system that has been characterized by favoritism and murky lending practices by putting an end to the most egregious conflicts of interest and expanding the information available to students and families deciding what colleges to attend and what loans to take out.
U.S. Senate record vote 213, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Middle-class Americans, no matter how far removed from Wall Street, will be adversely affected by the crisis in finance and credit that now grips our economy. Government action is absolutely necessary to ensure that middle-class Americans’ standard of living does not suffer gravely from the credit crisis. Yet, EESA is not the legislation middle-class Americans need. Instead of a top-down bailout, credit markets should be stabilized from the bottom up. To the extent that a direct investment in the financial services industry is made, it should complement large-scale mortgage restructuring and foreclosure prevention efforts and the re-regulation of the financial services industry. This would not only benefit struggling homeowners, but is widely understood to be part of an effective strategy to aid financial markets through stabilized payment streams. Reshaping the mortgage landscape by creating an institution modeled on the New Deal’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, permitting modification of primary mortgages in bankruptcy, and a moratorium on foreclosures are all desirable steps. While last-minute additions to the bailout package—energy efficiency initiatives, protection of the middle class from the AMT, and a mental health parity bill—are positive for the middle class and should become law, they are not relevant to this bill and should be enacted separately
U.S. Senate record vote 215, 110th Congress, Session 2 +The automobile industry is a critical component of the American economy. Motor vehicle and parts industries employed over 700,000 people directly as of September and each job in the auto industry supports about 1.7 additional jobs in industries as diverse as textiles and retail. The Economic Policy Institute predicts that a worst-case-scenario shutdown of the entire U.S. auto industry would eliminate 3.3 million jobs—many of them solid middle-class positions. Most experts agree that bankruptcy in the current liquidity crisis would be devastating to the auto manufacturers: already weak sales would be exacerbated by consumers frightened to buy from a bankrupt manufacturer, and lending institutions normally accessible to bankrupt companies are now unavailable. As an alternative, this legislation imposes reasonable restructuring requirements, while ensuring that middle-class jobs are preserved in a period of deep economic crisis. The bill will prevent the short-term failure of the automobile industry in the United States and makes a leaner, more energy-efficient Detroit possible. An auto czar cannot make the Big Three automakers profitable. But the czar’s influence—backed up by the capacity to speed loan repayment and impose bankruptcy—and the thorough restructuring guidelines laid out by Congress can ensure that the American automakers do not once again fail to confront environmental concerns and recalcitrant management.
U.S. Senate record vote 88, 110th Congress, Session 2 +The federal government and the mortgage industry’s failure to address the subprime mortgage and foreclosure crisis adequately could result in as many as 1.9 million Americans losing their homes in 2008 and 2009. Already foreclosure filings have increased 60% from February 2007 to February 2008. Extending the same bankruptcy protections to primary residences that currently apply to luxury yachts and vacation homes is not only fair, but would prevent 600,000 families from losing their homes to foreclosure. Strengthened bankruptcy protection is also beneficial to middle-class families who are not themselves facing foreclosure: protecting these 600,000 families from foreclosure would save neighbors of foreclosed properties $72.5 billion in wealth that would otherwise be lost to reduced property values. Because the Helping Families Save Their Homes in Bankruptcy Amendment restricts eligibility for bankruptcy mortgage restructuring to homeowners who are unable to afford currently existing mortgages, the measure is unlikely to cause an increase in mortgage interest rates: only homes in danger of foreclosure will qualify and the risk of foreclosure is already calculated into current interest rates.
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