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Feb 8, 2016

Top 400 Taxpayers See Tax Rates Rise, But There’s More to the Story

As Americans were gathering party supplies to greet the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service released their annual report of cumulative tax data reported on the 400 tax r...

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Feb 4, 2016

Chlorine Bleach Plants Needlessly Endanger 63 Million Americans

Chlorine bleach plants across the U.S. put millions of Americans in danger of a chlorine gas release, a substance so toxic it has been used as a chemical weapon. Greenpeace’s new repo...

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Jan 25, 2016

U.S. Industrial Facilities Reported Fewer Toxic Releases in 2014

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2014 is now available. The good news: total toxic releases by reporting facilities decreased by nearly six percent from 2013 levels. Howe...

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Jan 22, 2016

Methane Causes Climate Change. Here's How the President Plans to Cut Emissions by 40-45 Percent.

  UPDATE (Jan. 22, 2016): Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its proposed rule to reduce methane emissions...

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Everything You Want To Know About Social Security And More

The Social Security Network, which was first launched in 1997, serves as an important resource for information and research on the Social Security program and the debate about its future. This week they released "Twelve Reasons Why Privatizing Social Security Is A Bad Idea." The report highlights the fact that the creation of personal investment accounts will have drastic consequences on federal revenue reserves, future retirees, and the people who rely on social security benefits the most. The report also includes numerous links to other studies of social security policy.

For an additional analysis of the social security safety net and the implications of reform, check out this article from

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The Social Security Debate, Continued

Today is the first day of President Bush's Economic Summit, which will address issues such as budget and tax reform, health care, and social security. Social security has been widely discussed recently, as this administration has made clear their intent on overhauling the program. According to this New York Times article, however, plans to reform social security may result in significant benefits cuts for retirees in the future due to many factors, including the size of transition costs. Bush recently stated that he was opposed to the idea of raising payroll taxes to offset transition costs.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the original proponents of reform, very recently warned however that borrowing the entire sum of transition costs to reform the program would be irresponsible. Because of current budgetary constraints, Graham told Fox News Sunday he supports temporarily lifting the program's tax base, or pushing up the $87,900 cap on personal income subject to Social Security. He said, "I don't think you can make the tax cuts permanent, have alternative minimum tax relief, and borrow the entire transition cost--which is over $1 trillion, and have debts that we can sustain."

To read more about Graham and the social security debate, click here and here.

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Bush Won't Raise Payroll Tax To Fund Social Security Changes

President Bush made clear yesterday his opposition to raising payroll taxes in order to fund potential changes to social security. A payroll tax is a percentage of an individual's salary that goes into social security and medicare funds. The percentage paid into those funds is matched by employers, in order to raise adequate revenue for these entitlement programs.

While this administration is seriously looking into reforming social security -- an anti-poverty program which was implemented during the New Deal -- they have yet to explain how they will pay for this overhaul, which could cost anywhere from $1 - $2 trillion in transfer costs alone. On top of this, the administration has pledged to cut the deficit in half by 2009, and keep the first term tax cuts in place. Raising payroll taxes could help pay for social security overhaul, and even though the policy appears to have bipartisan support in Congress, the President has ruled it out as an option.

The fact that this administration is unwilling to look into raising payroll taxes means that they are more likely to look into increased borrowing or non-defense discretionary budget cuts to help stabilize the economy. In an article in today's Washington Post, Congressman Robert Matsui (D-CA) is quoted as saying, "I fear this means the administration will employ sham accounting gimmicks in an attempt to hide the true costs of their privatization schemes. Ultimately, hiding the truth about benefit cuts or fleecing the public on massive borrowing would have a disastrous effect on the economy, not to mention betray the trust of the American people."

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Congress Works To Pass Debt Ceiling Increase

This week Congress is voting to raise the debt limit by approximately $800 billion. The debt limit, which before this week was set at $7.4 trillion, serves as a ceiling that reflects the legal amount that the government can borrow. Although the Bush administration claimed in 2002 that the debt limit would be adequate until 2008, their prediction was incorrect. When Congress raises the level this week, it will mark the third time since 2002 that it has needed to be raised. See this Watcher article for more information.

On November 17th, the Senate voted 52-44 to increase the debt limit, and the House is expected to vote to pass an increase today. While raising the debt limit is a necessary manuever in order to ensure that normal monetary transactions continue, the frequency with which this has happened over the past three years should cause alarm.

The current level of debt is harmful to the economy; it threatens the stability of Social Security and Medicare benefits, and it also increases interest rates, slowing economic growth. And serious debt reduction will be extremely difficult in the future. Federal revenue is currently at its lowest in half a century, at just 16.2 percent output. President Bush's push for permanent tax cuts along with the ever increasing cost of the war - in tandem with this low level of revenue - will make it difficult for this government to reduce either the national debt or the yearly deficit.

Congress' work this week to increase the amount of money the government can borrow is necessary yet somewhat fruitless; the increase is needed to fund programs and agencies, yet it is driving our country further into debt. Lawmakers should ask themselves, as they continue to increase the debt limit on an almost annual basis, who will end up bearing the majority of this burden in the future.

For more information on the debt limit and the budget see this Center for American Progress article.

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Opposition Seen on Second Term Tax, Social Security Goals

With the election two weeks behind us, attention has shifted to what this administration plans to do in its second term. President Bush has specifically cited two major objectives: to make his tax cuts permanent, and to make significant changes in both the federal tax code and Social Security.

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Economic Policy: Looking Ahead To A Second Term

As President Bush faces a second term, one of his first actions will be to define his goals and lay out agenda for the next four years. As Bush outlined on November 3rd, two of his most ambitious plans include both reforming the federal tax code and making changes to social security, all while continuing to fight a war against terrorism.

While this ambitious agenda is perhaps helped by the fact that the President has majority support in both Houses of Congress, it is hampered by some of the policy changes he forced through during his first term. Bush begins his second term with the economy in somewhat of a different state than he faced when first taking office. While in 2000 the nation enjoyed a healthy budget surplus, this year has the nation facing a large deficit as well as growing homeland security and defense needs. Federal tax revenue was $100 billion lower this year than it was when Bush first took office. On top of this, spending was $400 billion higher. This large discrepancy between revenue and spending has helped to create the largest budget deficit in our history. And, in response to four years of rising budget deficits, the Treasury announced on Wednesday that the government will borrow $147 billion in the first three months of 2005, to help fund its programs and policies. This level of borrowing, when it occurs, will be a new quarterly record.

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution recently said, "On the domestic side, huge budget and current account deficits, historically low federal revenues as a share of GDP, the approaching retirement of the baby-boom generation, health care cost inflation, and escalating spending pressure for homeland security and defense will handcuff a president hoping to pursue new policy initiatives.

This administration will seriously be looking into trying to make permanent some of the tax cuts they passed over the last four years, and Bush has already laid some of the groundwork for this. Permanent tax cuts would greatly impact the amount of federal revenue collected by the government, and would cause even greater financial strain for agencies and institutions that rely on the government for funding. It is estimated that permanent tax cuts could cost the government $1 trillion dollars in revenue between 2005 and 2014.

When Bush sends his version of the budget to Capitol Hill early next February, it will clearly demonstrate how far this administration is willing to go to push the policies they outlined at both the Republican National Convention and on the campaign trail. For more information on second-term tax and budget issues, click here and here.

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National Debt Limit Countdown

On August 2, Treasury Secretary John Snow urged Congress to raise the federal debt limit without delay, and warned that the limit will be reached by late September or early October.

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Mid-Session Review Confirms Continuation of Record Deficits

Washington, D.C., July 30, 2004 - The White House's Office of Management and Budget today belatedly released its annual budgetary "Mid-Session Review," which attempts to put a positive spin on massive and worsening deficits and the lowest level of revenue in a half century. Download full press release (.pdf)

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Will There Be a Budget Resolution?

"Paygo" rules, once a little-known budget technicality, are now proving to be the main impediment in reaching a budget resolution for FY 2005, which begins on October 1, 2004.

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U.S. Federal Debt Surpasses $7 Trillion

The U.S. Treasury recently announced that the federal debt subject to congressional limits has for the first time surpassed $7 trillion - approximately 62 percent of gross domestic product. In addition, in fiscal year 2003, over $300 billion was spent on paying interest on the debt.

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Resources & Research

Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race, and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards

People of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely...

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A Tale of Two Retirements: One for CEOs and One for the Rest of Us

The 100 largest CEO retirement funds are worth a combined $4.9 billion, equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41 percent of American fam...

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