Category Archives: Economy

EpiPen maker’s losses on coal investments earn massive tax credits

EpiPen maker’s losses on coal investments earn massive tax credits

Hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits are going to Mylan, an allergy treatment producer that sparked controversy for hiking the price of its EpiPen. The completely legal financial scheme is based on “clean coal” credits approved by Congress.

Reuters has reviewed Mylan NV’s company filings and reported Wednesday that the pharmaceutical company has been boosting its bottom line since 2011 on refined coal investments. The investments themselves have been losers, but in 2004, as part of an effort to promote “clean coal,” Congress passed tax credits for those willing to invest enough capital in them anyway.

Mylan reportedly confirmed Reuters’ figures, the news agency said.

From 2014 to 2016, Mylan garnered around $300 million in “clean energy and research” tax credits, Reuters reported. Overall, the company’s total tax benefit last year was reportedly $358 million.

The pre-tax losses on the coal investments were $92.3 million in 2016, $93.2 million in 2015 and $78.9 million in 2014, all of which were deductible, according to tax experts, and this scheme helped make up about 9 percent of the company’s earnings last year, Reuters reported.

The tax credit program expires in 2021.

Mylan holds 99-percent stakes in five LLCs, or limited liability companies, which own the following refined coal plants: Canton Fuels Company in Illinois, Marquis Industrial Company in Indiana, Chouteau Fuels Company in Oklahoma, Deogun Manufacturing Company in Utah and Powder Street LLC in West Virginia.

Reuters also cited an unnamed person “familiar with the matter,” who said that Mylan produced approximately 16 million tons of refined coal last year, as the government issued $6.81 in tax credits per ton. The source also said that the company’s expenses amounted to about 60 percent of gross credits earned.

The company’s annual board meeting on Thursday may see a clash between investors and board members, as Reuters reports that investors are upset with Mylan Chairman Robert Coury’s nearly $100 million pay package last year.

Leading the move to vote against the board is New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees New York City pensions funded by 1.1 million shares of Mylan stock, and who told Reuters: “From the EpiPen pricing debacle to embracing complex tax avoidance strategies, Mylan’s board appears more focused on financial engineering than on the company’s core business.”

Mylan has avoided high US tax rates since 2015 by relocating its headquarters overseas, paying “just over four percent in 2014 and 7.4 percent in 2015,” according to Reuters.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

NC’s Final budget delivers hits to legal services, emergency judges, Department of Justice

It’s only been a little over 24 hours since the North Carolina General Assembly introduced its final budget and its already well on its way to a House vote after passing the Senate on Tuesday.

There is plenty to read in the 438-page document and plenty to get confused about. Below are a few highlights from the Justice and Public Safety budget:

Raise the Age

Lawmakers have finally agreed to raise the juvenile age of prosecution from 16 and 17 years old to 18 years old. The final budget allocates $519,600 the first fiscal year toward “Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act Planning” and $478,000 the second fiscal year.

The budget policy decision mandates that 16- and 17-year-olds who are accused of committing misdemeanors and two classes of felonies no longer be automatically prosecuted in the adult criminal system.

The policy decision also increases the information available on juveniles to law enforcement and establishes a juvenile jurisdiction advisory committee to help with implementation. You can read more about the decision beginning on page 309 of the budget.

The proposed budget would cut $1.7 million in legal services programs across the state, affecting those most in need and almost assuredly creating unequal access to justice.

The Access to Civil Justice Act funds all traditional legal services programs, including Legal Aid Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and Pisgah Legal Services.

As written in the final budget, the provision means that $1.50 of every court fee imposed in District and Superior Courts would no longer be distributed to the North Carolina State Bar for legal services. It could also mean reducing LANC staff across the state by 50 to 60 or more positions.

More from NC Policy Watch

Posted by Libergirl

Gutting Health Care in Darkness

WASHINGTON—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell once had passionate views about how carefully Congress should consider sweeping changes to the health care system.

“Fast-tracking a major legislative overhaul such as health care reform or a new national energy tax without the benefit of a full and transparent debate does a disservice to the American people,” McConnell said in 2009, referring to the two big issues of the moment. Democrats using such means, he added, “would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis.”

Republican hypocrisy is now so rampant that it’s typically ignored or, worse, granted the political class’s all-purpose form of absolution: “Everybody does it.”

But everybody doesn’t do it. McConnell is trying to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act using methods completely at odds with how the law was originally brought to life seven years ago. The ACA was debated for more than a year and went through an elaborate hearing and amendment process, including some changes urged by Republicans.

By contrast, the bill Senate Republicans are writing is being held as close as the nuclear codes. In the meantime, President Trump and his administration (including, most recently, Attorney General Jeff “I don’t recall” Sessions) keep providing McConnell excellent cover as their assorted outrages dominate the news and deflect attention from Capitol Hill. The wrecking squad works in the shadows knowing that if the public were given time to absorb the damage in store for millions of Americans, the pushback would be enormous.

Cleverly, Senate Republicans say their coverage-destruction bill will be better than the one Speaker Paul Ryan pushed through the House. (Trump helpfully described the House measure as “mean” during a meeting Tuesday with Republican senators.) Well, great, and a Category 4 hurricane is a bit less harrowing than a Category 5. Most of us would prefer to avoid both.

One of the so-called “improvements” that has leaked out: People will be thrown off Medicaid more slowly under McConnellcare than under Ryancare. But they’ll still be thrown off, and to pay for this reprieve, the Senate would reportedly include additional cuts to Medicaid elsewhere. To finance all their tax cuts for the rich, Republicans will have to gut insurance for a lot of people one way or another.

Why all the secrecy? McConnell is trying to keep the pressure off the many Republican senators who have offered pledges of varying degrees of specificity to protect Medicaid and other aspects of the ACA that benefit their constituents.

They include Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona, both up for re-election next year, as well as Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. So far, Susan Collins of Maine has stood honorably as one of her party’s firmest skeptics of this fiasco-in-the-making, but even she seems to be wobbling.

Since Democrats have 48 votes against dismantling the existing law, any three Republican senators could put a stop to this fantastically anti-democratic process. They could walk into McConnell’s office and say they’ll oppose any bill that is not made public for at least a month of real scrutiny and discussion. Is this too much to ask of legislation that could threaten the health care of countless Americans (the exact number being unknowable because the bill’s architects won’t admit to what they’re doing)?

There is work here for activists, politicians and the media. Activists must understand that they have less time to save the Affordable Care Act than they might think. Democratic Senators must take every opportunity to force this issue to the fore. Disruption in the face of this violation of legislative norms is no vice.

As for the media, Jacob Leibenluft, a former Obama administration official, described the problem well in an interview: “If you don’t have hearings, and you don’t have big moments for television, you don’t have bandwidth for coverage.” Leibenluft, now at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says individual reporters on the health care beat are doing good work, but their stories are getting limited attention.

He added: “I hate to think that looking back on this period, we’ll realize that the most regressive piece of social legislation in modern American history was passed, and no one was paying attention.”

We know that the Trump/Russia story will still be there in a month. We cannot say the same about the health insurance millions of Americans count on. By then, it may be on the road to extinction.

By E.J. Dionne Jr./Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Confromist

US sells $12bn worth of fighter jets to ‘terrorist funder’ Qatar

US sells $12bn worth of fighter jets to ‘terrorist funder’ Qatar
Qatar has signed a $12-billion contract to buy F-15 fighter jets from the US, the country’s defense ministry reported. The deal was announced just days after US President Trump accused Doha of supporting terrorism.

The contract was apparently sealed after a Wednesday meeting between US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Qatari Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid al-Attiyah, Reuters reported citing a source.
According to Bloomberg News, Qatar bought 36 warplanes produced by McDonnell Douglas, a subsidiary of Boeing.

The US approved the possible sale of up to 72 F-15QA aircraft to Qatar for $21.1 billion in November.

News of the deal comes less than a week after US President Donald Trump lashed out at the Gulf kingdom, saying it has “historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”

Trump’s criticism emerged amid a diplomatic row between Qatar and other Arab nations, which demand that Doha stopped supporting the pan-Arabic movement Muslim Brotherhood and severed ties with Iran.

Qatar is a key American ally in the Middle East and an important exporter of natural gas. It also hosts the largest US military base in the region

From Russia Today

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Senate Republicans Hope You Won’t Notice They’re About to Repeal Obamacare

With GOP “moderates” caving on Medicaid cuts, the skids are greased.

Quickly and in secret—that’s how lawmakers operate when they’re about to pass legislation that is both harmful and deeply unpopular.

This week, while everyone was distracted by former FBI director James Comey’s testimony, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell put the Republican health-care overhaul on fast track. His caucus is writing its bill in secret, and McConnell’s move means he could bring the legislation up for a vote anytime, without holding a single public hearing. All signs indicate that Senate Republicans are preparing to copy their colleagues in the House and jam through a massively destructive piece of legislation before the public knows what’s going on.

Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill raised the alarm during a Thursday hearing on the Department of Health and Human Services budget. “Will we have a hearing on the health-care proposal?” McCaskill asked pointedly of a flummoxed Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who turned to his staff for help. After Hatch sputtered that Democrats were invited to participate regardless of whether a hearing was held, McCaskill retorted by recounting the months-long process of public hearings and amendments that the Affordable Care Act went through. Then she launched into a fiery, indignant speech.

“I heard you, Mr Secretary, just say, ‘I’d love your support’—for what?” McCaskill asked, holding up her hands. “We don’t even know. We have no idea what’s being proposed. There’s a group of guys in a back room somewhere that are making these decisions.” She went on, “We’re not even going to have a hearing on a bill that impacts one-sixth of our economy. We’re not even going to have an opportunity to offer a single amendment.”

McCaskill’s warning was not overwrought: The Republican effort gained sudden momentum this week, as so-called moderates began to cave. Just a few days ago GOP leaders sounded glum about their bill’s prospects. “I don’t know how we get to 50 [votes] at the moment,” McConnell lamented late in May. North Carolina Senator Richard Burr sounded even more pessimistic last week: “I don’t see a comprehensive health-care plan this year.” There was too much infighting, too much daylight between the GOP’s various factions. As the GOP prepared for a lunch meeting on Tuesday, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham predicted his party’s effort was “more likely to fail than not.”

But something was served at the lunch that gave Republicans who’d been queasy about cuts to Medicaid a new appetite for them. Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, a doctor who’s tried hard to paint himself as a moderate on health care, emerged to say that he was “very encouraged” about the plan. Since then at least three other Republicans who’d been skeptical of the House bill, and represent states that benefit from the Medicaid expansion, have signaled they’ll consider cuts to the program. Ohio’s Rob Portman, West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, and Nevada’s Dean Heller all said they could support phasing out the expansion over seven years, beginning in 2020. While that’s more gradual “glide path” (to use Capito’s word) than the three-year phase-out proposed by McConnell, the result is the same: the end of federal funding for the expansion, which could affect as many as 10 million people.

According to a recent briefing from the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Delaying or phasing in the cost shift to the states under the AHCA would not stop the eventual end of the expansion and steep reductions in Medicaid enrollment. The bill still would reverse the historic gains in health coverage and access to care that have been made under the expansion.” The longer glide path is only for the benefit of swing-state Republicans who want to delay the political repercussions of cuts beyond the next few election cycles.

The Senate bill—whatever’s in it—is not a done deal. A provision related to abortion mayviolate Senate rules, while axing it could be a deal breaker for the most conservative members. And Medicaid remains fraught territory. But there are ways Republicans could skate over internal differences, for instance by passing a vague bill that omits details of the Medicaid cuts, leaving them to be worked out in the conference committee with the House—a process even more shielded from public scrutiny. At any rate, McConnell and company are moving forward at an alarming pace. And if we learned anything from the House’s rushed, narrowly successful vote on health care, it’s this: For today’s GOP, the desire for a “victory” is far stronger than the spines of party moderates.

By Zoë Carpenter/TheNation

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump’s budget slashes $3.6 trillion from domestic programs over 10 years

Trump’s budget slashes $3.6 trillion from domestic programs over 10 years

Trump’s budget slashes $3.6 trillion from domestic programs over 10 years
The Trump administration’s $4.1 billion budget proposal calls for increased spending on law enforcement, the military and the US-Mexico wall, but cuts spending for programs for the poor by slashing funding for Medicaid and cutting food stamps.

“We looked at this budget through the eyes of the one’s paying the bills,” said Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

“[F]or years and years we’ve looked at the budget in terms of the people in the back end of the program, the recipients of the taxpayer’s money, and we haven’t spent nearly enough time focusing our attention on the people who pay the taxes. Compassion needs to be on both sides of that equation,” he said.

Under this view, Medicaid, a federal-state health care program for the poor and disabled, would be slashed by more than $600 billion over 10 years. It also envisages capping payments to states and providing more flexibility to manage Medicaid recipients.

During question time, a reporter asked Mulvaney about Donald Trump’s announcement as a candidate that he would “Save Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid without cuts – gotta do it,” and whether the Trump was keeping his promises now that he’s president.

“We are not kicking anyone off any program who really needs it,” Melvaney responded. “We have plenty of money in this country to take care of everyone who needs help. But not enough for everyone who doesn’t need help.”

Trump is the first president to propose parental leave, Mulvaney said.

The budget outlines a paid parental leave program that accesses a state’s unemployment insurance scheme, but doesn’t include how the federal government will allocate funds to the program or how much. That’s because the states are being asked to figure out how to fund the program, which will probably fall on employers to fund, as unemployment insurance does in most states.

“The proposal will allow states to establish paid parental leave programs in a way that is most appropriate for their workforce and economy. States would be required to provide six weeks of parental leave and the proposal gives it broad latitude to design and finance the program,” stated the budget.

Under the budget plan, $191 billion would be cut from the food stamp program over a decade, representing a 30 percent reduction. The program currently serves 42 million people, a number that hasn’t changed much in a sluggish, recovering economy.

“We need people to work,” Mulvaney told reporters on Monday. “If you are on food stamps, we need you to go to work. If you are on disability and you should not be, we need you to go back to work.”

More than eight in 10 food stamp recipients, or 83 percent, are for households with children, the elderly or a disabled person. The average food stamp benefit is $133.85 a month, or the equivalent of $1.50 a meal. Working people who rely on food stamps are often times using it to supplement their lower income jobs where state and federal minimum wages have not been adjusted to meet living expense increases.

 

More from RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Court fines and fees: Another barrier to North Carolina’s ballot box

How much money do you have to pay before you cast your ballot on Election Day?

Image result for court fees
Image: myfloridalaw.com

For most North Carolinians, the answer might seem obvious: none. As the cornerstone of our democracy, voting is supposed to be fair, accessible – and free. But for an increasing number of North Carolinians, the right to vote can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

How is that possible? The answer is because North Carolina denies the right to vote to people who have felony convictions but cannot afford to pay their court costs, even if they have satisfied all other probation requirements.

Thanks to an ever-growing system of mandatory fines and fees, those caught up in the criminal justice system can be forced to pay anywhere from $40 to hundreds of dollars a month for the cost of their court administration, jail fees, probation, electronic monitoring, drug testing, even community service – and more. If they are unable to pay, they face a penalty fee for nonpayment, increasing their fees and lengthening their probation period.

These costs have increased substantially over time. In 1999, the base cost a person would pay for a superior court date was $106. Today the base cost is $198 with the potential to grow to more than $10,000 in serious cases as additional penalties snowball. Even if they have served all the terms of their sentence, even if they have had no probation violations, low-income people often remain on probation simply because they are low-income. And in far too many North Carolina courts, judges will not conduct hearings on a person’s inability to pay, as is required by law.

More from NC Policy Watch

Posted by Libergirl