Stop Detroit's I-94 Boondoggle

Across the country there are countless proposed highway projects, like Detroit's Interstate 94, that are not just expensive — they’re outright boondoggles. As more and more people realize the advantages of driving less, we should invest in a connected and accessible 21st century transportation system instead of wasting funds on newer and wider highways. We need your help to stop these boondoggles.

It's time to shift Michigan’s transportation priorities

In 2014 more people rode public transportation than had in 57 years! In fact, since 1983, there has been a decrease in the percentage of young people getting a driver’s license. A report from the Highway Loss Data Institute shows that from 1983 to 2010, the share of 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds with a license fell from 46 percent to 28 percent and from 69 percent to 46 percent, respectively. Moreover, new technologies and other options, such as bike sharing, are making it easier for people to rely less on cars.

Yet, despite these well-documented changes in transportation trends, our decision makers continue to prioritize new roads and wasteful highway expansions. Meanwhile, other needs — from expanding public transportation to critical bridge repairs — go unmet. At a time when one in nine bridges in America are considered “structurally deficient,” these confused priorities put millions of Americans in danger every single day. 

The Interstate 94 Boondoggle

In Michigan, highway planners are gearing up to spend at least 2.7 billion dollars to widen Interstate 94 through the heart of downtown Detroit. Currently, Interstate 94 runs through and separates the Midtown and New Center neighborhoods. These two central areas are important to the city’s revitalization. They have been leading efforts in boosting arts and culture, retail and commercial space, innovative planning, and promotion of downtown living. Widening the highway would reverse these successes. The widening would include the destruction of 11 pedestrian bridges, 12 commercial buildings, 14 single-family homes, two duplexes, two apartment complexes, and three historic buildings. 

Moreover, the expansion of I-94 comes at a time when the state is making big budget cuts, and struggling to fund repairs to its existing roads and bridges. In fact, the most recent Federal Highway Administration data shows that currently there are at least 1,295 structurally deficient bridges throughout the state in desperate need of repair.

Underlying the justification for expansion are state estimates that the number of miles people travel annually will increase at least 11 percent by 2025, while in fact vehicle miles traveled in the region has decreased by 14 percent as of 2013.

Meanwhile, residents have clearly stated their dissent, saying they “would rather live with current levels of traffic congestion (63 percent) than pay more to reduce traffic congestion (37 percent).” In March 2016, the Detroit City Council passed a resolution unanimously opposing the widening of Interstate 94 and Interstate 75. The resolution specifically mentioned the need to spend the state’s scarce transportation dollars on repair and maintenance of existing roads, as well as expanded service and access to transit for Detroit communities. The resolution further stated that these road expansions threatened communities with increased traffic and air pollution and were part of an anti-urban agenda that divested funds from cities and encouraged sprawl to surrounding areas.
There is no doubt this road is in need of maintenance, but not at the expense of the community. These impacts could be lessened—along with the project’s cost—if state officials opted to rebuild the highway on its existing footprint. 

Michigan’s transportation spending must be done wisely. Instead of spending money on unnecessary and wasteful expansion, the Michigan Department of Transportation should use current funds to resurface and repair existing roads and bridges. This also would provide opportunities to improve Michiganders transportation options by investing in regional projects such as the M-1 Rail Streetcar, the Woodward Rapid Transit, the Ann Arbor Commuter Train, and the Gratiot Rapid Transit

Moving Michigan forward 

Our lives, our communities, and how we get around are constantly changing. It’s well past time for our transportation spending priorities to reflect these changes, rather than the outdated assumptions that so many of them are based upon. We deserve to have a safe, reliable transportation system that offers real options for however people might want to get around. Stopping this highway boondoggle is an important first step for getting us there.

Issue updates

News Release | Health Care

Great News for Consumers: Anthem Drops Bid to Take Over Cigna

This morning, health insurance giant Anthem dropped its troubled bid to take over one of its top competitors, Cigna. A February district court decision to block the proposed merger on anti-trust grounds was recently upheld by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, but with Anthem’s decision today, this anti-competitive takeover bid is finally laid to rest. This development comes after months of work by PIRGIM and a broad coalition of consumer and health care groups, urging close scrutiny of the merger from state and federal regulators and raising questions and concerns about the potential impact on consumers.

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L'Oréal: Pledge to Be Toxic-Free

Today, PIRGIM, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP)), and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families delivered more than 150,000 petition signatures calling on the multinational cosmetic giant L’Oréal USA to eliminate cancer causing chemicals and to disclose its secret “fragrance” chemicals. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Statement on House Financial Services Committee Passage of HR 10, the Wrong Choice Act

Today, the House Financial Services Committee approved HR 10, the so-called Financial Choice Act, on a straight party-line vote. We call it the Wrong Choice Act. The bill eviscerates the successful CFPB, which has returned $11.8 Billion to over 29 million consumers in less than six years. The bill repeals much of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act enacted to protect us after the 2008 financial collapse. Our statement is below.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Banks Cook Books To Promote Wrong Choice Act, Attack CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the House Financial Services Committee takes up the so-called Financial Choice Act, which we call the Wrong Choice Act, to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 and leave the CFPB an unrecognizable husk incapable of protecting consumers. Some 52 state bank associations urged support of the bill, based on a "cook-the-history-books" analysis of bank consolidation, which has not increased since 2010, even though they make the claim based on preposterous math.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Financial Choice Act: A Cruel Choice for the CFPB & Consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED 4/25 with link to our letter to Congress. This week, on Wednesday 4/26, the House FInancial Services Committee holds a hearing on Chairman Jeb Hensarling's Financial Choice Act 2.0. It's a brutal un-do of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that forgets, or ignores, the historical fact that reckless bank practices abetted by loose regulators wrecked our economy in 2008. A key goal of the proposal is to weaken the successful CFPB into an unrecognizable husk incapable of protecting consumers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Overdrafts continue to hit students hard on campus

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report shining a spotlight on contracts between banks and colleges to promote debit cards on campus.  Students continue to get hit hard with overdraft fees attached to their campus bank accounts. According to the report, nearly one in ten consumers in the population with student accounts incurred 10 or more  overdrafts per year, paying, on average, $196 in overdraft fees alone. Below is a detailed analysis by US. PIRG's Chris Lindstrom, who championed the protections that the CFPB is reporting on. This report is one more example of why we need a strong CFPB. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Consumer Advocates Concerned By Court Ruling Overturning Ban on High-Powered Magnets

We've joined leading consumer and pediatrician organizations in a joint news release with a sharp critique of a U.S. appellate court decision overturning a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ban on the sale of high-powered small magnets (some as small as BBs) that pose a severe ingestion problem for children and youth. As our Trouble In Toyland report released on November 22 pointed out: "Nearly 80 percent of high-powered magnet ingestions require invasive medical intervention, either through an endoscopy, surgery, or both. In comparison, only 10 to 20 percent of other foreign body ingestions require endoscopic intervention and almost none require surgery."

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News Release | PIRGIM | Consumer Protection

Michiganders Fight Attacks on CFPB by Big Wall Street Banks

 

Calling on Representatives Bill Huizenga, David Trott, Mike Bishop, Justin Amash and Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters to protect Michigan consumers from Wall Street's attack s on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, PIRGIM launched the “Michigan Campaign To Defend the CFPB” today. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Consumers Should Demand Security Freezes After Massive Yahoo Breach

In the wake of the recently-announced Yahoo data breach -- apparently the largest security breach ever, exposing the personal information of 500 million consumers -- PIRG offers consumer tips, demands that Yahoo provide free security freezes to affected consumers who could be at risk of "phishing" schemes to commit fraud on existing accounts or open new fraudulent accounts.  We also ask: Why did it take Yahoo two years to notify the public?

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

CFPB Issues Record $100 Million Fine on Wells Fargo For "Beyond Outrageous" Sales Practices

On September 8 the CFPB announced a record $100 million civil penalty plus consumer restitution against Wells Fargo, among the  nation’s largest banks, for a series of unfair and abusive sales practices by “thousands” of employees that included opening “secret” accounts for “hundreds of thousands” of existing customers, solely to meet sales goals to receive financial incentives. The CFPB action was joined by simultaneous orders announced by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) ($35 million civil penalty) and the City of Los Angeles ($50 million civil penalty). Our statement follows.

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Report | PIRGIM Education Fund | Democracy

Elections Confidential

The first post-Citizens United presidential election cycle was bought and paid for by a handful of wealthy donors, but the corrosive influence of money in politics was amplified by the fact that we don’t know who – or what – actually provided much of the funding.

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Report | PIRGIM Education Fund | Tax

Subsidizing Bad Behavior

BP’s recent $4.5 billion legal settlement with the Justice Department for its misdeeds in the Gulf oil spill was historic for being the largest ever criminal settlement. But it was historic for another reason as well—none of it is allowed to be tax deductible. Unfortunately, too many settlements for wrongdoing end up as tax deductions.

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Report | PIRGIM Education Fund | Tax

What America Could Do with $150 Billion Lost to Offshore Tax Havens

By shielding their income from U.S. taxes, corporations and wealthy individuals shift the tax burden to ordinary Americans, who must pick up the tab in the form of cuts to public services, more debt, or higher taxes. The $150 billion lost annually to offshore tax havens is a lot of money, especially at a time of difficult budget choices. To put this sum in perspective, consider how it could be used.

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Report | PIRGIM Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2012

Over the past twenty-seven years, the PIRGIM report has identified hazards in toys and children’s products that could cause acute injuries, from small parts that pose a choking hazard, to strangulation hazards from cords on pull toys, to laceration hazards from edges that are too sharp, to toxic hazards posed by chemicals in toys.  Our report has led to at least 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years.

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Report | PIRGIM Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Bigger Fees 2012

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer deposit (checking and savings) accounts beginning in the early 1980s, the state PIRGs have tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees. Over the last six months, state PIRG staff conducted inquiries at 250 bank and 116 credit union branches in 17 states and the District of Columbia and reviewed bank fees online in these and 7 other states.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Wall Street Ramps Up Attacks on Wall Street Reform | Ed Mierzwinski

On Friday, the House overwhelmingly approved a Wall Street-driven proposal to weaken oversight of private equity firms, taking a chunk out of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. But wait, there's so much more: On Tuesday the House Financial Services Committee takes up the so-called "Financial Choice Act," which eviscerates most of Dodd-Frank's key reforms, from stripping powers of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to repealing the Volcker Rule, which reins in risky betting practices that use depositors' money. As for the CFPB (which just this week issued its biggest fine to date, $100 million against Wells Fargo Bank for opening hundreds of thousands of fake and secret consumer accounts to meet sales goals), the proposal would defund and defang it and delay or stop its efforts to rein in unfair practices of payday lenders, debt collectors and banks. Many of the Financial Choice Act's provisions also pose threats as budget bill "riders."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Good news! CFPB Adding Consumer Ratings of Company Responses to Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB is making a good public consumer complaint database better. In 2015, the CFPB added optional consumer narratives, or stories, to its public consumer complaint database, giving other consumers, researchers and even other firms a new way to help study complaint patterns. Now, it will give consumers a chance to “rate the company’s handling of his or her complaint on a one-to-five scale and provide a narrative description in support of the rating.”

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumers Count: Five years of the CFPB standing up for consumers | Kathryn Lee

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns five years old! As part of our efforts to tell more people about the CFPB, we're cross-posting this video blog and comments written by Zixta Q. Martinez of the CFPB (check out the infographic at the end, too!).

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Delayed CFPB/Other Wall Street Reform Rollbacks Happening Today On House Floor | Ed Mierzwinski

Last month the House canceled floor consideration of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. FSGG is back on the floor today and tomorrow. We urge support of amendments to protect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) but, since they won't pass, we urge a no vote on the bill. Here's an updated excerpt from my previous blog.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Court Rejects PIRG-Opposed Swipe Fee Settlement With Visa/Mastercard | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit threw out a preliminary $7.25 billion settlement between Visa and Mastercard and any merchant accepting credit cards (including U.S. PIRG), ruling that despite that seemingly massive payment for past practices that the settlement gave inadequate relief to merchants going forward, as it essentially immunized the networks for any future illegal conduct while providing mostly illusory benefits. Since we accept credit cards from our members, we, joined by Consumer Reports, had formally objected to the settlement as consumer advocates who also happen to be merchant class members (most merchant associations also objected).

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