fresh voices from the front lines of change








Sam Pizzigati

Opioid CEOs Are Our Nation’s Real Druglords

Mexican druglord Joaquín Guzmán Loera was just sentenced to life in prison. The drug cartel he ruled, a jury determined this past February, dumped “hundreds of tons of drugs to the United States” and “caused the deaths of dozens of people to protect himself and his smuggling routes.” But John Hammergren dumped far more deathly damage. Over the years from 2006 through 2012 alone, we learned last week from the release of a previously secret federal drug database, the corporation Hammergren ran as CEO inundated local communities in the United States with over 14.1 billion highly addictive opioid pills. No corporation distributed more opioids in those years than McKesson Corp., the Texas-based pharmaceutical maker Hammergren ran. In his two decades as CEO, Hammergren pocketed around $800 million.Upon his retirement in April, he walked away with a pension package worth an additional $138.6 million. Opioids helped fuel all these rewards — and Hammergren had to know it. In 2007, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration accused McKesson of shipping “millions of doses” of the opioid hydrocodone to shady operators. Outrageous corporate rewards, like the ones enjoyed by Hammergren and other opioid CEOs, only serve to give top executives an incentive to behave outrageously.

U.S. To Speed Up Deportations Without Courts

U.S. to ramp up rapid deportations with sweeping new rule. Reuters: "The Trump administration said on Monday it will expand and speed up deportations of migrants who enter the United States illegally by stripping away court oversight, enabling officials to remove people in days rather than months or years. Set to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, the rule will apply 'expedited removal' to the majority of those who enter the United States illegally, unless they can prove they have been living in the country for at least two years. Legal experts said it was a dramatic expansion of a program already used along the U.S.-Mexican border that cuts out review by an immigration judge, usually without access to an attorney. Both are available in regular proceedings. 'The Trump administration is moving forward into converting ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) into a 'show me your papers' army,' said Vanita Gupta, the president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights."

Trump USDA Wants To Take Millions Off Food Stamps

Trump USDA Proposes New Rule to Strip Food Stamps From Over 3 Million Americans. Common Dreams: "The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday proposed a new rule that would strip food stamps from more than three million Americans. USDA chief Sonny Perdue, in a call with reporters Monday, said the rule change would end automatic food stamp eligibility for those receiving other forms of federal and state assistance. The 60-day comment period on the proposal is set to begin Wednesday. Tens of millions of people suffer from hunger and food insecurity each year in the United States, and the SNAP program is widely recognized by experts as an effective way to reduce hunger—particularly among children. Policy experts, lawmakers, and commentators warned the Trump administration's proposed rule—described by one critic as 'unconscionable'—would increase hunger among vulnerable Americans. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a statement Tuesday that the rule would 'take food away from families, prevent children from getting school meals, and make it harder for states to administer food assistance.'"

Refusals To Expand Medicaid Causes 16,000 Deaths

New data show that failing to expand Medicaid has led to 16,000 unnecessary deaths. LA Times: "Adversaries of Medicaid expansion have always pointed to the lack of evidence that enrollment in Medicaid improves health and saves lives, and therefore the expansion is a waste. A new study should put that argument to rest, permanently. The researchers found not only that the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act brought appreciable improvements in health to enrollees, but also that full expansion nationwide would have averted 15,600 deaths among the vulnerable Medicaid-eligible population. In other words, the 22 mostly red states that refused to accept expansion starting in 2014 caused 15,600 unnecessary deaths among their residents. 'This highlights an ongoing cost to non-adoption that should be relevant to both state policymakers and their constituents,' write the study’s authors, charitably. Fourteen states are still holding out. Medicaid expansion has been a litmus test for Republican governors and legislative leaders aiming to demonstrate their anti-Obamacare bona fides."

President, Congress Reach 2-Year Budget Deal

Trump, Congress reach agreement on 2-year budget deal. NPR: "President Trump announced an agreement on a two-year budget deal and debt-ceiling increase. The deal would raise the debt ceiling past the 2020 elections and set $1.3 trillion for defense and domestic spending over the next two years. Congressional sources briefed on the deal said it would suspend the debt limit until July 31, 2021, and include parity in spending increases for defense and domestic programs. It would include about $77 billion in offsets for those spending increases. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement that the deal 'will enhance our national security and invest in middle class priorities that advance the health, financial security and well-being of the American people.' Pelosi said the House would move quickly to send the legislation to Trump to sign 'as soon as possible.'"

Sen. Warren Warns Of Economic Recession

Elizabeth Warren is warning of a recession. Maybe we should listen. Slate: "In 2003, Elizabeth Warren predicted that subprime mortgage lending would lead to a big economic crash. In 2008, it came true. Now Warren is warning that another crippling economic crisis — this time fueled by rising household and corporate debt — could be on the horizon, unless we (she) take(s) swift action. 'Warning lights are flashing,' the Massachusetts senator wrote in a Medium post Monday. 'Whether it’s this year or next year, the odds of another economic downturn are high—and growing.' Warren also points out that household debt has surpassed previous records set before the last recession in large part because of stagnant wages and increasing student loan, credit card, and auto loan debt. Corporate debt—particularly lending to companies with already high levels of debt—is snowballing, too. (Former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen has raised similar concerns.) 'I see a precarious economy that is built on debt—both household debt and corporate debt—and that is vulnerable to shocks,' Warren wrote. 'And I see a number of serious shocks on the horizon that could cause our economy’s shaky foundation to crumble.'"

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