The Surprising Truth Behind Tax Day: Where Your Taxes Go

By Robin Claremont

If you groan about Tax Day, you’re certainly not alone.

But what if Tax Day was something we could be proud of as members of a democracy? Would you feel differently about paying taxes if you knew they were going to support public services that you, your family, and your community rely on – such as public safety, roads and bridges, schools, health care, social services, and national parks?

Millions of Americans file their federal income tax returns on April 15 each year with no idea what the government actually does with all that money.

Discriminatory Insurer Practices Jeopardize Access to Medication

By Liz Helms

California Chronic Care Coalition

California health insurance plans are jeopardizing patient health by moving vital medications to so-called “specialty tiers,” which place the cost of treatment beyond the reach of most patients and which may be illegal under both California and federal discrimination laws.

Rather than paying a fixed copayment, Californians whose medications are placed on specialty tiers are often forced to pay coinsurance – or a percentage of the total cost of the drugs – which can mean hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month in out-of-pocket costs for a single medication.

Texas HSR Could Face Same Challenges as California HSR

By Robert Cruickshank

In recent days there’s been a spate of posts and articles touting the Texas high speed rail project as a better approach than the California project. Some of this is undoubtedly the California-Texas rivalry at work, but it’s also fueled by the routine misunderstanding in the media about the nature of California HSR’s problems. Those problems exist solely because opponents of California HSR found powerful allies in the Congressional Republicans, and have been able to block future funding and create a cascading set of problems that stem from that denial.

Senate Committee Approves Fracking Moratorium Bill

By Dan Bacher

The California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water on April 8 passed SB 1132, legislation that will place a moratorium on fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and well stimulation until the state fully studies the impact of the oil extraction on California's air and water quality, public health and economy.

The bill, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell and Senator Mark Leno, will next be considered by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 30, 2014.

The Rise of Income Inequality

By Rev. Jim Conn

About seven years ago I was at my first meeting of an education advisory board, staring out the window at the panoramic view of the Santa Monica Mountains, when a fellow sidled up and began making casual conversation. We exchanged a few pleasantries, when he leaned in to tell me in a confidential hush that he had a $34,000 tax problem. Taken aback, I first thought, How odd that he should share such a thing — and figured maybe he wanted sympathy.

Then it occurred to me that his tax problem was more than half what I had made altogether that year, so I said, “If you have that big a problem, you must have the resources to deal with it.” He backed away and never spoke to me again at that meeting, or at any thereafter.

10 Reasons Millennials Should Be Wary of Rand Paul's Libertarianism

By Richard Eskow

Republican Senator Rand Paul has been making a big play for millennials lately, most notably by taking his civil liberties pitch to colleges around the country. Paul has got the right idea when he says his party must “evolve, adapt or die” (although I think the first two are virtually the same thing). Katie Glueck of Politico wrote that “The Kentucky senator drew a largely friendly reception at the University of California-Berkeley as he skewered the intelligence community.”

California Officials Concerned Over Oil and Rail Industry Secrecy

By Diane Bailey

Natural Resources Defense Council

One thing about these industries - when the oil and rail barons get together, tidy profits are sure to be made. But at whose expense? And if the latest mile long oil by rail collaboration has nothing to hide, why won’t they tell the public what is in the rail tanker cars, where they’re going and how often they’ll be passing through town?

Why Americans Resist Universal Healthcare

By Claude Fischer

It’s 1974. Richard Nixon resigns the presidency; Barbara Streisand is singing, “The Way We Were” all over the radio (that music-playing thing before the internet); and you can buy a hand calculator that can only add, subtract, multiply, and divide for, in today’s currency, $100. Someone asks you: Here are three pretty radical ideas – which do you think is likely to happen first, if ever?

Epic 500 Year Drought Exacerbated and Exaggerated by Water Officials

By Patrick Porgans

Water officials’ and scientists’ claims that the Golden State is in the grips of an epic 500 year drought is not supported by the facts. Government documents show back in January that this year’s drought was not the worst in 500 years.

“We are on track for having the worst drought in 500 years,” said B. Lynn Ingram, Paleoclimatologist, professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. That story was released on January 30. Although an effort was made to reach Ingram to ascertain the scientific data to support her contention, she has yet to respond.

Why Statistical Bigotry Is Just Bigotry

By Mike Males

Center for Juvenile & Criminal Justice

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson’s March 28 column rationalized the fact that 62% of the Oakland Police Department’s traffic stops involve African Americans (just 28% of the city’s population) because blacks commit the overwhelming majority of the city’s serious crime. This latest example of penalizing “driving while black” is a classic case of what I call statistical bigotry.