Action: Public Citizen promotes consumer issues

by Judy Ferro

Note: The location of the United Vision for Idaho’s workshop on volunteer opportunities has been changed to accommodate larger numbers. The workshop will be at the Linen Center, 1402 W Grove Street, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday.


President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments are dominating the daily news so I was impressed to see the November-December newsletter from Public Citizen only mentions Trump’s choices in an editorial. Nine-four percent of the publication focuses on other political issues.

There really are other issues.

One article examined 37 ballot initiatives in 17 states which pitted citizen groups against corporations. Public Citizen’s findings indicate that corporations spent 33 times as much as citizen groups and won 62% of the issues. Among the 23 defeated issues were a California measure to lower prescription prices and Colorado measures to initiate a single-payer health insurance system and to require a set distance between oil and gas developments and “occupied structures.” South Dakota voters, on the other hand, ignored corporate ads and set an upper limit on lending companies’ interest rates.

A short item noted that, since the ouster of chair Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdock himself is managing FOX news, AND Murdock has stated that global warming is becoming “a fact of life.” His own corporate empire has claimed to be “carbon neutral” since 2011. Just what would climate change deniers do if FOX news belatedly accepts the scientific evidence that human activity is warming the earth?

Public Citizen’s newsletter is an example of the real “left-wing media.” This non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group has a track record extending over 45 years. Separate divisions coordinate citizen and legal actions dealing with Congress, energy, global trade, and health. Its Litigation Group regularly represents citizen interests before the Supreme and appellate courts.

Two articles dealing with issues where citizen input can be effective share this edition’s front page.

One is little-known in states, like Idaho, without a medical school. Last month a task force of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recommended that all medical residents be subject to 28-hour shifts. Since 2011 first-year medical residents have been limited to 16-hour work shifts while their second- and third-year counterparts routinely work 28-hour shifts.

A recent poll by Public Citizen this fall found that 80% of those polled would like to see all residents’ shifts limited to 16 hours; 84% felt patients have a right to be informed if the person in charge of their care has worked a longer shift. (The ACGME is taking public comment on that proposal at until Dec. 19.)

In a second front-page article, Public Citizen warns that supporters may press for a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the current lame-duck Congress. Although opposed by both presidential candidates and most Democrats, President Obama and many Congressional Republicans support the trade agreement.

Public Citizen opposes a provision that lets a panel of three corporate lawyers decide lawsuits that businesses bring against the U.S. government if they feel a regulation negatively affects their profits. These decisions are final and not subject to appeal. (Supporters say that similar provisions in current trade agreements are seldom used.)

Public Citizen also opposes other provisions that could protect pharmaceutical companies from competition from generic medicines, override U.S. safety standards on imported foods, and threaten regulations necessary to deal with the climate crisis.

If you are looking to support progressive action, consider Public Citizen. The organization supports a bi-monthly newsletter, a webpage (, and twitter and Facebook accounts. Members can also sign up for activist alerts via e-mail.

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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