It’s high time to end marijuana prohibition

By any objective standard, marijuana prohibition is an abject failure.
Nationwide, U.S. law enforcement have arrested over 20 million American citizens for marijuana offenses since 1965, yet today marijuana is more prevalent than ever before, adolescents have easier access to marijuana than ever before, the drug is more potent than ever before, and there is more violence associated with the illegal marijuana trade than ever before.
Over 100 million Americans nationally have used marijuana despite prohibition, and one in ten – according to current government survey data – use it regularly.  The criminal prohibition of marijuana has not dissuaded anyone from using marijuana or reduced its availability; however, the strict enforcement of this policy has adversely impacted the lives and careers of millions of people who simply elected to use a substance to relax that is objectively safer than alcohol. NORML believes that the time has come to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education.


It's national pay equity day: Make paycheck fairness the law (Rep. Rosa DeLauro)

Among the many great benefits of the common-sense health reform package we passed last month is a guarantee that finally in America, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition. As we bring an end to discriminatory policies like gender rating and begin to ensure coverage for maternity, preventive, and wellness care, our health legislation at long last puts our mothers' and sisters' and daughters' health care on equal footing with our fathers' and brothers' and sons'.

It is time, now, with your help, to do the same for women's earnings.

We showed with health reform that we can still accomplish great things in Congress, even if our party is forced to go it alone. I cannot think of a better way to follow this historic success than finally signing the Paycheck Fairness Act into law. Sign the petition today and tell my colleagues in the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.


The postal service's fiscal crisis and future viability (Rep. Edolphus Towns)

For more than 200 years the United States Postal Service has connected Americans, facilitated commerce and provided good paying jobs for millions of Americans. As a result of postal workers' high level of service, the Postal Service has become one of the most trusted organizations in America. But the Postal Service's tradition of service is under more pressure than ever before due to a financial crisis jeopardizing its viability for years to come.

In the last three years alone, mail volume has fallen off a cliff, from 213 billion pieces in 2006 to 177 billion pieces in 2009, driving down Postal Service revenues at a time when their health care and pension obligations are increasing. In response to these problems, the Postal Service has cut jobs through attrition and put many cost saving measures into place to help address the issue. Unfortunately, a comprehensive strategy or business model that puts the Postal Service on a sustainable path has yet to be implemented.

To get to the bottom of this issue, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing last week to examine the status of the Postal Service, and evaluate recent reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Postal Service Inspector General and the Postal Service on short and long-term strategies for the financial viability and stability of the USPS.


2010 census: answers to the top 10 most frequently asked questions (Rep. John B. Larson)

Do I have to respond to the 2010 census?

Yes, participation in the 2010 census is vital and required by law.

By being counted, you're helping your community secure the resources and representation it needs and deserves.  Accurate data reflecting changes in your community are crucial in deciding how almost $450 billion in federal funding per year is allocated for projects like new hospitals, roads, job training centers, and schools.  That's more than $4 trillion over a 10-year period.  Census data also determine apportionment in the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures.


New report reinforces need to pass comprehensive food safety reform now (Sen. Tom Harkin)

Today the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General released a new report on the Food and Drug Administration’s inspections of domestic food facilities.  Among its findings, the report identifies significant weaknesses in FDA’s inspections of food facilities, including the fact that FDA inspects less than a quarter of food facilities each year, and that more than half of all food facilities have gone five or more years without an FDA inspection.   

The report shows what we have feared for too long: that that our domestic food facilities are not being adequately inspected and FDA needs additional authorities to keep the food on our tables safe.  This is unacceptable in our modern society and an important reminder that we must provide FDA with the needed tools to properly inspect food facilities and effectively react to problems in order to ensure the safety of the food American families eat.  Quite simply, picking up food at the grocery store should not be a health risk.

At a time when party line bickering seems to have reached an all time high, efforts to pass comprehensive food safety legislation have risen above partisanship.  In fact, our food safety bill passed out of the Senate HELP Committee without a single ‘no’ vote and a similar bill passed in the House with strong bipartisan support.  This legislation is long overdue and it is my hope that we can soon pass the FDA Food Modernization Act of 2009 on the Senate floor in order to get the bill reconciled with the House and on the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The author is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.


The Big Question: How has the Tea Party changed politics?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

How has the Tea Party movement changed American politics in the last year?


Returning the census is our constitutional duty

I’m worried about this year’s census.

I’m not worried about ACORN rigging the count – we already succeeded in kicking them out of the census. I’m not worried about the President’s attempt to run the census out of the White House – we beat that power grab back last year. I’m not even worried about privacy – this year’s 10-question census form is the shortest in memory.

No, what worries me is blatant misinformation coming from otherwise well-meaning conservatives. They are trying to do the right thing, but instead they are helping big government liberals by discouraging fellow conservatives from filling out their census forms.


End the denial; label China a currency manipulator

America and China share a terrible delusion. They are in denial about currency manipulation. Both officially state that China is not devaluing its currency.  

In mid-March, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao flatly denied that China deliberately suppresses the value of its currency against the dollar, a practice that decreases the price of its exports and increases the cost of America goods imported into China. Similarly, the U.S. Treasury Department, which is required by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 to name foreign currency manipulators in bi-annual reports, has not in the past decade and a half called out China -- including in the past two reports submitted during the Obama administration.  

China and America decline to acknowledge what everyone else knows: China suppresses the value of its currency to gain a trade advantage over America. The New York Times reported on the practice in a story published March 14 describing how currency manipulation has worked wonders for Chinese industry while killing American manufacturing.  


7 new tax credits now available through the Recovery Act (Rep. John B. Larson)

Tax cuts were the biggest individual component of the Recovery Act. Even though only half of taxpayers have filed so far this year, tax refunds are already up nearly 10% from last year due to the Recovery Act.

As you file your 2009 income taxes, you may qualify for a series of new tax cuts that were established through the Recovery Act. You could, for example, save money for attending college, making energy-saving home improvements, purchasing a home for the first time, or buying a new car.

Here are some of the new tax credits available through the Recovery Act that you may be eligible for:


Bridging the other digital divide: National broadband plan can generate jobs for hard-hit communities

The National Broadband Plan, released last week by the Federal Communications Commission and being discussed by the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet this Thursday, represents an important step in bringing the social and economic benefits of broadband access to all. Now, we must make sure that the many thousands of jobs this effort will create benefit the communities that need them most.

The national unemployment rate of 9.7 percent has created hardship across the country. But in communities of color, this recession feels an awful lot like a full-fledged depression. For Latinos, the unemployment rate is 12.4 percent, and for African-Americans, it’s an appalling 15.8 percent.

Implementation of the NBP can help address these inequalities. Creation of the infrastructure needed to bring broadband access to the 93 million Americans who lack it will create jobs all across the country. Communities of color desperately need their fair share of those jobs.